How Moody Blues ‘Days of Future Passed’ will celebrate 50 years at the Hollywood Bowl
Posted: 06/02/17, 8:35 AM PDT
Before they recorded their 1967 iconic album “Days of Future Passed,” The Moody Blues had found some success doing cover versions of American blues and pop songs. Until then, the British band’s biggest hit was a 1965 cover of “Go Now,” which came out during the height of what was called the British Invasion.
But the band hadn’t broken out like their fellow British acts the Animals or Kinks had. In 1966, the Moody Blues reorganized, with bassist-singer John Lodge and guitarist-singer Justin Hayward joining the reformed band.
“We had never been to America; so was really a strange thing to be covering all these songs and not really knowing the heritage,” recalled Lodge, who along with the rest of the Moody Blues will be celebrating “Days of Future Passed” with a tour beginning in the Agua Caliente and Pala casinos this weekend, including opening the Hollywood Bowl on June 17.
On their way back from a gig, the band members decided they needed to start writing their own songs.
“We decided we’d be faithful to ourselves and trust in our own abilities,” Lodge said.
So the group put together about 45 minutes of their own material when they were due to go in the recording studio in September, some three months after the release of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
For the album, the Decca record company — largely a classical label — wanted to create a sampler of classical music — like Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” — paired with a pop band to highlight its new stereo technology.
“Somehow in their minds we fit the bill,” Lodge said. “So we agreed to it, but we weren’t going to do it. We were going to record the songs we had been playing on stage.”
Once they finished a tune, the band would turn it over to be orchestrated by conductor Peter Knight, who was heading up The London Festival Orchestra.
In those days, there was nothing Rhe Moody Blues could do about a long-playing album having two sides, but like the Beatles had done with “Sgt. Pepper,” they did decide to eliminate the spaces between songs so the only break came when you had to flip the record over.
“We just wanted to try something totally different,” Lodge admitted. “We didn’t want to be involved in the 21/2 minute song that went on AM radio. We wanted our music to be the whole album.”
It took a week for the band to record the songs.
“Can you believe a week to make an album?” Lodge asked.
But the band had to wait a few more weeks for the album to be mixed with the orchestration. When they got the call it was ready, they set up some giant speakers in the studio and invited friends, wives and record executives to a listening party, not sure of what they had.
“We turned out the lights — as one did in those days — and played the album,” Lodge remembered. “It was incredible because when the album finished there was not a sound.”
The writer of The Moody Blues’ hits like “Ride My See-Saw” and “I’m Just a Singer” said it took a second listen for them to understand what they created.
“I don’t think we could believe what we just produced,” says Lodge. “It was something really new to us, particularly in England.”
The concept rock album, released in November 1967, quickly climbed the charts, spawning a couple of hits — “Knights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” — but when critics attributed its success to the addition of the orchestra, the band returned to the studio six months later to prove them wrong.
Pointedly playing all the instruments, they recorded “In Search of the Lost Chord.” That album, too, was a hit, and the band finally got to go to the U.S. They had two dates booked — the Fillmore East in New York City and the Fillmore West in San Francisco — on opposite sides of the country, two months apart. They filled in the time playing “psychedelic clubs” and seeing the country they had only heard through music.
What sets this tour apart is that for the first time, The Moody Blues will perform “Days of Future Passed” in its entirety in the original running sequence with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. “It’s been interesting for us to do this, too,” Lodge said about “Future Passed.” “There is a song of mine called ‘(Evening) Time To Get Away,’ and the last time I actually sang that song was when we recorded the album.”
With all the technology available now would the band even need an orchestra anymore?
“You mustn’t let technology take over from the creative side,” Lodge warned. “That’s the part that makes you feel good.”