In the wildly unpredictable world of popular music, it somehow makes perfect sense that a band known for music that expresses universal themes of love, compassion and peace would be called – The Moody Blues.
Uniting the prodigious musical gifts of guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward, bassist/vocalist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge, the group has sold an extraordinary 70 million albums worldwide and has been awarded an astonishing 14 platinum and gold discs, making them one of the top-grossing album and touring bands in existence.
Since they first hit the rock scene with the release of their colossal 1967 album Days Of Future Passed, The Moodies have produced music that bridges the gap between classical and pop-rock genres, including a top-selling string of concept albums, In Search Of The Lost Chord, On The Threshold Of A Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question Of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn.
The band that Rolling Stone christened “the Sistine Chapel of popular music” continues to influence contemporary song with a staggering roster of hits, including “Nights In White Satin,”“Tuesday Afternoon,” “Ride My See Saw,” “The Story In Your Eyes,” “Isn’t Life Strange,” “Question,” “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band),” “Your Wildest Dreams,” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” to name a few.
That astounding influence has shaped music for six decades. The Moodies’ legendary hit “Nights In White Satin,” originally released from their momentous Days Of Future Passed album, just landed at No. 2 on the UK Rock Chart, and at No. 27 on the BBC Radio 1 chart, making it the fourth time that “Nights” has charted in its 40-plus year history.
The song’s perpetual popularity reignited after a recent smash cover performance by Matt Cardle, winner of Simon Cowell’s hit UK show “The X Factor” (check out Cardle’s performance of the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUTGJN9qCnc).
The Moodies are once again center stage with a highly anticipated 33-city U.S. tour, including stops on May 11 at Tucson’s AVA Amphitheater and May 12 at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix.
As the band prepared for the tour, Edge took the time to chat with me The Moody Blues’ remarkable run.
Fans might think that after millions of album and thousands of tour dates, the group would be beyond getting nervous before a gig. Not so, said Edge.
“Oh, no. It’s almost a fight or flight response (chuckling). But you can’t do anything about it.”
The band has learned however, to expect the unexpected.
“Just about two weeks ago I checked the stage. Everything was fine. The drums were all in shape. Everything was all in shape. Everything was ready. Everything was in place. The curtains open. The band was about to start and I’m sitting in the tenth row of the audience (laughing).”
“I’m gettin’ up and I’m trying to get people out of the way so I could get past and all the knees are in the way and that’s slowin’ me down and I’ve got to get up on stage to get the show goin’, you know?”
“I’ve had the usual ones, where I’ve been up there and there’s no drumsticks or instead of drumsticks there’s bananas or you can’t find the dressing room, the stage, the gig or all of those regular ones. But that was a brand new one – sittin’ there in the crowd saying, ‘Oh my god, I should be up there!’”
Pre-show jitters aside, it’s easy for The Moodies’ drummer to maintain his top-performing edge.
“Ah, it’s power to the people. That’s why I got into music in the first place, was to play live to people. I just love it. I always watch the audience when I’m playing anyway ‘cause I steal energy from ‘em.”
“I’m lookin’ ‘round, seein’ who’s diggin’ this particular song. Every night I just love lookin’ down at that audience. And you hit the first couple of notes and you see all the heads turn and look at each other – all the people it means something to, you know?”
“And you see ‘em all turn and look into each other’s eyes. It still knocks me right out. I still love that. And playin’ live is just – I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t get to do that. We’re all gettin’ on now and I’m horrified – well, not horrified – but the day that we can’t do it anymore is not gonna be a great day, not at all.”
Given the band’s immense appeal, it’s hard to imagine that day ever getting here. In fact, The Moodies continue to gain new followers as fans satisfy their hunger for inspiring, compassionate music in response to the proliferation of “angry” songs. Edge agrees.
“Yes, I agree entirely with what you said. But I read an interesting article somebody forwarded to me just a week, ten days ago. And in it there were some scientists were tryin’ to take music and find out how it works.”
“And um, what they discovered – they did a computer analysis of a piece of music that was good music. And they measured it with the tiny human discrepancies. And they got a computer to play the same stuff but remove all of those tiny, tiny fractional incorrect timings and play the same music to people.”
“And the one that was spot on, tick-tock correct left them unmoved. The one with the human errors in left them unmoved. They took another piece of music, left the human errors in, but made the length of all of the notes the same and again, it left people unmoved.”
“So there’s some kind of human contact goin’ on in music, which because so much of the music now is computer generated, spot on, tick-tock timing. I find it interesting that scientists are trying to quantify this all, but what they’re doing is saying ‘Yeah, it is the soul,’ but why, they can’t tell you. I think the only emotion that is easy to get goin’ is frustration or anger.”
Even with the band’s timeless appeal, the never-ending popularity of “Nights In White Satin” is beyond impressive. Somewhat surprisingly, it doesn’t surprise Edge.
Graeme Edge of The Moody Blues