The 60s witnessed an unprecedented explosion of new bands and artists, and the pressure on each to jostle for a position of notoriety must have been immense. Into this musical melting pot came an ingredient by the name of the Moody Blues. The band’s roots lay in the Birmingham blues and R&B scene of the early to mid 60s. The original quintet were Denny Laine (guitar/vocals), Mike Pinder (keyboards/vocals), Ray Thomas (flute, harmonics, vocals), Graeme Edge (drums), and Clint Warwick (bass/vocals), all of who brought considerable craft and experience to the table from previous bands. The band’s name is a combination of blues (as in the style of music they loved), and Moody taken from Mike Pinder’s favourite song - Duke Ellington’s ‘Mood Indigo’.
After building up a solid live following with a combination of blues standards, Motown covers and some original material, the Moody Blues came to the attention of talent scouts and were soon signed up to the Decca label. They released the single ‘Go Now!’ in late ‘64, and the song rocketed to #1 in the U.K. (US#10/OZ#14). The band eventually released an album in July of ‘65, modestly titled ‘The Magnificent Moodies’. But the band’s fortunes waned over the ensuing 18 months and by the end of ‘66, both Warwick and Laine had left the scene. Denny Laine went on to be a core member of Paul McCartney’s 70s powerhouse Wings (and would on occasion sing ‘Go Now! During concerts).
In 1967, the Moody Blues joined the wave of bands to become enamoured with the Mellotron (a keyboard able to recreate flute/violin and other instruments - think the Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields’). It opened up a whole new suite of possibilities for the band, and soon they shifted away from straight up blues and rock, to a more psychedelic, classical amalgam. They released the landmark album ‘Days Of Future Passed’ (UK#27/ US#3/OZ#18) in 1967, featuring, what would arguably be their signature song, ‘Nights In White Satin’ (UK#19/OZ#8), one of the most emotive songs of its time, or any time for that matter.
The 70s started for the Moody Blues where the 60s left off, releasing the album ‘A Question Of Balance’ (UK#1/ US#3/OZ#4), featuring the epic single ‘Question’ (UK#2/ US#21/OZ#36). The orchestral sections of the song have always put me in mind of the title music that might be used for a western - grandiose in scale. By this time, critics of the band were levelling the charge of their music being bombastic and pretentious, with overly elaborate orchestral sections and overly verbose and obtuse lyrics. But my view is the Moody Blues were far from pretentious in their music - they were ambitious and ground breaking in much of what they did. They were one of the first ‘classical-pomp’ groups, that had graduated from playing clubs to filling arena’s and releasing albums almost at whim.
Having dominated album charts and established a massive live following over the previous six years, the Moody Blues took the decision in early ‘73 to put the band on hold for an indefinite sabbatical. All five members actively pursued various and sundry solo projects, though Hayward and Lodge spent part of the time away working as a duo called the Blue Jays. During their absence their record label released a best of compilation, and a live set to appease hungry fans.