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The Moody Blues
The Moody Blues at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in 1970; from left to right: Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas, John Lodge.
The Moody Blues at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in 1970; from left to right: Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas, John Lodge.
Background information
OriginBirmingham, England
Years active
  • 1964–1974
  • 1977–2018
Past members

The Moody Blues were an English rock band formed in Birmingham in May 1964, initially consisting of keyboardist and vocalist Mike Pinder, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ray Thomas, guitarist and vocalist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bassist and vocalist Clint Warwick. The group came to prominence playing rhythm and blues, achieving a UK No.1 and US Top 10 single with "Go Now". They made some changes in musicians but by the end of 1966 settled on a line-up of Pinder, Thomas, Edge, guitarist and vocalist Justin Hayward and bassist and vocalist John Lodge, who stayed together until the band's first hiatus in 1974. The Moody Blues re-formed with this line-up in 1977, though Pinder departed the following year. Edge was the group’s sole continuous member throughout their entire history.

Their second album, Days of Future Passed, which was released in 1967, was a fusion of rock with classical music which established the band as pioneers in the development of art rock and progressive rock.[2][9] It has been described as a "landmark" and "one of the first successful concept albums".[2] The group toured extensively through the early 1970s, then took an extended hiatus from 1974 until 1977. Founder Mike Pinder left the group a year after they re-formed and was replaced by Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz in 1978. In the following decade they took on a more synth-pop sound and produced The Other Side of Life in 1986, which made them the first act to earn each of its first three top-10 singles in the United States in a different decade.[10] Health troubles led to a diminished role for founder Ray Thomas throughout the 1980s, although his musical contributions rebounded after Moraz departed in 1991. Thomas retired from the band in 2002; he died shortly before the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

The band's last album was the Christmas album December (2003), after which they decided against recording any further studio albums.[11] However, they continued to tour throughout the 2000s and later reunited periodically for events, one-off concerts, short tours and cruises, until Edge's retirement in 2018;[12] he died in 2021.

The Moody Blues' most successful singles include "Go Now", "Nights in White Satin", "Tuesday Afternoon", "Question", "Gemini Dream", "The Voice", "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)". The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide,[13] which includes 18 platinum and gold LPs.

Founding and early history, 1964–1967

Early years

A Mitchells & Butlers brewery pub in Birmingham, pictured 2005—a possible sponsorship from the brewery never materialised.
A Mitchells & Butlers brewery pub in Birmingham, pictured 2005—a possible sponsorship from the brewery never materialised.

The Moody Blues formed in May 1964[14][15][16][17] in Erdington, a suburb of Birmingham. Ray Thomas, a young John Lodge and (occasionally) Mike Pinder had been members of El Riot & the Rebels. They disbanded when Lodge, the youngest member, went to technical college and Pinder joined the army. Pinder then rejoined Thomas to form the Krew Cats. Back from a disappointing spell in the Hamburg region a few months later,[18] the pair recruited guitarist/vocalist Denny Laine and band manager-turned-drummer Graeme Edge. Pinder and Thomas initially approached their former El Riot bandmate John Lodge about being the bass player, but Lodge declined as he was still in college.[19][20] They instead recruited bassist Clint Warwick. The band hoped to receive sponsorship from the local Mitchells & Butlers Brewery which failed to materialise, the band even calling themselves The M & B Five. Pinder, Thomas, Laine, Edge and Warwick, under the name The M & B Five, played their first live show in early May 1964 (the exact date varies, with some sources claiming 2 May and others claiming 4 May)[21][22] at the Carlton Ballroom (later to become rock music venue Mothers) on Erdington High Street, where they quicky became the resident band. By the end of August 1964, the band's name had evolved from The M & B Five to The Moody Blues.[23] Aside from the M & B letters the name was also a subtle reference to the Duke Ellington song "Mood Indigo".[24] Pinder also stated in a later interview that he was interested in how music changes people's moods.[24]

The band soon obtained a London-based management company, Ridgepride, formed by Alex Murray (Alex Wharton), who had been in the A&R division of Decca Records. Their recording contract was signed in mid-1964 with Ridgepride, which then leased their recordings to Decca. They released a single, a cover of James Brown's "Steal Your Heart Away", in September 1964 which failed to chart. They also appeared on the cult television programme Ready Steady Go! singing the uptempo B-side "Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose your Mind)", an original song by Laine and Pinder. But it was their second single, a cover of Bessie Banks' "Go Now", released in November 1964, that proved their breakthrough, being promoted on television with one of the first purpose-made promotional films in the pop era, produced and directed by Alex Wharton. The single reched No.1 in Britain (where it remains their only No. 1 single)[25] and No. 10 in the United States. The band encountered management problems after the chart-topping hit and subsequently signed to Decca Records in the UK (London Records in the US) directly as recording artists.

Their debut album The Magnificent Moodies, produced by Denny Cordell, was released on Decca in mono only in July 1965. It included several R&B covers, including "Go Now", alongside four Laine-Pinder originals which showed a strong Merseybeat influence.

