Sources returnpage

Moody Blues

Category: Musician or composer

The Moody Blues are an English rock band. Among their innovations was a fusion of modern music with classical music, there is also much use of symbolism and references to spiritual experience. As at 2013, they had sold more than 70 million albums worldwide and have been awarded 14 platinum and gold discs.

The Moody Blues formed on 4 May 1964, in Erdington, Birmingham, Warwickshire with Ray Thomas, Michael Pinder, Denny Laine, Graeme Edge and Clint Warwick. It was their second single, "Go Now" , which really launched their career, in June1966 Warwick left the group. Denny Laine left in late 1966. The group re-formed in November 1966, with the line up which produced their most spiritual and innovative music. Members were [the dates refer to their membership of the group]:

  • Graeme Edge - drums, percussion, vocals (1964–present)
  • Justin Hayward - guitar, vocals (1966–present)
  • John Lodge - bass, guitar, vocals (1966–present)
  • Ray Thomas - flute, percussion, harmonica, vocals (1964-2002)
  • Mike Pinder - keyboards, vocals (1964-1978)

In the new line up they wrote all their own music and added new sounds, for example, Mellotron and flute. Days of Future Passed was the first album which embodied their unique style, which combined classical orchestral backing and the group's own compositions, voices and instrumentals.  

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. And here we have an indication of their principal means of inspiration at the time – LSD. By 1967, four members of the group had taken LSD. New instruments were incorporated, Justin Hayward on sitar and more of Graeme Edge's poetry was featured. The Lost Chord is a deeply significant album spiritually, its name alone should indicate this, as well as the song titles, for example, Hayward's "Voices in the Sky", Pinder's "The Best Way to Travel" and his closing song "Om".

On the Threshold of a Dream also incorporates a considerable number of references to out of body travel and spiritual experience. Hayward, Edge and Pinder share the opening narration on Edge's "In The Beginning". Pinder contributed the closing track on side one, "So Deep Within You". Side two closes with the "Dream Sequence", Edge's poem "The Dream" leading into Pinder's "Have You Heard?" parts I and II with the two parts separated by his classically themed instrumental piece "The Voyage".  Ingo Swann would have been proud of them, not to mention Robert Monroe.

In the next LP, To Our Children's Children's Children, the band's music continued to become more complex and symphonic – and mystical. The official explanation is that it was 'inspired by the first moon landing'. The opening track was called "Higher and Higher", and then we have Thomas' "Floating" and "Eternity Road", so the moon maybe but not by rocket. There are also some tantalising hints of the other influences besides LSD, in Hayward's "Gypsy" and the Pinder-Lodge collaboration "Out and In". The album closes with "Watching and Waiting", composed by Ray Thomas and Justin Hayward. My Mum liked this album, but then she was a bit of a shaman herself, though I didn't know it at the time. When she said she was going out for a spell I think she meant it.  Broomstick always ready, just like Kepler's mum.

A Question of Balance was released in 1970. In this “ 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”. For their next two albums, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971) and Seventh Sojourn (1972) , the band returned to their signature orchestral sound.

Here we have the drama of Hayward's "You Can Never Go Home" and Lodge's "One More Time To Live". And you have to understand what home means to a spiritual traveller to understand this and believe in reincarnation. "Sojourn" also saw Pinder using the new Chamberlain instrument in place of Mellotron and Edge use an electronic drum kit. Pinder's stirring lament "Lost in a Lost World" opened the album and included his 'sympathetic ode to Timothy Leary When You're a Free Man', as well as "A Simple Game" [the Great Work] and "So Deep Within You". Before the band's 1973–74 world tour, Hayward wrote a song called "Island" . I hope you can see the symbolic content of their work.

Eventually the strain of running their own record label, the world tours, the drugs and the decision by some band members to live in the USA ,took its toll and the group started to pursue their own individual projects in the mid to late '70s. Hayward and Lodge released a duo album in 1975, but nothing quite equalled what they had achieved synergistically together. As Pinder said "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“. It is worth adding that Hayward's spiritual influences continued throughout his composing career – he composed Night Flight in1980, Moving Mountains in 1985, and The View From The Hill in 1996 . Pinder too stayed close to those leanings. On Octave, Pinder's lone final contribution and lead vocal, was "One Step Into the Light" an interesting commentary on where he was spiritually. Around this time Justin Hayward enjoyed a solo hit with the song "Forever Autumn" which spiritually would be regarded as somewhat sad.

There is much more to follow if we wish to chart the bands' changes of members, tours, recordings and so on, but this site is about the spiritual and the Moody Blues spiritual contributions largely ended here in the early 80s. When the spiritual connections ended the commercial success rocketed as is so often the way. When released in 1981, for example, their album Long Distance Voyager was a colossal success, reaching No.1 on the US Billboard.

The mellotron can have a hauntingly celestial sound when played well, but the band decided to 'embrace a more modern, less symphonic approach, and a more contemporary edge. 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', competitive?!

John Lodge went from writing powerfully reflective mystical songs like "House of Four Doors" and "Candle of Life" to quirky little ditties like "Rock and Roll Over You". Hayward's songs too plunged from the symbolic heights of songs like "The Actor" and "The Land of Make Believe", to songs about lost love and romance -  "No More Lies". There were still some deeper songs being created by the band - "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.

And there we might have left them, raking in the akkers in the good 'ol US of A, but there is an interesting aftermath. In the early '90s Patrick Moraz, the keyboard player who had replaced Pinder, was sacked by the group, and not long afterwards the group without Moraz released Keys of the Kingdom (1991). This is by no means the old mystical Moody Blues, but it has some very interestingly titled tracks - the flute piece by Ray Thomas entitled "Celtic Sonant" - the wheel keeps on turning - is notable as is the Hayward and Thomas song "Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain".  The words of Say what you mean are utterly intriguing. Furthermore, John Lodge reverted back to the gentler vein he used in the 70s and also contributed "Magic" and "Shadows on the Wall" – very Platonic. This gentler trend would continue on the two successive Moodies albums. Needless to say, commercially these were not as great a success, but commercial success is not the way to judge things spiritually. Level 5s make things a commercial success, level 1s and 2s make things happen. The world moves on through 1s and 2s, it is dragged backwards by level 5s. Sisyphus knew you see.

In 1999, the album Strange Times, proved to be the group's first album in almost two decades to be more than moderately received by British critics. It was recorded in Recco, Italy, at Hayward's suggestion, and featured keyboards and arrangements from Italian musician Danilo Madonia.  On Strange Times Ray Thomas sings with Hayward and Lodge on Sooner or Later (Walkin' on Air).
In 2001, an IMAX film was released, entitled Journey into Amazing Caves, which shows the symbolism coming back. One of these songs is entitled Water.

Past the midnight hour, and now the Prince seeks Cinderella with the crystal slipper.....

Once you have been to the Light you never forget.

References

In March 2006, the first five of the band's 'Core Seven' albums, in other words

  • Days of Future Passed (1967)
  • In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
  • On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)
  • To Our Children's Children's Children (1969)
  • A Question of Balance (1970)
  • Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)
  • Seventh Sojourn (1972)

were re-released in SACD format with Deluxe Editions, featuring bonus songs and some rare previously unreleased tracks by the group.

 

Observations

For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.