beyond the lost chord
by Robert Silverstein
As an eleven year old kid in 1965, growing up on Long Island, I can remember thrilling to the sounds of the early Moody Blues songs “Stop” and the band’s first huge hit, “Go Now”—a song still spinning on oldies radio stations across the land. “Stop” was just one of many great songs written by the early Moody Blues songwriting team of Mike Pinder and Denny Laine. During those early British invasion years, Pinder and Laine composed many memorable songs together but sadly, it just was not to be. Mike Pinder’s brilliantly expansive orchestral keyboard approach was growing by leaps and bounds and by late ‘66 Laine had left the Moodies. Soon afterwards Pinder—and his Moodies mates Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge—wisely enlisted the talents of Justin Hayward and John Lodge.The difference between the early band and the second Moodies lineup of Pinder, Thomas, Edge, Hayward and Lodge was staggering. Following a brilliant run of ground breaking recordings recorded between 1967 and 1973—now referred to as the Classic 7 and a tentative comeback called Octave from 1978 —Pinder and producer Tony Clarke “the 6th Moody,” left the fold. Despite protests and consternation from fans over the fact that the Moody Blues without Mike Pinder just wasn’t the same—the post Classic 7 ‘quartet’ lineup did remarkably well during the ‘80s and deep into the ‘90s. Perhaps Pinder and Clarke will never regain their stature in the band again, yet 2006 looks to be yet another watershed year in Moody Blues history. A 2006 DVD on Image Entertainment—the first one released since the recent retirement of early member Ray Thomas—entitled Lovely To See You Live and the long awaited ‘expanded edition’ CD reissues of the famous Classic 7 Moodies albums on Universal will no cast the band’s revered legacy back into the limelight again. One can only hope that Justin, John and Graeme once again realize what an valuable asset Mike Pinder is to legendary core sound and invite him to appear with them in the studio on a track or two again. Until then, we still have 40+ years of classic Moody Blues music worth a fortune in priceless musical memories. On February 20, 2006, Justin Hayward spoke with Robert Silverstein about a wide range of Moody Blues history.
RS: Justin it’s Robert Silverstein from 20th Century Guitar and mwe3.com Do you have time to do the interview now?
JH: Yes absolutely. We’re here waiting for you. All ready.
RS: How’s the tour going?
JH: Not bad! Glad to be out of the cold. We just did a week in the frozen north.
RS: Yeah I heard the band was out in Indiana.
JH: That’s right, yeah. It’s going fine. Very good, yeah.
RS: Are The Moody Blues ever not on tour? You’ve been touring consistently for the past six years.
JH: I know what you mean. Sometimes it seems like I’ve never done anything else. We’ve been out on the road for six or seven months each year for the last few years. I think that’s what people want for us. We’re offered more work now than we ever were before, strangely enough.
RS: Are there surprises on the set list? How about doing a live version of “Out And In”?
JH: Oh, wouldn’t that be nice. I love that song. Funny enough, I did that song at a charity event last year. Just myself. I always liked the song. I always liked all of Mike’s songs. And I thought, ‘oh, I’ll just do that.’ ‘Cause I’d always remembered it. And I just stood there meself, with my guitar, and did it as part of my own set. A few went, ‘what the hell is that? (laughter) But the ones who knew it were very pleased.
RS: My father just passed away. After hurricane Wilma in the first week of November he fell ill and just couldn’t get out of the hospital and he passed away this past January 23.
JH: Oh dear. I’m very sorry...yes. Have you still got your mum Robert?
RS: Yes we’re trying to bring her back to New York from Ft. Lauderdale, but I remember when I interviewed you the first time you told me you went through losing your father at the time when you recorded To Our Children’s Children’s Children. Any spiritual advice on coping with big loss of a parent? That whole album seems to hint at reincarnation, “I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred” then “Candle Of Life” “Eternity Road”.
