The Moody Blues are an English rock band that have sold more than 70 million albums worldwide and have been awarded 14 platinum and gold discs. Among their innovations was a fusion with classical music, most notably in their 1967 album Days of Future Passed. Featuring orchestral arrangements and introducing to many ears the transcendent tones of the mellotron, that work set the stage for the progressive rock movement. As of 2013 they remain active with one member from the original band from 1964 and two more from the 1967 line-up.
Early years-Decca Records (1964–1967)
The Moody Blues formed on 4 May 1964, in Erdington, Birmingham, England. Ray Thomas (flute, percussion, harmonica, vocals), John Lodge (bass, guitar, vocals), and Michael Pinder (keyboards, vocals) had been members of El Riot & the Rebels. They disbanded when Lodge, the youngest member, went to technical college and Michael Pinder joined the army. Michael Pinder then rejoined Ray Thomas to form the Krew Cats. The pair recruited guitarist/vocalist Denny Laine, band manager-turned-drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick. The five appeared as The Moody Blues for the first time in Birmingham in 1964. The name developed from a hoped-for sponsorship from the M&B Brewery which failed to materialise, the band calling themselves both The M B's and The M B Five and was also a subtle reference to the Duke Ellington song, "Mood Indigo". Around this time the band were the resident group at the Carlton Ballroom, later to become rock music venue Mothers, on Erdington High Street. Soon, the band obtained a London-based management company, Ridgepride, formed by ex-Decca A&R man Alex Murray (Alex Wharton), who helped them land a recording contract with Decca Records in the spring of 1964. Initially they were signed to a management company who then leased their recordings to Decca. They released a single that year, "Steal Your Heart Away", which failed to chart. The Moody Blues appeared on the cult UK series "Ready Steady Go!" singing the uptempo 'B' side "Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose your Mind)". But it was their second single, "Go Now" (released later that year), which really launched their career, being promoted on TV with one of the first purpose-made promotional films in the pop era, produced and directed by Alex Wharton. The single became a hit in the UK (where it remains their only No 1 single) and in the US, where it reached No 10. The band encountered management problems after the chart-topping hit and subsequently signed to Decca Records in the UK (London Records in the US) as actual recording artists. A four track Extended Play release titled: "The Moody Blues" featuring both sides of their first two Decca singles was issued in a colour picture sleeve in early 1965. Their debut album The Magnificent Moodies, produced by Denny Cordell with a strong Merseybeat/R&B flavour, was released on Decca in mono only in 1965. It contained the hit single together with one side of classic R&B covers, and a second including four Laine/Pinder originals. "Bye Bye Bird" was lifted from the album in December 1965 as an overseas single charting in France (No 3). Alex Wharton left the management firm and the group released a series of relatively unsuccessful singles. They enjoyed a minor UK hit with a cover of "I Don't Want To Go On Without You" (No 33) in February 1965, while the Pinder-Laine original "From The Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)" (No 22) produced by Denny Cordell (with a vocal choral sound towards the conclusion that anticipated their later more famous vocal sound on "Nights in White Satin") was issued as a UK single in May 1965. Further UK singles were: "Everyday" (No 44) in October 1965, another Pinder-Laine song, plus their later "This is My House (But Nobody Calls)" (1966) and "Boulevard de la Madeleine" also issued in late-1966. In June 1966, bassist Warwick left the group. He was briefly replaced by Rod Clark, but in October, Clark departed and the group split for a month. Denny Laine quit in late 1966, and a final Pinder-Laine's single, "Life's Not Life", was scheduled for release in January 1967.