In early 1965, Alex Wharton left the management firm, and the group would struggle to continue the success of "Go Now". They enjoyed a minor British hit with a cover of The Drifters' "I Don't Want to Go On Without You" (No. 33) in February 1965. The track was also included on a four-track EP titled The Moody Blues, which also featured "Go Now", "Steal Your Heart Away" and "Lose Your Money", issued in a colour picture sleeve in April 1965. The Pinder-Laine original "From the Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)" produced by Denny Cordell (with a vocal choral sound towards the conclusion that anticipated their sound on later recordings) was issued as a UK single in May 1965 and did a little better (No. 22). But then "Everyday", another Pinder-Laine song, stalled at No. 44 in October 1965 and the band would not release anymore records in Britain for a year. They were still in demand for live gigs, though, and they had chart success in the US and in the rest of Europe during this time, particularly when their cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bye Bye Bird" from The Magnificent Moodies was released as a single in France in December 1965, reaching No. 3 there.

In June 1966, Warwick retired from the group and the music business. He was briefly replaced by Rod Clark,[26] but in early October, Denny Laine also departed from the group,[27] which prompted Decca to release the single "Boulevard de la Madeleine" in the UK, with "This is My House (But Nobody Calls)" as the B-side, only a few days later, as the Moody Blues seemed to be disintegrating (the single had been released in the US in June 1966, though the A- and B-sides were switched for the UK release). Clark left at the same time as Laine and joined The Rockin' Berries.

In the November 1966 issue of Hit Week, Dutch interviewers Hans van Rij and Emie Havers presented their story, saying the Moody Blues had been in the process of recording their second album, Look Out,[28] with Cordell producing. The album was shelved and "Really Haven't Got the Time" (released as the B-side to "Fly Me High" some months later) is the only song mentioned in the article but the authors say Laine had written all of the material, with Thomas, Pinder and Clark (still the bass player) singing lead vocals as well.

The last Moody Blues record by the original Denny Laine/Clint Warwick line-up, a single of Pinder-Laine's "Life's Not Life" (first released as an EP track in France in June 1966),[29] was scheduled for UK release in January 1967, even though this line-up had been defunct for several months by this point.[30] This single's release is often listed as being cancelled; however, both promo and regular stock copies have been seen over the years.

Arrival of Hayward and Lodge

The three remaining members of the Moody Blues, Pinder, Thomas and Edge, assembled a new line-up in November 1966. The new members were bassist and vocalist John Lodge and guitarist and vocalist Justin Hayward. Lodge had been a bandmate of Pinder and Thomas in their pre-Moody Blues band El Riot and the Rebels. Hayward was formerly of the Wilde Three. He was recommended to Pinder by Eric Burdon of the Animals and was endorsed by famed UK singer Marty Wilde, the leader of the Wilde Three. Pinder phoned Hayward and was impressed when Hayward played him his single "London is Behind Me" during their car ride to meet the other members in Esher.[citation needed] Around this time "Boulevard de la Madeleine" became a hit single in Belgium. With the band's commercial success floundering in the UK, they relocated to Belgium almost immediately after Hayward and Lodge joined, returning to the UK at the beginning of 1967.[31]

Upon their return to the UK, the band were unable to get gigs and had no choice but to play the cabaret circuit. This only lasted a short time and after a confrontation with an audience member at one show, who went backstage to berate the band on their performance,[32] the band realised that continuing to play rhythm and blues covers without Denny Laine, whose voice had been the best suited to that style, was not working and decided to focus on developing and performing only their own original songs from that point on (although the band's interpretation of the Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", sung by Hayward, would remain in their set into 1968, while "Bye Bye Bird" continued to be played at least in France, where it had been a No. 3 hit for the band in 1966, also into 1968, with Thomas on lead vocal in place of Laine). In April 1967 they were introduced to Decca staff producer Tony Clarke, who produced a session which saw the recording of Justin Hayward's "Fly Me High" and Mike Pinder's "Really Haven't Got the Time", released as the A- and B-side, respectively, of the Moody Blues' next single, their first record with Hayward and Lodge, in May 1967. These picked up both radio airplay and favourable reviews, but failed to chart in the UK. "Fly Me High" showed elements of the psychedelic style that was purveying rock music during this time. The band went further in this direction on their next single, Pinder's "Love And Beauty" which was issued in September 1967. This too was not a UK hit, but was significant for being the first Moody Blues track to feature mellotron, played by Pinder. Pinder's mellotron work would become a major part of the band's sound for the next several years. Ray Thomas had played flute on some of the group's earlier recordings (including "From the Bottom of My Heart" and "I've Got a Dream"); however, it became a far more featured instrument from this point onwards as the psychedelic influences became stronger in the band's music.

Classic years, 1967–1974

Days of Future Passed

The Moody Blues in the Netherlands (1969)
The Moody Blues in the Netherlands (1969)

The Moody Blues' contract with Decca Records was set to expire and they owed the label several thousand pounds in advances. The second album had never materialised either. They had the support, however, of Decca A&R manager Hugh Mendl, who had been instrumental in the recent establishment of London/Decca's new subsidiary imprint Deram Records. With Mendl's backing, the Moody Blues were offered a deal to make a rock and roll version of Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony to promote the company's new Deramic Stereo Sound audio format[8] in return for which the group would be forgiven their debt.