JH: That’s a heavy one, isn’t it? Well nobody who hasn’t been through it understands what you are going through. I think that’s the thing. I don’t know...I’ve always tried to keep the memory of my father alive and to keep his image alive in my mind. You lose things like the voice and the expressions but as long as I can just pass it on to my children and hopefully my children’s children. That’s what I want to do. And to pass on the principals and what he meant to me and those around him.
RS: The Moodies CD December, released in time for Christmas 2003, is a fine album. What prompted you to want to make a holiday or Christmas-y kind of record?
JH: Well it was actually a guy that we were working with, doing some projects with, called Miles Copeland, who was doing some management things and he suggested it. At first, I thought it was a terrible idea and then the more I thought about it, I thought maybe there’s something in it. And I went down to Italy and worked with the guys there on a couple things that I always wanted to do. One was a song called “In The Bleak Midwinter,” which is from the English hymnal and the other one was a piece of Bach. Bach 147, that I’d kind of learned when I first started fiddlin’ around in groups and things like that, but only just as a kind of...almost a jokey, little party piece. Anyway, I started to sort of think about it seriously. And once we put those two songs down, the bones of those two songs, I thought it could maybe work and I was converted to the idea. And I’m very happy with the album and there’s a song we do on stage now, “December Snow” that I really, really love and for that song alone I think the album was worth it. And I hope it takes it’s place amongst all the other Moodies albums.
RS: It was nice that on December the group covered the Lennon... and so this is Christmas...
JH: Yes, exactly. That was one of Miles’ chat up lines, was that, ‘hey! John Lennon did it, and Elvis did it and all these other people, what’s wrong with you doing it?’ So I think it was a good kind of angle for us. At the same time I think we understand that the biggest competitor to any record that we’re going to put out, is our own catalog. Because there’s so much interest in the back catalog, particularly from Universal, who own it, that it’s very difficult to try and whip up enthusiasm for new records when all they want to do is repackage the old stuff. So anyway, that’s the way it is.
RS: Justin, what guitars are you using on the 2006 Moodies tour? Your cherry red Gibson from ‘63 must be very valuable.
JH: No, I always use that. I’ve not done a tour, since 1968, without that guitar.
RS: I know Alvin Lee plays the same guitar, but he won’t bring it on the road!
JH: Yeah, that’s right. He does. Yeah, I remember. I wonder if he kept the same one?
RS: Wouldn’t you be afraid to take it on the road?
JH: Well...(sigh) I love it and what’s it for? It’s for doing gigs. It’s the same for anybody who has those guitars. Look at Dave Gilmour’s guitars, or Eric Clapton. It’s the same situation. But everybody wants those kind of guitars. I think it’s the replacement. It’s not so much its actual value, it’s just that you couldn’t find it again. You couldn’t find that. I always look but I just could not find it again.
RS: Being that you’re so synonymous with the cherry red Gibson, will there be a Justin Hayward signature guitar?
JH: In the ‘80s, I actually designed a guitar with Gibson that was like a sort of smaller bodied 335 version, but solid. And they made it for me and of course, when they made it, I realized it was so heavy (laughter) that it was almost unusable because of the size of it, even though it was smaller than the 335. But it had the basic same size but solid. So it wasn’t very practical. And I was a bit of a failure as a guitar designer from then on. It’s an interesting thought but, why not? I’d love to do that again.
RS: Your guitar sound is so prominent and your tone is so easily recognizable.
JH: I think a lot of that is to do with the way you play. I mean you can give somebody the Mark Knopfler guitar and the amplifiers exactly the same and listen to them play but they won’t sound like Mark Knopfler. It’s like Hank Marvin, y’know? I’ve played that Strat that he played “Apache” on. It’s the way guitar players touch the guitar, the weight of the touch, all of that kind of stuff that makes the difference. You can give somebody exactly the same equipment but it won’t sound the same.
RS: I interviewed Jim Messina last month, you know from Loggins & Messina.
RS: And he was telling me what great things Fender and Gibson are doing with their reissues guitars and amps. And I was wondering if there’s anything new and of interest in the guitar world for you?
