By Lee Zimmerman
With status of The Moody Blues seemingly uncertain, and at best, being on hiatus, it’s fortunate to find bassist John Lodge far from willing to sit still. The divide Lodge and the band became apparent due to his absence from the latest incarnation of the Moody Blues annual seaboard excursion — recently rebranded as the “On The Blue” Cruise — which took place earlier this year. Fortunately for fans, Lodge reemerged as a special guest on Yes' popular prog extravaganza, “Cruise to the Edge,” an event that he would happily reprise with an appearance in 2020. (Note: Lodge will be performing on the Rock and Romance Cruise with Don Felder, Cheap Trick and America, sailing February15-22 2020).
In fact, the rapport between Lodge and Yes is now so successful that the just embarked on a co-headlining tour appropriately dubbed “The Royal Affair Tour.” For his part, Lodge has plenty to tout. His 2015 solo album 10,000 Light Years Ago — only his second individual outing of his 50 plus year career — is still providing him with a path he’s clearly capable of navigating on his own, and with an upcoming anthology in the works, he’s found a way to reconcile his past with the present and forge his way forward, all at the same time.
Goldmine recently had an opportunity to catch up with the ever-affable Mr. Lodge and ask him about his new solo career and what he has in store.
GOLDMINE: So nice to speak with you John. We recall you being so very gregarious on the Moody Blues cruises in recent years. You always seemed so willing to come out and greet the fans without any real reservation whatsoever.
JOHN LODGE: Moody Blues fan are just nice people. We were all on that ship together. So why not? Look, my eyes are wide open. I want to enjoy what everyone else is enjoying. Yes, I’m making the music, but we’re all there to enjoy ourselves. It’s important to me that we are all there together. I’m not above anyone else, or below anyone else.
GM: You’re currently on tour with Yes, correct?
JL: Yes, The Royal Affairs Tour...We’ll be doing 35 concerts across America.
GM: It’s apparently an outgrowth of your experience on Yes’ Cruise to the Edge excursion for the past couple of years, right?
JT: Yes, I’ve done two cruises with them. The first one was actually three years ago when there wasn’t a Moody Blues cruise for some reason. So I said yeah, it would be great to be on the Cruise to the Edge, a prog rock cruise with all these other great prog rock bands. They’re on the other end of the spectrum I suppose, but it was really good to perform for a new audience, the Yes audience. It was really nice to see the reception to the Moody Blues songs and, of course, a lot of Moody Blues fans came on the cruise because I was on it. We had a great time.
GM: We would think you knew a couple of the Yes guys from back in the day.
JL: Yeah, I knew Steve Howe and Alan White. The music business is very parochial. You don’t get to meet everyone, which is very strange. So I didn’t get to see everyone until we started doing the cruises. It was a really nice time actually.
GM: It would be tempting to say you jumped ship, literally and figuratively, from The Moody Blues cruise to the Yes cruise. So the ultimate question is... what is the status of the Moodies at this point?
JT: I think I was instrumental in the success of the Moody Blues cruise, and so last year, the other two guys in the band said they didn’t want to do a Moody Blues cruise. However I wanted to do one, but then suddenly the promoter decided to do an On the Blue cruise. People ask me why I wasn’t on it and it’s a simple answer. I wasn’t invited. I have no idea why not. I think I was instrumental in it. I love being with the fans — I really enjoy it. You know the song “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band”? Well, the last line of that song is, “We’re all just singers in a rock and roll band.” I’m the same as everyone else as far as I’m concerned, and I do want to talk to you and everyone else. Everyone has something interesting to say. I took my family with me on the cruises and it was really good for everyone. So I was quite surprised that I wasn’t invited to be on that cruise, So there you go. That’s rock and roll, I suppose.
GM: There were rumors that Graeme (Edge) had decided to retire from the road, so the thought occurred to us that maybe you might revisit your side band the Blue Jays with you and Justin (Hayward).
JL: Well, that’s Justin, really. I have no idea of the politics that went into that, or how the On the Blue Cruise happened. So I let it ride. I don’t want people to think that I didn’t want to be on the cruise. If I didn’t want to be on the cruise, I wouldn’t be walking around, spending my time enjoying everyone’s company.
GM: In the meantime, things seem to be going quite well for you. The 10,000 Light Years Ago album came out a few years ago and got very good reviews. How is it doing for you now?
JL: It’s going really fantastic. I’m very excited. A song from that album, “In My Mind,” was nominated for Rock Anthem of the Year. Plus, I was just signed by BMG, so I’ll be releasing a compilation album soon. When I recorded the first album, Natural Avenue, I never had a chance to go out on the road with it and never had a chance to fully support it because we were promoting the Moodies’ album Octave at the same time. So I recently went back in the studio and remixed a couple of tracks from that album. I also went back in and remastered a couple of tracks from 10,000 Light Years Ago, and I rerecorded “(Evening) Time To Get Away” from Days of Future Passed. I’ve also recorded a song called “Street Cafe,” which is a brand new recording I’m really excited about as well. Plus, I rerecorded “Legend of a Mind,” a song I wrote with Ray Thomas, because I want to keep his music alive. So that album’s coming out in a couple of month’s time. It’s called Byond — B Y O N D, as in “beyond.” You’re the first to know about that by the way.
GM: You did some solo material in the past, but now it seems like you are embarking on a new solo career entirely.
