Given that most bands are lucky to celebrate a 10-year anniversary, it’s remarkable that the Moody Blues were still around to mark the 45th anniversary of Days of Future Passed
, the concept album that put the British progressive rock band on the musical map. The group came through town in 2012 in support of that album’s anniversary, and it’s been plenty active since.
The band has just embarked on a tour in support of a new box set Timeless Flight – The Polydor Years
. It features their most memorable hits from 1986 to1992 and even features the live recording of a 1986 Cleveland show that paired the band with an orchestra. In addition, singer-guitarist Justin Hayward has launched a new PBS show. Recorded live at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, it features music from his current solo album Justin Hayward: SPIRITS….LIVE
. Singer-bassist John Lodge will also release 10,000 Light Years Ago
, his first solo album in more than 30 years titled. It which features him reuniting with Moody Blues alumni flutist Ray Thomas and keyboardist/mellotronist Mike Pinder, who make cameos on the record. It’s the first collaboration with all three members since the late ’70s.
The Moody Blues first formed in 1964 as band members ditched their previous musical commitments with the hopes of building on the success they’d already had.
“We formed the band out of survival,” says drummer Graeme Edge via phone from Florida, where he’s lived for the past 24 years. “We got a lot of gigs and our first gig was in May. In July, we were spotted in a club and we were down in London in September and were recording in November. The song ‘Go Now’ was a hit when it came out in January. From the band first forming to having out first hit record was nine months. It was a wild ride and it didn’t stop for ten years.”
The band’s biggest hit was arguably 1967’s Days of Future Passed
. The album, which yielded hits such as “Nights in White Satin” was originally commissioned to sell stereo equipment. The band’s label asked the group to do a rock version of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” to demonstrate their stereo systems, which weren’t really getting off the ground, except with the classical market. Decca introduced them to Romantic string arranger Peter Knight. He suggested the band do its own songs and in they knocked out some songs in three days. And it worked — the trippy songs actually helped sell the stereo equipment. Within three days, the whole thing was presented as a fait accompli but the folks at Decca weren’t that pleased with it. They quickly changed their minds as it did sell their stereo systems and they had a lot of success with it.
In 1974, the band decided to take a break, potentially derailing the momentum it had achieved.
“We went into the studio to make an album, it would have been our eighth,” says Edge. “We recorded three or four songs and they were crap. We realized we had nothing to write about. For the previous seven years, we made seven albums. We had been on the road and were prisoners of our own success. We were in dressing rooms and on airplanes. We were having no new experiences and we were basically tapped out and exhausted, not so much physically because we were young but mentally. We didn’t break up. We just naturally went our own separate ways. We recharged our lives.”
When the band reconvened in the late ’70s, it came out swinging and quickly ended up back on the charts. It would stay on the charts throughout the '80s as well.
“We have one really good songwriter in John Lodge, the bass player, and one superb songwriter in Justin [Hayward],” says Edge when asked about the key to getting back on the radio. “We had the material, and that’s what made a difference.”
Edge says he doesn’t think the band needs a “piece of product” to hit the road and admits that the group isn’t likely to record new material anytime soon. But he says the looming 50th anniversary of Days of Future Passed
will be a reason to celebrate.
“We need to do something for that but what it will be, I don’t know,” he says. “There are ideas about cruise ship shows or doing a special concert with an orchestra at Radio City Music Hall. We’re kicking around ideas to see which one we can afford to do, which one we want to do and which one we can get someone else to pay for.”
Edge admits he has one tiny little regret.
“There’s a certain part of me that wishes we had some really heavy balls-to-the-wall rock songs because drummers love playing that kind of thing,” he says with a laugh. “I wouldn’t want to do it all the time because it would drive me nuts. That just goes to show that no matter how well off you are, you’re never completely happy.”
The Moody Blues, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 7, E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron, 330-972-7570. Tickets: $45-$75, uaevents.com.