THE MOODY BLUES, History:
The link between The Electric Light Orchestra and The Moody Blues:
In the mid-50s started up a skiffle band called "El Riot & The Rebels" which later changed its style of play rock'n'roll to R & B. Ray Thomas first met John Lodge on a bus on the way to a youth club. Mike Pinder first worked as a roadie / handyman, but became a real member after a while.
Since the record contracts failed (they made only a demo "Down the line / Blue moon) they dissolved the group.
Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder formed a new R & B band called "The Krew Cats" and went to Germany and saw "the madness and diabolical living conditions" in the clubs in Hamburg and Hanover. In November 1963 they were almost thrown out of Hamburg. Economic broke they sought out the British Consulate who laid out for a ticket to England and five shillings for each spending money on the condition that they would pay everything back what they were signing. After returning says Ray Thomas: When we got home we found the musical scene in total chaos. There were about 250 bands, one half believed that they were Cliff Richard & The Shadows and the other that they were the Beatles. There was so much competition that the only thing to do was to establish a local super group - and that was what we did! The Original Moodies (The Moody Blues 5 (M & B5) (Mitchells & Butlers Pub) which later changed to The Moody Blues) was formed May 4., 1964.
1 Line up May 64 - Nov 66: Clint Warwick bass, Denny Laine guitar / vocals (former Denny Laine & the Diplomatic Mast with Bev Bevan), Ray Thomas vocals / harp, Graeme Edge drums (formerly "Gerry Levene & The Avengers with Roy Wood ), Mike Pinder keyboards.
After having been organized a strong band the made the contract with the London manager Tony Secunda (later also mannager for "The Move"). Already their second single was a worldwide smash "Go now", but sequels were a number inferior and as the months passed decreased their popularity, they tried to switch manager Brian Epstein as not solved the problems. When Warwick and Denny Laine left the band they were bankrupt and had red figures on tax accounts. John Lodge returns to the pals after an excursion to "The John Bull Breed" and on his arrival, they were obliged to sell his gear to fina announce a continental touring! The time was hard.
Denny Laine switches from The Moody Blues and makes 2 excelente solo hits with the group The Electric String Band and in 1969 he switches to The Balls where he plays with Richard Tandy, in 1971 he switches back to the Wings.
2 Line up Nov. 66 - July 78: John Lodge bass / vocal, Justin Hayward guitar / vocals (previously with Marty Wilde), Ray Thomas vocals / flute, Graeme Edge drums, Mike Pinder keyboards / vocals (pulled out in 1978).
The Moodies got a new record deal with Decca company and here they started up again from scratch, however this time they aim for an album and not to the hit single market. To survive they play in destructive soul cabaretter and through this they established an entirely new music concept, they lead rock and classical forms merge together! Ray Thomas said: "everyone thought we were crazy," of course they were (and still is) incredibly popular, they have a number of hits and establish their own record label, they are doing solo projects and earns a fortune.
In September 1975 emits Graeme Edge his first solo album The Graeme Edge Band "Kick off you Moddy boots" and achieves a 107 place on the US Charts.
In Apr. 1976 emits Mike Pinder his first solo album "The Promise" and achieves a 133 place on the US Charts.
The Moody Blues are an English rock band. Among their innovations was a fusion with classical music, as heard in their 1967 album Days of Future Passed.
The Moody Blues have sold more than 55 million albums worldwide and have been awarded with 18 platinum and gold discs. As of 2015 they remain active with one member from the original 1964 band and two more from the 1967 lineup.
Founding and early history
Early years, Decca Records 1964–1966
The Moody Blues was formed on 4 May 1964, in Erdington, Birmingham, Warwickshire. Ray Thomas, a juvenile John Lodge and (occasionally) Michael Pinder had been members of El Riot & the Rebels. They disbanded when John Lodge, the youngest member, went to technical college and Michael Pinder joined the army. Michael Pinder then rejoined Ray Thomas to form the Krew Cats. Back from a disappointing spell in the Hamburg region a few months later, the pair recruited guitarist/vocalist Denny Laine, band manager-turned-drummer Graeme Edge and bassist Clint Warwick. The five appeared as the Moody Blues for the first time in Birmingham in 1964.
The name developed from a hoped-for sponsorship from the M&B Brewery which failed to materialise, the band calling themselves both "The M Bs" and "The M B Five" and was also a subtle reference to the Duke Ellington song, "Mood Indigo". Around this time the band were the resident group at the Carlton Ballroom, later to become rock music venue Mothers on Erdington High Street.
Soon, the band obtained a London-based management company, 'Ridgepride', formed by ex-Decca A&R man Alex Murray (Alex Wharton), who helped them land a recording contract with Decca Records in the spring of 1964. Initially they were signed to a management company who then leased their recordings to Decca. They released a single, "Steal Your Heart Away", that year which failed to chart. The Moody Blues appeared on the cult TV programme Ready Steady Go! singing the uptempo 'B' side "Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose your Mind)". But it was their second single, "Go Now" (released later that year), which really launched their career, being promoted on TV with one of the first purpose-made promotional films in the pop era, produced and directed by Alex Wharton. The single became a hit in Britain (where it remains their only Number 1 single) and in the United States, where it reached No.10.
