Formed: 1964 in Birmingham, England.
Group Members: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Michael Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, Patrick Moraz, Denny Laine, Paul Bliss, Clint Warwick.
Styles: British Psychedelia, Album Rock, Pop/Rock, British Invasion, Prog-Rock/Art Rock
Although they're best known today for their lush, lyrically and musically profound (some would say bombastic) psychedelic-era albums and singles, the Moody Blues started out as one of the better R&B based combos of the British Invasion. The Moody Blues' history began in Birmingham, England, where one of the more successful bands during that time was El Riot and the Rebels, co-founded by Ray Thomas (harmonica, vocals) and Mike Pinder (keyboards, vocals). Pinder left the band, first for a gig with Jackie Lynton and then a stint in the Army. In May of 1963, he and Thomas reunited under the auspices of the Krew Cats. They were good enough to get overseas bookings in Germany, where English rock bands were the rage. Upon their return to Birmingham in November of 1963, the entire English musical landscape was occupied by 250 groups, all of them vying for gigs in perhaps a dozen clubs. Thomas and Pinder decided to try and go professional, recruiting members from some of the best groups working in Birmingham. This included Denny Laine (vocals, guitar), Graeme Edge (drums), and Clint Warwick (bass, vocals). The Moody Blues made their debut in Birmingham in May of 1964, and quickly earned the notice and later the services of manager Tony Secunda. A major tour was quickly booked, and the band landed an engagement at the Marquee Club, which resulted in a contract with England's Decca Records less than six months after their formation. The group's first single, "Steal Your Heart Away," released in September of 1964, didn't touch the British charts.
Their second single "Go Now," released in November of 1964, fulfilled every expectation and more, reaching number one in England; in America, it peaked at number 10. Following it up was easier said than done. Despite their fledgling songwriting efforts and the access they had to American demos, this version of the Moody Blues never came up with another single success. By the end of the spring of 1965, the frustration was palpable within the band. The group decided to make their fourth single, "From the Bottom of My Heart," an experiment with a different sound. Unfortunately, the single only reached number 22 on the British charts following its release in May of 1965. Ultimately, the grind of touring coupled with the strains facing the group, became too much for Warwick, who exited in the spring of 1966, and by August of 1966 Laine had left as well. Warwick was replaced by John Lodge. His introduction to the band was followed in late 1966 by the addition of Justin Hayward.
The reconstituted Moody Blues set about keeping afloat financially, mostly playing in Europe, recording the occasional single. Their big break came from Deram Records, an imprint of their Decca label, which in 1967 decided that it needed a long-playing record to promote its new "Deramic Stereo." The Moody Blues were picked for the proposed project, a rock version of Dvorak's New World Symphony, and immediately convinced the staff producer and the engineer to abandon the source material and permit the group to use a series of its own compositions that depicted an archetypal "day," from morning to night. Using the tracks laid down by the band, and orchestrated by conductor Peter Knight, the resulting album Days of Future Passed became a landmark in the band's history. The mix of rock and classical sounds was new, and at first puzzled the record company, but eventually the record was issued. This album, and its singles "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon," hooked directly into the musical sides of the Summer of Love and its aftermath. In Search of the Lost Chord (1968) abandoned the orchestra in favor of the Mellotron, which quickly became a part of their signature sound.
By the time of 1969's To Our Children's Children's Children, the group found themselves painted into something of a corner. Working in the studio with the process of overdubbing, they'd created albums that were essentially the work of 20 or 30 Moody Blues. Beginning with A Question of Balance (1970), the group made the decision to record albums that they could play in concert, reducing their reliance on overdubbing and toughening up their sound. By the release of Seventh Sojourn (1972), the strain of touring and recording steadily for five years was beginning to take its toll, and following an extended international tour, the band decided to take a break from working together, which ultimately lasted five years. During this era, Hayward and Lodge recorded a very successful duet album, Blue Jays (1975), and all five members did solo albums. By 1977, however, the group members had made the decision to reunite, a process complicated by the fact that Pinder had moved to California during that period. Although all five participated in the resulting album, Octave (1978), there were stresses during its recording, and Pinder was ultimately unhappy enough with the LP to decline to tour with the band. The reunion tour was a success, with Patrick Moraz brought in to replace Pinder on the keyboards, and the album topped the charts.
The group's follow-up record, Long Distance Voyager (1981), was even more popular, though by this time a schism was beginning to develop between the band and the critical community. Although they continued to reach the middle levels of the charts, and even ascended reasonably close to the top with the Hayward single "In Your Wildest Dreams" (1986), the Moody Blues were no longer anywhere near the cutting edge of music. By the end of the 1980s, they were perceived as a nostalgia act, albeit one with a huge audience. In 1994, a four-CD set called Time Traveller was released. A new studio effort, Strange Times, followed in 1999 and Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2000 followed a year later.