The Moody Blues agreed, but insisted that they be given artistic control of the project, and Mendl (as executive producer) was able to provide this despite Decca's notoriously tight-fisted attitude to their artists.[33] The group was unable to complete the assigned project,[citation needed] which was abandoned. However, they managed to convince Peter Knight, who had been assigned to arrange and conduct the orchestral interludes, to collaborate on a recording that used the band's original material instead.

Deram executives were initially sceptical about the hybrid style of the resulting concept album.[8] Released in November 1967, Days of Future Passed peaked at No. 27 on the British LP chart. Five years later it reached No. 3 on the Billboard chart in the US. The LP was a song cycle or concept album that takes place over the course of a single day. The album drew inspiration in production and arrangement from the pioneering use of the classical instrumentation by the Beatles, to whom Pinder had introduced the mellotron that year. It took the form to new heights using the London Festival Orchestra,[34] a loose affiliation of Decca's classical musicians given a fictitious name, adding the term "London" to sound impressive, to provide an orchestral linking framework to the group's already written and performed songs, plus overture and conclusion sections on the album, including backing up Graeme Edge's opening and closing poems recited by Pinder. The orchestra and band never performed together during the recording. With the exception of the overdubbed strings on the latter part of Hayward's "Nights in White Satin", the orchestral sounds on the band's own songs were actually played by Pinder on mellotron. Despite being a lush concept album, the LP was cut in a very workmanlike manner, with the band recording a particular song, then the track being presented to Peter Knight who quickly composed a suitable "linking" orchestral portion, which the Decca musicians ("London Festival Orchestra") then recorded. The album was as much an original work by Knight himself as the group. The composing credits were listed on the sleeve as: "Redwave-Knight", although Hayward wrote "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon", Thomas provided "Another Morning" and "Twilight Time", Lodge penned "Peak Hour" and "Evening (Time To Get Away)", Pinder composed "Dawn is a Feeling" and "The Sun Set" and Edge contributed the opening and closing poems, "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament". The lead vocal on each track was provided by it's writer, with the exception of "Dawn is a Feeling" which was sung by Hayward (although Pinder sang lead on the bridge section) and the two poems which were recited by Pinder.

The album was produced by Tony Clarke. Sometimes known to fans as "The Sixth Moodie", he produced their records for the next eleven years. Engineer Derek Varnals also contributed heavily to the creation of the Moody Blues' classic studio sound, working with Pinder and Clarke to create a more symphonic overlapping sound on the mellotron as opposed to the sharp 'cut off' the instrument normally gave, partly achieved by removing all the "sound effects" tapes (trains, whistles, cockerel crowing, etc.) and then 'doubling up' the tapes of orchestral instruments' sounds, which combined with Pinder's ability and sensitivity at playing (Pinder having earlier worked for the company that manufactured the mellotron) and Varnals' recording skills at creating an orchestral 'wave' sound that characterised their non-orchestra accompanied sound thereafter.

"Nights in White Satin" (in a different mix with the strings removed) was released as a single from the album and made No. 19 in the UK in early 1968. It would eventually make No. 9 in the UK on re-issue in December 1972 and No. 14 on the charts on another reissue at the end of 1979, and is now regarded as the Moody Blues signature song. In the US, "Nights in White Satin" did not make the Billboard Hot 100 on it's original release as a single there in 1968, although it reached No. 2 on re-release in 1972; In the US "Tuesday Afternoon" was also released as a single and was more successful on initial release, peaking at No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In Search of the Lost Chord

The band's next album, 1968's In Search of the Lost Chord, included "Legend of a Mind", a song written by Ray Thomas in tribute to LSD guru Timothy Leary which encompassed a flute solo performed by Thomas – four members of the group had taken LSD together at the start of 1967. A promotional film for the song was filmed on location at Groot-Bijgaarden Castle near Brussels in Belgium. Lodge provided a two-part song "House of Four Doors" set either side of Thomas' epic piece. Justin Hayward began playing sitar and incorporating it into Moody Blues music ("Voices In The Sky", "Visions of Paradise", "Om"), having been inspired by George Harrison. Hayward's "Voices in the Sky" charted as a single in the UK (No. 27), as did Lodge's "Ride My See-Saw" (No. 42, No. 15 in France) which featured a non-album track, Pinder's "A Simple Game", as the 'B' side. Pinder contributed "The Best Way to Travel" and album's closer "Om". Graeme Edge found a significant secondary role in the band as a writer of poetry, and some of their early albums from the late 1960s began with various band members reciting poems by Edge that were conceptually related to the lyrics of the songs that followed. Edge narrated his brief "Departure" poem on "Lost Chord", although Pinder recited the majority of Edge's poetry, as according to Edge, he had the best voice for it due to smoking more cigarettes and drinking more whisky at the time.[35]

On the Threshold of a Dream

On 1969's On the Threshold of a Dream, Hayward, Edge and Pinder share the opening narration on Edge's "In The Beginning", leading into Hayward's "Lovely To See You". His "Never Comes the Day" was issued as a UK single, while Thomas contributed wry observations of life in "Dear Diary" and "Lazy Day". Pinder contributed the closing track on side one, "So Deep Within You". Side two closed with the "Dream Sequence", Edge's poem "The Dream" leading into Pinder's "Have You Heard?" parts I and II with the two parts separated by his classically themed instrumental piece "The Voyage".