JH: Well, I like all of the Roland VG8 stuff, particularly for recording in the studio. And a lot of the things that sound like keyboards on the December album are actually that VG8. That’s very handy. Whether I would take it on the road, I don’t know. The Eric Johnson Strat I love very much too. That’s brilliant. We did a couple of tours with him, must have been in the early ‘80s I think, and I was blown away by his style. And as soon as he brought one out, I was on it to see what it sounded like. And I love that one very much. But the best thing I’ve discovered in years is Collings. You know Collings guitars? I think they’re from Houston or Austin. Now, I got one of those in Nashville last year and I’m almost tempted to say it’s the best acoustic guitar I’ve got. I mean, I’ve got my old D-28, my Martin D-28 that I’ve had for years, which is wonderful, I would never part with and every session musician covets it, when they see it. But the Collings has got something really, really special and unique. And I’m so pleased that there’s somebody making guitars of that quality right now.
RS: Which model Collings do you prefer?
JH: The one that I’ve got, I got it in Gruhns guitars in Nashville. It’s just a straight forward dreadnought model. Blond, almost white top. No real fancy stuff on it. But it’s exceptional.
RS: Which amps do favor live?
JH: I still use a Marshall 50 watt head with a four speaker cabinet. Then I use a Mesa Boogie on one side of the stereo and a Fender, I think it’s a pro-reverb on the other side.
RS: Which strings do you use on the Gibson?
JH: Well, on the Gibson, believe it or not, I still use Selmer strings, which I’ve used since the ‘60s. And when the factory closed down in the early ‘70s, I bought hundreds...I bought as many as I could find. And I’m getting close to the end now. But I still use those. I’ve kept them all well and I only use maybe two or three sets a tour.
RS: I just got an email from Mike Pinder a couple days ago and he said, “Good luck on your interview. Tell Justin I wish him all the best with fond memories of the good times.”
JH: Oh, that’s very kind. And the same back to Mike. I miss him very much and he was such a valuable part of my life. And I learned so much from Mike and he was my hero.
RS: I wanted to talk to you briefly about that DVD that I wrote the liner notes for, The Lost Performance - Live In Paris: 1970 - Web sites were saying that you and/or the band was kind of upset that came out.
JH: Well...it’s a bootleg in so much as that they didn’t do a deal with us, they didn’t get any licenses for it. So as far as the band is concerned there’s no royalty on it. It would have been nice to have been asked and to have been part of it, which we weren’t.
(I apologize for using the band’s web site in the notes. I had read about it coming out in Billboard so diligently I contacted Kultur in New Jersey, and they were very interested in me writing liner notes - I asked to see it first and they sent me a DVD-r with just the first few minutes of, interestingly the song “Lovely To See You” - with Mike playing acoustic guitar! I was so excited that I called Mike, who was very surprised. Just the first minute - had I known about the backing tapes I might not have decided to write them! - ed.)
RS: Was that common in the late ‘60s, to sing over backing tapes in the live television shows back then? Or I was thinking Tony Clarke was such a perfectionist in the studio...
JH: No, not at all. It was just ‘cause it was a television show. I’ve looked at it, and my voice is live on quite a lot of it, where I’m singing, but I seem to be almost the only thing that’s live. So it’s not the voice that was on the record. I think what they did is they just took backing tracks. We just mimed to it. There are a few things that are live but its eighty percent mimed, except my voice, which is live.
RS: Mike Pinder told me he was happy to see it because there was so little video on the classic seven Moody Blues.
JH: Well, I’ve seen a lot of other pieces of film of individual numbers live. There’s an absolutely live piece of “Tuesday Afternoon” at some theater, which must have been done in late 1967. And that’s quite interesting. But nobody ever asked us to do those kind of concerts live. The most valuable one for me, which is purely live of course is the Isle Of Wight. That’s the best record of all of us.
RS: I recall the clip of “Nights In White Satin” from the Isle Of Wight festival Sony put out. Will there ever be a DVD of the complete Moody Blues Isle Of Wight performance?
