The Moody Blues’ most iconic album hits a milestone

By Lee Zimmerman

Certain artists form special bonds with their fans and followers. The Grateful Dead clearly comes to mind thanks to the dedicated devotion of legions of Deadheads, but other artists — Neil Young, Todd Rundgren, and Jimmy Buffett among them — have also created a communal connection that brings the relationship between artist and audience even closer. Still, The Moody Blues stand apart, not only as a result of their 50 years of making music, but also because that music they made became an indelible soundtrack for an entire generation.

This year, the band — which is still helmed by original members Justin Hayward (vocals, guitar), John Lodge (vocals, bass) and Graeme Edge (drummer, poet) — plans to mark a major milestone, that being the 50th anniversary of “Days of Future Passed,” the seminal album which not only marked the bands transition to progressive rock from their R&B origins, but also helped usher in an era of experimentation and ambition, the likes of which, rock hasn’t seen since. A remarkable fusion of classical music and certain cerebral sounds fostered by ambition and innovation, it gave birth to such songs as “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” tracks that remain an integral part of The Moodies’ remarkable repertoire. The band plans to play the entire album live in its entirety on tour, recreating it exactly as imagined in its original incarnation. Then January 2—7, 2018 the band ventures out for the fourth run of their ever-popular Moody Blues Cruise, offering fans and followers yet another opportunity to embrace a band that’s still unique and enchanting.

Graeme Edge of The Moody Blues (Publicity photo)

Goldmine recently spoke with Graeme Edge about the past, the present and the future.

GOLDMINE: You’re about to embark on a very exciting tour. Have you ever played “Days of Future Passed” onstage in its entirety before?

Graeme Edge: No. The closest we came was when we did it originally and later played with a full orchestra at Red Rocks in Colorado. But we only did that once, and we only did four songs. This time around, the entire second half of the show will be the whole of “Days of Future Passed,” in it entirety.

GM: How will you arrange the orchestral parts?

GE: We’ll do a straight forward rock show in the first half, some of our other hits, and then we’ll probably take a break and the orchestra will come on and we’ll play the album straight through. We’re still a little short on details because we’re still in the planning stages, but I’m sure it will be a bit trippy… you know, the old ‘60s bi-carbonated soda sort of thing with black lights and special effects. At least that’s my suggestion. John and Justin will have their ideas as well. The lighting guy will be there to make all of us happy (chuckles). But for now, we’re still in the development stage.

GM: So do you plan to bring an orchestra on tour with you?

GE: Maybe for some gigs, yes. For other gigs, no. The Hollywood Rose Bowl and the shows in Toronto for sure. But for some gigs no, because the stages are too short. We’re going to have to put some people backstage behind a scrim, people who will flesh out the show, two or three people. But again, it’s all in the planning stages.

GM: You can probably recruit resident orchestras in many of the places you visit, no?

GE: We used to do that around 10 years ago, and some of the orchestras were very, very interesting. (chuckles). Some were high school orchestras. They were enthusiastic, shall we say. (laughs)

GM: Many people think that The Moody Blues began with “Days of Future Passed,” but you actually had a history prior to that. That makes you the sole original founding member. You’ve seen it all.

GE: Yes, we had a big hit with “Go Now,” and we had an album, “The Magnificent Moodies,” that came out at the same time. It was a collection of basic pop songs. (chuckles) That period of the band’s history was only about 18 months. So I still refer to Justin and John, the new boys, as original members.

GM: And you still refer to them as “the new boys.”

GE: Oh yes, absolutely.

GM: But it must have been such a dramatic shift from the original incarnation to this very different sound you created with “Days of Future Passed.” What prompted that move from being a pop/R&B band to becoming a trailblazing progressive ensemble?

GE: We got Justin and John. Actually, John was sort of an original member. He was in the first meetings. But he dropped out to finish college. He had one year of college left, so we had to find someone as a stopgap. Our original bassist Clint Warwick had done “Go Now,” so we didn’t think it was fair to sack him for Johnny, but then things changed and we eventually got Johnny and Justin. We were doing work at a men’s clubs up north and we were dying. We were trying to do comedy and we’re not a comedy act.

GM: Obviously not!