The band encountered management problems after the chart-topping hit and subsequently signed to Decca Records in the UK (London Records in the US) as actual recording artists. A four track extended play release titled: "The Moody Blues" featuring both sides of their first two Decca singles was issued in a colour picture sleeve in early 1965.
Their debut album The Magnificent Moodies, produced by Denny Cordell with a strong Merseybeat/R&B flavour, was released on Decca in mono only in 1965. It contained the hit single together with one side of classic R&B covers, and a second including four Denny Laine/Michael Pinder originals.
Alex Wharton left the management firm and the group released a series of relatively unsuccessful singles. They enjoyed a minor British hit with a cover of "I Don't Want To Go on Without You" (No. 33) in February 1965, while the Denny Laine/Michael Pinder original "From the Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)" produced by Denny Cordell (with a vocal choral sound towards the conclusion that anticipated their later more famous vocal sound on "Nights in White Satin") was issued as a UK single in May 1965 and did a little better (No. 22). But then "Everyday", another Denny Laine/Michael Pinder song, stalled at No. 44 in October 1965 and no further British singles were released for just about a year. The group was still in demand for live gigs, though, and they did have some chart success in the U.S. and in Europe during those months when "Bye Bye Bird" was lifted from their album in December 1965 as an overseas single charting in France (No. 3).
In June 1966, Warwick retired from the group and the music business. He was briefly replaced by Rod Clark (born Rodney Clark, 23 November 1942, Surlingham, near Norwich, Norfolk), but in early October, Denny Laine also departed from the group, which made Decca release "Boulevard de la Madeleine" c/w "This is My House (But Nobody Calls)" only a few days later, as The Moody Blues seemed to be disintegrating. Clark joined the Rockin Berries.
In the November Issue of Hit Week, Dutch interviewers Hans van Rij and Emie Havers presented their story saying The Moody Blues had been in the process of recording their second album, Look Out, with Cordell producing. The album was not to be and "Really Haven´t Got the Time" (released as a single c/w "Fly Me High" some months later) is the only song mentioned in the article but the authors say Denny Laine had written all of the material, with Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder and Clark (still the bass player) singing lead vocals as well.
A final 'Mark One' Moodies single, Denny Laine/Michael Pinder's "Life's Not Life", was scheduled for release in January 1967 c/w "He Can Win" even though Denny Laine couldn´t because the group had relaunched themselves without him months ago. (This single's release is often listed as being cancelled; however, both promo and regular stock copies have been seen over the years).
Arrival of Justin Hayward and John Lodge
The group re-formed in November 1966. By then, "Boulevard de la Madeleine" had made the Belgian charts and won them more fans over there which came in handy when they relocated to Belgium for some time. New members were John Lodge, their bassist from El Riot and Justin Hayward, formerly of the Wilde Three. Justin Hayward was recommended to Mike Pinder by Eric Burdon of the Animals and was endorsed by famed UK singer Marty Wilde, the leader of the Wilde Three. Mike Pinder phoned Justin Hayward after reading his lead guitarist application, and was impressed when Justin Hayward played him his 45 rpm single "London is Behind Me" during their car ride to meet the other members in Esher.
After financial misfortune and a confrontation from an audience member, the band soon realised that their style of American blues covers and novelty tunes was not working for them and they decided that they would only perform their own material. The band were introduced to Decca staff producer Tony Clarke who produced a recording session which saw Justin Hayward's "Fly Me High" and Mike Pinder's older-styled "Really Haven't Got the Time" as the 'Mark Two' Moodies first single released in May 1967. This picked up both radio airplay and favourable reviews, but failed to chart in the UK. However the sound gave clues to the direction their music would evolve. Their new style, featuring the symphonic sounds of Mike Pinder's Mellotron, was first introduced on Mike Pinder's song "Love And Beauty" which was issued as a single c/w with Justin Hayward's rocker "Leave This Man Alone" in September 1967. This too was not a UK hit, but further established their 'new' Moodies identity. Ray Thomas's flute had been in evidence earlier ("I've Got a Dream") on their debut album, however it became a far more featured instrument from this point onwards as they started incorporating distinct psychedelic influences, which was later developed in a concept album revolving around an archetypal day in the life of everyman.
Deram Records, Threshold Records, 1967–1972
Days of Future Passed
The Moody Blues' contract with Decca Records was set to expire and they owed the label several thousand pounds in advances. The second album had never materialized either. They had the support, however, of Decca A&R manager Hugh Mendl, who had been instrumental in the recent establishment of London/Decca's new subsidiary imprint Deram Records. With Mendl's backing, the Moody Blues were offered a deal to make a rock and roll version of Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony that would promote the company's new Deramic Stereo Sound (DSS) audio format in return for which the group would be forgiven their debt.
The Moody Blues agreed, but insisted that they be given artistic control of the project, and Mendl (as executive producer) was able to provide this in the face of Decca's notoriously tight-fisted attitude to their artists. The group were unable to complete the assigned project, which was abandoned. However, they managed to convince Peter Knight, who had been assigned to arrange and conduct the orchestral interludes, to collaborate on a recording that used the band's original material instead.
