Almanac Music: You Go To My Head – Songs Involving the Mind


[Wikimedia Commons.]


Almanac Music: You Go To My Head – Songs Involving the Mind


This week, my popular song theme is ‘Songs Involving the Mind’. Chosen songs will have words like ‘mind’, ‘head’ and ‘thinking’ in the title, or else as a central aspect of their contents; in other words, the psychological realm is fundamental. So dear readers, please put your relevant songs in the ‘Comments’ section.


‘There’s A Place’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, performed by The Beatles (1963)


This pop-rock number from the Beatles first album Please Please Me is most interesting for the fact that it specifies the mind as a haven into which one can retreat, an idea pretty much non-existent in popular music until then. It possesses some fine vocal harmonies between Lennon (low) and McCartney (high), too, as well as some neat harmonica playing from JL. Early Beatles’ work (say, the first two English albums) such as this certainly has its own distinctive charm.




‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’, written and performed by Bob Dylan (1963)


This folky song is originally from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album. One interpretation is that it is about the futility of overthinking one’s life. There’s also some lovely lonesome-sounding harmonica playing here.




‘Gentle On My Mind’, written by performed by Glen Campbell (1967)


This is a quintessential, much-recorded country number that has a reflective quality in keeping with its title. Campbell called the song ‘an essay on life’. It’s easy listening music in the best sense of the word.




‘Suspicious Minds’, written by Mark James, performed by Elvis Presley (1969)


Classic later-career Elvis, this pop-rock number was a Number 1 U.S. Billboard Top 100 hit for the King, and a major chart success worldwide. The song’s title fits its contents perfectly.




‘Break My Mind’, written by John D. Loudermilk, performed by Linda Ronstadt (1969)


This much-covered country-rock song is fundamentally about the mental stress involved in the ending of a relationship. It is from Ronstadt’s first solo album Hand Grown … Home Sown. Just about all Ronstadt is good Ronstadt, and early-ish repertoire such as this is no exception.




‘Mind Games’, written and performed by John Lennon (1973)


This classic solo Lennon song – with its soaring vocals and an an epic, expansive quality – exhorts the importance of positivity and love in our world, and was originally begun in 1969 while he was still with the Beatles. It is the title track from his 1973 album.




‘You Go To My Head’, written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, performed by Bryan Ferry (1976)


This classic song, published in 1938, has become a much-covered number, often in a jazz context. I came to ‘You Go To My Head’ as a teenager, via Bryan Ferry’s Let’s Stick Together album. Ferry’s approach could be described as glam rock, with a touch of jazz-funk.




‘The Lady Don’t Mind’, written by performed by Talking Heads (1985)


This new wave-art rock song by Talking Heads is on their album, Little Creatures. The site says the number ‘explores themes of emotional detachment, societal expectations, and the complexities of human relationships.’ That’s a good encapsulation, but I mainly like the song for its wonderfully smooth groove, greatly enhanced by Tina Weymouth’s fine bass guitar playing. (I like her work so much, and she always makes it look so effortless, too.)





So, wonderful readers (and listeners) – over to you. Your responses to this topic are warmly welcomed. In the ‘Comments’ section, please add your own choice of a song (or songs) involving the mind, along with any other relevant material you wish to include.



[Note: Wikipedia has been a good general reference for this piece, particularly in relation to checking dates and other details.]





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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, will be published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Some that come to mind KD:
    ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ – Tom Paxton
    ‘You Were On My Mind’ – We Five
    ‘Going Out Of My Head’ – Lynne Randall
    ‘Satisfied Mind’ – The Byrds

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Great, Col – a fine bunch of sixties songs to open the batting with!