In the spring of 1997, PolyGram released remastered and upgraded versions of all seven of the group's classic late 1960's/early 1970's albums, with dramatically improved sound and new notes featuring recollections by the group members. Anyone owning the Mobile Fidelity audiophile CD versions can probably skip these unless they need the notes, but owners of the older Polydor CDs should seriously consider upgrading.
- Bruce Eder (All Music Guide)
Without question, the Moody Blues are members of that tiny musical elite who can justifiably claim to have created genuine Milestones in rock history, establishing themselves into the realms of eternal rock legend, and influencing a thousand imitators.
In a remarkable career that spans from the 60's to the present, the Moody Blues have earned a reputation for breaking down barriers and setting precedents. They played a key role in expanding rock's sonic and lyrical horizons; they've survived countless musical trends while maintaining both their integrity and popularity, and continued to produce the goods for a multi-generational and fanatical devoted international following. In short, the Moodies are one of the world's most innovative and successful bands in rock history.
For close to 30 years, the Moody Blues have been musical mainstays on concert stages, record albums and radio airwaves. But success for the Moodies did not come overnight.
With humble beginnings in the mid-60's as an R&B act, The moody Blues were on the verge of becoming dubbed "one hit wonders" when they were unable to reignite their commercial appeal following up their mega-hit GO NOW. With the exit of Danny Lane and Clint Warwick, and the replacement of the two with Justin Hayward and John Lodge, the band soon took on a different style - and a whole new beginning. "We were lower-middle-class English Boys singing songs about people in the deep south of America and it wasn't truthful. When we started playing our own songs, expressing our own feelings and developing a style of out own, things began improving." says Justin Hayward.
And improve they have. The Moody Blues - Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas, have generated sales of more than 60 million albums to date with three #1, one #2, five top 20 and multiple top 40 albums. They have become one of the top touring acts in rock history, with a following that has been compared only to that of the Grateful Dead's.
The band's first full studio album, Days of Future Past, was released in 1967 and stayed on the Billboard charts for more than 2 solid years. Featuring the classic hit, Tuesday Afternoon, and one of the biggest selling singles of all time, Nights in White Satin (which hit #1 three separate years), the album became a milestone in rock recording, as it marked the first time a rock band fused its music with a symphony orchestra. It was one of the very first concept albums, and one of the first albums recorded in stereo, which set the standard for many others to follow.
The Moody Blues soon began to quickly emerge from its Birmingham, England roots finding an intense and immense following of fans in the U.S. and throughout other continents for their subsequent albums In Search of the Lost Chord, On the Threshold of a Dream, and To Our Children's Children's Children.
In 1970, The Moody Blues formed their own record company, Threshold Records, and it served as a business base for the group for several decades. The group's first release on Threshold included Question, which became The Moody Blues first International #1 hit single from the album A Question of Balance.
As the 1970's emerged, The Moody Blues became established and settled, touring the world, and recording such hit albums as Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn, spawning another classic hit I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band). In 1972, Days of Future Past returned to the charts as an American reissue for another amazing two year chart run.
With the incredible success of Seventh Sojourn, The Moodies reached the height of their popularity in 1972, and it elevated to the point where the band felt entrapped. To all outward appearances, The Moody Blues were at the top of their game. They followed Seventh Sojourn with a triumphant nine month world crusade that saw them play for over a million people throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, Hawaii and the Continental U.S., but it was to be the last time that The Moody Blues were to appear together on the stage for the next four years.
Work had begun on the material for a new LP, but it was not meant to be. As John Lodge recalled later, "I remember all of us sitting down one day and saying, 'I don't think we want to do this anymore, not for now, anyway. Let's put it away and find some new breathing space' ".
"At the time I thought we were crazy, " Hayward said, "but looking back now I can see it was the only thing we could have done. We were experiencing massive success success, yet we were incredibly unhappy. All we'd achieved, instead of making our world bigger, it made it smaller, and it reached the point where success was controlling us, instead of us controlling it, and it all became too much."
The break allowed band members to focus on projects outside the group. Justin Hayward and John Lodge collaborated on the Blue Jays album in 1975. Graeme Edge made two solo albums with Adrian Gurvitz, Kick Off your Muddy Boots and Paradise Ballroom, before departing for an ocean going trip around the world. Ray Thomas produced two solo albums, From Mighty Oaks and Hopes, Wishes and Dreams. John Lodge recorded Natural Avenue. Justin Hayward recorded solo albums, Songwriter and Nightflight, and worked with Jeff Wayne on the War of the Worlds project which produced the beautiful worldwide hit Forever Autumn. Keyboard player Mike Pinder announced his intention not to perform live again, and produce his own solo album, The Promise.