Although Deram executives were initially sceptical about the hybrid style of the resulting concept album, Days of Future Passed (released in November 1967) became one of the most successful pop/rock releases of the period, earning a gold record award and reaching No. 27 on the British LP chart. Five years later it was to reach No. 3 in the U.S./Billboard charts. The LP was a song cycle or concept album that takes place over the course of a single day. In production and arrangement the album drew inspiration from the pioneering use of the classical instrumentation by the Beatles to whom Mike Pinder had introduced the Mellotron that year. It took the form to new heights using the London Festival Orchestra, a loose affiliation of Decca's classical musicians given a fictitious name, adding the term "London" to sound impressive, to provide an orchestral linking framework to the Moodies' already written and performed songs, plus overture and conclusion sections on the album including backing up Graeme Edge's opening and closing poems recited by Mike Pinder. Strings were added to the latter portion of the album version of Justin Hayward's "Nights in White Satin" (absent on the single hit version) as was Mike Pinder's "The Sun Set". The orchestra and group never actually perform together on the recording with the band's rock instrumentation centred on Mike Pinder's Mellotron. The LP, despite being a lush concept album, was in fact cut in a very workmanlike manner, with the band recording a particular song, then the track being presented to Peter Knight who quickly composed a suitable "linking" orchestral portion which the Decca musicians ("London Festival Orchestra") then recorded. The album was as much an original work by Knight himself as the group. The composing credits were listed on the sleeve as: "Redwave-Knight", when in fact Hayward wrote "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon", Ray Thomas provided "Another Morning" and "Twilight Time", John Lodge penned "Peak Hour" and "Evening (Time To Get Away)", and Graeme Edge contributed the opening and closing poems (the first "Morning Glory" and the latter titled "Late Lament") read by Mike Pinder who composed both "The Sun Set" and "Dawn is a Feeling" (sung by Justin Hayward, with Mike Pinder himself singing the bridge section).
Decca staff producer Tony Clarke produced the album, and afterwards continued working with the band. Sometimes known to fans as "The Sixth Moodie" he went on to produce all of their albums and singles for the next eleven years. Engineer Derek Varnals would also contribute heavily to the creation of the early Moody's studio sound, working with Mike Pinder and Clarke to create a more symphonic overlapping sound on the Mellotron as opposed to the sharp 'cut off' the instrument would normally give, partly achieved by removing all the "sound effects" tapes (trains, whistles, cockerel crowing, etc.) and then 'doubling up' the tapes of orchestral instruments' sounds, which combined with Mike Pinder's ability and sensitivity at playing (Mike Pinder having earlier worked for the company that manufactured the Mellotron) and Varnals' recording skills at creating an orchestral 'wave' sound that characterised their non-orchestra accompanied sound thereafter.
The album, plus two singles therefrom, "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon" (as a medley with "Forever Afternoon" listed as "Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)" on the album), took time to find an audience. In the Moody Blues' native Britain, the two singles from the album didn't initially catch on; "Nights in White Satin" only made No. 19 on the British singles chart in early 1968, and "Tuesday Afternoon" didn't chart at all. However, the British public did learn to appreciate "Nights in White Satin" subsequently; it made No. 9 on the UK singles chart on re-issue in December 1972, and No. 14 on the charts on a subsequent reissue at the end of 1979, and is now regarded as the Moody Blues signature song by British audiences. In the US, "Nights in White Satin" did not make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 (although it would reach No. 2 on re-release in 1972); "Tuesday Afternoon" however was more successful on initial release Stateside, peaking at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In Search of the Lost Chord
The 1968 follow-up LP, In Search of the Lost Chord included "Legend of a Mind", a song written by Ray Thomas in tribute to LSD guru Timothy Leary which encompassed a flute solo performed by Ray Thomas – four members of the group had taken LSD together at the start of 1967. A promotional film for the song was filmed on location at Groot-Bijgaarden Castle near Brussels in Belgium. Lodge provided a two-part song "House of Four Doors" set either side of this Ray Thomas' epic piece. Justin Hayward began playing sitar and incorporating it into Moody Blues music ("Voices in the Sky", "Visions of Paradise", "Om", etc.), having been inspired by George Harrison. Justin Hayward's "Voices in the Sky" charted as a single in the UK (No. 27), as did John Lodge's "Ride My See-Saw" (No. 42, No. 15 in France) – still their concert finale number today – which featured Mike Pinder's non-album song "A Simple Game" as the 'B' side. Mike Pinder's "The Best Way to Travel" was another high point, as was his closing song "Om" (sung by Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas, again featuring Justin Hayward on sitar). Graeme Edge found a significant secondary role in the band as a writer of poetry, and some of their early albums from the late 1960s begin with various band members reciting poems by Graeme Edge that were conceptually related to the lyrics of the songs that would follow. Graeme Edge himself narrated his brief "Departure" poem on "Lost Chord", although Mike Pinder would be the one who would recite the majority of Graeme Edge's poetry, as according to Graeme Edge, he had the best voice for it due to smoking more cigarettes and drinking more whisky at the time.
