By Alan H. Fallick
The Moody Blues and longtime front man Justin Hayward are celebrating the 45th anniversary of their landmark concept album, "Days of Future Passed," on the group's tour of the East Coast, "The Voyage Continues -- Highway 45." Hayward recently took time out from the tour to discuss changes since he joined the band, solo albums and a few of his favorite things.
What were your first U.S. experiences like?
We just played a few clubs before we got to the Fillmore East, and then the Mellotron broke down, so it was quite difficult. But the experiences of the first tour, the best things were when we met up with a group called Canned Heat, and we opened up for them for Ride Across America from South to North, and they introduced to us a whole new audience. They were wonderful to work with, fantastic.
How have the American audiences changed since then?
Well, really in the '60s, we did a lot of free concerts, a lot of stuff that was organized very quickly, a lot of psychedelic kind of things where the light show would probably be the most famous artist. Then it moved, as you know, in the '70s, it moved to being a business, with a lot of ... stadiums. And one day we were on the top of the bill, which didn't please some other artists, but it was great for us, and that would have been about 1970.
And so we were playing in those big arenas, nice but impersonal, and then really after that, the '80s came along, and we had a couple of hit singles with "Wildest Dreams," and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." But our whole audience changed, we had a much younger audience, and we were playing different places again. Now, it's very diverse.
What are the biggest differences in your music since the early days?
I think the recordings got tighter as time became more important, and I don't mean how long it takes to make a record, but the way you listen to time on a record, you can't be loose anymore; you know, you have to be strict, and people get used to a mechanical time, and that's a good thing.
Over time, have your songs grown even more meaningful to you?
I think they have. We do a song now called "You and Me," and people just love it, and they seem to identify with the words in a way that they never did before. It is some kind of philosophical stuff, I suppose, written by a bunch of very stoned kids, as some of us were, but it still seems relevant, so that's nice.
What was it like performing "Nights in White Satin" with Ian Anderson on flute at the Canterbury benefit in December?
Oh, that was wonderful, because he was counting on a keyboard player to do the "da-da-da di-da da-da," and his keyboard player got sick, very seriously ill, and so dear Ian, who is such a gentleman, he learned all of the keyboard parts as well, for that and for "Forever Autumn," and he just did them magnificently, and his band is just so good.
You made intriguing choices for your "Classic Blue" CD with the Philharmonic -- "A Whiter Shade of Pale," "MacArthur Park," "Scarborough Fair." How did you pick those?
I can't take the credit, because Mike Batt, who I've known since we were kids, it was his baby, and I don't think either of us thought that we would get funding to do it. We were sitting around stoned one night saying, "Hey, let's get an orchestra to play songs that we like!" And blow me down, somebody said "yes" to Mike. Why, the London Philharmonic said "yes" to Mike! And booked a studio and everything.
So we turned up and did it. I enjoyed it very much. It was an insight into other writers that I've never had before, and I saw those songs in a different way, and the orchestra absolutely loved it. They absolutely loved it because Mike was a good arranger, and they knew that when they arrived that they were going to get something that they could enjoy. So it was a very quick record.
Would I do it again? No, I wouldn't do it again. I just want to do my own songs. That's a bold statement, but unless a song comes along that's just so outstanding ... just original material, yeah.
Is another solo or group CD in the works?
Yes, I've recorded about 10 songs, and I hope they'll see the light of day later this year.