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Fabulous Flip Sides – The Moody Blues’ John Lodge

John Lodge discusses new songs, Moody Blues flip sides and celebrates the 40th anniversary of The Moody Blues’ “Long Distance Voyager” album
John Lodge Sun

GOLDMINE: Welcome back to Goldmine. Last time we talked about the albums Days of Future Passed, Seventh Sojourn, Blue Jays, and the album cut “Emily’s Song,” a favorite, and your most recent studio album 10,000 Light Years Ago. Today let’s start with your new single "The Sun Will Shine" that you wrote in isolation in Florida. It has a great arrangement. What a wonderful song.

JOHN LODGE: Thank you very much. I wrote the song “In These Crazy Times” in isolation last year and I was thinking after that we will all come out of this pandemic and haven’t any idea what the world will be like, but if we come out with the energy that the sun will shine for us, then it will be a new day for us all. We will all have to get on with it and be part of the energy that a new day can bring. We will all have to adapt and return with friends and family, make new friends and experiences, and have new adventures, in other words, stay positive. In lockdown it was easy to become negative, especially if you are on your own, so I wanted to have a positive and encouraging message in this song.

GM: This is a song that I voted on for the Heritage Chart, which you introduced me to, when “In These Crazy Times” made the chart last year. Now you’re in the Top 30 again with “The Sun Will Shine,” along with other new songs that I am enjoying by heritage acts like T’Pau’s catchy “Guess Who’s Sorry Now,” sung by Carol Decker. I see both of your songs climbing.

JL: That is great news. It is important for me and important for my band. With “In These Crazy Times” I did it all on my own with my wife Kirsten singing backing vocals and our son Kristian playing electric guitar. With the new song, I worked it out so that my entire 10,000 Light Years Band could be included. I realized that all my guys have their own studios and have the ability to record their parts. I made the demo, and sent it to Alan Hewitt, who also lives here in Florida, and is my musical arranger. He did the next steps, putting in all the orchestration, and then sent it to my drummer Billy Ashbaugh, who also lives in Florida, then it went to Jason Charboneau for his cello part, and then Duffy King put the lead guitar part on. It came back to me and I put the final vocals and bass on it. Jon Davison, the current vocalist from Yes, who is also my daughter Emily’s boyfriend, did the engineering for me, and Jon and I did the backing vocals together on the track. Then it was sent to my guy Lester in Los Angeles to mix, and then it came back to me. It was a bit of a long distance affair, really.

GM: My wife Donna says that both of these new songs are very pretty, and we thank you for them.

JL: Thank you both very much.

John Lodge Crazy

GM: You mentioned Jon Davison. Last year there was an album called A Tribute to Keith Emerson & Greg Lake and on it, Jon sang a beautiful version of “C’est La Vie.”

JL: Oh, fantastic. He’s a great guy and has been so helpful to me. He is on the road with me and joins me on stage. We sing “Ride My See-Saw” together as the concerts’ encore. My concerts include classic Moody Blues songs. I perform Mike Pinder’s “The Sunset” and my dear late friend Ray Thomas’ “Legend of a Mind.” I bring Jon on for “Nights in White Satin,” which he sings incredibly. I want to keep playing these songs as long as I can.

GM: Going back to that classic Moody Blues era, “Candle of Life” is another beautiful song of yours. In addition to being on your 1969 album To Our Children’s Children’s Children, the following year it became the flip side of the first Moody Blues song that I heard on the radio, growing up in Cleveland, “Question.” I think “Candle of Life” is one of your finest songs.

JL: Thank you very much. It was an interesting time in my life, as I was growing up, too. I am pleased to say that a lot of people understood what the song was about, and I remember, particularly in America, a lot of the colleges made it the title of their yearbooks, and they sent them to me, which was really nice. When I write a song, I sit in the dark with a guitar, bass or keyboard, and I wonder if anyone is ever going to hear the song. At that point you do not know if you have finished a song ready to record or whether it will even see the light of day or be on an album.

