One of my favorites of the British invasion was a little band out of Birmingham, England, The Moody Blues. Their 1967 album Days of Future Passed was unlike anything you heard at the time. There was an underlying foundation of music from the London Festival Orchestra who provided classical horn, string, woodwind and percussion interludes sprinkled throughout the recording. It was also their first session with Justin Hayward and John Lodge, who ultimately became the driving force behind the band’s future success.
To trace the roots of The Moody Blues you have to go all the way back to May 4th of 1964, when Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder recruited Denny Laine (who went on to form Wings with Paul McCartney), drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick. Together they became the first Moody Blues lineup.
With little followup success, Laine left the group and the search for his replacement began. On a recommendation from Eric Burdon of the Animals, Pinder contacted Justin Hayward and after a brief audition was immediately folded into the band. Shortly after, Warwick departed and without hesitation, John Lodge was brought in to replace him. Lodge and Ray Thomas were old friends and band-mates from a previous collaboration.
Decca Records newly formed subsidiary, Deram Records, approached the group about a concept album trying to merge rock with classical music. It seemed almost doomed for failure from the beginning. Some Deram executives feared alienating the rock and pop fan base with the classical underpinnings. However, with the Moodies in full control of the artistic direction of the session, the group persevered and released Days of Future Passed in November of 1967. Considering the use of the London Festival Orchestra throughout this album it’s odd to note that the band never actually performed at the same time as the symphony. It was all mixed in post-production.
Two singles from the album, Nights in White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon, went on to achieve major success on their own. Nights was re-released as a single in 1979 and climbed to #14 on the U.K. charts
The “Days” producer at Deram Records was Tony Clarke, who ultimately became known to fans as the “Sixth Moody” and would be instrumental in producing the next eight Moody Blues productions, including the 1978 reunion album, Octave.
The band brought a degree of sophistication to music that was very different from what other musicians were bringing to the stage. They went on to release a string of progressive concept albums over a short period to critical success and fan adoration.
- In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
- On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)
- To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)
- A Question of Balance (1970)
- Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)
- Seventh Sojourn (1972)
In the spring of 1974, following a world tour which culminated with a successful circle around the major cities of Asia, The Moody Blues took an extended break to work on solo projects and spend time with family. It was not known whether they would ever return.
The return to the studio in 1977 brought someone underlying tension among the lineup. It’s a wonder they survived the project at all. Their future as a band was tenuous, at best. Pinder had started raising a family in California during the hiatus so the Moodies setup shop on the west coast to foster their revival. A fire in the studio they were using forced them into Pinder’s home to work on the album. Torrential rains effectively maroooned the guys together for a few days. Tempers flared and when the dust settled Mike Pinder threw in the towel and left the band, never to return.
This turn of events nearly sank an upcoming tour but the group was able to bring in Patrick Moraz of Yes to replace the absent Mike Pinder. The Octave tour took off and the group traveled extensively throughout 1978 and 1979. After the return it was back to the studio to begin work on their next album.
As a unit the Moody Blues continued to record and produce CDs well into the new milleniem. Their last collaboration with Moraz at keyboard was on 1991’s Keys to the Kingdom. Moraz was released from the band following internal strife. Some of his keyboard tracks were used in future releases. Moraz sued and was awared a nominal sum for his effort.
- Octave (1978)
- Long Distance Voyager (1981)
- The Present (1983)
- The Other Side of Life (1986)
- Sur la Mer (1988)
- Keys of the Kingdom (1991)
- Strange Times (1999)
- December (2003)
In the years since, The Moody Blues have continued to tour and play to sellout crowds everywhere. Fans recapturing the magic of evenings spent with moody music playing in the headphones show up in droves for a trip down memory lane.
In 2002 founding member Ray Thomas retired from the band leaving a huge onstage void. Ray was a powerhouse of stage presence and his flute would be sorely missed from many Moody songs. The band hired flautist Norda Mullen to fill Ray Thomas’s big shoes. Her music contribution is stellar and if I look at her as a musical collaborator she fills the bill nicely. She’s no Ray Thomas.
When asked about Mullen’s contribution, Edge would reply, “(She) is classically trained, but amazing enough, she’s got a rock ‘n’ roll heart. She was playing bass in a rock band. … It’s still different. Ray had that raw, don’t-give-a-damn rock ‘n’ roll energy, and that lovely voice. Of course, you can’t work with someone for 40 years and not miss him.”
The Moody Blues through their career have sold over 70 million albums. They have garnered 14 platinum and gold discs. They recently announced a 2012 tour and remain active with one member from the original 1964 lineup (Edge) and two others from 1967. (Hayward and Lodge)
The Moody Blues endure and we are better for it. 5ZM354D8VKY4