In 1974, This is The Moody Blues' "best of" album was released, in addition to the '77 release of Caught Live +5, a live 1969 concert with 5 previously unreleased studio tracks. The healthy sales from these albums made it clear that the band's fans were just as enthusiastic as ever.
It was no surprise that when The Moodies reformed in 1978 to deliver the much anticipated Octave, that the album shot to the top of the charts with singles Steppin' in a Slide Zone and Driftwood. This proved that their fans had remained loyal despite a four year absence.
But for the Moody Blues to prove their continuing viability, they needed to see how well they were to be received on the next album and tour, by which time nostalgia factors would have dissolved, and the band would have to stand or fall on it's late 1970's merits.
Punk rock had shattered the music establishment at the time, and power pop and new wave were just beginning to be accepted. The group's 1980 album, Long Distance Voyager, was savaged by the press as none of the bands previous albums have ever been. Fortunately for the band, the buying public felt otherwise, and Long Distance Voyager reached the #1 spot on the U.S. album charts. The accompanying singles, Gemini Dream and The Voice, became hit songs, and the U.S. tour was a complete sellout.
In 1983, The Moody Blues followed with The Present, Which continued in a similar vein with such standout tracks as Sitting at the Wheel and Blue World.
The Moodies' next album in 1986 created an entire new wave of young fans with the release of their mega-album, The Other Side of Life. Teaming up with former David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, was yet another pivotal effort, introducing a newly streamlined musical and lyrical style for the Moody Blues. With the mega-hit, Your Wildest Dreams, the Moodies acquired a new generation of fans when its accompanying video became a huge MTV hit and claimed Billboard magazine's "Video of the Year" award, aggregating one of the biggest singles of their career to date.
"The Other Side of Life was a tremendous turning point for us. It won us a lot of new fans that have stuck with us since, and I think it added another ten years to the band's life," said Hayward.
Sur La Mer followed in 1988, and continued with yet another hit single, I Know You're Out there Somewhere, the counterpart to Your Wildest Dreams, and in 1991, the album Keys of the Kingdom produced the hit single Say it with Love.
By this time, the Moodies were firmly reestablished as one of rock's most reliably popular concert attractions, playing for audiences composed of both longtime devotees and new converts - many of whom had been drawing breath for fewer years that the band had been making records.
In september 1992, The Moodie Blues commemorated the 25th anniversary of Days of Future Past with a live performance at Denver's Red Rocks amphitheater accompanied by a full 88-piece symphony orchestra... the first time the band had played live with a symphony. The performance was made into a PBS television special, home video release, and live album, and became one of PBS' top pledge drive producers for the four ensuing years.
Responding to the overwhelming success of the symphony appearance, the Moodies took their celebratory extravaganza on the road, playing with symphony orchestras in each city of the U.S., and have been doing so to present, establishing them yet again, as one of the top touring acts of the decade.
In 1994, the band released Time Traveller, as a five CD box set collection on A&M Records, chronicling their rich history. from their 1967 singles through their ground breaking recordings, to their current concert successes. That same year, the Moodies were inducted in Hollywood's Rock Walk, where their hand prints and signatures are now perminately on display, alongside Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Johnny Cash, Van Halen, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page, B.B. King, ZZ Top, and many others.
In the midst of their consistent touring schedule, the Moodies have been writing new songs for a new album for the past five years. Once their 1996 summer tour is completed, the group plans to go into the studio to record the 18th studio album of their career for a projected release date in 1997 - a project that fans have been eagerly anticipating since 1991.
Over the course of their longevity, The moody Blues have collected various awards including: U.S. performing rights society, ASCAP, the NARM Number One World Group Award, Playboy Vocal Group of the Year Award, Performance awards, and the Ivor Novello Statue Award. The group also received an unusual award from the group's biggest outer space fan, Robert "hoot" Gibson, Chief NASA Astronaut. Taking audio cassettes of Days of Future Past and Seventh Sojourn with him on every one of the space shuttle trips - the Challenger, the Endeavor, and the Atlantis - the Moodies' music has had the singular distinction of having traveled 10 million miles, and circled 420 times around the earth. Encased in a special plaque, the cassette of Days of Future Past now resides in Los Angeles' Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia display.
A quarter century after they first vowed to stay true to themselves regardless of the consequences, The Moodie Blues remain one of rock's most vital and unique resources.
Says Hayward, "When we agreed to throw away the matching blue suits and just play what we wanted, we agreed then, and shook hands on it, that we would make music for ourselves, and trust in our own judgment. We've done that ever since. We haven't been influenced by fashion or trends, and because of that, we've seen a lot of things come and go - and we're still here. We made a promise to ourselves, but also to the people who listened to our records, and those feelings come through in the music."
The Moody Blues have undoubtedly earned the reputation they've achieved as one of the most innovative, respected musical groups in rock history, and continue to maintain their status as one of the preeminent rock groups of all time.
- information from the Time Traveller tour guide.