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’ve fired the Swish-o-dex up to 11 for these KD (btw I love your selections)

    Mind – Talking Heads
    Suspicious Minds – Sports
    Think For A Minute – Housemartins
    Always On My Mind – lots but I like the Pet Shop Boys one
    Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
    Friday On My Mind – Easybeats
    If I Can’t Change Your Mind – Sugar
    Windmills Of Your Mind – Dusty Springfield
    Your Mind And We Belong Together – Love
    Every Time I Eat Vegetables It Make Me Think Of You – Ramones
    How Do You Think It Feels – Lou Reed
    Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy – Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs
    You Might Think – The Cards
    Harmony In My Head – Buzzcocks
    The Job That Are My Brain – Ramones
    Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
    Trouble In My Brain – Sunnyboys
    I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and the Shondells
    Think About Tomorrow Today – Masters Apprentices
    The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack – The Nice

    I was going to go down the “dream” path, but I reckon there’s enough there for a separate topic.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Fabulous list of song choices, Swish.

    Glad you like mine, too!

  5. Might be a bit if a stretch but Heroin by Lou Reed (amazing song, from Rock n Roll Animal) might fit the concept. The effects of heroin on Lou’s mind.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Dips. Yes, let’s include ‘Heroin’, for the reason you put forward.


  7. Quick couple of Bruce songs:

    Blinded by the Light
    Johnny 99

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for these, Rick. I’m particularly interested to know how you’d line up ‘Blinded by the Light’ with the theme. (‘Johnny 99’ seems clear enough in this context.)

  9. Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine, Tom T Hall

  10. Feels So Fine – Johnny Preston
    Church of Poison Mind – Culture Club
    New York State of Mind – Billy Joel
    The Windmills of Your Mind – Noel Harrison
    Playground in my Mind – Clint Holmes.

  11. Re Blinded by the Light, it’s autobiographical, based on Bruce at 22 and the world in front of him. Punchline, which I reckon is superb:

    Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun
    Whoa, but, Mama, that’s where the fun is

    Blinded is a coming-of-age story. It takes place in his mind, psychologically caught between obeying the parent and letting loose whatever the cost. Each verse is a light hearted look at sex, drugs, rocknroll, what is availble, what you risk and how you land, with the last verse a laugh at what a dumbarse he is but what the hell, cause that’s where the fun is!

  12. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks Rick, re ‘Blinded by the Light’ – this detail is really helpful. I did get the autobiographical, coming-of-age stuff, but the extent to which one’s life is a ‘life of the mind’ is another, subtler point, I feel.

    Thank you, also, for ‘Old Dogs, Children…’, an old favourite that I associate with my father.

  13. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for these song choices, Fisho – interesting, as always. Just wondering how ‘Feels So Fine’ fits in, theme-wise.

  14. It’s his state of mind, he feels so fine.

  15. Kevin Densley says

    Fair enough, Fisho. That makes sense.

  16. Dave Nadel says

    First a quibble. Glen Campbell did not write Gentle on My Mind, although he probably had the best recorded version. The song was written by John Hartford. His version is perhaps an older country style than Glen’s but it is still bloody good.

  17. Dave Nadel says

    First a quibble. Glen Campbell did not write Gentle on My Mind, John Hartford did. Glen’s is probably the best version but John Hartford’s is pretty good. He is a banjo player and his arrangements are perhaps more 1940s style country.
    Now for some of my suggestions – first some Canadians: Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song called Second Cup of Coffee in which he is “thinking of a lady who got lost along the way” and in the third verse “thinking of girls with their fingers in my curls, too young to understand how love begins.
    Neil Young writing about his roots in Helpless
    There is a town in north Ontario,
    With dream comfort memory to spare,
    And in my mind
    I still need a place to go,
    All my changes were there.
    (His fellow Canadian Buffy Sainte Marie did a nice cover version of Helpless with Neil singing harmony).
    The first Leonard Cohen song I ever heard Suzanne talks about “touching her perfect body with your mind”

  18. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Dave. Yep, you’re right of course about the writing of ‘Gentle on My Mind’ – my mistake. And I knew Campbell didn’t write it – I just hadn’t corrected my earlier draft concerning the song details. (In other words, it was a proofreading issue.)

    Great to get your songs concerning the theme. Your mention of Gordon Lightfoot reminded me that he also wrote and recorded the big hit ‘If You Could Read Me Mind’.