On the Threshold of a Dream
On 1969's On the Threshold of a Dream Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge and Mike Pinder share the opening narration on Graeme Edge's "In The Beginning", leading into Justin Hayward's "Lovely To See You". His "Never Comes the Day" was issued as a UK single, while Ray Thomas' wry observations of life in "Dear Diary" and "Lazy Day" were striking features. Mike Pinder contributed the closing track on side one, "So Deep Within You". Side two closes with the "Dream Sequence", Graeme Edge's poem "The Dream" leading into Mike Pinder's "Have You Heard?" parts I and II with the two parts separated by his classically themed instrumental piece "The Voyage".
To Our Children's Children's Children
The band's music continued to become more complex and symphonic, with heavy amounts of reverberation on the vocal tracks, resulting in 1969's To Our Children's Children's Children — a concept album inspired by the first moon landing. The opening track "Higher and Higher" saw Mike Pinder simulate a rocket blast-off on keyboards, then narrate Graeme Edge's lyrics. Ray Thomas' "Floating" and "Eternity Road" stood out, as did Justin Hayward's "Gypsy" and a rare Mike Pinder-John Lodge collaboration "Out and In". John Lodge provided his two-part "Eyes of a Child" and "Candle of Life" while Mike Pinder contributed "Sun is Still Shining". The album closes with "Watching and Waiting", composed by Ray Thomas and Justin Hayward and sung by Justin Hayward. This song was issued as a single on the Threshold label but failed to chart.
A Question of Balance
Although the Moodies had by now defined a somewhat psychedelic style and helped to define the progressive rock (then also known as 'art rock') sound, the group decided to record an album that could be played in concert, losing some of their full-blown sound for A Question of Balance (1970). This album, reaching No. 3 in the American charts and No. 1 in the British charts, was indicative of the band's growing success in America. Incidentally, it seems to have been one of the first rock albums broaching the issue of ecology (e.g. line: We´ll spoil the seas with the rivers we´ve lost, from Graeme Edge's "Don´t You Feel Small"). Justin Hayward's "Question" (in a differing version) was issued as a single hitting No. 2 in the UK (only kept from the top spot by the England World Cup football team's novelty record "Back Home"). Justin Hayward began an artful exploration of guitar tone through the use of numerous effects pedals and fuzz-boxes, and developed for himself a very melodic buzzing guitar-solo sound. The Moody Blues had by now become a bill-topping act in their own right. They appeared twice at the famous Isle of Wight Festival (A DVD of their 1970 performance has now been released). Mike Pinder's "Melancholy Man" (a No. 1 single in France) stood out beside Justin Hayward's "Question" on the 1970 album.
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn
For their next two albums, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971) – from which Justin Hayward's "The Story in Your Eyes" was taken as a US charting single (No. 23) - and Seventh Sojourn (1972) (which reached No. 1 in the U.S.), the band returned to their signature orchestral sound which, while difficult to reproduce in concert, had become their trademark. The title "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" was borrowed, tongue-in-cheek, from a mnemonic used to remember the musical notes that form the lines of the treble clef: EGBDF. The opening track "Procession" was the only item composed by all five band members, a fascinating track depicting the "evolution" of music, leading into Justin Hayward's "The Story in Your Eyes". Ray Thomas's reflective "Our Guessing Game" and whimsical "Nice To Be Here" offset the deeper drama of Ray Thomas's "You Can Never Go Home", John Lodge's "One More Time To Live" and Mike Pinder's "My Song". Graeme Edge, the long-standing drummer-poet, started writing lyrics intended to be sung, rather than verses to be spoken – his "After You Came" (1971) featured each of the four lead singers taking a vocal section. Then in 1972 John Lodge's songs "Isn't Life Strange?" (No. 13) and "I'm Just a Singer (in A Rock 'n' Roll Band)" (No. 36) were lifted from "Seventh Sojourn" as charting UK singles. "Seventh Sojourn" also saw Mike Pinder using the new Chamberlain instrument in place of the Mellotron and Graeme Edge using an electronic drum kit. Mike Pinder's stirring lament "Lost in a Lost World" opened this last "Core Seven" outing, while his sympathetic ode to Timothy Leary "When You're a Free Man", Ray Thomas's romantic "For My Lady", and Justin Hayward's serene "New Horizons" all stood out.
In an interview following the release of Seventh Sojourn, Graeme Edge told Rolling Stone: "We've got two Christians, one Mystic, one Pedantic and one Mess, and we all get on a treat."
By this time, other bands were picking up their work. Mike Pinder's songs "A Simple Game" (1968) and "So Deep Within You" (1969) were successfully covered by the Four Tops, Mike Pinder winning an Ivor Novello Award for "A Simple Game", Elkie Brooks later covered Justin Hayward's "Nights in White Satin". Mike Pinder also appeared on John Lennon's "Imagine" album in 1971, providing additional percussion on "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier (I Don't Want to Die)". The 1968 to 1972 album sleeves, plus several solo sets up to Ray Thomas's "Hopes, Wishes & Dreams" in 1976, were characterised by striking surreal scenic sleeve artwork (mostly gatefold sleeves) by artist Phil Travers.
