Moody Blues

Origin: Birmingham, England

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Genres: art rock, Pop rock, Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, symphonic rock

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The Moody Blues are an English rock band formed in Birmingham, UK in 1964, originally consisting of keyboardist Mike Pinder, multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas, guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bassist Clint Warwick.  Their classic era lineup replaced guitarist Denny Laine with guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist Clint Warwick with bassist John Lodge.

The Moody Blues have sold more than 70 million albums.  Their most successful singles include “Go Now,” “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Question” and “Your Wildest Dreams.”  They were inducted  into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

The Moody Blues’ symphonic sound influenced groups such as Yes, Genesis, the Electric Light Orchestra and Deep Purple.  They also helped make synthesizers part of the rock mainstream.

Their second album, 1967’s Days of Future Passed, fused rock with classical music establishing the band as pioneers in the development of progressive rock.  The album is considered a landmark as one of the first successful concept albums.  The Moody Blues toured extensively through the early 1970’s before taking a hiatus from 1974 until 1977.  Mike Pinder left the group a year after their reformation to be replaced by Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz.

Throughout the 1980’s the band took on a more synth-pop sound.  Their 1986 album, The Other Side of Life earned them three top ten singles in America, making them the  first act to accomplish that feat in a different decades.  Health troubles led to a diminished role for Ray Thomas throughout the 1980’s culminating in his 2002 retirement.  The band’s most recent album 2003’s December, was a collection of Christmas music.  The Moody Blues continued to tour throughout the first decade of the 2000’s and continue to perform on short tours.

The Moody Blues formed when John Lodge, Ray  Thomas and Mike Pinder were at loose ends upon the dissolution of their previous bands.  Lodge went off to technical college while Pinder joined the army.  Upon his release Pinder then rejoined Thomas to form the Krew Cats.  After a disappointing spell in Hamburg, the duo recruited guitarist/vocalist Denny Laine and drummer Graeme Edge.  Pinder and Thomas asked Lodge to join as bass player but he declined as he was still in college.  The band instead recruited bassist Clint Warwick.  The five first appeared as the Moody Blues in Birmingham in 1964.

The band name originated from a hoped-for-sponsorship from the Mitchells & Butlers Brewery that failed to materialize.  Originally calling themselves both “The M Bs” and “The M B Five,” the names also subtly referenced the Duke Ellington song “Mood Indigo.”  Mike Pinder recalls that the band name came from his interest in how music changes people’s moods and due to the fact that the band was playing blues at the time.

It was the Moody’s second single, “Go Now” that launched their career with one of the first television promotional films of the pop era.  To this day the single remains their only number one British hit.

The Moody’s debut album 1965’s The Magnificent Moodies featured “Go Now,” together with one side of classic R&B covers and a second side with four Laine-Pinder originals.  Following its release the band issued a series of relatively unsuccessful singles.  While the group was still in demand for live gigs, they did attain chart success in Europe and America with the single “Bye Bye Bird,” lifted from their debut album.

In June 1966, bassist Warwick retired from the group and the music business.  Singer/guitarist Laine also left the band, as the Moody Blues seemed to be disintegrating.

By November 1966 the Moody Blues had reformed adding new members bassist John Lodge and vocalist/guitarist Justin Hayward on Eric Burdon’s recommendation.  The reformed band took stock of their future and soon realized that their style of American blues covers and novelty tunes was not working and decided to perform their own material.

Their new style featuring the symphonic sounds of Pinder’s mellotron was introduced on his song “Love And Beauty,” while the single was not a hit it established their new identity.  Ray Thomas’s flute while in evidence on their debut now became more prominent as the band started incorporating distinct psychedelic influences.

It was on their second album 1967’s Days of Future Passed which put these influences in play.  With its fusion of orchestral and rock elements it has often been cited as one of the first examples of progressive rock.  The album  concept album takes place over a single day.  The record drew inspiration in production and arrangement from the pioneering use of instrumentation by the Beatles, to whom Pinder had introduced the mellotron that year.  The band utilized their record label’s classical musicians given the fictitious name the London Festival Orchestra to provide an orchestral backing linking the Moody’s already written and performed songs, plus overture and conclusion sections on the album, including backing up Graeme Edge’s opening and closing poems recited by Pinder.  Strings were added to the latter portion of the album version of Hayward’s “Nights in White Satin” but the orchestra and group never performed together on the recording, with the band’s rock instrumentation centered on Pinder’s mellotron.

The album’s two singles, “Nights in White Satin,” and “Tuesday Afternoon” took time to find an audience.  Even in the band’s native Britain “Nights in White Satin,” barely made the top twenty on the singles chart while “Tuesday Afternoon” failed to chart.  However in 1972 both songs were re-released with “Nights in White Satin” peaking at number 2 becoming the band’s biggest American hit and a certified  million seller.  “Nights in White Satin” has now become regarded as the Moody Blues signature song.

