By Dave Thompson
Rather than ask whether or not a band deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there is a growing breed of music fan who asks whether the Hall of Fame itself deserves any bands.
What started out as a reasonably sincere, if always faintly dubious, attempt to legitimize rock ’n’ roll in the same mainstream sphere as the Emmys and Grammys has since become little more than another round of industry back-slapping, its honors neatly divided between populist inevitabilities and patronized obscurities.
Certainly one can argue that the Hall of Fame has completely lost sight (if it ever even understood them) of rock ’n’ roll’s primary cultural objective and purpose — which was to stand up against anything that society deemed acceptable. In a perfect world, Hall of Fame nominees would be judged wholly on how many hotel rooms they’ve trashed, how many Rolls-Royces they have driven into swimming pools and how many TVs they have thrown out of windows. With drug consumption, groupie debauchment and alcohol intake thrown in for good measure.
So much for a perfect world. Sadly, we live in a very imperfect one, which some people believe is the only explanation for why the Moody Blues have still to be inducted. They have, after all, now been eligible for inclusion for longer (26 years) than the period of eligibility (25) itself, and every time another batch of nominations rolls around, there they are, absent again.
Why? What does the Hall of Fame judging committee have against our favorite Knights in white satin? They won’t tell us, of course. So we’ll just have to make stuff up. Here are five reasons why the Moody Blues should be inducted into the Hall of Fame immediately. And five reasons why it’s good that they’ve been kept out.
1. In a sea of British Invasion heroes, only the Zombies (“She’s Not There”) and the Animals (“House of the Rising Sun”) can be said to have said so much with one song as the Moodies did with “Go Now” — a 1964 megawhopper that remains the all-time definitive reading.
2. Prog Rock, no matter how successful its creators, has never comfortably fit in with most people’s notion of truly merit-worthy rock ’n’ roll – which is why Yes, ELP, King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator are also absent from the Hall. Can you imagine the jam at the end, if they were invited? “Thank you. Now we’d like to play for you sides two, three and four of our third concept album.”
3. Whether or not one actually likes the music, it is impossible to dismiss the impact of “Days of Future Passed,” the Moodies’ second album, but their first to feature what we now regard as the classic lineup. Both commercially and culturally, “Days…” not only vies for the title of rock’s first true concept album (as opposed to a bunch of bad Beatles songs bookended by an even drabber title piece), it also contains one of the defining sounds of psychedelia ‘67, “Nights in White Satin.”
4. For heaven’s sake, get these men a tailor. Watching Moodies footage from the end of the ‘60s is like gazing upon a bunch of very trendy geography teachers, being dressed according to a blind television producer’s mix-and-match concept of what is currently “hip.” Or was, a few months before. For sartorial reasons alone, the Moody Blues are about as rock ’n’ roll as Lawrence Welk. And at least Dudley Do-Right liked him.
5. The original 1964-1967 Moodies lineup, fronted by future Wingsman Denny Laine and co-managed by maverick genius Tony Secunda, were recently commemorated with a 2-CD “complete works” box set whose contents stand alongside any similar period package of British R&B’s transition into weightier topics and themes. Their previously unissued version of Tim Hardin’s “Hang on to a Dream” is at least the equal to their treatment of “Go Now.” Although Hardin’s not been Hall of Famed either.
6. There’s weighty and there’s wearisome. If the Moodies had stopped at two albums, and never followed up “Days of Future Passed,” they’d probably have been nominated two decades ago. But they had to keep going, and frankly, they talked themselves out of contention somewhere around the time of “To Our Children’s Children’s Children’s Psychiatrists… Please Make Them Stop.” Or whatever it was called.
7. In a mid-1970s age where every band of a certain mindset felt compelled to splinter off a slew of solo albums, the Moodies were the single exception that proved the golden rule. Most of their efforts were actually really good, with one of them, Justin Hayward and John Lodge’s Blue Jays project, even spinning off a single that sums up 1975 as eloquently as “Nights in White Satin” encapsulated ’67. “Blue Guitar” is a work of genius.
8. And so, according to some poor souls, is the solo Hayward’s “Forever Autumn,” although it’s probably best known as one of the lynchpins that bind Jeff Wayne’s “The War of the Worlds“ concept monster. Seriously, do you really want giant three-legged Martian fighting machines strolling the streets of New York City, ruthlessly incinerating every industry bigwig that they see? Umm … don’t answer that.
9. Rock ’n’ roll is not merely about the music, it is the entire package — music, artwork, lifestyle and philosophy. Quite frankly, if more people lived their lives according to the teachings of the Moody Blues, relating to their lyrics and the meanings thereof; adhering to the tenets of love, intellect and tranquility that pervade their every breath, the world would be a far happier place.
10. Sorry. You lost me when you called them rock ’n’ roll.