The Moody Blues -- Survivalists
In a news item courtesy of Higher & Higher – The Moody Blues magazine – we hear that the Moody Blues' 1967 hit, “Nights in White Satin,” has just made another “best of” list. This time Gregory Godek (author of 1001 Ways to be Romantic) has put “Nights” in his list of “The 100 Best Love Songs of the 20th Century.” This list is, we are told, the result of a comprehensive survey which includes all genres of popular music from 1940 to 1990. So perhaps Godek’s list should be renamed “The 100 Best Love Songs of the Latter Half (More or Less) of the 20th Century.” In any case, “Nights” was #91 on the list of 100. The song is a staple on FM radio – and has been for over 30 years.
The Moodies are still around, still recording (their latest album, Strange Times, came out less than a year ago)[this was written in March, 2000], and still touring – having just come off a February tour of the U.S., and preparing for a Spring 2000 Tour of the U.K. which begins April 14th. And that's a credit to their longevity as a band.
The Moody Blues formed in Birmingham, England, in May 1964. They were founded by guitarist Denny Laine and the other members were Ray Thomas on horns, Mike Pinder on keyboards, Graeme Edge on drums and Clint Warwick on bass. They were influenced by American R&B, as so many British bands of that era were.
Their first single, “Lose Your Money” b/w “Steal Your Heart Away,” went nowhere but their second, “Go Now” b/w “It's Easy Child,” was a different story. It shot to the top of the British charts and made it to #10 here in the U.S. The record was a cover of a previous R&B hit by its author, Bessie Banks – but the Moodies’ version eclipsed the original, leading many young rock fans of that era to conclude that it was the Moody Blues’ original song.
The first Moody Blues album was issued in the U.K. in 1966 as The Magnificent Moodies on British Decca (LK 4711). In the U.S. London issued it as Go Now – The Moody Blues #1 (LL 3428 in mono; PS 428 in stereo). The album collects their best singles (“Lose Your Money” was omitted) and includes four Denny Laine compositions (the rest are covers).
But in August, 1966, Laine and Warwick left the band. Warwick left music altogether, but Laine went solo and eventually joined Paul McCartney’s Wings.
John Lodge joined on bass, and Justin Hayward took over guitar. This and the band’s acquisition of a Mellotron – a keyboard instrument which plays prerecorded tapes – caused a revolutionary shift in the band’s musical direction. They left R&B behind and became what would in hindsight be called a “progressive” band.
Originally the band was scheduled to join the London Symphony Orchestra to record Dvorak's “New World Symphony,” but this plan fell by the wayside and Days of Future Past (Deram) was recorded instead. One of rock’s first (1967) concept albums, it was based around the different times of a single day. The band did not end up playing with the Orchestra, but alternated with it, the Mellotron sounding like the Orchestra coming through a cheesy AM radio.
It was this album which first presented “Nights in White Satin,” as well as “Tuesday Afternoon.” The latter got to #24 in the U.S. charts. “Nights” made it to #2 in the U.S. and #19 in the U.K., the band’s first chart success since “Go Now.” The album itself got to #27 in the U.K., but made it all the way to #3 in the U.S.
After six more albums, the group took an extended holiday in 1972, most of its members pursuing solo projects, but in 1978 the band resumed new recording and touring – without keyboardist Pinder. The Moody Blues are survivalists – and are still going strong today.