Orchestral rock band was ahead of its time
IF YOU GO
Who: The Moody Blues
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Nautica Pavilion, 2014 Sycamore, Cleveland
Tickets: $29.50 to $79.50 at Ticketmaster outlets
By JOHN BENSON
Times have sure changed since the Moody Blues arrived on the rock scene in the late ’60s with its new and avant-garde sound that married orchestral music with pop sensibilities. Granted, today this is commonplace considering at a moment’s notice producers can use ProTools and other digital audio workstation software to create such a sound. However, this wasn’t always the case.
In fact, early on the Moody Blues’ unconventional approach was met with head scratching and confusion.
“When we recorded ‘Days of Future Passed,’ the record company sort of gave up on us,” said Moody Blues bassist John Lodge, calling from South Bend, Ind. “They didn’t understand it at all. I remember the head of A&R saying, ‘I have no idea who we could sell this to.’ And we were very lucky. The head of the classical department at Decca Records (in London) and the head of London Records out of New York City understood what the Moody Blues were about.”
Lodge said at the time other acts had used orchestras, most famously the Beatles on “A Day in the Life;” however, he felt the Moody Blues were different in that the strings and so forth were written as integral parts of the music. Specifically, the 64-year-old musician said on “Days of Future Passed,” which yielded hit songs “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin,” the group often took a backseat to its own music.
“We were the first band who actually knew what we were, to have a whole album and use an orchestra playing the melodies of the songs we’ve written,” Lodge said. “So I think that’s why it worked for us. It wasn’t like just adding strings on the top to sweeten the song up. Or some A&R guy saying, ‘We could put strings on this and probably have a hit record.’
While “Days of Future Passed” proved to be a hit record, reaching No. 3 on U.S. charts, the outfit realized its orchestra sound could easily become a pigeonholing albatross for the band. That’s when the Moody Blues decided to deconstruct its approach. The result is 1968’s “In Search of the Lost Chord,” which features hit song “Ride My See Saw.”
“What happened after we recorded ‘Days of Future Passed,’ one of the first comments was it’s a hit record because the orchestra is great or something like that,” Lodge said. “So what we decided to do was go into the studio and record the next album with us playing every instrument. And if we didn’t know how to play a particular instrument, we just learned how. So when ‘In Search of the Lost Chord’ became a huge hit for us, that sort of took away any of the taboos about who we were. It didn’t matter after that.”
Over the last 40-plus years, the Moody Blues have sold over 70 million albums, including 14 platinum and gold records. Today the outfit still tours its popular catalog – “The Story in Your Eyes,” “Question,” “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band),” “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” – around the globe. You can see the act Saturday at the Nautica Pavilion.
The other current storyline behind the Moody Blues revolves around its lack of induction consideration into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Considering earlier this year legendary prog-rock act Genesis finally got the nod, does this open the door for other similar-minded acts — such as The Moody Blues — to enter the Hall?
“I don’t know, I have no idea,” Lodge said. “That’s up to whoever. The fact is the Moody Blues have always been the silent majority. We’re not a media band, never have been. And probably to get acclaim – the Grammy Awards and everything else – you have to be a media artist. But the Moody Blues have never gone for that. We’ve always let our music speak for ourselves, which is why for the first seven albums there are no photographs of the band on the front sleeve of any album. That’s because it was more important to us that the music spoke for the Moody Blues, not the media.”