Arrival of Hayward and Lodge
The group re-formed in November 1966, and new members were John Lodge, the bassist from El Riot, and Justin Hayward (guitar, vocals), formerly of The Wilde Three. Hayward was recommended to Pinder by Eric Burdon of The Animals and was endorsed by famed UK singer Marty Wilde, the leader of the Wilde Three. Pinder phoned Hayward after reading his application, and was impressed when Hayward played him his 45 rpm single "London Is Behind Me" during their car ride to meet the other members in Esher. After financial misfortune and a confrontation from an audience member, the band soon realised that their style of American blues covers and novelty tunes was not working for them and they decided that they would only perform their own material. The band were introduced to Decca staff producer Tony Clarke who produced a recording session which saw Justin Hayward's "Fly Me High" and Mike Pinder's older-styled "Really Haven't Got the Time" as the 'Mark Two' Moodies first single released in May 1967. This picked up both radio airplay and favourable reviews, but failed to chart in the UK. However the sound gave clues to the direction their music would evolve. Their new style, featuring the symphonic sounds of Pinder's mellotron, was first introduced on Pinder's song "Love And Beauty" which was issued as a single c/w with Hayward's rocker "Leave This Man Alone" in September 1967. This too was not a UK hit, but further established their 'new' Moodies identity. Ray Thomas' flute had been in evidence earlier ("I've Got A Dream") on their debut album, however it became a far more featured instrument from this point onwards as they started incorporating distinct psychedelic influences, which was later developed in a concept album revolving around an archetypal day in the life of everyman.
Fly Me High
Ride my see-saw
The best way to travel
A Question of Balance (1970)
Although the Moodies had by now defined a somewhat psychedelic style and helped to define the progressive rock sound (then also known as art rock), the group decided to record an album that could be played in concert, losing some of their full-blown sound for A Question of Balance (1970). This album, reaching No 3 in the American charts and No 1 in the British charts, was indicative of the band's growing success in America. Hayward's "Question" (in a differing version) was issued as a single hitting No 2 in the UK. Justin Hayward began an artful exploration of guitar tone through the use of numerous effects pedals and fuzz-boxes, and developed for himself a very melodic buzzing guitar-solo sound. The Moody Blues had by now become a bill-topping act in their own right, they appeared twice at the famous Isle of Wight Festival (a DVD of their 1970 performance has now been released). Pinder's "Melancholy Man" (a No 1 single in France) stood out besides Hayward's "Question" on the 1970 album.
Tortoise and the hare
The story in your eyes
I'm just a singer (in a rock and roll band)
During this period, the prog-rock band Yes had asked their keyboard player, Patrick Moraz, to leave. Moraz's management had some contacts with the Moodies, and after a successful audition with the band in England in 1978, he was hired as keyboard player for the Octave World Tour that began in Germany in October. In spite of these difficulties, the album itself sold well and produced the hits "Steppin' in a Slide Zone", (No 39 US) written by Lodge and "Driftwood", (No 59 US) written by Hayward. The music video produced for "Driftwood" features Moraz, although Mike Pinder was the one who played on the actual recording; the video for "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" simply shows the other four members without Pinder (which was rather awkward as Pinder's keyboards featured extensively on the song, notably on the distinctive intro and during a solo section of the piece). A group performance of Hayward's "Had to Fall in Love" and Lodge's "Slide Zone" on the UK "Kenny Everett Show" also depicted them as a four piece. On Octave Hayward had some four solo composed songs (more in fact than on "The Other Side of Life" later in 1986), Edge contributed "I'll Be Level With You" (aka "Little Man") one of only a number of songs showing a complete group unity. In truth, a few songs sounded like solo efforts, while Lodge's "Survival", Hayward's appropriate closing "The Day We Meet Again" and Pinder's lone final contribution and lead vocal, "One Step Into The Light" were all high points on the album. Around this time Justin Hayward enjoyed a solo hit (No 5) in the UK (US No 47) with the song "Forever Autumn". The Moodies toured the US and Europe during much of 1979. By 1980 they were ready to record again, this time bringing in producer Pip Williams. Moraz was retained as the band's permanent keyboardist, though Pinder had originally understood that he would continue to record even if not touring with the band. Pinder attempted legal measures to prevent the new Moody Blues album from reaching the public without his contributions, but he was not successful, and ultimately, he never returned to the fold. Nevertheless when released in 1981, Long Distance Voyager was a colossal success, reaching No 1 on Billboard and going Top 5 in the UK. The album yielded two hits, "The Voice", (No 15 US) written by Hayward, and "Gemini Dream", (No 12 US) written by Hayward and Lodge. John Lodge's "Talking out of Turn" also charted in the US reaching No 65. Edge provided "22,000 Days" (featuring Thomas as lead voice with Hayward and Lodge) while Thomas' own contributions were the final portion of the set with his singing on the final two songs, "Painted Smile", "Reflective Smile" (a poem narrated by a DJ friend of the band) and "Veteran Cosmic Rocker". By now, the mellotron had long been set aside as their primary keyboard instrument on their studio albums and the band embraced a more modern, less symphonic approach, though still retaining a lush keyboard-led sound as Moraz gave a more contemporary edge to their sound. In live concerts the mellotron would still be used heavily by Patrick Moraz until the mid-1980s, strikingly also on songs which originally did not feature the mellotron. The marketing formula for the band demanded from this time forward that a Justin Hayward song would be used to lead off their studio albums, as his material was the most popular. Hayward had always written most of their hit singles, followed by Lodge, however from this point onwards Hayward had to carry far more of the composing burden, most notably in Pinder's absence. Also Ray Thomas' song contributions began to diminish soon after, Hayward and Lodge also then teaming up to provide songs in addition to their own compositions.
The Present (1983), again produced by Williams, proved less successful than its predecessor, though it did spawn a UK Top 40 hit (No 35) in "Blue World" (No 62 in the US) and a US Top 40 hit in "Sitting at the Wheel" (which failed to chart in the UK). Videos were also produced for both singles. "The Present" was released in conjunction with Talencora Ltd. shortly before Decca were bought out by Polydor Records. In 1986 they enjoyed renewed success with their album The Other Side of Life and in particular with the track "Your Wildest Dreams" -a US Top 10 hit and No 1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary singles chart for two weeks- which garnered a Billboard Video of the Year award after being frequently featured on MTV. Newly hired producer Tony Visconti, and Barry Radman, a synth programmer formerly hired by Moraz, delivered a modern sound the Moodies had been after in order to remain competitive with their pop contemporaries. The album's title song also charted in the US at No 58. The renewed interest in the band ensured a younger audience from this point on, with many of their longtime followers remaining loyal despite a fair number of older fans finding the current albums of this period far more lightweight in content. For example, John Lodge had gone from writing powerfully reflective mystical or humanitarian themed pieces such as "House of Four Doors", "Candle of Life" and "One More Time To Live" to quirkier items such as "Here Comes The Weekend", "Rock and Roll Over You" and "Love is On The Run (From Me)", while Hayward's songs seemed less the deeper drama of numbers such as "The Actor", "Dawning is the Day", "You Can Never Go Home", "The Land of Make Believe", etc., to pleasant and more radio-friendly perennial far simpler songs about lost love and romance ("Your Wildest Dreams", "No More Lies", "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" etc.). There were still some deeper songs being created by the band however, ("The Voice", "22,000 Days", "The Other Side of Life", "The Spirit", "Deep", etc.) but the overall tone of the band had become noticeably a more lightweight commercialised one; presumably this was with record company agreement to keep in accordance with the then prevailing times. Significantly their live shows from this period included a good number of their 80s album tracks, however over time more of the 'Core Seven' album era favourites would gradually begin to reappear in their playlist.
