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Journey To The Center Of The Mind

by

The Amboy Dukes



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about hallucinogenic drugs, which were big at the time. It described the feeling of an acid trip. Nothing unusual about that, since 1968 was the height of the psychedelic era, but The Amboy Dukes founder and guitarist was Ted Nugent, who takes pride in his drug-free lifestyle. This song was written by the group's other guitarist, Steve Farmer, and Nugent claimed he had no idea it was a drug song; he thought it was about looking inside yourself.

It is possible that Nugent was so out of touch with the drug culture that he really didn't hear the drug references, and his bandmates were not likely to tell him. Nugent smoked some joints in 1967 and hated it. He went straight edge, believing that any outside element makes you "lesser than you were prior to taking it." Even though he had long hair and looked like a Hippie, he made it clear that he had no use for that lifestyle, and thought marijuana made people lethargic and lazy. He never told his bandmates they couldn't smoke pot, but thought that if they did, they wouldn't be able to keep up with him.
This was the only hit for The Amboy Dukes, which Ted Nugent formed when he moved from Detroit to Chicago at age 15. There was another group in Detroit called The Amboy Dukes that had disbanded, so Nugent decided to use the name. It was only later that he learned that the name came from a gang in the city of Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

When Nugent graduated high school, he relocated to Detroit with the band, and along with Bob Seger, they became a big part of the Detroit Rock music scene. In 1970, Nugent brought in new members and changed the name to Ted Nugent And The Amboy Dukes. The group broke up and Nugent went solo in 1975. The Amboy Dukes played a lot of shows and sold a lot of concert tickets, but their album sales lagged, which Nugent attributes to mismanagement and poor distribution from their record label. Said Nugent, "Nobody had the f--king brains to coordinate the distribution to my tours. I was selling out 12,000-seat halls when I first signed with Discreet. I'm a smart motherf--ker but I was dealing with a bunch of saps."
The Ramones recorded this on their album Acid Eaters. The song is given one of two titles, depending on whether it's on the original release, or a compilation (such as Weird Tales). Depending on the album, the song is either called "Journey To The Center Of The Mind (Amboy Dukes)," or simply, "Journey To The Center Of The Mind." (thanks, Chesid - Fremont, CA)
In 2013, the Concord High School marching band from Elkhart, Indiana performed this song in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The song got a mention from host Matt Lauer, although he bungled the name of the artist, saying the song was by "Ted Nugent and the Asbury Dukes." We're guessing that Lauer had Southside Johnny's band the Asbury Jukes on his mind.
According to Dukes bass player Bill White, the guitar lick on this song was based on the
This song would have fit in very well at Woodstock, but The Amboy Dukes declined an invitation to the 1969 festival. The reason: Ted Nugent didn't like hippies or promoter, and he especially didn't like hippie promoters. The straight-edge Nugent knew that the 3-day festival would go way off schedule (which it did), and was worried about getting stiffed for payment.

Jimi Hendrix' closing set at Woodstock the morning after the festival was supposed to end is one of the most famous performances in Rock history, and emblematic of the bohemian nature of the era. Nugent, however, sees it as gross ineptitude, and he has a point - putting your headliner on stage the morning after the last night of a festival would not go over well under most circumstances.

Comments (24):

Life is full of ironies. I first heard this song shortly after the Tet Offensive, when I was still "gung ho" and contemplating the life of a career Army officer. I fully expected one day to be at war with the Chinese. But things change. I learned a few inconvenient truths, gave up my military career, and today I still listen to this song on an MP3 while strolling through the campus where I teach history - in China!! Oh, yeah, I also voted for Ted in the election for directors of the NRA some years ago. And in yet another irony, last month I was in Hanoi having my photo taken with a company of NVA soldiers in the National History Museum and listening to 60s rock tunes in my hotel lobby. Only this time the rock wasn't being played by Armed Forces Radio - it was being played by the very people we were trying to kill over 40 years ago.
- Gary, Xinzheng, China
"I'm a smart motherf--ker. . ." Oh, gee, Ted, OK, if you insist. But I believe you really DIDN'T know what this song, or (for that matter) the ENTIRE ALBUM, was about! You were then, and remain today, rather clueless, and incapable of introspection or insight. In 1978, you wanted to marry a seventeen-year-old Hawaiin Pele Massa, but because of the age difference, you talked her parents into signing her over to you as her legal guardian. Deadbeat dad (of at least three illegitimate children), you were dragged into court for nonpayment of child support in 2005.