GE: So one day we were coming back from some place up north and we just said, “No more of this. We’re going to write our own stuff, record our own stuff,” because there was just no way we were going to continue doing what we were doing. So we went back to original material we had complied. “Nights in White Satin” was written. “Tuesday Afternoon” was written. ”Dawn Is a  Feeling” was written. “Twilight Time” was written. The first time we recorded those songs, we recorded them for a radio show that we put out live. At first we thought they were just nice songs, but when we went upstairs to listen, we went, “Oh wow, what’s this?” Lo and behold, the record company had a new sound system they were testing, which was really just a new stereo sound system. They called it “Super Sound,” and they were trying different things as samples. They were doing marching bands, they were doing orchestras, and combinations like jazz and orchestra. So we were the rock and orchestra. They wanted us to do Dvorjak’s “New World Symphony,” and we said “Yeah, we’ll do it!” So they booked 10 days worth of studio time for us and we recorded something like a symphony, but with rock songs. And they went for it! So we presented them with the “Days of Future Passed” album. It was actually rejected by the people at Decca, but there was an American there named Ron McGuire who was over from London Records, which was the Decca subsidiary in America. He said, “I can sell this,” and God bless him, he did. So we were under a cloud for a little bit but then the sun came out.

GM: So the original idea was really to make some kind of demo disc? Was the real intention to test this new stereo sound system? Was it not intended to be an album.

GE: It was meant to be an album, but it was also meant to test the flexibility of the stereo sound. It was two contrasting kinds of music on one album so that you could say ‘listen, it’s good for all of these things.’ It was test, but we were hoping that they would also release it.

GM: Being that 1967 was such a heady year for music — you had “Sgt. Pepper,” Pink Floyd and all the rest. At the time, did you see yourselves as part of that new trend in progressive music?

GE: Well, we did as far as that crowd was concerned, but we didn’t think of it as experimental music. We did believe we were in a position to break all sorts of rules in terms of changes from majors to minors and all that sort of thing, different tempos in the same song, different kinds of melodies. All that. We all sort of thought of it as a new guise, but we didn’t think of it as a new trend or anything like that. It was just our music.   

GM: How do you view it 50 years on? What’s your perspective on the album and the boundaries it broke at the time?

GE: Ah, like a lot of people who have created new work, I don’t think I quite knew what I was doing. There were all sorts of things that we weren’t supposed to be able to do and we just did. I suppose it was just the courage that comes with lunacy. We recorded this mad piece of work. We’d say, let’s do 25 bars there and we’ll figure out the rest later. Now, I’m a little older, a little wiser, and I realize how much I don’t know. (laughs) But ignorance was bliss back then, and so we just got on with it and hoped we could get ourselves out of the sh*t. (laughs)

GM: At the same time, this album gave you a new role, as the band’s resident poet. What inspired you to do that? How did that idea come about?

GE: I was trying to write a song lyric, and when I finished, I gave it to the boys and suggested they put some music to it. They said it was fabulous, but it was much too wordy to sing. (chuckles) I thought what a shame, what can we do? So (producer) Tony Clarke said, it’s a poem, and I should just read it. But at the time, my voice was too squeaky. I was smoking too many cigarettes and drinking too much whiskey. So we asked (keyboardist) Mike Pinder to deliver it because he had the right kind of voice. That became sort of a tradition and we became known for it. So one of my jobs became to sort of thread the needle with the theme of the album by writing a poem.

GM: Had you always enjoyed writing poetry?

GE: Pretty much. When I was 11, in the English class, we had to do a reading of “Gray’s Elegy,” and I learned all of it. So I started it up and got really carried away. It was boy’s school and you don’t tear up. I learned that; it took me three or four months to live that down. Later, when I started making music, I would always focus on the bass, the drums or the lyrics, which explains the fact whey I can’t sing in tune. (laughs).   

GM: When you do those pieces in concert, it does get everyone’s attention and it becomes one of the show’s highlights.

GE: People are very kind to me. Yes, they are.

GM: You do a private show on The Moody Blues cruises where you talk about your poetry. People tend to get quite emotional because they consider those passages to be part of The Moodies’ special soundtrack for their lives.

GE: I remember that happening. People talking about how they got married using one of our tunes as their special song, or how they had some special moment with our music as the background. I’m always very happy to hear that. I don’t think I deserve it.

GM: The fact is that The Moody Blues mean a lot to a lot of people in a very emotional way. The band is an indelible part of so many people’s lives.

GE: When I talk about certain things, I get a lump in my throat as well.

GM: You just became an American citizen, did you not?

GE: I am an American citizen now! I got my citizenship about a year ago. It took me awhile. It took me 14 years, in fact. I’ve lived here in Florida, near Tampa Bay, for 26 years, and I’ve lived in America for 30 years. I tried L.A., but I didn’t like that, and then I tried Seattle, and I liked that except for the weather. And then I came down here, and I’ve been quite happy ever since. I’ve always been under the impression that people are generically inclined to live next to water under a palm tree.

GM: Do you still have a home in the U.K.?

GE: I have two adult children in the U.K. but I don’t have a home there.

GM: You’re about to embark on a major tour, one apparently like no other. Are you still pleased with touring these days?

GE: I love it. I could do without the travel, but I do like starting work at four o’clock in the afternoon. I love being on stage playing the music. I don’t love doing the rehearsals and all that because I get terrible, terrible anxiety dreams.   