In late 1972, a re-issue of the five-year-old Nights in White Satin became the Moody Blues' biggest US hit, soaring to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming a certified million-seller; the song had "bubbled under" the Hot 100 charts on its original release. The song also returned to the UK charts, reaching No. 9, ten places higher than its original release in 1967.
The Moodies were also among the pioneers of the idea that a successful rock band could promote itself through their own label, following the Beatles' creation of Apple Records. After their On the Threshold of a Dream album (1969), they created Threshold Records, prompted in part by disputes with London/Deram over album design costs (their gatefold record jackets and expensive cover art were not popular with company executives). Threshold would produce new albums and deliver them to London/Decca who acted as distributor. The group attempted to build Threshold into a major label by developing new talent — most notably the UK hard rock band Trapeze and the Portland, Oregon, classical-acoustic sextet Providence — but these efforts proved unsuccessful and the Moodies eventually returned to more traditional recording contracts. They did lay the groundwork, however, for other major acts to set up similar personal labels and distribution deals including the Rolling Stones' own label and Led Zeppelin's Swan Song, and all of the Moodies' studio releases from 1969 to 1999 would bear the Threshold logo on at least one of their format versions.
Hiatus and solo work, 1974–1977
In the spring of 1974, after completing a vast world tour that culminated with a tour of Asia, the group took an extended break, because of the other band members feeling exhausted and overshadowed (this said by Justin Hayward himself in the final issue of Higher & Higher magazine 2006). Although the band had typically featured four lead vocalists (with Graeme Edge also contributing vocally), with Justin Hayward the principal guitarist/vocalist, Mike Pinder was considered to be the person most responsible for their symphonic sound, arrangements, and overall conceptual direction. Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas handled much of the Moodies onstage audience liaison work (as the 1969 "Caught Live +5" album displays).
Before the band's 1973–74 world tour, Justin Hayward wrote a song called "Island" with the intention of including it on a potential follow-up album, which the Moodies recorded in 1973 before ultimately going their separate ways. A major reason for the hiatus was that their standing had become almost frightening by this time with so many employees the band members could not recognise and misguided fans seeking some kind of Papal blessings and cures for illness; etc.. This overblown adoration deeply disturbed the band members who were also feeling the strain of trying to run their own record label (as the Beatles had earlier) – Ray Thomas remarked that he found himself on the tube with a stack of legal papers. An additional cause of the hiatus were the long tours that had by this time strained Mike Pinder who needed a rest. In 1974 the band oversaw preparation of the compilation album This Is The Moody Blues which was released that year.
Justin Hayward and John Lodge released a duo album, the very successful Blue Jays (1975), and a UK chart single, "Blue Guitar" (no. 8), which was credited to Justin Hayward and John Lodge even though it was actually just Justin Hayward with 10cc backing him. The album had originally been a projected liaison between Justin Hayward and Mike Pinder, but after Mike Pinder dropped out, John Lodge stepped in. (Tony Clarke produced.) The members then released solo albums. Mike Pinder said he hoped to get the band back together that year. "Having moved to California in 1974, I returned to Britain for a visit in summer 1975. I was trying to get the band to do an album, but the response was so weak I returned to California with my two new Mk5 mellotrons and began work on my solo album The Promise." Graeme Edge produced two albums with guitarist Adrian Gurvitz, Kick Off Your Muddy Boots (1975) and Paradise Ballroom (1976); Justin Hayward composed the acoustically textured Songwriter (1977), which would be followed up in later years by Night Flight (1980), Moving Mountains (1985), (which Justin Hayward dedicated to Peter Knight) Classic Blue (1989), The View From The Hill (1996) and Live in San Juan Capistrano (1998); John Lodge released Natural Avenue (1977); Mike Pinder produced The Promise (1976); and Ray Thomas collaborated on two projects with songwriter Nicky James, producing From Mighty Oaks (1975) and Hopes, Wishes and Dreams (1976).
1978–90 lineup. L-R: Patrick Moraz, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward and John Lodge
In 1977, the group made a decision to record together again, with their record company Decca urging a reunion album. London Records decided to release a somewhat poorly mixed then-eight-year-old recording of the band performing at London's Royal Albert Hall, against their artistic wishes. London/Decca did this in an attempt to re-energise a somewhat waning public interest in the Moody Blues before their anticipated new album. By this time Mike Pinder had married and started a family in California, so for their reunion recording, the band decamped stateside with producer Clarke. The sessions were marked with tension and division: first there was a fire at the studios they were using, then after quickly re-locating to Mike Pinder's home studio a landslide following torrential rains effectively marooned them inevitably causing tensions to rise (with Pinder then dropping out before completion).
Producer Tony Clarke was also forced to leave because of non-musical reasons before the album was completed, but by the spring of 1978 Octave was ready for release. Mike Pinder, citing his young family, and by then probably considering the band's touring days behind them, excused himself from the touring commitments that were to follow. Mike Pinder's decision caused some open acrimony within the band (notably from Graeme Edge), Ray Thomas had said Mike Pinder was initially agreeable to touring, and his opting out later on (with a major comeback tour already planned) was a severe and embarrassing blow to them. Attempts were made by their management to completely downplay Mike Pinder's absence, notably at a major UK music press party Decca organised, when the top Decca dignitary guest, while making a "welcome back" speech, openly referred to "Mike Pinder being currently absent over in the States", much to their dismay.
