It’s now been more than 50 years since the Moody Blues released their classic Days of Future Passed
album, a project which reportedly began with plans, dictated by the band’s record label, to record a rock version of Antonín Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 9.” At that time, mono was still king, but Deram Records hoped that it could generate some excitement for the developing stereo audio technology with an album that would showcase how good it could sound.
If that was the plan, the band took things in a different direction, instead plotting out a concept album that would build songs around the events and time periods of a typical day.
What’s interesting about the album itself is how well the songs and the concept flow together despite the fact that the members had mostly worked individually on their own to write the songs. One can imagine that under those circumstances, the record could have been a jumbled mess. But singer-bassist John Lodge says that the process of creating Days of Future Passed
actually unfolded pretty naturally.
“Before Days of Future Passed
, we were playing all American songs, really. We were covering songs like ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and a lot of American songs. We decided that we’d been playing these songs for like four years in different bands and different genres, but we wanted to write all of our own material,” Lodge says during a recent phone conversation. He performs at 7:30 p.m. on Thurdsay, Oct. 25, at Music Box Supper Club. “Once we started writing our own songs, and once the idea of Days of Future Passed
came, we knew what we were trying to do.”
Lodge says band members each picked out periods of time during the day that appealed to them individually.
“Because I love all energy type songs, ‘Peak Hour,’ the midday, is when everything’s happening,” he says. “That’s when everything is going mad in the world. It appealed to me to write this song. I remember writing it, we were all in the back of the van. We didn’t have the luxury of a good car in those days. Graeme Edge, our drummer, was sitting in front of me, and the van was going about 80 miles an hour, and I could feel this rhythm. I said to Graeme, ‘Graeme, can you keep this tempo up for three minutes? Because if you can, I think I’ve written this song.’”
Quickly, the framework of Days of Future Passed
“[Singer-guitarist] Justin [Hayward] had written ‘Nights In White Satin,’ so we knew that was going to be the end of the night, and [keyboardist] Mike [Pinder] wrote a song called ‘Dawn Is A Feeling.’ And so we were away. It was a case of just slotting everything else in. Graeme came up with the poetry to tie all of the songs together, really.”
Lodge will spotlight a few moments from Days of Future Passed
during his show at the Music Box. He’ll mix those songs in with other tunes from the Moody Blues catalog, including some deeper cuts that don’t typically make it into the band’s setlist. He’ll also feature some newer music from his latest solo album, 10,000 Light Years From Home
, and pay tribute to his former Moody Blues bandmates, Pinder and the late Ray Thomas, who sadly passed away in January of this year.
“I’m going to do a couple of tribute songs that Ray and Mike wrote for the Moodies. I met Ray when I was 15, and we worked together all of our lives. Ray, until his sad departure, he lived two miles from where I live,” he says. “I must just tell you, because it’s Cleveland, just before Christmas, when we actually got into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Ray rang me up. He always called me Rocker. He called me Rocker since I was 15. He said, ‘Hey, Rocker, does this mean we’re famous now?’ That was a typical Ray remark with a smile on his face.”
Thomas asked Lodge to collect his award at the Rock Hall Inductions because he wouldn’t be feeling well enough to travel to the ceremonies.
“Unfortunately, you know, we lost Ray [before the Inductions happened], and I lost a good friend of mine. So I thought, on this tour, I’m going to do one of Ray’s songs. It’s a song that we’ll probably never ever play in the Moodies again, so I really wanted to play it for Ray. And then, I’m going to play a song of Mike’s because Mike was in our band before the Moody Blues as well for a while. So we’ve all grown up together, [and they’re] part of our lives, and I want to share their music as well, as they won’t be doing it.”
Thankfully, a couple of years before Thomas passed, he, Lodge and Pinder had the chance to reunite to play together on a song on the 10,000 Light Years From Home
“When I wrote ‘Simply Magic,’ I was playing it on my acoustic guitar one night, just fine-tuning it and making sure I’ve got it right and I thought, ‘This is perfect for Ray to play flute on.’ We hadn’t worked together for a few years. Although we spoke together all the while, we hadn’t worked together. So I rang Ray up and said, ‘Ray, I’ve written this song, I’m coming over. You’ve got to play on it.’ I went over, played him the song and sat in his house. He got his flute out and played his flute and got his bass flute out and played some bass flute as well, and then we went into the studio, and we recorded it. He said to me, ‘Let’s call Mike.’ So I called Mike and said, ‘Would you play Mellotron?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’d love to.’ So I sent Mike the files, and Mike put the Mellotron on.”
Pinder was there with the band for its Rock Hall induction in April, even though he didn’t perform. “Mike said, ‘Hey, listen guys, you’ve been playing these songs now for 30 years without me,’" Lodge explains. "He was just happy to be there, and I was happy for Mike to be there with us. It meant a lot. His family was there, and his sons were there. So it was a great time.”
The Moody Blues had been eligible for the Rock Hall since 1990, and last year was the first time they had been nominated. Now that they’re in, Lodge says it’s an “enormous” honor,” something which took him by surprise.
“I didn’t realize how much [it meant], really. Because you know, we probably think the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a very American institution, if I can use that word. But rock ’n’ roll came from America, went to England, we repackaged it and sent it back to you guys in our way,” he says now. “We’re all part of rock ’n’ roll But it was quite amazing because I did think it was an American [thing], but when I got back to England, the amount of people in England who were warmly congratulating me [was incredible]. I realized there’s a thing, in the ’70s, we heard a lot about it — the silent majority. These people are out there, and they know what’s going on. They may not be telling you all the while, but these are the people who go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and they’re not going to shout about it everywhere. They just want to be part of it. It was fabulous. And the people at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, they were very gracious to us and to me particularly, so I want to thank them as well.”
It feels appropriate that the Moody Blues have their permanent spot in Cleveland at long last because, as Lodge tells us, Cleveland and the band go way back.
“We came to Cleveland the first time on our first tour in 1968. I remember we met someone there who helped us build a PA system because our PA system wasn’t big enough. We were used to playing smaller venues,” he explains. “We came to America, and suddenly, these venues got bigger and bigger! I remember that his name was Charlie, but I can never remember his surname. But if he’s out there, Charlie, come and say hello!”
John Lodge, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 25, Music Box Supper Club, 1148 Main St., 216-242-1250. Tickets: $45-$75, musicboxcle.com.