Their 1968 follow-up album, In Search of the Lost Chord included “Legend of a Mind,” a Ray Thomas penned song in tribute to LSD guru Timothy Leary which encompassed a flute solo performed by Thomas.  Justin Hayward  having been inspired by George Harrison began playing sitar and incorporating it into the band’s music.  The single Lodge’s “Ride My See-Saw” became a hit and remains their concert finale to this day.

Drummer Graeme Edge found a significant secondary role in the band as a writer of poetry, and some of their early albums from the late 1960’s began with various band members reciting poems by Edge that were conceptually related to the lyrics of the songs that followed. Edge narrated his brief “Departure” poem on Lost Chord.

Although the Moody Blues had by now defined a somewhat psychedelic style and helped to define the progressive rock sound, the group decided to record an album that could be played in concert.  For 1970’s A Question of Balance Justin Hayward began an artful exploration of guitar tone through the use of numerous effects pedals and fuzzboxes and developed a very melodic buzzing guitar-solo sound.  The album topped the charts in Britain and reached top five in America.  Hayward’s single “Question” became a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Pinder’s “Melancholy Man” (a No.1 single in France) stood out beside Hayward’s “Question” on the 1970 album.

For their next two albums, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971), from which Hayward’s “The Story in Your Eyes,” became a hit and Seventh Sojourn (1972) which hit No. 1 in America the band returned to their signature orchestral sound which, while difficult to reproduce in concert, had become their trademark.

The Moody Blues were also among the pioneers of the idea that a successful rock band  could promote itself through their own label.  Following the example of the Beatles’ creation of Apple Records the Moody’s formed Threshold Records.

By mid 1974 the band took an extended hiatus, erroneously reported as a break up at the time.  Hayward and Lodge released a duo album, the very successful Blue Jays (1975) that included the hit single “Blue Guitar.”

By 1977 the Moody Blues had decided to record again.  By this time Pinder had remarried and started a family in California.  So for this recording the band decamped stateside.  The sessions were marred by tension and catastrophe.  A fire at the studio they were using caused them to relocate to Pinder’s home studio where a landslide and torrential rains marooned the band  causing tensions to rise with Pinder dropping out before completion.

In spring 1978 the band released Octave.  Pinder citing family commitments passed on the touring that was to follow further causing acrimony in the band.  Pinder was replaced by Yes Swiss-born keyboardist Patrick Moraz. The album sold well producing the hit “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” and “Driftwood.”

In 1981 the Moody Blues released Long Distance Voyager.  The album was a massive success hitting number one on the album charts and spinning off two hit singles; “The Voice,” and “Gemini Dreams.”  With Moraz permanently on board Pinder had thought he would continue to record with the band without touring.  When this turned out to be false Pinder sued unsuccessfully to prevent the album’s release and never returned to the band.

By now the mellotron has long been set aside as their primary keyboard instrument as the band embraced a more modern, less symphonic approach, though still retaining a lush keyboard-led sound as Moraz provided a more contemporary edge.

In 1986 the band enjoyed renewed success with their album The Other Side of Life with the track “Your Wildest Dreams.” The renewed interest in the band ensured a younger audience, with many of their longtime followers remaining loyal despite a fair number of older fans finding the albums of this period far more lightweight in content.

The Moody Blues continued their early video-generation success with Sur La Mer (1988) and its video and single “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” a sequel to “Your Wildest Dreams.”  Their sound took on an ever-increasingly synthetic and technical quality as Moraz began using modern sequencers, samplers and drum machines.  Hayward and Lodge wrote and sang on most of the songs as the band came under pressure to promote those it deemed to be the two more commercial looking and sounding members and they decided to exploit that aspect rather than catering for the band as a whole or retaining the five-way songwriting methods the group had done with Pinder.

By then Ray Thomas was playing a diminished role in the studio with the band evolving into a sound that was unsuitable for the use of a flute.  He was also unwell at this time.  He was still valued for his continued ability to sing the band’s classic 1960’s and 1970’s hits.

In 1991 Moraz was fired from the band after doing an interview lamenting his role in the band.

The new millennium saw the Moody Blues reducing their touring schedule. At the end of 2002, founding member Ray Thomas retired from the group, reducing the Moody Blues to the trio of Hayward, Lodge and Edge, the last being the only original member.  Flautist and rhythm guitarist Norda Mullen was recruited early the following year for their North American tour, and has worked with the band live and in the studio since then.

Toward the end of 2003, they released an album entitled December.  The songs included originals and four including John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”

The group toured the UK, Canada and the US in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 and continues to perform on short tours throughout the world.  In January, 2018 original vocalist and flautist Ray Thomas passed on just months before the band were due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Reference –

Moody Blues discography 

Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays the Moody Blues.  All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/

Check out the Moody Blues performing “Nights in White Satin.”