As for the song, it's GREAT! Brilliant in its composition with the rhythm quirks, fun and exciting (although quite flawed, with clumsy editing). Ted's guitar work, while competent, is not particularly psychedelic. His guitar part portrays more narcissistic rage than transcendence, drug-induced or otherwise, more evidence that he was oblivious to the theme and meaning of the song. My favorite part is where Greg Arama (perhaps tripping while playing the bass) gets lost for a few seconds around 1:45. An anthem of the 1960s!
- DrYattz, Atlanta, GA
Ted Nugent was 20 at the time...
- Adam, West Palm Beach, FL
Teds' new album Love Grenade has this song in it, it was a remake and it's great!
- Nathan, Guin, AL
What a great tune!------"take a ride to the land inside and you'll see"
- Daevid, Glendale, CA
Well, oldpink, at the age I was when I heard this song I could have (and did) written half a dozen acid-soaked lyrics without ever having touched the stuff, simply from having read and heard so many descriptions of drug experiences. So, I could believe Nugent saying he hadn't had any drugs at that time. Just because the content of the song was obvious doesn't mean he inhaled. That's like saying "Down by the River" means Neil Young killed somebody. I may even still have those lyrics around somewhere. Chris Akanora, the Sixth-Grade Acid Head. Keeper of the sacred tablets. Here, have a tablet.
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
Great song, done with Ted's trademark quavering style.
btw...for all of you apparently obsessed druggies just SURE Ted was intimately familiar with the subject matter of this song, consider that he was only sixteen at the time he did this, and Ted's dad was an extremely strict former Marine who would not tolerate such misadventures.
Give it a rest, don't you think he could have been young enough that the rest of the band (Ted himself said he changed things because too many of the Dukes turned into unmotivated stoners) would have felt uncomfortable about giving controlled substances to someone "not of age yet?"
The rest of the band, including the SONGWRITER were notorious druggies, so there is the answer.
Sheesh!
Now, go sync up your copy of "Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wizard of Oz."
- oldpink, New Castle, IN
The Amboy Dukes should not be called 1 hit wonders, I mean come on ever hear Mississippi Murderer, Down on Philips Escalator, Night Time, Psalms of Aftermath, Colors, their covers of I Feel Free, and Baby Please Dont Go, etc.
NUGE IS GOD!
- Jeremy, London, ON
I remeber this song, I believe it was around August of 1968. It seems that 9 out of 10 songs in those days revolved around acid use. It still remains a classic Amboy Dukes song and I play it on different occaisions in our band. May the music of those days shine on because that was the true era of rock inspite of the content of songs.
- DENNIS, RICHMOND, VA
I adore this song. I loved it when it was first released. It has been my favorite song ever since. We were all aware of the drug connotations but I felt it was about running to a better world. Thank you so much for making the film of the Amboy Dukes performing this song available to us 40 years later.
- Ja, Allentown, PA
Have you guys seen HBO's "Six Feet Under"? It's a terrific show. When one of the sons traces his dead fathers footsteps he finds out his otherwise straightlaced and square dad had some secrets, including a small crash pad he had kept pre-paid rent-wise. A flashback scene shows the dad going there, lighting up a joint and rocking out hippie style to "Journey of the Center of the Mind".
- Rich, El Segundo, CA
one of those guitar solos that isn't really amazing talent wise, but is just a perfect fit for the song and sounds awesome
- Clint, Mount Vernon, MO
Speaking of absurd, let's all imagine Ethel Merman belting out a broadway-esque rendition of this song...
I can see old Ted onstage along side her.
How happy life could be!
- Phred, Burlington, VT
Nugent does a cover of this on his latest album, Love Grenade.
- Christopher, Coweta, OK
I like this song. Although I'm not much of a Ted Nugent fan.
- Farrah, Elon, NC
My band always used this song for our opener in the late 60's. It definately caught the attention of the crowd and it was a very popular tune. We would follow it up with Satisfaction as our second song and the rest is history.
- Don, Vermontville, MI
I first heard this song in the middle of the desert august 1969...the day before we 1st landed on the moon. It was on acid in spite of the heat...I was with an east coast band on the way to L.A. to make it in the industry...You are right...I always believed Ted knew exactly what it (the song) was about and altough it was one interpretation it was a good one. I still crank it up (I just Did) and it is like a magic caroet ride into another place and time.
- Don K. Miles, Colonial Heights, VA
The lyrics alone could possibly describe looking inside yourself or meditation, but in the 1960s psychedelics and hallucinogens were used as aids to this process. Anyway, the instrumentation is a dead giveaway that this is not about meditation alone. Many LSD users report internal visuals at this kind of roller-coaster, breakneck pace, such that they wish it would slow down a bit so they can get a better look. "My LSD Trip" by Bob Gannon (Popular Science December 1968) describes this in great detail.
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
drugs or not it rocks
- dale, rumford, ME
Err, the song I mean.
- Arm, Somewher, United States
The drug being about psychedelic drugs instead of hallucinogenic drugs would sound better. There is more to the psychedelic experience then "visuals."
- Arm, Somewher, United States
I think it's absurd that anyone would make or acknowledge an issue regarding such thing to the extent that they would make a denial. Like Bill Clinton didn't inhale. What a candy ass! The President of the U.S. isn't wise enough to explain that there is no real issue regarding whether someone inhaled a naturally occurring substance or not? Such things make no difference to the world the same as whether he or anyone believes in G_d.
- Blazintommyd, Johnson City, NY
Nugent's comments about not knowing this was a drug song are perhaps some of the least believable denials in the history of drug songs. Is there a single human being on the planet - including and especially people who have never ever tried a drug, for whom the content of the song is not obvious?

I think they were trying to have a hit in the late 1960s, knew this would be one based at least partially on the druggy overtones, and recorded it quite conscious of what they were doing.

It's okay Ted, you can admit it. We won't take your guns.
- Chris, Marana, AZ
Ted Nugent was *not* the lead singer of this song. It was sung by John Drake, the original vocalist of the Amboy Dukes. Nugent was the lead guitarist of the band, not the singer; the guitar solo is unmistakeably done in Nugent's trademark style.
- Gregory, Chicago, IL
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