The Moody Blues

  • Progressive rock pioneers formed in 1964, from Birmingham England. The members during their most successful years were Justin Hayward (guitar, vocals), John Lodge (bass guitar, vocals), Ray Thomas (flute, percussion, vocals), Mike Pinder (keyboards, vocals), and Graeme Edge (drums).
  • Thomas, Lodge and Pinder were members of a band called El Riot & the Rebels. They broke up when Lodge went to college and Pinder joined the army. Pinder later rejoined Thomas to form the Krew Cats, and they recruited Edge. Lodge was still in school, so they added Clint Warwick on bass, as well as Denny Laine on guitar. They renamed themselves The Moody Blues, hoping to be sponsored by the local M&B Brewery.
  • They hired a management company, and in 1964 they were signed to a recording contract. Their first single did not chart, but their second single, a cover of the song Go Now, was a big hit, reaching #1 in the UK and #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. Denny Laine sang the lead vocals, and the R&B song was a glimpse of the progressive rock style that the band would evolve to.
  • Based on the success of Go Now, they released a studio album in 1965 called The Magnificent Moodies. The album was mostly R&B covers along with several songs written by Laine and Pinder. No one bought the album. Several more singles were released between 1965 and 1966, which were not successful. Warwick and Laine chose to leave the band (Laine went on to join Wings, the back up band for Paul McCartney). In late 1966, Lodge reunited with his old bandmates to play bass, and Hayward was brought into the band to play guitar.
  • Their recording contract was due to expire, and they had not produced enough music to fulfill their contract. The studio offered them a deal that if they recorded a rock & roll version of Dvořák’s New World Symphony, their contract would be fulfilled. They agreed, but insisted on artistic control. They were not able to produce the requested project, but instead made a recording of their own original work using orchestral arrangements. The resulting concept album, released in 1967, was Days of Future Passed. It was unique and innovative, using The London Festive Orchestra to back them. This impressive sounding “orchestra” actually was just a group of classical session musicians from the record label.
  • The album is considered by many to be the first “progressive rock” album. The singles Nights in White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon initially were not major hits, but as the band became more established, they were re-released, with Nights in White Satin reaching #2 in the U.S. The album peaked at #3 in the U.S., selling over a million records.
  • The Moody Blues released 6 albums between 1968 and 1972. They sold well – 2 were platinum in the U.S., and the final 3 charted in the top 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Their singles were modestly successful – the highest charting single was I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band), which reached #12 in 1973. Some of their songs during this period were not released as singles, but became well known on classic rock radio – in particular, Legend of a Mind, their tribute song to Timothy Leary that includes the famous lyric “Timothy Leary’s dead…no n-n-no he’s outside looking in.”
  • The group took several years off to work on solo projects and to recover from the exhaustion of constant touring. They reunited in 1978, and they released their ninth studio album, Octave. The album did well, selling over 1 million copies, with Steppin’ In a Slide Zone breaking into the top 40. Pinder left the band after the Octave album. He was replaced by Patrick Moraz, formerly of Yes.
  • As the music industry began to think that The Moody Blues would no longer be successful, they released Long Distance Voyager in 1981, and it became their most successful album, hitting #1 in the U.S. The singles Gemini Dream and The Voice peaked at #12 and #15 respectively.
  • The band would have one final hit – Your Wildest Dreams from their 1986 album The Other Side of Life. It was their last studio album to go platinum – in total, they had 6 albums achieve the million selling threshold.
  • Hayward, Lodge and Edge continue to tour today as The Moody Blues. Thomas died in 2018 at the age of 76. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
  • The Moody Blues are well represented in my music collection – I have their first 10 albums on vinyl (they made 16 studio albums in total). Their rich symphonic sound helped define progressive rock. Here’s the band performing Tuesday Afternoon in 1970.

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