Finally: A long overdue honor for the Moody Blues
After an appallingly long wait, the Moody Blues, in my mind, perhaps the most visionary and influential rock band outside of the Beatles, have finally been ushered into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Can I get a hallelujah on this?
In the way of full disclosure, I will tell you that I have always loved this legendary British band. Both the CD travel case in my car, along with the music cabinet in my home, are both well-stocked with their albums. For me, listening to the Moodies simply never gets old. There is an indelible memory that still meanders silently through the back alleys of my mind of the first time that I ever heard their unique blend of music that married the genres of orchestral and rock music together in an innovative way that still takes my breath away today. If ever a band deserved to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, surely the Moody Blues are that band. My question has always been, what in the world took so long for voters to finally open their eyes, ears, and finally unlock the door to rock’s most rare sitting room to them?
Their musical roots were nurtured in the soil of Manchester, England where, in 1965, they catapulted to the top of the American charts with the song, “Go Now.” Since those halcyon days, they’ve never looked back. Spearheaded by Justin Hayward, their lead guitarist, lead singer, and principle songwriter, bassist, John Lodge, drummer, Graeme Edge, and keyboardist, Mike Pinder, across a half a century the Moody Blues have produced a seemingly endless string of magical musical moments that have the ability to take you by the hand and float you gently downstream on a placid river of beautiful sound.
With touching and thoughtful lyrics, set against an underpinning of lush orchestral backing, their enduring sound is tailor-made to listen to late at night in the comfort of an easy chair; alone with your thoughts. They never fail to take me away to someplace else where, for just a little while, I can draw the shades and shut out chaos of world outside my window. In their way, the Moody Blues are like timeless musical sentinels who, armed with the sweeping grandeur of their creative lyrics and timeless melodies, stand as the stoic guardians of the past.
What made them so different from the other super rock bands of that gilded age of rock music was their creative innovation that stretched the musical boundaries of the day to the breaking point, making them the fathers of the “symphonic rock” genre. With their release of several concept albums that were thematic in nature, such as the groundbreaking “Days of Future Passed,” “In Search of the Lost Chord,” “On the Threshold of a Dream,” and “A Question of Balance,” they were always on the cutting ahead, and way ahead of their time. Keyboardist, Mike Pinder, helped to develop the Mellotron, the keyboard instrument that could simulate the sound of an orchestra in addition to mimicking horn sections as well as many other instruments and weird sound effects. So cutting-edge was Pinter’s Mellotron, that John Lennon was impressed enough to feature it on the Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “I am the Walrus.” High praise indeed that spoke volumes as to how the Moodies were seen by the Beatles.
Those people who, over the years, have seen them in a live venue, know that for as symphonically creative as they are, they have never strayed far very far away from where they came. For when all is said and, done, the Moody Blues are, at the musical core, still a smoking hot rock band. With Hayward’s hot and ageless guitar licks and Edge’s steady drum cadence, they still crank out music that brings the crowd to feet in an instant. Since those storied days that spawned songs such as “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Nights in White Satin” and “Questions,” the prolific songwriting of Justin Hayward has solidified the Moody Blues as mainstays across the radio dial, and on into download arena of these times. By casting his wide creative net out across the years with later chart-topping standards like “In Your Wildest Dreams,” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” their music has, as I say, a freshness that never seems to wilt or grow old. There is indeed a timeless quality to them that can ward off the ghost of advancing age in a highly competitive and youth-oriented operating environment.
Looking back at these timeworn British rockers through the reality lens, the Moody Blues seem to drift through the shadows of a misty netherworld that lies somewhere between the drug-drenched psychedelic 60’s and the progressive rock of the alternative rock music realm of the 21st century. By all rights, they should have faded away decades ago, however, they have ridden the lofty winds of nostalgia and have successfully reinvented themselves to new and younger fans to whom they sound brand new.
Perhaps some would chalk up their continued appeal and longevity to the geezer rock craze. However, to me, this band is built on a solid foundation of endless talent. Now in their 70’s, they still sound great. Hayward’s singing voice is years younger than his chronological age. They still play to sold-out venues, as they continue to draw from a bottomless creative well.
So in my mind, the Moody Blues are an enduring band who, in the late hours when I’m listening to them, all alone with my thoughts, can still take me by the hand and float me gently downstream on a placid river of beautiful sound. It is this sound that has finally brought them to where they so richly deserve to reside; front and center in rock’s most hallowed place. It is, in the final analysis, recognition and an honor that is long overdue.
Paul Collins is a freelance writer from Southborough, Massachusetts.