Octave, Mike Pinder departs and the arrival of Patrick Moraz, Long Distance Voyager and The Present
During this period, the prog-rock band Yes had asked their keyboard player, Patrick Moraz, to leave. Moraz's management had some contacts with the Moodies, and after a successful audition with the band in Britain in 1978, he was engaged as keyboard player for the Octave World Tour that began in Germany in October. In spite of these difficulties, the album itself sold well and produced the hits "Steppin' in a Slide Zone", (no. 39 US) written by John Lodge and "Driftwood", (no. 59 US) written by Justin Hayward. The music video produced for "Driftwood" features Moraz, although Mike Pinder was the one who played on the actual recording; the video for "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" simply shows the other four members without Mike Pinder (which was rather awkward as Mike Pinder's keyboards featured extensively on the song, notably on the distinctive intro and during a solo section of the piece). A group performance of Justin Hayward's "Had to Fall in Love" and John Lodge's "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" on the "Kenny Everett Show" also depicted them as a four piece. On Octave Justin Hayward had some four solo composed songs (more in fact than on "The Other Side of Life" later in 1986), Graeme Edge contributed "I'll Be Level With You" (aka "Little Man") one of only a number of songs showing a complete group unity. In truth, a few songs sounded like solo efforts, while John Lodge's "Survival", Justin Hayward's appropriate closing "The Day We Meet Again" and Mike Pinder's lone final contribution and lead vocal, "One Step into the Light" (curiously as the band is depicted as doing so on the cover photo – where Mike Pinder is perhaps significantly barely glimpsed at all and almost out of focus) were all high points on the album. Around this time Justin Hayward enjoyed a solo hit (No.5) in the UK (US No. 47) with the song "Forever Autumn" from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. In recent times Justin Hayward has sung both this and "The Eve of the War" live in the touring version of the album, as featured on Wayne's original big-selling double album.
The Moodies toured the US and Europe during much of 1979. A 'Live' CD 'The Moody Blues Live in Seattle 1979' during the 'Octave' tour of a concert at Seattle Centre Coliseum recorded on 25 May 1979 was later issued in 2013. By 1980 they were ready to record again, this time bringing in producer Pip Williams. Patrick Moraz was retained as the band's permanent keyboardist, though Mike Pinder had originally understood that he would continue to record even if not touring with the band. Mike Pinder attempted legal measures to prevent the new Moody Blues album from reaching the public without his contributions, but he was not successful, and ultimately, he never returned to the fold. Nevertheless when released in 1981, Long Distance Voyager was a colossal success, reaching No.1 on Billboard and going Top 5 in the UK. The album yielded two hits, "The Voice", (No.15 US) written by Justin Hayward, and "Gemini Dream", (No.12 US) written by Justin Hayward and Lodge. John Lodge's "Talking out of Turn" also charted in the US reaching No. 65. Graeme Edge provided "22,000 Days" (featuring Ray Thomas as lead voice with Justin Hayward and John Lodge) while Ray Thomas' own contributions were the final portion of the set with his singing on the final two songs; "Painted Smile", "Reflective Smile" (a poem narrated by a DJ friend of the band) and "Veteran Cosmic Rocker". By now, the mellotron had long been set aside as their primary keyboard instrument on their studio albums and the band embraced a more modern, less symphonic approach, though still retaining a lush keyboard-led sound as Moraz gave a more contemporary Graeme Edge to their sound. In live concerts the mellotron would still be used heavily by Patrick Moraz until the mid-1980s, strikingly also on songs which originally did not feature the mellotron. The marketing formula for the band demanded from this time forward that a Justin Hayward song would be used to lead off their studio albums, as his material was the most popular. Justin Hayward had always written most of their hit singles, followed by John Lodge, however from this point onwards Justin Hayward had to carry far more of the composing burden, most notably in Mike Pinder's absence. Also Ray Thomas' song contributions began to diminish soon after, Justin Hayward and John Lodge also then teaming up to provide songs in addition to their own compositions.The Present (1983), again produced by Williams, proved less successful than its predecessor, though it did spawn a UK Top 40 hit (No.35) in "Blue World" (No.62 in the U.S.) and a US Top 40 hit in "Sitting at the Wheel" (which failed to chart in the UK). Videos were also produced for both singles. "The Present" was released in conjunction with Talencora Ltd shortly before Decca were bought out by Polydor Records.
