Since their 1964 origin, England's the Moody Blues have combined lush, orchestral pop with more rock-edged material to score hits like "Go Now," "Tuesday Afternoon," "Ride My See-Saw," "Question," "The Story in Your Eyes" and, of course, "Nights in White Satin." And save a three-year hiatus in the '70s, the band has toured and recorded consistently, both on its own and with orchestras worldwide.
The Moodys' core trio of original member Graeme Edge (drums), and classic lineuppers Justin Hayward (vocals/guitar) and John Lodge (bass/vocals) will be augmented by five other musicians for their current tour. In Houston, the band is also offering a pre-show intimate "Storytellers Experience" and backstage tour with the purchase of a VIP ticket package.
Rocks Off spoke with Edge - who wrote the famous "Late Lament" spoken-word poem recited during "Nights in White Satin" ("Breathe deep, the gathering gloom/ Watch lights fade from every room") - about the song's longevity, the band's first drive through Texas, and why he's known at family dinners as "Grandpa Drums."
Rocks Off: So in high school, I memorized "Late Lament" and would break it out occasionally to show girls that I was deep and could hopefully get laid. It never worked.
GE: Well, they probably got the wrong idea that you were sensitive. Maybe you should have just sang the song!
RO: You wrote the poem, so why did keyboardist Mike Pinder recite it on record?
GE: At the time, he had consumed a lot more cigarettes and whiskey then I had, so he had the better voice for that!
RO: You just turned 70 a few weeks ago. Did you have any idea when the band started that you'd still be on the road well past pensioner age?
GE: Hell, I didn't think I'd be on the road after 30 (laughs). At that time, nobody over that age... or even 25... even listened to rock and roll. But we hadn't thought that our fans would grow old with us.
RO: I understand that your version of "Nights in White Satin" just hit the charts in England for the fourth time since its release, because a contestant on "the X Factor" sang it. At what point did you really know that this song was going to be huge?
GE: Actually, before we recorded it when it was in rehearsal. At that time, the BBC required so much live music be played on the airwaves because of the musician's union. We did an acoustic version for them with the backing vocals but without the strings. And when we were listening to it back in the booth, we all kind of looked at each other and said, "Now we've got something there!"
We felt that even more when we did the real version. Oddly enough, it didn't do that well as a single when it came out. Later, radio stations in the U.S. started playing it, and it just took off from there.
RO: Do you have any particular memories of being in Houston over the years?
GE: The biggest memory I have was the first time we were doing shows in Texas, we decided to drive rather than fly. But three inches in a map of Texas is a lot more distance than three inches on a map of England (laughs). We had no idea how far apart things were!
And we'd seen a lot of cowboy movies set in Texas - though later we found out it was actually the Arizona desert. So we were surprised that Houston and parts of East Texas were so green. Then we'd go into places to eat and everyone would have jeans and a cowboy hat on, and we'd have our hair down to our waist, probably wearing scarlet and psychedelic colors.
It was a bit like the Klingons meeting the Vulcans! But we were so far apart, nobody got mad.
RO: You are the sole member left from the band's original lineup, though Justin and John came onboard shortly thereafter. If any one of you left, would the band continue?
GE: There's no pact amongst us, but I don't see how the band could continue without Justin. He is that voice. I'm probably the only one who could carry on, but I don't think that will happen. We've all sort of talked about it. But we'll probably keep going until we can't do it anymore...or nobody comes to see us! But nobody wants to quit.
RO: In recent years, we've seen Yes tour without the very distinctive voice of Jon Anderson.
GE: Yes, but their band is more about instrumental performances. We're more about vocal performance and lyrics. We also don't have that much soloing, musical passages where you say the same line four times then go off for 40 bars.
RO: In the '80s, a lot of younger people's first exposure to the Moody Blues was with the videos for "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" on MTV.
GE: We were gratified to have those hits, because we had hoped to reach a new audience. And those videos are like mini-movies with good stories. You can sort of see it in the audience with the original fans in the 65-70-year-old range...or even the 85 to 90-year-old range (laughs), and then those who know us from those videos.
RO: The Moody Blues are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in company with Deep Purple, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Rush. Yet, they've inducted one-hit soul wonders, esoteric critic's darlings, reggae artists, blues players, and pop performers. What does the Hall have against popular prog-rock?
GE: I think about it. I mean, Boston isn't in!
RO: Neither are Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, or Journey.
GE: The Doobie Brothers! They should absolutely be in, especially. That rock, that country rock. Don't mess with it, baby (laughs). But it has to be political. Still, every time the nominations come around and we're not mentioned, our fans light up the Internet about it. There's outrage! So at least it brings some attention that way. Maybe it's not a bad thing to not be in it.
RO: So what are the band's plans after this tour?
GE: We've got six weeks off, and at that point I'll get around to my favorite restaurants and reintroduce myself to my grandkids. I live just outside of Tampa Bay in Florida. Then we go to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, then it's Christmas, then next year a U.S. casino tour.
RO: Do your grandkids know what you do for a living?
GE: Of the four of them, two of them are old enough to know. When my 13 year-old first saw a concert, she thought it was all a bit silly that I was up there on stage. But they all call me "Grandpa Drums!"
The Moody Blues play 8 p.m. Friday, April 29, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.
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