Forty years ago, the Moody Blues sang about being just a singer in a rock 'n' roll band.
But it's been so much more than that for the long-lived British group.
Formed in 1964, the Moodys have sold more than 70 million albums and notched hit singles across four decades -- including enduring tracks such as "Nights in White Satin," "Tuesday Afternoon," "The Voice," "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere."
The band is a member of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, while a sustained fan lobby continues for consideration in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- though singer-guitarist Justin Hayward says that prospect "doesn't impact me at all." What does resonate for him, however, is the Moodys' continuing popularity, regardless of whether or not the group has any new music to offer its fans.
"The three of us really want to celebrate the music and enjoy the experience and share what it means to a lot of people," explains Hayward, 66, who joined the Moodys in 1966 with singer-bassist John Lodge, who remains in the lineup along with original drummer Graeme Edge. "That's a kind of drug in itself, really, particularly since there's been such a large body of work. The great success we had in the 80s with hit singles, that particular group of (fans) still represents the major part of our touring audience. I think a lot of people joined us then, and then in the 90s.
"So it continues. And I think this is the best sort of incarnation of the band that I've ever been in, this most recent one with the musicians we have now. It's great."
Like any band with such a long and extensive history, however, Hayward and company regularly encounter their share of anniversaries. And 2012 includes three notable landmarks, which the guitarist -- who's recorded a new solo album for release in 2013 -- is happy to address:
DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED
The Moodys, sophomore set, the best-known and most highly regarded of its 16 studio albums -- and home of the timeless "Nights in White Satin" -- turned 45 last month and is being commemorated during the band's current tour, according to Hayward.
"We're doing a few more songs from that album and using it as something to talk about and remind people about," he says.
But even this far along Hayward adds that he and his bandmates remain surprised at the impact of the album, one of the first to combine a rock band with a full orchestra -- in this case the London Festival Orchestra, whose parts were added onto the songs separately.
"I thought we were making kind of an arty album that would appeal to a few people and I might get invited to some cocktail parties -- that's about as far as I thought," explains Hayward, who made his Moodys debut with Lodge on "Day..." He credits its success to timing -- the growing ranks of FM radio stations at, which were willing to play longer songs and more experimental material, and to "people suddenly buying stereo systems, wanting to listen to music stoned or straight on headphones and in stereo."
In fact, he adds, the latter was Decca Records' marketing hook when "Days..." was released. "It was a demonstration record to try to sell their consumer division's products," Hayward recalls. "It was recorded so beautifully that it was just perfect for all these new formats which a lot of pop things weren't. They didn't sound that great in stereo...whereas we had a classical engineer and it was beautifully mastered. It was lovely."
And "Days..." paid dividends for the band besides a platinum album. "The greatest thing that ever happened to us was that after 'Days of Future Passed,' the chairman of Decca called us to have lunch with him," Hayward says. "I was sitting next to him at the end of the table, and he said, 'I don't know what you boys are doing but people seem to love it, so just go ahead and you can have the studio whenever you want.'
"And, of course, that was like being let loose in a candy store. That's what we wanted was to be in the studio making records, and he did us the greatest favor in those days when record companies did have big recording studios and these amazing staffs and well-trained engineers. It was just fantastic."
A stark counterpoint to "Days..." bonhomme, 1972's "Seventh Sojourn" is not one of Hayward's favorites in the Moodys' ouvre.
"It was an excellent album, but it was an album made by a group that was going to split up, and I knew that when we were making it," he relates. "We'd developed lives outside of the band. Everybody had wives and they were having their say. It wasn't just the five guys in a transit van going up the motorways. It had gotten much larger than that -- managers and everything.
"I listen to it, but it's kind of a painful album and it evokes something in me I don't really want to be reminded of."
The 40-year-old "Seventh Sojourn" did reach No. 5 on the Billboard charts, was certified gold and spawned the singles "Isn't Life Strange" and "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)." But even a cursory look at other song titles -- "When You're a Free Man," "Lost in a Lost World," "New Horizons" -- indicate where the group members' heads were at that time.
"It's in just about every song on the record, definitely," Hayward notes. "Mike (Pinder) wasn't comfortable in the band. He didn't feel it anymore. And the other guys didn't want to work on the road and it all became very difficult. I knew there was a kind of car crash coming."
The Moodys did, in fact, split up in 1974, although it turned into more of a hiatus during which Hayward and Lodge launched their Blue Jays project and also released solo albums, as did keyboardist Pinder. Drummer Edge recorded a pair of albums with guitarist Adrian Gruvitz, while flutist Ray Thomas released two collaborations with Nicky James.
The Moodys came back together in 1977, releasing the "Octave" album the following year. Pinder quit for good after that, while Thomas remained with the band until 2002.
CAUGHT LIVE + 5
This curio came out in 1977 and was perhaps a catalyst for the Moodys reunion later that year. "It gave us a reason to go into the office and see each other, and I was quite glad about that," Hayward says.
The two disc set features a concert recorded Dec. 12, 1969 at London's Royal Albert Hall, with the addition -- as the title indicates -- of five studio tracks from the era that never appeared on previous albums.
"I thought the live recording was lousy -- and still do," Hayward says with a laugh. "Royal Albert Hall is a wonderful venue, but terrible sound and very difficult to manage. And the + 5 were done in a sort of vain, stoned attempt to kind of follow up 'Nights in White Satin.' They could have been released at the time, but we got too insecure about them!"
Hayward, in fact, wrote three of the five "new" songs, which he says reflects the way the Moodys worked at the time.
"The other guys were always looking fro me to come up with something, to always be the first one to put a couple songs into the album -- 'Oh well, Justin will have a couple of things," he recalls. "Otherwise we'd be sitting there twiddling our thumbs and saying, 'What about you? What about this? What about that?'
"I was a bit of a conscientious kid about it, always doing my 'homework.' If there was a recording date, I'd always have two or three songs ready, and that gave the other guys a bit of confidence to get something going. Once I'd mad an ass of myself out there, then they could have a go.
"And it's still like that now, I think."
The Moody Blues perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $48.50-$78.50. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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