Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Summer of Love: The Moody Blues

This installment of our series is devoted to an English band of which, upon introduction, it could be safely asked, which one? To speak of The Moody Blues is to speak of two almost completely different bands, with a partially identical lineup, and little more in common.

The so-called "British invasion" of the early 60s was inspired by American blues and rhythm & blues artists. Upstream from the Beatles hometown of Liverpool was the city of Birmingham, where a working-class variant of the genre known as "the Brom beat" ("Brom" being an abbreviation of the city's name) was building up steam. One of its proponents was a quintet fronted by singer-guitarist Danny Laine, named for their anticipated sponsor, the M&B Brewery, and a subtle reference to Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo." The first clip is their biggest early hit song "Go Now," from 1964, and is typical of their repertoire. Among those appearing with Laine are singer Ray Thomas, keyboardist Mike Pinder, and drummer Graeme Edge. They were the ones remaining when Laine left for a solo career, and the band began its transformation.

After Laine and Clint Warwick left in 1966, the others invited a former bandmate of Graeme's, bassist John Lodge. They also acquired a young guitarist/lead singer from a pool of applicants named Justin Hayward. Deciding that their earlier combination of American blues and skiffle-influenced novelty songs was getting lost in the crowd, they developed a more nuanced sound of their very own. The album that first defined this style was the 1967 Days of Future Passed. Recorded with the London Festival Orchestra, which played instrumental interludes between original numbers, it would probably rival The Beatles' Sgt Pepper as the first "concept album." The reflective theme of eventide "Nights in White Satin" set the tone of the latter-day Moodies.

The rest, as they say, is history. While typical of the cerebral lyrical quality that was popular during the drug-induced and otherwise rebellious late 1960s, The Moodies' music had a depth of intellect and coherence, of light and shade, that was virtually unmatched in rock music at the time.

Edge, Hayward, and Lodge continue to perform as the centerpiece of the band today. Danny Laine was best known for his tenure with Paul McCartney and Wings. He has continued his solo career.

In the end, if the Moodies have proven anything, it's that video didn't kill the radio star...


Young fogey emeritus said...

Thanks for the overview of this and other ’60s bands! I like both versions of the Moodies even though the second one is considered a bit naff and bombastic. I always thought it was beautiful.

David L Alexander said...

"You've got the lineup a little confused though..."

Yes, Anon, thank you. I get names like "Lodge" and "Thomas" mixed up for some reason. And I was aware that Hayward came later (picked at random from applicants for a spot with Eric Burton and The Animals, FWIW). These segments are not meant to be exhaustive, by the way, but are about bands I heard or saw on TV as a kid.

Tom S. said...

Oh Yeah....

I LOVE Days of the Future Passed.
It is still fresh, new and amazing after all these years.