JH: Yes. Well, I’ve got no idea. I would love to know if they’ve got all of it still left, whether they kept the whole performance. Some people say obviously they did. I was talking to Pete Townshend the other day and they did, of all. Because he was very much aware of the Who’s performance. They kept that and he went back and sorted it all out. I would like to find out and when I’ve got some time I’ll make it my business to find out whether our whole performance still exists. It was certainly filmed.
RS: I saw the classic seven lineup with Mike play great live twice and it sure sounded live to me, just like that your great archival live CD, Live + 5 points out.
JH: Well that’s always been our thing isn’t it? It was only that because it was a television show. It was just a mimed television show. I mean, we were not even using the same gear or anything like that.
RS: Some web sites were saying the Lost Performance DVD was an attempt by Mike to hijack this from the band. But that’s not true ‘cause Mike had nothing to do with it, aside from co-writing some of the liner notes with me. I was the one that read about it’s upcoming release in Billboard and I just contacted Kultur in New Jersey about writing liner notes.
JH: Oh, it’s just gossip. I agree with Mike. There’s so little of the band that it’s a very valuable piece of film and good quality. I wish they’d done a deal on it, that’s all.
RS: The 2006 Moodies DVD Lovely To See You Live on Image Entertainment is a beautifully filmed current snapshot of the band. I like it better than the last DVD Hall Of Fame. You guys seem more relaxed on this one, especially on the vintage stuff.
JH: Well I think it’s much truer to the way the band really is, because there’s no orchestra. The orchestra is such a strict exercise to do. You can’t afford to let your concentration drop for a moment. But I think Lovely To See You is really as the group is and I’m very pleased with it. And they enabled me to mix it, which was even better.
RS: The interview segment on the Lovely To See You DVD was kind of interesting. I spoke with Mike about the comment that Graeme Edge made on the interview segment of the DVD about Mike’s song “Love And Beauty” being the worst song the Moody Blues ever did. I told Mike and he said, “Graeme's comment only shows him for the kind of person that he is, negative with a big chip on his shoulder. He has always been like that. No cosmic change there.”
JH: I’ve got no idea. I love the song. Mike never wrote a bad song. And I loved it because it was right at the forefront of what we were doing. And it was one of the very first songs that we did to change our image. I don’t know why he said that. It wasn’t the right thing to say. I think it’s probably just a moment of...madness, really. He probably didn’t even know that Mike had written it. He might have assumed that I’d written it. I don’t know.
RS: I want to get to the new reissues but I just wanted to ask by not involving Mike Pinder at all anymore, are you saying most people don’t care about him or the younger fans shouldn’t know about Mike?
JH: Listen, listen...It’s a struggle for me to involve myself. You’re dealing with a record company, Universal, that’s got a band with only three of the original members. So if they’re going to talk to anybody, they’re going to talk to the three that are left. That’s it. Because that’s who they have a contract with. Now, I’ve struggled to be part of these reissue things and to make my voice heard to try and get back...I got back to the original stereo tapes. All these things...you can do as much work as you want to put the effort into do, but you’ve got to be prepared to go into the record company and say I want to be part of this and I want to make sure it’s done properly. Otherwise you got ignored. There’s no reason why they should consult any of us about these reissues.
RS: Anyway, so tell us about these new 2006 deluxe edition double CD sets of the classic seven Moody Blues albums. Are they coming out in the States?
JH: I certainly hope so because the ones that were done in the ‘80s, were dreadful and it was only recently that I had a listen to them critically. And then I traced back how they were done and the ones that were done in the ‘80s, the sleeve notes were from some awful interview that was done without Mike and without Tony Clarke, again...and in fact, without me as a matter of fact! So that was the sleeve notes. There were no writers credits. And then the masters that they did it from was a copy of a copy of a copy. It was a copy made in the U.K. sent to America, where they made another copy, and then sent another copy to be mastered straight onto disc without any kind of mastering technique at all. And there were many faults and dropouts. And when they discussed about doing the reissues it was my opportunity to try and influence how they were done. So I went back to find the original stereo master and remastered them again from the original stereo master, exactly the one that was used for the vinyl. Then I tried to go back to the original sleeve work as well. Also to give writers credits for the first time on those things, because that was a dreadful omission. And so I put a lot of effort into that of my own time and paid for the remastering myself.
