(No. 18 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)
By Phill Marder
The Moody Blues
“No major band has so relentlessly purveyed nonsense…were it not for their titanic success, in fact, they might easily be dismissed as an odd and overlong joke…it’s the artiness of their symphonic rock that’s truly crass, their self-importance offensive. Gods of 70s FM radio, they invented a sort of easy-listening psychedelia that resolutely combined the worst of both worlds.”
So wrote Paul Evans in the fourth edition of “The Rolling Stone Album Guide,” which then proceeded to rate the band’s big seven albums, the first getting a respectable three stars, the next six getting one and one-half stars, except for one which got just one star. The rating guide lists one star as “DISASTROUS: Albums in the range of one star or less are wastes of vital resources. Only masochists and completists need apply.”
Folks, now you know why the Moody Blues are not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Now you also know why I stopped reading “Rolling Stone” about 40 years ago. My son-in-law, knowing my love for music, picked up this dribble in a bargain bin and gave it to me (it‘s the thought that counts), otherwise I never would have known just how wrong I was about the Moody Blues. All these years, I thought they were terrific, one of my favorite bands. Bought every album they made. Loved them all.
I know I’m not a completists, so I must be a masochist. Lots of you must be, too. After all, you bought these albums. Bought enough of them to push each of the big seven into the top 25. Bought enough to get four into the top 10. Bought enough to lift the seventh, aptly titled “Seventh Sojourn,” into the No. 1 position. Since each album did better chart wise than the previous, I must assume you liked the previous enough to want to buy the next. Either that or you all enjoy wasting vital resources.
Shame on you.
The Moodies magnificent string of seven gems began with “Days Of Future Passed,” which paired the group with The London Festival Orchestra and was followed by “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.” There were very few hit singles to buoy sales, “Nights In White Satin” being the biggest when it was re-released four years after its original appearance. Still, the albums dominated the U.S. charts.
On the British charts, the band had even more success, “Threshold,” “Every Good Boy” and “Question of Balance” all hitting No. 1.
You Brits. Such gluttons for punishment.
Spearheaded by guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge, with drummer Graeme Edge, Ray Thomas on flute and keyboardist Mike Pinder, the Moody Blues produced a stream of magical, mystical, musical moments guaranteed to float you away. All five wrote and contributed vocals. Crass, offensive and an odd and overlong joke? Millions of fans certainly don’t think so. In fact, after the eighth album, “Octave,” became the first to show signs of a popularity slippage, 1981’s “Long Distance Voyager” brought the group back to the peak of the LP charts. And five years later, “The Other Side Of Life” reached No. 9.
Each of those two albums received an improved two-star rating from “Rolling Stone,” described as “FAIR TO POOR: Albums in the two-star category either fall below the artist’s established standard or are failures in and of themselves.” These two actually improved on the “artist’s established standard,” according to “Rolling Stone,” so one must conclude they “were failures.”
Every good group deserves failure.
It seems extremely unfair to have someone such as Evans reviewing a group or artist so beloved by so many. You don’t need to find a homer, but at least the reviewer should be fair and open-minded. After all, so many people can’t be that wrong, can they? And the same goes for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which uses a small group of industry insiders to decide who gets in and who doesn’t, the only criteria being a career that began at least 25 years ago.
The dichotomy of who is great and who isn’t is never so clear as the contrast between Evans and the “Allmusic Guide’s” Bruce Eder, who described the Moodies as “…lush, lyrically and musically profound,” with “In Search Of The Lost Chord” “sublimely beautiful” and that LP and the follow-up “On The Threshold Of A Dream” “magnificent achievements.”
One critic calls them “crass and offensive,” another calls them “profound and magnificent.” It’s time the Hall of Fame criteria was altered to at least give some credence to the views of the public. Rock & Roll is our music, we say who we love by buying the music and paying for the concert tickets. Few bands have been as popular over the years as the Moody Blues. They belong in the Hall of Fame.