The Moodies continued their early video-generation success with Sur La Mer (1988) and its video and single, "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" (No 30 US, No 52 UK, No 2 US Mainstream Rock), a sequel to "Your Wildest Dreams". Their sound took on an ever-increasingly synthetic and technical quality as Moraz and Visconti began using modern sequencers, samplers and drum machines. During this time, Justin Hayward and John Lodge wrote and sang on most of the songs as the band came under pressure from their new record company, PolyGram Records, to promote those it deemed to be the two more commercial-looking and -sounding members. Ray Thomas was playing a diminished role in the studio. The band was evolving into a synthpop act, with music not at all fit for a flute (although Thomas actually provided additional percussion, notably a brisk tambourine, plus occasional harmonica), and at this point he was largely relegated to the status of a backup singer. Thomas was also unwell during this period, further limiting his involvement with the band in the recording studio. He provided some backing vocals for both The Other Side of Life and Sur La Mer; however, multiple production considerations led Visconti to leave Thomas' vocals off of the latter of these two albums, thereby further reducing the texture of their overall vocal sound, which had been rich four-part harmonies, then went down to three, now reduced still further to just the more similar-sounding voices of Hayward and Lodge (Lodge also providing falsetto vocals and high harmonies), with Pinder and Thomas each having provided both lower- and higher-pitched vocal harmonies in the group's earlier vocal sound. The band's sound had become unrecognizable.
1990s to present
Thomas' high value remained on stage primarily from his continued ability to sing out his 1960s and 1970s Moodies classics, and also in flute and keyboard duets he composed with Moraz which were only performed by the two during Moodies' concerts. The band had begun to reinforce their concert sound in 1986 with the addition of a second keyboardist (Bias Boshell was the first, replaced in 1987 by Guy Allison before Boshell returned by 1990), as well as female backing singers. In 1991, halfway through the production of their new studio album, Patrick Moraz made some comments in an article in Keyboard Magazine that suggested dissatisfaction with his role in the Moodies. His complaints ranged from the Moodies' music becoming too simple in structure, to the other members' reluctance to allow him to make significant contributions to the songwriting on their albums. He also was spending long amounts of time planning a music concert to celebrate his native Switzerland's 700th anniversary, instead of rehearsing with the Moodies. He was dismissed from further participation in the group before the project was completed. Boshell, as well as new keyboardist Paul Bliss, were brought in to finish the new album's keyboard tracks. Despite credits as an official band member being included in any group photos on the four 80s studio albums from "Long Distance Voyager" to "Sur La Mer" in recent years Moodies compilations now refer to Moraz as merely being an additional keyboardist. Moraz later took legal action against the group in the United States, which he won, but was then awarded only a nominal sum. Keys of the Kingdom (1991) had modest commercial success. Once again, Hayward's songs led off the album, with the new singles "Say It With Love" and "Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)." Also included was a new ambient flute piece by Ray Thomas entitled "Celtic Sonant." Hayward and Thomas also co-wrote "Never Blame The Rainbows For The Rain" to close the album. John Lodge would make a defining shift in his songwriting on this album, leaving his trademark high-energy rock music, and instead gravitating towards slow love ballads such as "Lean On Me (Tonight)" (though he had earlier contributed some songs in this gentler vein such as "Emily's Song" for his daughter in 1971 and "Survival" in 1978, plus "Talking out of Turn" in 1981), while Lodge's more powerful songs continued with "Magic" and the Lennonesque "Shadows On the Wall". This gentler trend would continue on the two successive Moodies albums. Hayward wrote the driving two-part piece "Say What You Mean." Tony Visconti produced some of the tracks on "Keys", as did Christopher Neil and Alan Tarney. The ensuing tour saw them invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. A non-album Hayward-Lodge song cut at these sessions, "Highway", was included on the "Say it With Love" twelve-inch single and on a later box set, while the vinyl album did not include their song "Once is Enough" as on the compact disc version. The group remained a steady concert draw, and a series of video and audio versions of their 1992 Night at Red Rocks concert enjoyed great success, particularly as a fund-raiser for American public television where it had been first broadcast. The concert was conducted and arranged by Larry Baird, who has participated in many other bands' orchestral live concerts, such as Kansas, Michael Bolton, Three Dog Night, Al Jarreau and Alan Parsons. The group also continued their use of additional musicians on stage and in the studio. After the two legal suits from both Pinder in 1981 and Moraz in 1992, the band were careful not to recognize future keyboard players as official members. Following on from his contributions as keyboardist on the Keys Of The Kingdom album, Paul Bliss has played keyboards for the band live since 1991, being promoted to first keyboardist in 2001 but has since been replaced in March 2010 after 19 years continuous service with the band. Thomas and Bliss continued the tradition of a flute/keyboard duet for many tours. After Edge injured himself in 1991, second drummer Gordon Marshall was brought in to back him up; he stayed with the group after Edge recovered and has remained in the position since.