  19. Kevin Densley says

    Oops … ‘If You Could Read My Mind’!

  20. Dave Nadel says

    It has nothing to do with the current topic but I realised today that when we were doing train songs I forgot to mention one of my favourite songs – Guy Clark’s Desperado’s Waiting for a Train. It isn’t really about trains but a train appears in the title.

  21. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Dave. Thanks for Clark’s ‘Desperados Waiting Far A Train’, even if if fits another theme – what a beautiful song!

  22. Liam Hauser says

    A mind with a heart of its own: Tom Petty
    Twilight: Electric Light Orchestra
    State of mind: Electric Light Orchestra
    Mind on my man: Carly Simon
    I had you in mind: Mondo Rock
    Thought and words: The Byrds
    Got my mind set on you: George Harrison (written by Rudy Clark and originally performed by James Ray)

  23. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Liam – an interesting and varied bunch of good songs, as usual. I was wondering when someone would get to the George Harrison version of ‘Got My Mind Met Set On You’, which, I was surprised to discover, went to Number #1 in the USA. Interestingly, George’s only child, son Dhani, has a new album out called Innerstanding, which, judging by its title, sounds like it has a ‘mind’ theme. Innerstanding has only been out for a few days, so I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet

  24. Can’t get you out of my head – Kylie Minogue
    Can’t get it out of my head – ELO
    Always In My Head – Coldplay
    Read My Mind – Killers
    Where Is My Mind – Pixies
    I Think My Mind Has Made Its Mind Up – Wombats
    Turn – Wombats
    Brain Brain – Mental As Anything
    Think for Yourself – Beatles

    And some Celtic punk:
    Out of our heads – Dropkick Murphys

  25. The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows probably fits the theme also

  26. Kevin Densley says

    Great bunch of selections, Smokie. Thanks so much for these. And I think ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ very much fits the theme, too, as do quite few George Harrison songs, such as ‘I Want to Tell You’ (1966) also from the Revolver album. And I’ve just thought of the Beach Boys’ ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (1968) from their Friends LP – it’s relationship to the theme is obvious.

  27. Kevin Densley says

    *Correction to last line, above – ‘its relationship to the theme’… (Geez, it would be excellent if one could fix typos in the ‘Comments’ section, without having to add something in another comment box!)

  28. Me Brain Hurts by one of Australia’s great singer/songwriter Mark Jacko Jackson

  29. Me Brain Hurts by that well known singer/songwriter Mark Jacko Jackson

  30. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Rodney, for introducing a bit of, er, ‘comedy’ into the list!

  31. Karl Dubravs says

    Hey KD – really pleased to see ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ get a mention. I first heard the song on the radio in early 71 – it mesmerised me – and still does.
    Now, for a few contenders from Bob Dylan:
    Mama You Been On My Mind – a song covered by many.
    Mr Tambourine Man – ‘then take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind’
    ‘And these Visions Of Johanna that conquer my mind’
    ‘If your memory serves you well’ from This Wheel’s On Fire.
    No Time To Think (from Street Legal) is saturated with imagery of the ‘mind’
    I really like ‘Things Have Changed’ from the Wonder Boys film – ‘A worried man with a worried mind….people are crazy and times are strange’…. & it goes on from there ‘the human mind can only stand so much’
    cheers, Karl

  32. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Karl. Great to get your input on the ‘mind’ topic – excellent, also, to get some more Dylan songs connected to the theme. I think my mention of ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ constituted the only previous Dylan number on the list.

