Moody Blues Front Man Reflects On Early Days As 50th Anniversary Concert Premieres On PBS

Tuesday afternoon

I’m just beginning to see

Now I’m on my way

It doesn’t matter to me

Chasing the clouds away.

~Justin Hayward, The Moody Blues

Truth be told, it wasnt cloudy at all the day Justin Hayward wrote Tuesday Afternoon, and at the time he had no idea how far he would go and the millions of people he would inspire along his way.

Photo Courtesy of Rogers & Cowan

The Moody Blues

The now 71-year-old front-man of the iconic "prog" band, The Moody Blues, did this reporter and forever fan the honor of an interview last week to discuss the 50th anniversary of the band’s release of Days of Future Passed, one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time, featuring Nights in White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon, among others.

Now, thanks to PBS, all fans will get a front-row seat for the bands 50th anniversary performance of the entire LP live at Torontos Sony Centre when Great Performances The Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live premieres on PBS stations nationwide on November 25. (As it turns out, the premier also falls on this reporter’s 50th birthday.)

Great Performances concert special showcases the band in performance for the first time with a full orchestra in a spectacle that recreates their pioneering concept album. Recorded with a full orchestra, the show is narrated by British actor Jeremy Irons and features atmospheric projections, transporting viewers back to the psychedelic era of The Moody Blues classic 1967 record. The film also pays homage to the bands five decades of musical influence and showcases their groundbreaking foray into progressive rock.

©PatriciaSeatonPhotography

Great Peformances: Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live, Sony Centre, Toronto. Justin Hayward (l) and John Lodge.

Great Performances is produced by THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. Throughout its more than 40-year history on public television, the show has showcased the best in all genres of the performing arts.

©PatriciaSeatonPhotography

Great Peformances: Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live, Sony Centre, Toronto. Graeme Edge.

It is indeed a big year for Moody Blues fans as 2017 marks the first time the band has been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. According to the Halls website, Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock & roll.

That decision will be announced next month, but as for the time of this writing, The Moody Blues are second only to Bon Jovi in votes among 19 potential nominees. Five are chosen each year.

Photo Courtesy of The Moody Blues

The Moody Blues

But back in 1967, before The Moody Blues had for the first time fused rock with classical music, when Hayward was just 20 years old, he was sitting in a field just west of England and near Stonehenge with his little dog, Tuesday. (He said he named the dog for actress Tuesday Weld, on whom he had an enormous crush at the time.) It was such a lovely day and the sky was so lovely. It was a fairytale day and my little dog loved the situation. Its as simple as that, Hayward said. Me and Tuesday went back to where my parents lived and I sat in the field smoking a joint and wrote it.

In reality, Hayward said, he had gone to stay with his parents temporarily because he was too broke to live on his own. I was pretty broke. We were only making $30 to $50 a night to play. Its such a silly little song. It was one of the throw away songs that ended up being on an album, but it was a particular favorite of Peter Knight, and he and London Records seized on it. The orchestral interludes were by Peter Knight. But it was the perfect single for American radio in the 60s.

Photo Courtesy of The Moody Blues

The Moody Blues

Hayward said Tuesday Afternoon was one of many things that would surprise him over his more than 50-year career in the music industry. If Id have known I would have enjoyed every moment, every second. But life isnt like that, is it? You never know whats around every turn. Theres an assumption that theres a plan about musicians and recording artists, but there isnt. Its throw it out there and see what happens. Ive never chased a hit sound. Luckily Ive been with record labels who let me write what I wanted, but along with success comes a lot of failure.

So what is it about The Moody Blues that not only had a significant influence on the development and evolution of rock and roll, but has continued to draw new fans for five decades? Hayward said he wasnt sure, but like everyone else, is still surprised by it. People love the music of their youth and the memories that come with it, he said. Im still amazed people love this music. Im very honored.

©PatriciaSeatonPhotography

Great Peformances: Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live, Sony Centre, Toronto. Justin Hayward.

©PatriciaSeatonPhotography

Great Peformances: Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live, Sony Centre, Toronto. John Lodge.

But some would argue that The Moody Blues havent gotten near the recognition they deserve. Rob Chapman, for example, in his 2015 article for The Guardian, The Moody Blues Psychedelias Forgotten Heroes, posits, They deserve their place in my book Psychedelia and Other Colours alongside Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and the rest of the psychedelic A-list not least because it was in the fringes of psychedelia that much of the genres best music was made

Chapman goes on to say that Days of Future Passed was followed by a quartet of massively successful albums: In Search of the Lost Chord (1968); On the Threshold of a Dream (1969); To Our Childrens Childrens Children (1969); and A Question of Balance (1970). Chapman brilliantly describes The Moody Blues albums and sound this way: Each showcased the Moodies distinctive new sound Mellotron-led, multilayered instrumentation tinged with a hint of melancholy, and banks of lusciously yearning vocals topped off with lyrics full of alliterative doggerel about mans place in the bigger scheme of things.

Piano player Mike Pinder actually introduced the Mellotron to the band. The piano just wasnt working with the songs we were writing at the time. The Mellotron fit, Hayward said. It was a sound effects machine with sounds like trains and dogs, very Spike Jones. But it had some orchestral sounds on itcellos and flutes and violins. Mike decided to duplicate the orchestral sounds. It really gave us that identity.

Photo Courtesy of Rogers & Cowan

The Moody Blues

And it was that orchestral sound that propelled The Moody Blues into the category of Psychedelia alongside Pink Floyd and others. Indeed, Nights in White Satin was another of what Hayward would call throw away songs that ended up changing music forever. But he said there just isn’t any way to predict which songs will do that. I was at the end of a big love affair and at the beginning of another, he recalled of writing the fan favorite. It was a series of random thoughts after a gig at three or four in the morning. Ive written songs and thought, This is the one, and my mother was the only one who bought it. Im absolutely no judge of whats it.

©PatriciaSeatonPhotography

Great Peformances: Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed Live, Sony Centre, Toronto.

What definitely was it during the era of Psychedelia was marijuana, and while Hayward got a kick out of the discussion about it, he said there were many other bands known for their "music to get stoned by." (Who knew there are actually lists about these online?) Dont just implicate me, he joked.

I can only speak for myself, but even in the 40s, the jazz and Beatnik eras, it was the high of choice for artsy people because alcohol was expensive, Hayward said.

Hayward said marijuana was the drug of choice in London in the 50s and 60s as well. It was a society of hip people in London. That was what you shared, not alcohol, and cocaine hadnt taken hold.

He said he didnt want the disorganization in his work that he thinks alcohol promotes. I could always tell the difference between musicians who smoked a joint or drank a bottle of Jack Daniels while performing. The ones who drank the bottle of Jack Daniels were untogether and sloppy about it.

And while he didnt go so far as to credit being stoned for the brilliance of his work, he said hes not at all sure he would have written the same songs without the influence of marijuana. It opened a particular world to me almost of solitude and introversion and helped me to look inside myself and express a little easier and with less inhibitions.

But he said he knew when it was time to move on from the high life, he said, describing the bands transition into the sounds of the 80s. The 80s was a wonderful time for the group, he said. It wasnt as serious and intense. To have another opportunity to be recognized in the street was a dream come true for me in my forties. It was necessary and Im so glad that it happened because I think the whole prog rock era was over and we needed to move forward with sounds we were making. There was no where else to go.

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