Moody Blues Play Sunday in L.A. and Tuesday in Santa Barbara
It's one of those enduring musical mysteries still muddling minds of the mellow: Why aren't the Moody Blues in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Their run of seven albums from 1967 through 1972 — combining symphonic and baroque instrumentation, soaring vocals and lyrics seeking the meaning of it all — form a pretty package as good as any in the history of rock music. Along the way these veteran cosmic rockers have sold 70 million albums and are among the longest operating bands (the Stones are six months older). But although the Moodys are not in Cleveland, they will be in L.A. on Sunday at the Nokia Theatre and in Santa Barbara on Tuesday at The Granada.
And it's not the gardener's cousin's uncle sweating to the oldies. The Moodys still feature three-fifths of the classic lineup including ferocious 70-year-old drummer Graeme Edge, bass player John Lodge and guitar player Justin Hayward (proof that blonds do have more fun). Flute player Ray Thomas retired in 2002, and keyboard player Mike Pinder went solo way back in 1974 (his replacement, Patrick Moraz, left the band in 1991). Yet the touring band still sounds as good as the originals, so if the Moody Blues are not already your favorite band, after this show, they will be.
An early incarnation of the band had a hit with "Go Now" in 1964, but the band reconfigured with the familiar members and took off in 1966 on the strength of a couple of hits Hayward wrote when he was a teenager, "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon." It'll be worth the drive just to hear "Question," among so many others.
Mr. Edge talked about the latest in a recent phoner that got off to a technologically challenged start.
Hey, Graeme, it's Bill Locey with the Ventura County Star. How are you?
OK, I'm going to try to get you on a land line. (Silence.)
Hey, Graeme, it's Bill with The Star.
OK, I'm gonna try it again. What's happening is you're coming up on the speaker phone, so I'm gonna press a button and see if I can get you on the real phone. (More silence, then an expletive.)
That's what was going wrong — you don't have to press the line; you just pick the phone up.
Hey, seven years of college, man.
(Laughs.) Well said, yeah.
How's the Moody Blues biz? What's new with you wonderful guys?
It's going great — we're loving it.
So, 45 years or so — think you might stick with it a bit longer?
Well, I haven't made up my mind yet. I'm a slow learner, as you just gathered about the phone.
This will be a preview for your L.A. and Santa Barbara shows. Last time I saw you guys up in S.B., you played at the Bowl outdoors with the symphony. Pretty cool.
Oh, yeah, that was fun, but it ran its time. The only problem playing with the symphony is that you must stay very strictly with the arrangement because they're all reading and that stops a bit of the fun. You can have a lot more fun with the music when you're really good and just let it rip.
Of all those British Invasion bands from back in the day, only you guys and the Stones are still at it, and those guys hardly ever play.
Yeah, they don't work and they won't announce their retirement, which would make us the oldest working rock 'n' roll band, but they're six months older than us — the bastards! And (Charlie) Watts puts me as the second oldest drummer as he's a year older than me.
Why aren't you guys in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Oh, ask them.
That makes no sense at all to me — that run of seven albums you guys put out from "Days of Future Passed" in 1967 to "Seventh Sojourn" in 1972 is as good or better than anything else by any other band.
Well, thank you for that, but look at some of the bands that aren't in. Chicago and Boston aren't in, and some of those that are in makes one think there's something more than musical endeavor involved.
Back in those silly '60s, what do you think the hippies got right and what did they get wrong?
In retrospect, what they got right was being against the war and what they got wrong was being against the military. And the other thing is, did free love produce AIDS or would it have been here anyway? But the whole freedom of society and the freedom of expression and the Electronic Revolution — the plus side is much greater than the downside.
If you look at the change of the Beatles from "Revolver" to "Sgt. Pepper's," and countless other examples, the importance of drugs to music in the '60s is obvious. How important was LSD to your music?
We did very little compared to most people. I took eight trips way back in '66 and I thought like everyone else that it was wonderful the first time. I thought it was mind-expanding and all that, but by the eighth one, I thought, "It's the same bloody thing again."