  33. Finally have a bit of time to get involved with this excellent topic.

    So, here’s a few:

    I’m on Fire, Springsteen
    My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own, Connie Francis
    Thoughts and Prayers, Drive-By Truckers
    Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her, George Strait
    Country State of Mind, Hank Williams Jr.
    Got You on My Mind Once Again, Hank Snr
    I Can’t Get You Off of My Mind, Hank again
    I Hang My Head and Cry, yep Hank again
    Bring It on Home to Me, Sam Cooke
    Sittin’ and Thinkin’, Charlie Rich
    Love Waits for Me, Charlie Rich
    I Almost Lost My Mind, another Charlie Rich song (yes, many others have recorded it as well)
    Paranoid, Black Sabbath


  34. Dave Nadel says

    I am amazed that no one has mentioned Georgia on my Mind – neither the brilliant Ray Charles version nor the original Hoagy Carmichael version. 1920s jazz is not my favourite style of music but Carmichael was a superb lyricist. Stardust being the best example of his ability to create both a scene and an emotion.

  35. Good point Dave, and if I could lean into your stellar addition with a kinda response song, that also fits this topic, by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Forget about Georgia. It’s a ripper. Not quite as good as GomM, but not too shabby.

  36. And a few more:

    Ramblin’ on My Mind, Robert Johnson
    Legs, PJ Harvey
    Empire State of Mind, Alicia Keys
    Murder Most Foul, Dylan

  37. Tony Forbes says

    Mind games – John Lennon, You where on my mind – Crispian St Peter’s,

  38. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for your additional song choices and discussion, Rick. As I’ve indicated before, I like the country influences you often bring to the table in these themed contexts. ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath was also a particularly good ‘get’.

    Thank you, Dave, for ‘Georgia on my Mind’. I agree, at times, the obvious can be overlooked. (And I particularly like 1920s jazz, incidentally – each to their own. Actually, I’ve previously written a Footy Almanac article on Louis Armstrong’s 1928 version of ‘St James Infirmary’.)

    Thank you, Tony, also. The John Lennon song has been covered in my opening to this piece, but the Crispian St Peters one is a newie to the list.

  39. Dave Nadel says

    You were on my Mind was actually written and first recorded by Canadians Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker who, under the name Ian and Sylvia, were very early members of the 60s folk revival. Tyson is best known for writing Four Strong Winds, which he recorded in 1963. Neil Young recorded his version in 1978. I like both versions. Tyson also wrote Someday Soon, which was recorded by Judy Collins.

    I am probably showing off with all this extra information, but Ian and Sylvia were one of my favourite folk acts in the 60s and are now almost forgotten. They deserve to be remembered.

  40. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Dave, for adding to the picture. Tony Forbes was obviously referring the Crispian St Peters version of ‘You Were on My Mind’, as was I. Digging a bit further, multiple online sources reveal that Sylvia Fricker wrote the song by herself in 1961 before her and future husband Ian Tyson recorded the song in 1963 for the album Northern Journey which appeared in 1964. Of course, other artists have recorded the song too.

  41. Karl Dubravs says

    Hey Kevin & Dave. I recently did some research on Ian Tyson & Bob Dylan. Here’s how Ian came to write Four Strong Winds – a song I enjoy a lot, including Neil Young’s copy.
    Specifically Tyson would recall meeting up with Dylan in the autumn of 1962 at the Greenwich Village bar Kettle of Fish:(Ian Tyson quote:)”this kind of little grubby kid in there”…said: ‘I got this new song’: it was Bobby Dylan – he sang me ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, he’d just wrote it. And I thought: I can do that”…He wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and the next day I wrote ‘Four Strong Winds’.”
    Cheers, Karl

  42. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Karl, for this information – interesting. Apparently, the song I was just writing about, ‘You Were on My Mind’ was written by Sylvia Fricker in a bathtub in a grotty hotel suite in Greenwich Village.

  43. Karl Dubravs says

    Thanks for the info Kevin – another great anecdote to include in my upcoming ‘Songwriting Made Easy’ booklet.
    BTW – My partner (Robyn) & I will be heading down to Werribee this weekend to visit the Victoria State Rose Garden. Traveling down & back from Sydney by XPT – our first overnight train experience – should be fun. Hopefully, the roses (some 5500 of them) will be in bloom! Cheers, Karl

  44. Kevin Densley says

    Cheers, Karl.

    Enjoy your trip to see the Rose Garden. I’m a fan of train travel – it’s a great way to go!

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