To Our Children's Children's Children

The band's music continued to become more complex and symphonic, with heavy amounts of reverberation on the vocal tracks. The next album, 1969's To Our Children's Children's Children, was a concept album inspired by the first moon landing. The opening track "Higher and Higher" saw Pinder simulate a rocket blast-off on keyboards, then narrate Edge's lyrics. Thomas contributed the songs "Floating" and "Eternity Road", Hayward provided "Gypsy" and the album included a Pinder-Lodge collaboration "Out and In". Lodge provided his two-part "Eyes of a Child" and "Candle of Life" while Pinder contributed "Sun is Still Shining". The album closed with "Watching and Waiting", composed by Ray Thomas and Justin Hayward and sung by Hayward. It was during 1969 that the band established their own label "Threshold" under licence to Decca Records. To Our Children's Children's Children was the first of their albums to be released on their own label. The song "Watching and Waiting" was issued as a single on the Threshold label, but failed to chart.

A Question of Balance

Although the Moodies had by now defined themselves with a lush, high-production psychedelic style, which had been an influence on the then-burgeoning progressive rock genre, by 1970 the band were finding it difficult to recreate their sound in concert and decided to record an album that could be played live easier, losing some of their lush sound for A Question of Balance (1970). This album, reaching No. 3 in the American charts and No. 1 in the British charts, was indicative of the band's growing success in America. Hayward's "Question" was issued as a single, with a different mix to the album version, reaching No. 2 in the UK. Pinder's "Melancholy Man" would be released as a single in France, reaching No.1 there. Justin Hayward began an artful exploration of guitar tone through the use of numerous effects pedals and fuzzboxes and developed for himself a very melodic buzzing guitar-solo sound. The Moody Blues had by now become a bill-topping act in their own right. They appeared twice at the famous Isle of Wight Festival (an album and DVD of their 1970 performance would be released in 2008).

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn

For their next two albums, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971) – from which Hayward's "The Story in Your Eyes" was taken as a US charting single (No. 23) – and Seventh Sojourn (1972), which reached No. 1 in the US, the band returned to their signature orchestral sound which, while difficult to reproduce in concert, had become their trademark. The title Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was borrowed, tongue-in-cheek, from a mnemonic used to remember the musical notes that form the lines of the treble clef: EGBDF. The opening track "Procession" is the only Moody Blues song credited to the entire band, a track depicting the "evolution" of music, leading into Hayward's "Story in Your Eyes". Thomas's reflective "Our Guessing Game" and whimsical "Nice To Be Here" offset the deeper drama of Hayward's "You Can Never Go Home", Lodge's "One More Time To Live" and Pinder's "My Song". Edge, the long-standing drummer-poet, started writing lyrics intended to be sung, rather than verses to be spoken – his "After You Came" (1971) featured each of the four lead singers taking a vocal section. Then in 1972, Lodge's songs "Isn't Life Strange?" (No. 13) and "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" (No. 36) were lifted from Seventh Sojourn as charting UK singles. Sojourn also saw Pinder using the new Chamberlin instrument in place of the mellotron and Edge using an electronic drum kit. Pinder's stirring lament "Lost in a Lost World" opened the album, while he also contributed a sympathetic ode to Timothy Leary "When You're a Free Man".

In an interview following the release of Seventh Sojourn, Graeme Edge told Rolling Stone: "We've got two Christians, one Mystic, one Pedantic and one Mess, and we all get on a treat."[36]

By this time, other bands were picking up their work. Pinder's songs "A Simple Game" (1968) and "So Deep Within You" (1969) were successfully covered by the Four Tops, Pinder winning an Ivor Novello Award for "A Simple Game". Elkie Brooks later covered Hayward's "Nights in White Satin". Pinder also appeared on John Lennon's Imagine album in 1971, providing additional percussion on "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier (I Don't Want to Die)". All of the Moody Blues albums from In Search of the Lost Chord to Seventh Sojourn were characterised by striking surreal scenic sleeve artwork (mostly gatefold sleeves) by artist Phil Travers.

In late 1972, a re-issue of the five-year-old "Nights in White Satin" became the Moody Blues' biggest US hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming a certified million-seller; the song had "bubbled under" the Hot 100 charts on its original release. The song also returned to the UK charts, reaching No. 9, ten places higher than its original release in 1967.

