Yoko Songs: Mind Train
By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2019. No part of this site may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.
The epic album version of ‘Mind Train‘ is a nearly seventeen-minute long jam, taking us off the rails to places we’ve never been before! Yoko’s train journey predates Kraftwerk’s clanging ‘Trans Europe Express’ by five years. The players are; John Lennon – guitar, Klaus Voormann – bass, Jim Keltner – drums, and Chris Osborne on dobro. The song appears on Yoko’s 1971 double album, Fly.
At her Concert for Japan (March 29, 2011) Yoko introduced the song with an anecdote. “‘Mind Train’ was about 16 minutes long. John insisted on playing it for an unnamed famous musician.” Yoko expressed her regret of having this person endure the whole 16 minutes. Hopefully, it was someone who was well deserving of the wrath of Yoko and wish that it could have been myself instead. After all, one man’s pain is another’s pleasure!
(I later realized that Yoko was referring to the time that she and John played ‘Mind Train’ for Bob Dylan at the Isle Of Wight on 31 August 1969. Consider how preposterous and hilarious this is – that the prolific poet of rock ‘n’ roll politely listened to something so lyrically abstract and lengthy!! I have much more respect for Dylan now!)
A punk/funk chugging, plodding beat merges with free-form instrumentation and vocals. It was once described as Can doing ‘The Loco-Motion’. It bears similarity to their 18-minute long track ‘Halleluwah’ on their album Tago Mago, also released in 1971.
The reggae rhythm picks up speed toward the end, becoming a total freak-out – especially enthralling when Yoko performs the song live!
Yoko’s somewhat spoken lyrics alternate with her trademark wordless utterances. The lyrics are dark at times, repeating, “I thought of killing that man” as if the singer is taking a train ride to alleviate or misdirect anger. The train is also conceptual, as Yoko also repeats in a verbal beat, ‘Dub-dub train ploughs through my mind.’
Another recurring line is, “33 windows shining…” In Japan, the number 33 signifies misfortune – it translates as, ‘SAR-ZAN’, which also means “misfortune without a way out”. The Tibetan Book of the Dead has 33 heavens. In Buddhism, the number 33 reflects the interface of the familiar world with a higher spiritual realm. In Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, the sacred goddess Kuan Yin assumes 33 appearances and undergoes 33 transformations in 33 holy places. She aids souls in reaching nirvana.
‘Mind Train’ was released as a single on January 20, 1972. It was a four-minute edit of the 16-minutealbum version from Yoko’s album Fly. The single was also released in a picture sleeve and features the special Yoko/Apple label on the A-Side and the sliced apple on the B-Side.
dub dub dub dub
“This was one of those adlib songs. I kept going on and on. John kept going on and on, too. So I didn’t stop. The next day, we listened to the tape in our hotel room. John loved this one the most amongst my songs at the time. Strangely, Sean loves MINDTRAIN, too. When Sean and I are making the program for YOKO ONO PLASTIC ONO BAND SHOW, Sean always says “And let’s do MINDTRAIN!” Like his Dad.”
Yoko Ono, 29 May 2011
The B-Side was another solo Ono composition, ‘Listen the Snow is Falling’, which had previouslybacked the single ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ in America in December 1971.
Also see: Yoko Songs: ‘Listen, the Snow Is Falling’ (the B-side of ‘Mind Train’)
By Madeline Bocaro ©
Mind Train – album version
A REALLY COOL live version:
Yoko Ono & IMA – Mindtrain – live Melkweg Amsterdam Holland 25 May 1996
featuring Sean Lennon & Timo Ellis & Sam Koppelman
Live @ Concert For Japan, NYC 2011
Mind Train (Live @ Nakano Sun Plaza) Japan, 1974
(The live @ Meltdown version in 2009 is also amazing!)
Imagine film segment of ‘Mind Train’
‘Gold Rush’ The new single (June 2018) from Death Cab For Cutie samples ‘Mind Train’. Listen to a clip here… http://omusic.friday.tw/albumpage.php?album_id=1479740
Yoko picked up the train theme again in 2009 with ‘Waiting for the D Train’ on her album Between My Head and the Sky.
Waiting for the D Train
Live with Iggy Pop
at The Orpheum Theatre Los Angeles, 1st October 2010 Yoko Ono – Vocals, Iggy Pop – Vocals, Mike Watt – Bass, Nels Cline – Guitar, Sean Lennon, Yuko Araki drums.
Waiting for the D Train
Live in Berlin 2013
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