JL: I’m really enjoying it because I’ve been able to explore some entirely new music, music I’ve never had a chance to do before. And I’m bringing new songs in. I mentioned “Legend of a Mind.” The Moodies haven’t done that song in concert since Ray Thomas left some 17 years ago. The Moodies will never do that song again. They’ll ever do it again. I want to do it because Ray was my friend, and we grew up together since the age of 15. I was instrumental in helping to make that music work for Ray and I just want to keep that music alive.
GM: From what you’re saying, you are moving forward, but you’re also reviving some of these classic Moody Blues tracks from the past. It seems like the best of both worlds.
JL: From my perspective, that’s what I’m hoping to achieve, because everything we’ve done in The Moody Blues I’m really proud of. I am proud of being a Moody Blue and I always will be a Moody Blue. But when The Moody Blues aren’t on tour or performing, or don’t want to perform, then I still will. I want to keep that music alive, and John Lodge music alive. It’s a really an important journey for me — really important — not just for me but for my family as well.
GM: One of the great things about what you’re doing is that you continue to record. There hasn’t been a Moodys studio album in ages, and the impression that we get is that there may not be a new Moodies album ever again. So thank you for preserving that legacy through your new music.
JL: Thank you for saying that. I’m really excited. I realized that getting The Moody Blues into the studio was going to be a challenge. Nobody wanted to commit to it. And then these new vinyl reissues came out — the 180 gram editions — and that’s where I wanted to be. I’m a vinyl addict anyway and I wanted to go into the studio and make a vinyl album, 18 gram, with a beautiful sleeve that people could get into as much as the music. The whole thing about rock and roll, or prog rock, or whatever you want to call it, is what I am.
GM: Agreed. Who could imagine any of those early Moodys albums without that lovely artwork and the photos and everything else. So thank you for keeping that alive.
JL: When I was growing up and listening to my early rock and roll records, not only was it about the artist, but I wanted to know who played on it, what label it was on, who produced it. To me, that was very exciting. So when vinyl turned up, suddenly you had all this information and that just turned everybody on. To me, one of the problems about streaming is that it’s all identified by genre. So if you just push a button called “genre,” whoever spotifies it and puts that list together... well, that’s what you have to listen to. You don’t have a choice. The great thing about vinyl is that when I put it on, if I really like it, I’ll play it again. With the Spotify and the downloads, it just doesn’t work for me.
GM: Plus it doesn’t honor the album concept. People will stream one song, but it’s taken out of the context of the album as a whole. The Moodies helped pioneer the idea of an album as a concept. The songs were meant to connect as a complete body of work. It’s not the same anymore with streams or downloads.
JL: It isn’t at all. With the Moodies, once we made the album, we spent ages making sure the running order of the songs was right, to make sure it would take the listener on a journey, so that hopefully when they’re listening to the album, it would take them somewhere. And hopefully you want to play it again. With this new album Byond, we spent days to work out whether we would put it in chronological order or do it some other way. We decided that we would put it into an order that would take people somewhere. Surprise surprise. It would be in some kind of order so that it wouldn’t sound monotone.
GM: Out of curiosity, are there any pre-Moody Blues tracks that you did might turn up in some form or another?
JT: Not really, but I did write a song for Gene Vincent when I was about 18 or so. Gene Vincent was one of the absolute icons in rock and roll in England and in Europe, and when he came to England, he wanted to put an English Blue Caps together, and he wanted me to join the band on bass. So I went down to his apartment in London and met his manager. His manager said he was looking for songs, so I wrote a song for him called “Stay Away From Me.” Vincent never recorded it, but I made a demo. Three years ago, I heard from the Gene Vincent Appreciation Society and they said “We just found this song you wrote for Gene and we’ve been in the studio and we recorded it, and we’re going to put it on a tribute album, and would you say yes to that?" I told them I wanted to contribute a song as well, so I went into the studio with Chris Spedding, who’s the best rock and roll guitarist in England, and we recorded a ballad called “Important Words.” That’s on the album as well.
GM: It’s kind of funny that you were asked to become a Blue Cap, but you became a Moody Blue instead.
JL: And a Blue Jay!
GM: Are you a nostalgic sort of person? Do you reminisce or ever look back and contemplate all you’ve accomplished?
JL: People often ask me that, but no, I don’t. There’s a saying I’ve got. The past is gone forever, but the future is always in reach. The past doesn’t interest me. It’s all about the future. I wrote this song called “House of Four Doors,” and that’s what it’s all about. Opening the door and seeing where it leads you. It may be something fantastic, or it may be something where you say, “No, I don’t want to do that.” The past is the past and it doesn’t interest me.
GM: So now you find yourself solely in the spotlight without the other Moody Blues guys to share the attention. How does it feel to be in that role now? Do you enjoy it?
JL: Actually, what I enjoy is the songs. It’s all about the songs. What turns me on is the band that I’ve got with me now. It’s tantamount to being everything I’ve ever wanted, because they really love what they’re doing. So when I get on onstage, and I’m in the center of things, these guys — Alan Hewitt on keyboards, Billy Ashbaugh on drums), Duffy King on guitar, and Jason Charboneau on cello — are playing so well that there’s just something so magical about it. That’s why it’s not just “John Lodge.” It’s “John Lodge and the 10,000 Light Years Band.” I’m just really pleased and happy. And they’re really excited.
GM: You seem very content.
JL: I’m very pleased. Everyone’s kept the faith, kept the faith in me, and I’ll definitely keep the faith in the fans. There’s no doubt about that.