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."
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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 theme to the TV show Rawhide
. He says that the band was watching TV together one day, and Nugent had his guitar. They told him to play the next thing that came on, and it was Rawhide
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.