Threshold Records

The Moodies were also among the pioneers of the idea that a successful rock band could promote itself through their own label, following the Beatles' creation of Apple Records. After their On the Threshold of a Dream album (1969), they created Threshold Records, prompted in part by disputes with London/Deram over album design costs (their gatefold record jackets and expensive cover art were not popular with company executives). The idea was for Threshold to produce new albums and deliver them to London/Decca who would act as distributor. The group attempted to build Threshold into a major label by developing new talent – most notably the UK hard rock band Trapeze and the Portland, Oregon, classical-acoustic sextet Providence – but these efforts were unsuccessful and the Moodies eventually returned to more traditional recording contracts. However, they helped lay groundwork for other major acts to set up similar personal labels and distribution deals, including the Rolling Stones' own label and Led Zeppelin's Swan Song,[citation needed] and all of the Moodies' records from 1969 to 2001 bore the Threshold logo on at least one of their format versions.

In September 1973, the Moody Blues were presented with five gold discs in Australia. At the time, Australia had only awarded eight.[37]

Hiatus and solo work, 1974–1977

In the spring of 1974, after completing a vast world tour that culminated with a tour of Asia, the group took an extended break, erroneously reported as a break-up at the time, because of band members feeling exhausted and overshadowed (this was said by Hayward in the final issue of Higher & Higher magazine 2006). Although the band had typically featured four lead vocalists (with Edge also contributing vocally), Hayward was the principal vocalist whilst Pinder was considered to be the person most responsible for their symphonic sound, arrangements, and overall conceptual direction. Pinder and Thomas also doubled as the Moodies' onstage MCs (as displayed on Caught Live + 5, a live double album recorded in 1969 but released in 1977 with side four comprising five previously unreleased studio tracks from 1967 to 1968)

Before the band's 1973–74 world tour (their last with Pinder), Hayward wrote a song called "Island" with the intention of including it on a potential follow-up album, which the Moodies recorded in 1973 before ultimately going their separate ways. An additional cause of the hiatus were the long tours that had by this time strained Pinder, who needed a rest.[citation needed] In 1974 the band oversaw preparation of the compilation album This Is The Moody Blues, which was released that year.

Hayward and Lodge released a duo album, the successful Blue Jays (1975), and a UK chart single, "Blue Guitar" (no. 8), which was credited to Hayward and Lodge even though it was just Hayward with 10cc backing him. The album had originally been a projected liaison between Hayward and Pinder, but after Pinder dropped out, John Lodge stepped in. (Tony Clarke produced it.) The members then released solo albums. Pinder said he hoped to get the band back together that year. "Having moved to California in 1974, I returned to Britain for a visit in summer 1975. I was trying to get the band to do an album, but the response was so weak I returned to California with my two new Mk5 mellotrons and began work on my solo album The Promise."[38] Edge produced two albums with guitarist Adrian Gurvitz and his brother Paul Gurvitz, Kick Off Your Muddy Boots (1975) and Paradise Ballroom (1976); Hayward composed the acoustically textured Songwriter (1977), which was followed a few years later by Night Flight (1980), Moving Mountains (1985) (which Hayward dedicated to Peter Knight), Classic Blue (1989), The View From The Hill (1996) and Live in San Juan Capistrano (1998). Lodge released Natural Avenue (1977); Pinder produced The Promise (1976); and Thomas collaborated on two projects with songwriter Nicky James, producing From Mighty Oaks (1975) and Hopes, Wishes and Dreams (1976).

During this time, Hayward recorded "Forever Autumn" for the musical version of The War of the Worlds.[39] It was recorded at London's Advision Studios in 1976. The song reached #5 on the UK Singles Chart in August 1978.[40]

Reunion, 1977–1991


1978–91 line-up. L-R: Patrick Moraz, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward and John Lodge

In 1977, the group made a decision to record together again, with their record company Decca urging a reunion album. London Records released a somewhat poorly mixed eight-year-old recording of the band performing at London's Royal Albert Hall, against their artistic wishes. London/Decca did this in an attempt to re-energise public interest in the Moody Blues before their anticipated new album, but by this time Pinder had remarried and started a family in California, so for their reunion recording, the band decamped stateside with producer Clarke. The sessions were marked with tension and division: first there was a fire at the studios they were using, then after quickly relocating to Pinder's home studio, a landslide following torrential rains effectively marooned them, inevitably causing tensions to rise (with Pinder then dropping out before completion).

Clarke was also forced to leave for non-musical reasons before the album was completed, but by the spring of 1978 Octave was ready for release. Pinder, citing his young family, excused himself from the touring commitments that were to follow. His decision caused acrimony within the band (notably from Edge). Ray Thomas said Pinder was initially agreeable to touring. His opting out (with a major comeback tour already planned) was a blow to the band. Their management tried to downplay Pinder's absence, notably at a major UK music press party Decca organised, when the top Decca dignitary guest, while making a "welcome back" speech, openly referred to "Mike Pinder being currently absent over in the States", much to the band's dismay.