GM: You’ve shared that with people on the cruise. Your drumsticks turn into bananas.

GE: Yes, I dream that I’m onstage and the drumsticks have turned into bananas. Sometimes I dream that the curtain goes up and I’m not in the band. I’m in the audience. The music starts and I’m yelling “Wait for me!”

GM: So after all these years of doing it, you still have that anxiety?

GE: Absolutely. I had a friend who was a psychologist and he sort of said, if something is important to you, then you will have those dreams, but if the day comes when you don’t give a damn about it, then you ought to quit.

GM: When you would talk about that on the cruise, it was very funny. But it also sounds like this is an issue for you. It’s interesting that you still feel
this way. 

GE: There was an English actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, and by the time he reached the age of 60, he had to quit the stage because he was paralyzed with fear. So it was obviously more important to him than it is to me.

GM: How are you enjoying doing The Moody Blues cruises? 

GE: I love playing live, but I have to stay in my room because I feel so awkward when I go out and people say, “Oh I love you, you’re so great,” and share all the things that we mean to them. I think that’s great, but I don’t feel like I deserve it. But I really do love the performing.

GM: Has there been any talk about what the plan will be for the next cruise that’s coming up in January? Have you considered doing “Days of Future Passed” on the cruise for example?

GE: We haven’t thought about that yet, because our focus is on the current tour. So whatever changes or additions we make on this tour will likely color the next cruise. So we’ll wait until after this tour is underway and see where that takes us.

GM: If “Days of Future Passed” proves successful, will you consider featuring any of your other albums in their entirety as part of future tours?

GE: We’ve joked about it and our booking agency has taken it seriously. I think we did about seven albums in five or six years. There’s nothing that’s been discussed yet, but one I’d love to do which isn’t one of the big seven is “Long Distance Voyager.”

GM: It would seem that “Days of Future Passed” would be the hardest one to do because it involves an orchestra. With that or any other album, you won’t need to include an orchestra. That might make it easier.

GE: Possibly. It’s quite daunting. The orchestra rehearses in the morning and then we turn up in the afternoon, and then we have our dinner break and do a show at night. It can be quite exhausting as well.

GM: Well, regardless, the fans do have a lot to thank you for, especially all the wonderful music you’ve shared over the years.

GE: Well, right back at you. People like you have given me a wonderful life. It’s a mutual love fest. 

July 2017 issue covers the anniversary of Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed”

An interview with John Lodge

By Warren Kurtz

John Lodge of The Moody Blues (Publicity photo)

In the spring of 1965,  during the British Invasion, The Moody Blues had their U.S. Top 40 debut with “Go Now.” The single, with Denny Laine on lead vocals and guitar, and Clint Warwick on bass, reached No. 10. Mike Pinder’s piano was prominent while Ray Thomas played tambourine and Graeme Edge played drums. Three more singles from the group failed to reach the U.S. Top 40. Rod Clark became the bassist briefly after Clint Warwick left. Denny Laine went solo, and ultimately became a founding member of Wings in the ‘70s, reprising “Go Now” on the “Wings Over America” live album. Guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge joined the group in 1966, and provided vocals and compositions for The Moodies classic line-up, which would last through eight studio albums. In the ‘80s several more hits continued with Patrick Moraz replacing Mike Pinder on keyboards.

Goldmine spoke with John Lodge about growing up in England, the early days of The Moody Blues, parenthood, his solo work and this musical 50th anniversary.

GOLDMINE: Did you and Justin join The Moody Blues at the same time?

John Lodge: Yes, we both did in June of 1966. Ray (Thomas), Mike (Pinder) and I had been in a band called El Riot & the Rebels, then I went off to college. I wanted to be a car designer. Growing up in England, I fell in love with motor cars and used to draw American cars. I had just received my mechanical engineering certificate when Ray called and asked, “Did you finish college?” He said that they found a new singer and guitarist named Justin. We met and got along straight away.

GM: Did it seem daunting to try to create an orchestral project for a rock band with the name of The Moody Blues? 

JL: When we started out, we were playing the blues. We had never been to America, so we grew up as an English blues band. In England the music was “moody” which meant the same thing as “hip” at that time in the ‘60s, not an upset moody feeling. I found rock ‘n’ roll at the age of 12, loving Chuck Berry, but before that, at the age of eight in school we had a daily quiet period. The teacher would play classical records and I listened deeply. I didn’t know at the time how much it would influence me. “Days” felt natural for all of us. We felt so inspired by Peter Knight as the conductor, recording at a four-track studio for an amazing seven days.

