Count the Moody Blues among the many notable bands celebrating 50th anniversaries this year -- in this case 50 years since the group's formation in Manchester, England.
But it's an odd landmark for singer-guitarist Justin Hayward, who didn't join the band, along with bassist John Lodge, until November of 1966, after original members Denny Laine and Clint Warwick departed. "(Keyboardist) Mike Pinder was the one who called me because he'd heard some of my songs," recalls Hayward, 67, who was playing in another band called the Wilde Three. "I came to the group as a guitar player kind of masquerading as a singer as well, but they were a Rhythm & Blues group at the time, and I was lousy at Rhythm & Blues.
"So it wasn't a great star for me with the band, but I think Mike was also the one who recognized that and realized that we had to do our own material and establish an identity, which the group didn't have at that time. So it all turned out alright in the end."
It was more than alright, of course; with Hayward and Lodge the Moodys were a smash off the bat with 1967's orchestral "Days of Future Passed" and its signature hit "Nights in White Satin." The Moodys have lodged 10 gold and platinum albums and sold more than 55 million records worldwide, while its fans have waged a fierce campaign for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hayward, Lodge and original drummer Graeme Edge, meanwhile, continue to soldier on as a regular touring act and also host an annual ocean cruise.
New Moodys music, however, isn't a priority. The group's last album was a holiday set, "December," in 2003, while it's last all-original album was 1999's "Strange Times." Hayward continues to curate archival releases -- another one, "The Polydor Years," is due out this fall -- but he's more interested in making his own music these days.
"I suspect that even a Moodys record would still mean I was doing solo records and just calling them Moodys," says Hayward, who recently released "Spirits...Live at the Bulkhead Theatre, Atlanta" on CD and home video. "The solo thing gives me the freedom to do what I want when I want. I live in the south of France. I record in Genoa. I don't need anybody else to come there to help me and I go to a little studio in Nice and I just feel comfortable.
"Recording has become a process of capturing the moment when I think that I've got a good version of the song that I've written, and to just do that instead of trying to work it up with the band. I'm being selfish, but I think I have to be now, at my age."
The Moody Blues
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30
Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Tickets are $38.50-$68.50
Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com
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