Arrival of Moraz, Long Distance Voyager and The Present

Former Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz joined the Moody Blues for the Octave World Tour. The album sold well and produced the hits "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" (no. 39 US) and "Driftwood" (no. 59 US). On Octave, Hayward had four solo compositions, whilst Edge contributed "I'll Be Level With You" (a.k.a. "Little Man").[citation needed]

The Moody Blues toured the US and Europe during much of 1979. A live CD The Moody Blues Live in Seattle 1979 during the Octave tour of a concert at Seattle Center Coliseum recorded on 25 May 1979 was later issued in 2013. By 1980 they were ready to record again, this time bringing in producer Pip Williams. Moraz was retained as the band's permanent keyboardist, though Pinder had originally understood that he would continue to record even if not touring with the band. Pinder took legal action to prevent the new Moody Blues album from reaching the public without his contributions, but he was not successful, and ultimately, he never returned to the fold. Nevertheless, when released in 1981, Long Distance Voyager was a colossal success, reaching No. 1 on Billboard and going Top 5 in the UK. The album yielded two hits, "The Voice", (No. 15 US) written by Hayward, and "Gemini Dream", (No. 12 US) written by Hayward and Lodge. John Lodge's "Talking out of Turn" also charted in the US, reaching No. 65. Edge provided "22,000 Days" (featuring Thomas as lead voice with Hayward and Lodge) while Thomas' contributions were the final portion of the set with his singing on the final two songs: "Painted Smile", "Reflective Smile" (a poem narrated by a DJ friend of the band) and "Veteran Cosmic Rocker". By now, the mellotron had long been set aside as their primary keyboard instrument on their studio albums and the band embraced a more modern, less symphonic approach, though still retaining a lush keyboard-led sound as Moraz gave a more contemporary edge.[citation needed] In live concerts, the mellotron was still used heavily by Moraz until the mid-1980s, including on songs that did not originally feature it.[41]

The Present (1983), again produced by Williams, was less successful than its predecessor, though it spawned a UK Top 40 hit (No. 35) in "Blue World" (No. 62 in the US) and a US Top 40 hit in "Sitting at the Wheel" (which failed to chart in the UK). Videos were also produced for both singles. The Present was released in conjunction with Talencora Ltd shortly before Decca was bought out by Polydor Records. The album was supported by The Present Tour.

The Other Side of Life and Sur la Mer

In 1986 they enjoyed renewed success with their album The Other Side of Life and in particular with the track "Your Wildest Dreams" – a US Top 10 hit (and No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary singles chart for two weeks). The song's video garnered a Billboard Video of the Year award after being frequently featured on MTV. Newly employed producer Tony Visconti and Barry Radman, a synth programmer formerly engaged by Moraz, delivered a modern sound the Moodies had been seeking in order to remain competitive with their pop contemporaries. The album's title song also charted in the US, at No. 58.

The Moody Blues performed live at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986, which raised money for Birmingham Children's Hospital. The band played four songs, and later provided backup with Electric Light Orchestra for George Harrison.

The Moodies continued their early video-generation success with Sur La Mer (1988) and its video and single, "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" (No. 30 US, No. 52 UK, No. 2 US Mainstream Rock), a sequel to "Your Wildest Dreams". Their sound took on an ever-increasingly synthetic and technical quality as Moraz and Visconti began using modern sequencers, samplers and drum machines. Hayward and Lodge wrote and sang on most of the songs, as the band came under pressure from their new record company, Polydor Records, to feature those members the label deemed to be the two more commercial looking and sounding ones. This approach stood in contrast to the more equitable five-way songwriting the group had employed with Pinder.[42]

By this point, Ray Thomas was playing a diminished role in the recording studio with the band evolving into a synthpop act, a genre that was unsuitable for the use of a flute. Thomas provided additional percussion, notably tambourine, plus occasional harmonica, but by this point he was largely relegated to the status of a backup singer. Thomas provided some backing vocals for both The Other Side of Life and Sur La Mer. Multiple production considerations, however, led Visconti to leave Thomas's vocals off the latter of these two albums.

Despite his diminished participation in the recording process, Thomas' high value remained evident on stage primarily from his continued ability to sing his 1960s and 1970s Moodies classics, and also in flute and keyboard duets he composed with Moraz which were performed only during Moodies' concerts. The band reinforced its concert sound in 1986 with the addition of a second keyboardist. Bias Boshell was the first, replaced in 1987 by Guy Allison before Boshell returned by 1990. The group also began to employ female backing singers.

Late era, 1991–2018

Departure of Moraz and Court TV lawsuit

In 1991, halfway through the production of their new studio album, Patrick Moraz did an interview with Keyboard magazine and made some comments in the article that suggested dissatisfaction with his role in the Moodies. His complaints ranged from the Moodies' music becoming too simple in structure to the other members' reluctance to allow him to make significant contributions to the songwriting on their albums. He also was occupied with spending large amounts of time planning a music concert to celebrate his native Switzerland's 700th anniversary instead of rehearsing with the Moodies and as a result, he was fired from the group before the project was completed, so Boshell and new keyboardist Paul Bliss were brought in to finish the new album's keyboard tracks. Despite previous credits as an "official band member" and being included in group photos on the four '80s studio albums from Long Distance Voyager to Sur La Mer, subsequent Moodies compilations downplay Moraz to being merely an "additional keyboardist" and several band photos have him cropped or airbrushed out, notably on the covers to Gold (which did not even mention him in the booklet liner notes, let alone include his picture) and the more recent compilation Polydor Years 1986–1992.[citation needed] Moraz later took legal action against the group in the United States and the lawsuit, which he won, was shown on Court TV, but he was awarded only $77,175 in back pay due to accounting slow-ups instead of the $500,000 he sought.[43]

