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In years passed, Goldmine has asked Moody Blues' Justin Hayward about his star-studded career. Here are some of his best offerings:
In awe of all of his accomplishments?
Justin Hayward: I think it’s never been enough, because there are always people who have done more and achieved more and who are much better writers and singers than me. So I have great respect for them, because it’s still a mystery to me as to how you get to those heights. Some people have scaled those heights, and some people have just gotten a part of the way up, like me. I look back and think of what I could have done, and how much more I could have done with a particular opportunity if I had opened up another door at a particular time. The only time it hit me was ... when Universal asked me to remaster the first seven Moodies albums, and because they wanted a 7.1 surround sound, all we could do with Days of Future Passed was to go back to the original four track. So when we did that, that was jaw dropping. How did we do that? Not so much with the Moodies, but with the orchestra and Peter Knight and the whole work. I found it amazing to go back the original recordings and hear the banter before and after the songs and that really brought it home to me. The rest of the time, no, I don’t think about that.
Setting high standards for himself
JH: I think it did in the ‘70s and ‘80s when I was motivated then to do my best for the Moodies and to also to be with the people I met while with the Moodies and to bring them into the Moodies fold. I met Tony Visconti first as a solo artist and I realized how good he would be for the Moodies. Often I do look back at things and think that they could have been better.
An emotional charge from singing classic songs (i.e., “Nights in White Satin” or “Ride My See-Saw”)
I feel it more now than I did ever before, because people are paying more attention. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, it kind of didn’t matter. There was always somebody else coming on in 45 minutes. You didn’t have to get that emotionally involved in it. But now, concerts are very specific to one artist, and artists have to carry them through. It’s a very different time now and it has a different resonance for people.
On his music being labeled Prog Rock or Classic Rock
JH: People invite me to all sorts of prog rock things and classic rock things but I’ve always just personally been a guy who liked pop songs. But it means something if it comes from my heart so it has to resonate with me. But the difference of course was the instrument called a mellotron that somehow made my songs work.
His first impression of the U.S. (touring with the Moody Blues in the '60s)
JH: It was a much harder place and life for people than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a much easier life for most people, but most of the audience that we saw were leading a sort of tough working-class life; and of course there was the Vietnam War and the threat of the draft hanging over every person of our age when we were playing colleges and things like that. But we were very lucky that Bill Graham offered us those two gigs at the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West. And then we had an agent that picked us up a lot of psychedelic club gigs and then we got the tour with Canned Heat. They showed us America on a school bus (laughs) but we still saw it. We went south to north, from the bottom up to Canada.
We didn’t think how we were gonna break America, I don’t think we ever gave it a thought to that. I think the thing that broke The Moodies was FM radio because the first two albums were perfect for FM. They didn’t have that stereo like EMI were doing with the drums on the right channel and the vocal on the left channel so we had a proper stereo picture on our records. For the first time FM radio had a beautiful stereo spread of rock music.
HIs favorite decade was NOT the '60s
JH: There was one huge explosion (in the '60s) and that was The Beatles and it’s hard to overestimate how important they were. It’s difficult to explain, but they just completely changed the world musically. So they opened the door. After that it allowed the rest of us through and suddenly it made record companies respect what rock groups wanted to do. But if I could only have one decade it would still be the ‘80s. I loved the way that young kids were discovering things then. I loved working with our producer Tony Visconti who was in touch with a lot of much younger groups. And of course we did have great commercial success which I was aware of and awake for but I would still choose the ‘80s decade as my favorite. The beginning of great technology in music I thought was a great revelation.
A great record company, Mercury/Polygram — that was our label after London Records — they knew how to do it; they knew how to promote that stuff. We were given leave and permission to script our own videos and we did that and had success. Then two records later they took that away from us and decided they knew better and it collapsed. But for that brief two years when we were doing it all ourselves it worked. So we had a great record company who knew how to promote things and trusted us and we had Tony Visconti. He was not only a great producer but a great musician too, great bass player.