From 1991 to 1998, the group took a hiatus from recording and spent time trying to perfect the art of performing live with an orchestra. The recording hiatus ended in 1999, with the album Strange Times, which proved to be the group's first album in almost two decades to be more than moderately received by UK critics, although Justin Hayward was quoted as saying he was disappointed at the album's chart performance –probably not helped by the long recording hiatus– which was notably less than Keys of the Kingdom in 1991. It was recorded in Recco, Italy, at Hayward's suggestion, and was the band's first self-produced effort. The album also featured keyboards and arrangements from Italian musician Danilo Madonia, who has worked in-studio with the band since. The album opened with "English Sunset", a pop song featuring a modern, nearly techno arrangement. The song "This is The Moment" (which is not on Strange Times), which was originally featured in the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde, was a minor hit in the US. Strange Times was also the first album since 1970 to include a new poem by Graeme Edge "Nothing Changes", narrated by Edge himself, with Hayward then singing the concluding portion of the track, and notably concluded by quoting Mike Pinder's 1968 song title "A Simple Game". On Strange Times, Ray Thomas appeared vocally with Hayward and Lodge on "Sooner or Later (Walkin' on Air)" and his own brief song "My Little Lovely", plus provided a vocal snippet and backing vocals on Hayward's "English Sunset"; these would prove to be his recorded vocal swan song with the band. In 2000, the band released Hall of Fame, a new live concert from Royal Albert Hall, with a concurrent DVD release. This was taken from the last tour on which Boshell played. He left the live line-up in 2001; Bliss took over first keyboard duties, with his former second keyboard role filled by Bernie Barlow, and Julie Ragins when Barlow took maternity leave from 2006 to 2009. In 2001, an IMAX film was released, entitled Journey into Amazing Caves, which featured two new songs written and performed by the Moody Blues. The soundtrack also featured Justin Hayward performing vocals and playing guitar throughout. One of these songs, entitled "Water", is the Moody Blues' first instrumental studio recording since their 1983 piece "Hole in the World" from The Present LP.
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 latter being the only original member remaining. Flautist and rhythm guitarist Norda Mullen was recruited early the following year for their North America tour, and has worked with the band live and in the studio since. Toward the end of 2003, they released an album entitled December. The songs included originals and four covers: John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", Mike Batt's "A Winter's Tale", "When A Child is Born" and Bing Crosby's "White Christmas". December was the group's first album to include covers since their 1965 debut album The Magnificent Moodies. In March 2006, the first five of the band's 'Core Seven' albums (the seven albums from Days of Future Passed to Seventh Sojourn) were re-released in SACD format with Deluxe Editions, featuring bonus songs and some rare previously unreleased tracks by the group. In April 2007, the last two of these classic albums were re-released by Universal/Threshold. These deluxe editions were unique for an art rock group like the Moodies in that one of their members, Justin Hayward, was the one hired to do the work, instead of a professional master technician. Hayward stated that he listened to virgin vinyl copies of these albums and used them as reference points for the new compact discs. In September 2008, Hayward announced the impending release of remastered versions of Octave, Long Distance Voyager and The Present which would be released on Universal Records in the months to come. On May 21, 2007 the Moodies released a forty-one track, two-disc compilation of sessions recorded at BBC Studios, various television appearances, and a previously 'lost' performance done on the Tom Jones show titled Live at the BBC: 1967-1970. The group continued to tour; they toured the US, Canada and the UK in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. They also toured Australia and New Zealand in 2006. Their long-time producer, Tony Clarke, died in January 2010. The Moody Blues added keyboardist Alan Hewitt for their 2010 North American and UK Tours.
The Magnificent Moodies (1965)
Days of Future Passed (1967)
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)
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)