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Mind Games was recorded between July and August 1973 in Lennon's characteristic quick fashion, and was mixed over a two-week period. Lennon produced the album by himself, following his previous three-year partnership with Phil Spector. When the album was remixed in 2002, many audio anomalies hidden in the original mixing were uncovered. Some rough mixes appear on bootlegs and on 1997's John Lennon Anthology.
The album continued Lennon's previous attempts to chronicle his life through his songs, the tone of which displays a range of mixed feelings. Among the sombre and melodic songs directed to Ono, "Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)" was originally titled "Call My Name", a song in which Lennon was offering to comfort someone, whereas the final version sees him asking for forgiveness. In "One Day (At a Time)", Lennon sings about his devotion to Ono.[nb 1] "Out the Blue" also reflects Lennon's devotion to his wife, and reflects its author's self-doubt as a result of their separation. "Out the Blue" incorporates several musical genres, starting with a gentle, melancholy acoustic guitar and moving through gospel, country and choral music portions. Another love song, "You Are Here" took its title from Lennon's one-off art exhibition at the Robert Frazer Gallery. By the time of the Mind Games sessions, the composition had gone through several different themes, before Lennon settled on the theme of love and peace. The original master take of "You Are Here" featured an extra verse, that was about Japan and England.
Other songs on the album are more light-hearted and optimistic, marking the return of Lennon's humour and wit after the uncompromising doctrine espoused on Some Time in New York City. These tracks include "Intuition", in which Lennon relates how life experience has honed his instincts and how it's good to have gotten through it. While demoing the song on piano in early 1973, with the lyrics still incomplete, he added a few lines from two previously released tracks – "How?", from Imagine (1971), and "God", from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970). "Only People" reflects his and Ono's personal philosophy. Lennon later said that it failed as a song, however; in an interview with Playboy Magazine, he remarked: "It was a good lick, but I couldn't get the words to make sense."
Also appearing on Mind Games are songs that indulged Lennon's affinity for pure rock 'n' roll, such as "Tight A$", the title of which was a pun on the expressions "tight as" and "tight ass". The track is in the rockabilly style with a 1950s sound, along the lines of songs that inspired Lennon in his youth. Another rock track, "Meat City" contains lyrics more in keeping with Lennon's earlier penchant for obscure imagery over the personal. The song was a boogie piece until late in 1971, when it began to take its final form, although with improvised lyrics. By late 1972, Lennon had rewritten the words and finished developing the melody.
The song "Mind Games", with its "love is the answer" refrain and call to "make love not war", recalls Lennon's work with the Beatles in 1967. He started writing the track during the band's Get Back sessions, in early 1969, with the title "Make Love, Not War". Lennon finished it after reading the book Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space.[nb 2] Lennon had recorded demos of the retitled "Mind Games" on 28 and 29 December 1970, at his home studio, Ascot Sound Studios.