Share this article

print logo

Moody Blues still going strong

Most rockers can become immune to the offerings tossed on stage during a concert, but Justin Hayward recalls one item that stands the test of time.

"We used to get a lot of joints and drugs," says the Moody Blues' longtime frontman. "Belts, T-shirts, brassieres -- everything. Once, when the crowd was packed in very tight and very excited, Ray (Thomas, the flutist) caught my eye, and he said, 'Look, look!' And there was a guy sort of twirling his wooden leg around his head, on a strap where it had been strapped into his knee.'

And then it happened. "He threw it onstage," Hayward says. "And it landed right between me and Ray."

The Moody Blues' latest U.S. tour, "The Voyage Continues -- Highway 45," holds particular significance for Hayward. Forty-five years ago, the Moody Blues, with two new band members and a new direction, recorded "Days of Future Passed," arguably the first true concept album. "Our lives, when we were young, revolved around 45s," says Hayward, now 65.

"And when this 45th anniversary thing first came up, we were thinking of using a '45' logo because one of the deepest impressions on us was that we had a 45 that we'd performed on and written, 'Nights in White Satin,' that was a big hit. That particular 45 was dear to us, and that led us to this anniversary issue. Yes, it's a very special album."

Mention concept albums from 1967 and, undoubtedly, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" opens the conversation. But the Moodies combined the elements of a single day into their own concept album, and those elements provided a spontaneous combustion still ablaze 45 years later.

Rock historian Dennis Elsas, a New York DJ for 25 years at WNEW-FM until 1998, recalls its genesis. "Basically, they took something they had already written, the 'Nights in White Satin' concept of going through the day, and linked it up with classical pieces," says Elsas, who now shares music and his thoughts at WFUV-FM and SiriusXM Satellite Classic Vinyl/26.

"When Justin and John Lodge joined the group, just before 'Nights in White Satin,' it totally changed the group because they had a hit single, the cover of 'Go Now,' which was a different sound," Elsas says. "Then they just went in a totally different direction."

The new path regularly put the Moodies on the Billboard charts. "One of the things which is so interesting is they put out seven albums between 1967 and 1972," Elsas says. "And they were all involved albums with a lot of songs, and, in addition to being album sellers, they are also top 40 sellers. That's an amazing accomplishment."

Between tours, the five members of the 1967 band have totaled 10 CDs of their own, and Hayward has another solo venture in the works. But Thomas retired in 2002, long after Mike Pinder, the master of the Mellotron -- the vital early keyboard synthesizer that he helped introduce in live performances -- left in 1978. Trouping on with Hayward are original drummer Graeme Edge, 71, and bassist and vocalist Lodge, 66.

Elsas says the Moodies stand out from their peers. "They had a renaissance, unlike some of those other bands in the '80s, with those other albums and MTV and video, and a whole new audience discovers them," he says. "They're not just a band of the '60s and '70s. Their fans are incredibly passionate."

How much longer will the Moody Blues perform?

"Well, there are three of us now, so I suspect until one of us falls over," Hayward says. "When there was four, one fell, and we just stepped over him and moved on. It's brutal in this group. But who knows? I'm not sure that I could do it if there were only two left."