GM: At the end of the first side of “Days of Future Passed,” with a Jefferson Airplane-like freedom, we hear your voice and bass drive the exciting “Peak Hour.” Do you remember the writing process?

JL: I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the rear of a transit van as we were driving back from a show in the north of England. I could feel this tempo in the van, like a bass drum. I asked Graeme, “Can you keep this beat going?” He said, “Yes,” and pounded away while in the back of that van. It is a driving song. In America, you have “rush hour” and in England we have “peak hour.” I wanted to write a rock ‘n’ roll song with Mike’s Hammond B3 organ in the middle, take a choir break, and then back to the tempo, a bit like The Beatles, as we were all growing up at the same time. With the album, it was a great time to write songs and introduce our different way, experimenting with music.

GM: I know an oldies DJ who won’t play “Go Now” due to poor sound quality. That certainly isn’t the case with either side of your group’s next U.S. Top 40 single “Tuesday Afternoon” from the second side of the album and its flip side “Another Morning” from the first side.

JL: Decca had incredible recording technicians, all wearing white lab coats. They said, “What you record now will last a lifetime.” How true that is 50 years later.

GM: The original vinyl album was split into three sections on the first side and three sections on the second side. Songs were labeled within the sections. On the section labeled “THE AFTERNOON,” right after the song “Tuesday Afternoon” is “Time to Get Away,” which wasn’t listed on the album. Fortunately, your gentle song was later listed with the album’s rereleases.

JL: I wanted to explore and offer calmness, then come up with a chorus line that everyone can sing. In the bridge, I got to use my falsetto.

GM: What an album finale with “Nights in White Satin.” After peaking in the U.S. at No. 103, in early 1968, it finally saw its day in the No. 2 position in 1972, between your Top 40 hit compositions from the “Seventh Sojourn” album “Isn’t Life Strange” and “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” and the beautiful original non-album track “Cities” survived as the original flip side.

JL: 1972 was an amazing time. “Nights in White Satin” had been a hit in France and a minor hit in England in the late ‘60s. Then in 1972, the “Seventh Sojourn” album reached No. 1 in America and the “Days of Future Passed” album, like the “Nights in White Satin” single reached No. 2. This is fascinating, thinking back to rehearsing this beautiful song in 1966, which we first recorded at the BBC in London.

GM: After the success of the “Seventh Sojourn” album, the group took a break, releasing solo albums, which I bought and loved, of which my favorite is your collaboration with Justin, “Blue Jays.” The flip side of “I Dreamed Last Night” was “Remember Me, My Friend,” where you seemed to take friendship to a spiritual level and then there was your powerful “Saved by the Music.”

JL: With “Remember Me, My Friend” there is a joining of the minds when you become friends and you should never forget your friends. When you find somebody, who is a friend, it is one of the greatest things in the world. It can be a spiritual thing. The title “Saved by the Music” is very true, not only growing up but also riding this crest of an unbelievable wave. It is quite easy to fall by the wayside, but if you put pride behind you, it can be a wonderful experience.

GM: When my wife, Donna, and I were expectant parents with our daughter, Brianna, we would play “Emily’s Song” from your “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” album each week. What is Emily doing?

JL: Ah, what an inspiration, seeing a baby. I opened with, “Lovely to know the warmth your smile can bring to me” and it sent a shiver down my back. “Take me into your world” summed up my desires. Emily studied economics at USC and received her masters at the George Lucas School of Cinematic Arts there and made some movies and U.K. TV shows. She worked with Monty Python and Michael Palin and now runs the 10,000 Light Year Band.

GM: Named after your latest solo album, “10,000 Light Years Ago.” My favorite three songs on it are the opening song, with almost a Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here” album mood, the middle song which sounds to me like what would happen if Eric Clapton was produced by Jeff Lynne, and the final number with its opening poem.

JL: I wrote the opening song, “In My Mind” in my music room on a 12-string guitar and centered on three notes on the bass to get the full frequency of sound on stage. Norda Mullen, who has been with The Moody Blues since Ray retired in 2003, plays flute and is really great. I send her demos of my songs. She has a great classical background. In the middle of the album is “Get Me Out of Here,” which captures the feeling when you go somewhere and don’t feel comfortable. You have a chill up your back as you’re not in the right place. The finale is the title track “10,000 Light Years Ago,” which is the first song I wrote for the album with a message that the future is always in reach and the past is gone forever.

GM: There is a celebration of the past with the “Days of Future Passed” Tour this summer.

JL: I am really looking forward to it. I really like being on stage. It takes years to understand the music and what it can mean. With The Moody Blues and our fans, it is about the friendship around music and how it has really united us. That is one of the greatest successes. With success, you never know where it is going to happen but the doors will open for you. As we prepare for the tour I want to thank Goldmine for keeping The Moody Blues alive with all the fans and your readers. 

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