John Lodge Candle

The Moody Blues

Flip side: Candle of Life

A side: Question

Top 100 debut: May 2, 1970

Peak position: No. 21

Threshold THS-67004

GM: In this case it was on an album and a flip side of a single, as well, and speaking of flip sides, I have one more, making its 30th anniversary, “Lean on Me (Tonight),” which you also performed on the group’s album A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

JL: That is an interesting one as well. I was sitting in my little studio in England and I picked up my Gibson twelve-string guitar and I started playing the rhythm and the song and its harmonics just came out. I heard the tune almost immediately. I wanted to add a bit of a Caribbean reggae influence to the bass part when we went into the studio to record it as a group, so it has just a touch of that sound.

John Lodge Lean

The Moody Blues

Flip side: Lean on Me (Tonight)

A side: Say It with Love

Debut: June 1991

Polydor PO 153, Threshold 867 296-7

GM: We moved to Dallas from Cleveland in the very early 1980s and heard your album Long Distance Voyager forty years ago, as a featured midnight album on KEGL FM. Wow! The first single we heard on the radio was “Gemini Dream,” with your exciting driving bass beat.

JL: We had come off of a tour promoting the Octave album, across America. We built Westlake Audio Studios in England, also known as Threshold Studios, in the mid-1970s, but as the full Moody Blues band, we never recorded there. Justin Hayward and I recorded our Blue Jays album there and I recorded my solo album Natural Avenue there, but it is amazing that we hadn’t recorded there, yet, as a full band. When we found the producer we wanted, Pip Williams, we knew we wanted to record there. To me, Long Distance Voyager is the album we made as a performing group, after being on the road so long together, with every song on the album having the capability of being played live on stage. We approached that album forty years ago, that way with “Gemini Dream,” “The Voice,” and “Talking Out of Turn.” It was a really great experience. We wondered what others would think about the album, as it was a time of punk, really. We had a great team of people supporting the album and it went to No. 1 in North America, which was a fantastic surprise.

GM: Another song from the album is “Nervous.” It is so beautiful with catchy vocal sections including, “Gotta keep movin’” and “Bring it on home, your love.”

JL: I rediscovered that song recently myself, actually, and I perform it on stage now with my 10,000 Light Years Band. I really enjoy performing that. Alan did a beautiful arrangement for the concerts and he is brilliant on keyboards. I love being on stage.

John Lodge Voyager

GM: Your happiness on stage certainly shows. Years before I finally saw you in Reno in 2003, I had to miss you in Cleveland on the Octave tour, which you mentioned. It was December 1978 at our Coliseum. I had to work at the record store that night, but my friend Mark, who also worked at the store with me, was off that night and went, and Ray threw his tambourine into the audience, and it just grazed Mark’s palm, so he missed catching it as a souvenir for us. When we would play Octave in the store, it would immediately catch our customers’ attention with “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone.”

JL: It was a different album to make, our first one recorded outside of England. We were fraught with disasters. We recorded the first part of it at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and while we were recording it, the Record Plant burned down. We managed to save the masters and went to a studio that Mike Pinder had built a few years before called Indigo Ranch. It was the year of mud slides in Los Angeles and Malibu and the roads got washed away and we got locked up in the hills of Malibu for days. I remember that is when I wrote the song specifically for the album and called it “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” inspired by the mud slides. I kept thinking that maybe it was the wrong time to make the album, but I think it ended up really well. We came out better from it, as it encompassed new ways for us to learn how to record in different studios.

GM: Let’s talk about one more song, “The Spirit of Christmas” from the holiday album December, where you ask, “Where did the spirit of Christmas go?” It has a wonderful building bridge.

JL: I leave guitars everywhere. In my office I have a Gibson Dove guitar, probably from 1962, which I love. I was in my office and the television was on and I saw all the fighting in the Middle East on the news and I thought, what a strange world that we live in. I turned the television off and picked up the guitar. Christmastime was coming and the first words out of my mouth were, “Where did the spirit of Christmas go?” Within fifteen minutes, the entire song came out of me. Thank you again for your continued interest in my music. I wish you and your wife a lovely day in Daytona Beach. When we first came to Daytona Beach decades ago, you could hire small motorbikes on Daytona Beach and the band would race up and down the beach and we had a good time. I hope to see you here in Florida next year with concerts around March or April. Take care.

Related links:

Goldmine 2018 John Lodge Podcast

Goldmine 2017 John Lodge Interview