By Lee Zimmerman
It’s obvious even when conversing with Justin Hayward by phone that he is exactly the man one might have imagined. Unceasingly polite, unquestionably urbane and quintessentially English, he exudes a charm that transcends any length of phone line.
Just as he feels compelled to faithfully reprise “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” each and every time The Moody Blues perform a concert, Hayward graciously fields all queries about the Moodys’ mind-set, no matter how mundane and predictable they might become. Perhaps he understands that Mellotrons, black lights and the whiff of incense can create a woozy mind-set.
Regardless, Hayward probably also realizes that there is a need for such indulgence. For the Boomers who came of age in the late ’60s and early ’70s, The Moody Blues provided an essential soundtrack to that age of wonderment, parlaying songs with more than a hint of psychedelic suggestion and lyrics that relayed truths sequestered only for those with an enlightened attitude or a penchant for consuming certain chemical additives.
Consequently, the band willingly took its place as one of the most influential outfits of that era, and indeed, their roll call of essential albums — “Days of Future Passed,” “In Search of the Lost Chord,” “On the Threshold of a Dream” and “A Question of Balance” — and their classic tracks — the aforementioned pair along with “Ride My See-saw,” “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” and the like — became FM radio staples that endure to this day.
With the end of the ’60s and the start of the ’70s also foretelling an end to that era of innocence, the Moodys lost their luster and eventually went their separate ways. Hayward teamed up with bassist John Lodge in the appropriately dubbed Blue Jays before venturing into various solo projects, including the multi-artist concept collaboration War of the Worlds with producer Jeff Wayne.
Happily, the ’80s brought the band a renaissance of sorts and garnered the group renewed popularity and a renewed presence on the charts via “The Other Side of This Life,” “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” and “Your Wildest Dreams.” While their albums failed to match the grandiose heights of their earlier efforts, a steady presence on TV, an ongoing stream of live albums and reissues, and a tsunami-like wave of nostalgia, served as a springboard to bring them back before the masses.
The band — which still boasts Hayward, Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge — continues to tour regularly while reaping the adulation and enthusiasm of their still-fervent fans.
It was on the eve of The Moody Blues’ most recent jaunt that Goldmine caught up with Hayward at his home in England.
Given the complex sounds you created on your earlier studio albums, is it a challenge to recreate those elements in concert?
Justin Hayward: First of all, we still use the sample sounds from our original Mellotron tracks, and when we were working with (producer) Tony Visconti in the ’80s, he got quite hung up about sampling all our original Mellotrons before they got turned to dust, and he did a great job of that. We still use those samples, but I think the rest of it is down to the songs and trying to be faithful to the records. The important thing is that the song comes through and that it has some sort of space to breathe.
With such a vast catalogue to choose from, how do you narrow down your set list?
JH: Well, that’s a dilemma, because it’s not what we play — we often think it’s what we leave out. But some things just work better onstage.
Recently, what we’ve been doing is bringing old songs back that maybe we’ve never done on stage before, songs that never occurred to us to do and to see how they work. And some of the old stuff works really well. And, of course, there are a number of songs that you just can’t leave out anyway, because people would be disappointed if we didn’t do them. So the second half of our show is determined by that, really. It’s kind of a greatest hits. So that allows us to mess around with the first half of the show.
What are some of those unexpected songs you include in the set?
JH: We do songs from the “December” album that we put out about [a few] years ago, and then the second song in, we do a song called “Day We Meet Again,” which we haven’t done for a long time and which is from the “Octave” album. We also do “Peak Hour,” which is from the “Days of Future Passed” album, so that’s nice, too. And of course there’s “Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” those kind of things, and there’s some staples in the show. “The Other Side Of Life” — that goes over well, too So I hope there’s something in there for everybody. There’s something from most of the albums, and I hope that anybody who’s seen us through the years will recognize a particular era.