Keys of the Kingdom

Keys of the Kingdom, released in 1991, had modest commercial success when released and once again, Hayward's songs led off the album, with the new singles "Say It with Love" and "Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)." Also included was a new ambient flute piece by Ray Thomas entitled "Celtic Sonant." Hayward and Thomas also co-wrote "Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain" to close the album. Lodge made a defining shift in his songwriting on this album, leaving his trademark high-energy rock music, and instead gravitating towards slow love ballads such as "Lean on Me (Tonight)" (though he had earlier contributed some songs in this gentler vein such as "Emily's Song" for his daughter in 1971, "Survival" in 1978, and "Talking Out of Turn" in 1981), while his more powerful songs continued with "Magic" and the Lennonesque "Shadows on the Wall". This gentler trend continued on the two successive Moodies albums. Hayward wrote the driving two-part piece "Say What You Mean." Tony Visconti produced some of the tracks on "Keys", as did Christopher Neil and Alan Tarney. The ensuing tour saw them invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. A non-album Hayward-Lodge song cut at these sessions, "Highway", was included on the "Say It with Love" twelve-inch single and on a later box set and compilation album, while the vinyl album did not include their song "Once is Enough" as on the compact disc version.

The group remained a steady concert draw, and a series of video and audio versions of their 1992 Night at Red Rocks concert enjoyed great success, particularly as a fund-raiser for American public television where it had been first broadcast. The concert was conducted and arranged by Larry Baird, who has participated in many other bands' orchestral live concerts, such as Kansas, Michael Bolton, Three Dog Night, Al Jarreau and Alan Parsons.

The group also continued their use of additional musicians on stage and in the studio, but after the two legal suits from both Pinder in 1981 and Moraz in 1992, the band was careful not to recognise future keyboardists as official members. Following on from his contributions as keyboardist on the Keys of the Kingdom album, Paul Bliss continued to play keyboards for the band live, being promoted to first keyboardist in 2001 (but was replaced in March 2010 after 19 years' continuous service). Thomas and Bliss continued the tradition of a flute/keyboard duet for many tours. After Edge injured himself in 1991, second drummer Gordon Marshall was brought in to back him up; he stayed with the group after Edge returned and remained in the position until autumn of 2015, when he left to play in a Moody Blues cover band, Legend of a Band, and another cover band, Reflections.

Strange Times

From 1991 to 1998 the group took a hiatus from recording and spent time trying to perfect the art of performing live with an orchestra. The recording hiatus ended in 1999, with the album Strange Times, their first album in almost two decades to be more than moderately received by British critics, although Justin Hayward was quoted as saying he was disappointed at the album's chart performance, which was notably less than Keys of the Kingdom in 1991. It was recorded in Recco, Italy, at Hayward's suggestion, and was the band's first self-produced effort. The album featured keyboards and arrangements from Italian musician Danilo Madonia, who continued to work in-studio with the band. The album opened with "English Sunset" a pop song featuring a modern, nearly techno arrangement. The song "This Is the Moment" (which is not on Strange Times), which was originally featured in the Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde, was a minor hit in the US. Strange Times was also the first album since 1970 to include a new poem by Graeme Edge, "Nothing Changes", narrated by Edge, with Hayward then singing the concluding portion of the track, and notably concluded by quoting Mike Pinder's 1968 song title "A Simple Game". Also in 1999, the Moody Blues appeared in an episode of The Simpsons called Viva Ned Flanders.[44] On Strange Times Ray Thomas appeared vocally with Hayward and Lodge on "Sooner or Later (Walkin' on Air)" and his own brief song "My Little Lovely", plus provided a vocal snippet and backing vocals on Hayward's "English Sunset"; this was his recorded vocal swan song with the band.

In 2000 the band released Hall of Fame, a new live concert from the Royal Albert Hall, with a concurrent DVD release. This was taken from the last tour on which Boshell played. He left the live line-up in 2001; Bliss took over first keyboard duties, with his former second keyboard role filled by Bernie Barlow and Julie Ragins when Barlow took maternity leave from 2006 to 2009.

In 2001 an IMAX film was released entitled Journey into Amazing Caves, which featured two new songs written and performed by the Moody Blues. The soundtrack also featured Justin Hayward performing vocals and playing guitar throughout. One of these songs, entitled "Water", is the Moody Blues' first instrumental studio recording since their 1983 piece "Hole in the World" from The Present LP.

Hayward and Lodge live in 2007
Hayward and Lodge live in 2007

Thomas retires, December

The new millennium saw the Moody Blues reducing their touring schedule. At the end of 2002, founding member Ray Thomas retired from the group, reducing the Moody Blues to the trio of Hayward, Lodge and Edge, the last being the only original member. Flautist and rhythm guitarist Norda Mullen was recruited early the following year for their North American tour, and worked with the band live and in the studio thereafter. Toward the end of 2003, they released an album entitled December. The songs included originals and four covers: John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", Mike Batt's "A Winter's Tale", "When A Child is Born" and Irving Berlin's "White Christmas". December marked the first time the band had recorded and released covers since The Magnificent Moodies in 1965.