The Other Side of Life, Sur la Mer
In 1986 they enjoyed renewed success with their album The Other Side of Life and in particular with the track "Your Wildest Dreams" – a US Top 10 hit (and No.1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary singles chart for two weeks) which garnered a Billboard Video of the Year award after being frequently featured on MTV. Newly employed producer Tony Visconti and Barry Radman, a synth programmer formerly engaged by Moraz, delivered a modern sound the Moodies had been after in order to remain competitive with their pop contemporaries. The album's title song also charted in the US, at No.58. The renewed interest in the band ensured a younger audience from this point on, with many of their longtime followers remaining loyal despite a fair number of older fans finding the current albums of this period far more lightweight in content. For example, John Lodge had gone from writing powerfully reflective mystical or humanitarian themed pieces such as "House of Four Doors", "Candle of Life" and "One More Time to Live" to quirkier items such as "Here Comes the Weekend", "Rock and Roll Over You" and "Love is on the Run (From Me)", while Justin Hayward's songs seemed less the deeper drama of numbers such as "The Actor", "Dawning is the Day", "You Can Never Go Home", "The Land of Make Believe", etc., to pleasant (and more radio-friendly) perennial far simpler songs about lost love and romance ("Your Wildest Dreams", "No More Lies", "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" etc.). There were still some deeper songs being created by the band, however, ("The Voice", "22,000 Days", "The Other Side of Life", "The Spirit", "Deep", etc.) but the overall tone of the band had become noticeably a more lightweight commercialised one; presumably this was with record company agreement to keep in accordance with the then prevailing times. Significantly their live shows from this period included a good number of their 1980s album tracks, however over time more of the "Core Seven" album era favourites would gradually begin to reappear in their playlist.
The Moody Blues performed live at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986 which raised money for the Birmingham Children's Hospital. The band played four songs, and later provided backup with The Electric Light Orchestra for George Harrison.
The Moodies continued their early video-generation success with Sur La Mer (1988) and its video and single, "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" (No.30 US, No.52 UK, No.2 US Mainstream Rock), a sequel to "Your Wildest Dreams". Their sound took on an ever-increasingly synthetic and technical quality as Moraz and Visconti began using modern sequencers, samplers and drum machines. During this time, Justin Hayward and John Lodge wrote and sang on most of the songs as the band came under pressure from their new record company, PolyGram Records, to promote those it deemed to be the two more commercial-looking and -sounding members. Ray Thomas was playing a diminished role in the studio. The band was evolving into a synthpop act, with music not at all fit for a flute (although Ray Thomas actually provided additional percussion, notably a brisk tambourine, on many more Moodies songs which continued to be featured, plus occasional harmonica), and at this point he was largely relegated to the status of a backup singer. Ray Thomas was also unwell during this period, further limiting his involvement with the band in the recording studio. He provided some backing vocals for both The Other Side of Life and Sur La Mer; however, multiple production considerations led Visconti to leave Ray Thomas' vocals off the latter of these two albums, thereby further reducing the texture of their overall vocal sound, which had been rich four-part harmonies, then went down to three, now reduced still further to just the more similar-sounding voices of Justin Hayward and John Lodge (John Lodge also providing falsetto vocals and high harmonies), with Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas each having provided both lower- and higher-pitched vocal harmonies in the group's earlier vocal sound. The band's vocal "sound" had become the blend of just Justin Hayward-John Lodge, which was still recognisable, if less textured than the original four-part, more complex "choral" sound.
1990s to present
Departure of Patrick Moraz
Ray Thomas' high value remained on stage primarily from his continued ability to sing out his 1960s and 1970s Moodies classics, and also in flute and keyboard duets he composed with Moraz which were only performed by the two during Moodies' concerts. The band had begun to reinforce their concert sound in 1986 with the addition of a second keyboardist (Bias Boshell was the first, replaced in 1987 by Guy Allison before Boshell returned by 1990), as well as female backing singers.
In 1991, halfway through the production of their new studio album, Patrick Moraz made some comments in an article in Keyboard Magazine that suggested dissatisfaction with his role in the Moodies. His complaints ranged from the Moodies' music becoming too simple in structure, to the other members' reluctance to allow him to make significant contributions to the songwriting on their albums. He also was spending long amounts of time planning a music concert to celebrate his native Switzerland's 700th anniversary, instead of rehearsing with the Moodies. He was dismissed from further participation in the group before the project was completed. Boshell and new keyboardist Paul Bliss were brought in to finish the new album's keyboard tracks. Despite credits as an "official band member" being included in any group photos on the four '80s studio albums from "Long Distance Voyager" to "Sur La Mer" in recent years Moodies compilations now refer to Moraz as merely being an "additional keyboardist" Moraz later took legal action against the group in the United States, which he won, but was then awarded only $90.000 in back pay due to accounting slow-ups instead of the $4.000.000 he was asking.
Keys of the Kingdom
Keys of the Kingdom (1991) had modest commercial success. Once again, Justin Hayward's songs led off the album, with the new singles "Say it With Love" and "Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)". Also included was a new ambient flute piece by Ray Thomas entitled "Celtic Sonant." Justin Hayward and Ray Thomas also co-wrote "Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain" to close the album. John Lodge would make a defining shift in his songwriting on this album, leaving his trademark high-energy rock music, and instead gravitating towards slow love ballads such as "Lean on Me (Tonight)" (though he had earlier contributed some songs in this gentler vein such as "Emily's Song" for his daughter in 1971 and "Survival" in 1978, plus "Talking out of Turn" in 1981), while John Lodge's more powerful songs continued with "Magic" and the Lennonesque "Shadows on the Wall". This gentler trend would continue on the two successive Moodies albums. Justin Hayward wrote the driving two-part piece "Say What You Mean". Tony Visconti produced some of the tracks on "Keys", as did Christopher Neil and Alan Tarney. The ensuing tour saw them invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. A non-album Justin Hayward-John Lodge song cut at these sessions, "Highway", was included on the "Say it With Love" twelve-inch single and on a later box set, while the vinyl album did not include their song "Once is Enough" as on the compact disc version.