RS: The upcoming deluxe on Days Of Future Passed is a double CD set and looks like it has some really cool, unreleased stuff. Wow (looking at the track list) there’s “Love And Beauty” on disc two.
JH: I didn’t think there was anything that existed. They found all that stuff. They found all the outtakes and different versions and some new songs. There’s about five unreleased songs in total from the first seven albums. I’ve listened to and mastered all of the first seven albums. I think they’re only releasing five at the moment, but later on there’s unreleased stuff as well.
RS: I heard there’s a version of you doing Mike’s song “Simple Game ” with you on vocals?
JH: That’s right, yeah there is.
RS: Is it a studio version?
JH: I can’t remember what we used it for. I love the song. I can’t remember the detail of it but I know that I did the vocal on it as well as Mike. I can’t remember what we used it for.
RS: I always loved your orchestral rock tribute solo album Classic Blue, which was just reissued by Sanctuary. Is there a story on how you made that album with Mike Batt?
JH: Oh, well we’ve been friends since we were kids and it was our dream to do something together and this was the opportunity he had because he had a good tie-up with the London Philharmonic. So it really came from them and their orchestral leaders and through Mike’s connection with the London Philharmonic, to have that trust in doing some of that stuff. It was such a happy and wonderful album to make. And easy too because it was all made in just a few days. There was no like weird mixes or missed beats or anything like that. The orchestra stuff was done live in one big recording at EMI. And then I put the vocals on immediately afterwards. In fact, I sang in the orchestra but sometimes they used that version.
RS: It still sounds great and it maintains its timeless quality.
JH: Thank you very much. I’m very pleased. I was never quite sure of the sort of ethics of it or whether it was the right thing to do. But I just loved doing it and Mike’s arrangements are just brilliant.
RS: Would you consider a Classic Blue 2? Did you choose the songs for Classic Blue?
JH: No, we picked them together. We chose them together. These were just the ones that we eventually decided on. We had a list of maybe thirty songs that we could do and I’d have to look back at that list to see if we were to do it again. I don’t whether I would. I think if I work with Mike, which I’d love to do again, then it would be on something completely different.
RS: Are you planning any new studio recordings?
JH: Well I’ve got a lot of songs now written. What I’ll do with them, I’m not sure. That’s the bottom line. Whether it’s a solo thing or a Moodies thing, I’ve got no idea, but if there was a session tomorrow, I’d be ready to do it.
RS: Well you’ve got the knack. Let me know if you want me to relay any message to Mike Pinder.
JH: Give him my love and I think of him a lot with only fondness and love and I still miss him.
RS: I’d do anything to see the original band doing just a cool song in the studio. Also, how’s Ray Thomas doing?
JH: I’ve got no idea. Ray lives a very quiet life and that’s the way he wants it. He’s not in touch with anybody anymore. His life changed. He just wants to be quiet and do his own thing.
RS: Still, for me the thoughts of you and Mike possibly working again are hard to forget.
JH: I don’t know...I don’t know. I don’t think so, in truth now. Never say never, but it’s extremely unlikely...
RS: Well, I can’t wait to see the CD reissues Justin.
JH: Yeah, they’re going to be the definitive version, I promise you and I hope that all of the stuff that’s done before is forgotten, the CD stuff, ‘cause it’s just not worth it. Compared to the vinyl it was just awful.
RS: Well I’ll let you go, keep doing the great work and like Robert Wyatt used to say, ‘hope for happiness.’
JH: Yeah, that’s a nice thing to say. Always a pleasure Robert! Thank you very much. Bye.
thanks to...Justin Hayward @ www.justinhayward.co.uk - Lori Lousararian @ www.rogersandcowan.com - the fabulous artwork of Kevin Parrish @ www.kevinparrish.co.uk - and Spencer Savage @ www.image-entertainment.com