Clint Warwick, the Moody Blues' original bassist, died on 15 May 2004 in Birmingham, England.

In March 2006, the first five of the band's "Core Seven" albums (the seven albums from Days of Future Passed to Seventh Sojourn) were re-released in SACD format with Deluxe Editions, featuring bonus songs and some rare previously unreleased tracks. In April 2007, the last two of these classic albums were re-released by Universal/Threshold. These deluxe editions were unique for an art rock group like the Moodies in that one of their members, Justin Hayward, was the one taken on to do the work, instead of a professional master technician. Hayward stated that he listened to virgin vinyl copies of these albums and used them as reference points for the new compact discs. On 21 May 2007 the Moodies released a 41-track, two-disc compilation of sessions recorded at BBC Studios, various television appearances and a previously 'lost' performance done on the Tom Jones Show titled Live at the BBC: 1967–1970.[45][46]

Final years

The Moody Blues in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California in 2005.L–R: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge
The Moody Blues in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California in 2005.
L–R: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge

In 2007, the now defunct Hard Rock Park theme park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, announced the building of a dark ride entitled "Nights in White Satin: The Trip". The ride incorporated multi-sensory experiences as well as a re-orchestrated version of the song by Justin Hayward. A re-recorded version of Graeme Edge's "Late Lament" again followed, which had each group member reading a verse of the poem.[47] In March 2009, the ride closed because of the conversion of the park to the Freestyle Music Park, with the new owners desiring to make the park more "family friendly."

The group toured the UK, Canada and the US in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. In addition, Hayward took part in the UK tour of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds in April 2006, and a second tour in November 2007, also with dates in 2009. The Moody Blues also toured Australia and New Zealand in 2006. Their long-time producer, Tony Clarke, died in January 2010. The band added keyboardist Alan Hewitt for their 2010 UK and North American tours.

They released a new compilation album called Timeless Flight in 2013. On 19 July 2013, it was announced that the band would be appearing on the second annual Moody Blues Cruise,[48] from 2 to 7 April 2014, on the cruise ship MSC Divina. Other bands on the cruise included The Zombies and Lighthouse.

The Moody Blues toured in 2015 in both the US and the UK in June of that year, culminating in a début appearance at the Glastonbury Festival on 27 June 2015.[49][50]

Original vocalist and flautist Ray Thomas died on 4 January 2018, at the age of 76, just a few months before the band were due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,[51]. Drummer and sole constant member Graeme Edge died on 11 November 2021, at the age of 80.[52] Upon Edge's death, Justin Hayward announced that the Moody Blues had no longer been active since Edge had retired in 2018.[53][54]

Legacy and honours

The Moody Blues' "rich symphonic sound" influenced groups such as Yes, Genesis, the Electric Light Orchestra and Deep Purple. They also helped make synthesizers and philosophy "part of the rock mainstream".[2]

The Moody Blues are members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In 2013, readers of Rolling Stone voted for them as one of the ten bands that should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[9] Ultimate Classic Rock called them "perennial victims of an unaccountable snubbing" and inducted them into its own Hall of Fame in 2014.[55]

Writing for The Guardian in 2015, Rob Chapman described the band as "psychedelia's forgotten heroes". He stated: "Despite their success, rock critics rarely took the Moody Blues seriously, a pattern that continued for the next 45 years." He also wrote: "Despite the critical disapproval, the best of the Moody Blues music between 1967 and 1970 possessed grace and beauty. Like the Beatles, they understood how pop songs worked as ensemble pieces. None of them were particularly virtuosic or showy as musicians and their music is refreshingly free of the noodling long[u]eurs that characterised the output of their more self-indulgent contemporaries."[56]

In December 2017, the band were announced as inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[57] On 14 April 2018, they were inducted as part of the 2018 class. During his acceptance speech in Cleveland, Ohio, Justin Hayward said, "If you didn't know already, well we're just a bunch of British guys, but of course to us and to all British musicians, this is the home of our heroes and we all know that..." acknowledging the inspirational role of America's rock and roll icons.[58] During the ceremony, Ray Thomas was included as a star that was lost in the past year.

Moody Bluegrass

The Moody Bluegrass project is a group of Nashville artists who have recorded two tribute albums of Moody Blues songs in the bluegrass style. The first album, Moody Bluegrass – A Nashville Tribute to the Moody Blues, was released in 2004. Those involved included Alison Krauss, Harley Allen, Tim O'Brien, John Cowan, Larry Cordle, Jan Harvey, Emma Harvey, Sam Bush and Jon Randall.

A second Moody Bluegrass album, Moody Bluegrass Two...Much Love, was released in 2011. In addition to many of the participants of the first album, a number of tracks included guest performances from Hayward, Lodge and Edge, (each of whom is credited as the lead vocalist on one song) plus Thomas and Pinder, making this the first time since 1978 that these five musicians all appeared on one newly recorded album.[59]


Main article: List of the Moody Blues band members


Main article: The Moody Blues discography

Studio albums


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