Timothy Leary’s dead, but his legend lives on, at least in the minds of Moody Blues fans.
The psychedelic guru was immortalized in “Legend of a Mind,” a trippy track off the Moodys’ 1968 album “In Search of the Lost Chord.” Written by flutist Ray Thomas and arranged by keyboardist Mike Pinder, the song’s haunting refrain of “Timothy Leary’s dead/ Oh, no, he’s outside looking in” was actually a high compliment.
“It was quite metaphysical,” Pinder said recently from his Auburn, Calif., home. “It used him as an out of body experience and looking back at life at a normal level.”
Those who didn’t get the message behind the song “were on the other outside looking in,” he said with a laugh.
Leary never had a problem with the song, Pinder said.
“I explained it to him, where we were coming from, and he understood it. He even came on stage and banged a tambourine at a few shows. If he had missed the point, him of all people, that would have been awfully strange.”
Once a clinical psychologist at Harvard University, Leary administered drugs such as LSD to other researchers, students and celebrities (the Moodys included) seeking “spiritual ecstasy, religious revelation and union with God.”
“Others were doing it without any understanding or knowledge of what it involved,” Pinder said. “They were using it as a party drug and that was wrong. Timothy was on a frontier of discovery. He caught the ball and ran with it.”
Pinder said he kept in touch with Leary over the years and listened to the ideas he had.
“They were usually ungrounded, like space stations,” he said. “And he was trying to do good things with computers, but he didn’t know where he was taking it. He hung on the external side of things.”
Pinder carved the Moody Blues’ sound with the use of the Mellotron, a keyboard that reproduces orchestral and choral sounds. After 14 years, he quit the band in 1978, vowing to devote more time with his wife, Tara, and their children.
He returned to recording last year with his second full-length solo album, “Among the Stars,” on his independent label One Step Records. This year’s follow-up, “A Planet With One Mind,” featured a collection of children’s stories read by Pinder and set to music. It recently was named one of three finalists in the audio-children category of the 1996 Benjamin Franklin Awards. The winner will be announced at a ceremony June 14 in Chicago.
Pinder also obtained the rights of his Threshold debut album, “The Promise,” from 1976 and reissued it a few weeks ago on One Step. It contains two new tracks, including “Island to Island,” which features Michael Sembello (“Maniac”) on guitar.
All three Pinder albums can be purchased by calling (800) 770-9292.