The group remained a steady concert draw, and a series of video and audio versions of their 1992 Night at Red Rocks concert enjoyed great success, particularly as a fund-raiser for American public television where it had been first broadcast. The concert was conducted and arranged by Larry Baird, who has participated in many other bands' orchestral live concerts, such as Kansas, Michael Bolton, Three Dog Night, Al Jarreau and Alan Parsons. The group also continued their use of additional musicians on stage and in the studio. After the two legal suits from both Mike Pinder in 1981 and Patrick Moraz in 1992, the band were careful not to recognize future keyboard players as official members. Following on from his contributions as keyboardist on the 'Keys of the Kingdom' album, Paul Bliss has played keyboards for the band live since 1991, being promoted to first keyboardist in 2001 (but has since been replaced in March 2010 after 19 years continuous service with the band). Ray Thomas and Bliss continued the tradition of a flute/keyboard duet for many tours. After Graeme Edge injured himself in 1991, second drummer Gordon Marshall was brought in to back him up; he stayed with the group after Graeme Edge recovered and has remained in the position since.
Strange Times, 1990s tours
From 1991 to 1998, the group took a hiatus from recording and spent time trying to perfect the art of performing live with an orchestra. The recording hiatus ended in 1999, with the album Strange Times, which proved to be the group's first album in almost two decades to be more than moderately received by British critics, although Justin Hayward was quoted as saying he was disappointed at the album's chart performance – probably not helped by the long recording hiatus – which was notably less than 'Keys of the Kingdom' in 1991. It was recorded in Recco, Italy, at Justin Hayward's suggestion, and was the band's first self-produced effort. The album also featured keyboards and arrangements from Italian musician Danilo Madonia, who has worked in-studio with the band since. The album opened with English Sunset, a pop song featuring a modern, nearly techno arrangement. The song This is the Moment (which is not on Strange Times), which was originally featured in the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde, was a minor hit in the US. Strange Times was also the first album since 1970 to include a new poem by Graeme Edge, Nothing Changes, narrated by Graeme Edge himself, with Justin Hayward then singing the concluding portion of the track, and notably concluded by quoting Mike Pinder's 1968 song title A Simple Game. Also in 1999, the Moody Blues appeared in one episode of The Simpsons called Viva Ned Flanders. On Strange Times Ray Thomas appeared vocally with Justin Hayward and John Lodge on Sooner or Later (Walkin' on Air) and his own brief song My Little Lovely, plus provided a vocal snippet and backing vocals on Justin Hayward's English Sunset; these would prove to be his recorded vocal swan song with the band.
In 2000, the band released Hall of Fame, a new live concert from the Royal Albert Hall, with a concurrent DVD release. This was taken from the last tour on which Boshell played. He left the live lineup in 2001; Bliss took over first keyboard duties, with his former second keyboard role filled by Bernie Barlow and Julie Ragins when Barlow took maternity leave from 2006 to 2009.
In 2001, an IMAX film was released, entitled Journey into Amazing Caves, which featured two new songs written and performed by the Moody Blues. The soundtrack also featured Justin Hayward performing vocals and playing guitar throughout. One of these songs, entitled Water, is the Moody Blues' first instrumental studio recording since their 1983 piece Hole in the World from The Present LP.
Ray Thomas retires, December 2002
The new millennium saw the Moody Blues reducing their touring schedule. At the end of 2002, founding member Ray Thomas retired from the group, reducing the Moody Blues to the trio of Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge, the last being the only original member remaining. Flautist and rhythm guitarist Norda Mullen was recruited early the following year for their North American tour, and has worked with the band live and in the studio since. Toward the end of 2003, they released an album entitled December. The songs included originals and four covers: John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", Mike Batt's "A Winter's Tale", "When A Child is Born" and Irving Berlin's "White Christmas". December was the group's first album to include covers since their 1965 debut album The Magnificent Moodies.
In March 2006, the first five of the band's 'Core Seven' albums (the seven albums from Days of Future Passed to Seventh Sojourn) were re-released in SACD format with Deluxe Editions, featuring bonus songs and some rare previously unreleased tracks by the group. In April 2007, the last two of these classic albums were re-released by Universal/Threshold. These deluxe editions were unique for an art rock group like the Moodies in that one of their members, Justin Hayward, was the one taken on to do the work, instead of a professional master technician. Justin Hayward stated that he listened to virgin vinyl copies of these albums and used them as reference points for the new compact discs. In September 2008, Justin Hayward announced the impending release of remastered versions of Octave, Long Distance Voyager and The Present which will be released on Universal Records in the months to come. On 21 May 2007 the Moodies released a forty-one track, two-disc compilation of sessions recorded at BBC Studios, various television appearances and a previously 'lost' performance done on the Tom Jones Show titled Live at the BBC: 1967-1970.