Justin Hayward on
"Theater van het Sentiment"
KRO Dutch Radio
May 21, 2009
Theater van het Sentiment (Sentimental Theater) is a Dutch radio program. Each three-hour broadcast highlights the top hits and news stories of a particular day in history. Today we go back to May 21, 1970, when 'Question' was burning up the charts. About one hour into the program, the host conducted a phone interview with Moody Blues frontman Justin Hayward.
The majority of the program was in Dutch, but the interview was in English. The host paused periodically to translate into Dutch. I tried to find out the name of the host, but my research provided me with several names and I'm afraid I wasn't sure who it was.
Host: Mr. Justin Hayward, good evening!
Justin Hayward (on the phone): Hello, good evening!
H: We are very honored to have you on the show. About the song 'Question' - it's 1970, right? You wrote that song....what was it that inspired you to write 'Question?'
JH: Well, I think....it was actually two songs put together. Now that I've said that, if anybody listens to it, they'll say, "Oh well, obviously it's two songs." But I knew I had to come up with a song for a session on a Saturday morning from 10 until 1, and I knew that the other guys were relying on me. And in the middle of the night Friday night, I still didn't have a song to really present. But I did have two bits, one that was to do with a kind of anti-war protest song. We were very much involved with the anti-war - Vietnam War - people in America, as most boys of our age were at that time. And also I'd written a kind of love song that I didn't really have an ending for. And I put both things together because they were in the same key and they just seemed to work. So I had this big old 12-string, and I had this opening riff and a kind of bass line that went with it. And so the next day - Saturday - I went into the studio and played it to everyone and they said, "Yeah, great, let's do that!" And that was it! (chuckle)
H: That's a great story!
JH: And then, it came out a long time before the album, but it was a great record for us because it made the top of the charts in a lot of places at the same time, and it was a wonderful time.
H: Yeah, it's a special song, I think. Let's listen to a part of the song because....well, it's a fragment of 'Question.'
~short bit of 'Question'~
H: Ooh, wow, that's got a great drive, that song. It's also got a lot of words! A lot of lyrics!
JH: Yes! (chuckle) It does in that part, yes, certainly.
H: Well, I have it here for me. It's really a lot of words. What about singing this song live? Because you have to know it by heart, of course. Do you ever forget the words?
JH: No, I don't. And I found, in all the years that I've been playing on stage, that if you stop and really think about the line that you're about to sing, chances are that you might forget it (chuckle), so it's best to kind of switch on to automatic, I find.
H: It never happened to you?
JH: Umm....it's happened to me a couple of times where I've woken up in the middle of a song and thought, what is gonna happen? ..and then I made the most awful mistake. But never on 'Question,' no. Some other songs that have lots....there's a song that we do called 'Are You Sitting Comfortably,' and try as I might, I can never remember all of the words. But 'Question,' no, it comes naturally.
H: Maybe then, it's an even greater song if it comes naturally. Is that true? How does it work, you think?
JH: Well, it's certainly a very....I find it a very easy song. And often, particularly in places like Holland actually, and different parts of America, the audience will sing along, particularly with the slow parts in the middle, and that's always very moving and I like it very much, yeah.
H: Now, you're in the band for a couple of years. I think you had your impact on the sound of the band, of the Moody Blues....can you describe to me what your impact was? What your ideas of the music inside Moody Blues was?
JH: Well, when I was 19 I came to the band as a songwriter in 1966, but the group was a rhythm & blues band, and I find that my songs didn't really work in that rhythm & blues format. But when Mike - our original keyboard player - and myself found an instrument called the Mellotron, it really worked with my songs, because it gave an orchestral kind of twist to a lot of my writing. And that was the key to make my songs work, I think....the sound of the Mellotron and the Moody Blues' vocal style with the high harmonies made everything fall into place.
H: Yeah, that's what I say. Plus your voice, let's say....your high-pitched voice, right?
JH: Well, I never thought of myself as a singer, I was just a guitar player who wrote songs. But I think I'm quite fortunate to have a voice that people can recognize even if they don't know their name...."Oh, that's that guy from the Moody Blues" ....they know the sound of it. I'm very fortunate.
H: This was the first song of this new album, 'Days Of Future Passed,' with of course....yeah....the mega-hit 'Nights In White Satin,' and 'Forever Afternoon/Tuesday Afternoon.' Great, great songs. What do you remember of this period of the Moody Blues at its best, I think?
JH: Well, we were at a time when we had nothing to lose. And when we made 'Days Of Future Passed' and 'Tuesday Afternoon' and 'Nights' and all of those songs, we had no idea that it would have any kind of commercial success. We thought we were just making a stereo demonstration record and recording our own songs. We didn't think it was in any way commercial or would sell. But when it did, it really changed our lives, and we're very grateful for that.
H: You and Moody Blues were more, let's say, an "album" band than a "single" band, you agree with me?
JH: Yes. It was our purpose to, in our early years, to only make albums, yes. We didn't agree with any of the A & R guys and we didn't play those kind of commercial games. And we were lucky that Decca and the record companies that distributed us around the world let us get on and do what we wanted to do, and I think it proved to be the best thing.
H: Was it a hard fight?
JH: It was always a difficult fight because, as I'm sure you know from your experience in radio, that record promotion guys change a lot. Every year or so somebody'll come in and have a new idea ...."Hey, the Moody Blues ought to do this, they ought to do that, and you need to make another 'Nights In White Satin' " and things, and of course we always resisted and just wanted to do our own stuff. And so I think we were probably proved right.
H: It's great talking to you, Justin. You'll be in Holland in July for the KRO Radio production 'War Of The Worlds?'
JH: Yes, I'm looking forward to it very much....the Heineken where we had a lot of fun always with the Moody Blues over the years, and last winter as well, we were there. I look forward to it very much. It's a great show, and anybody that wants to see that kind of spectacular -
H: What's to expect?
JH: Well, it's set in costume in the H.G. Wells story of the 1890s, and it's a musical version of the landing of the Martians and how they take over the earth. And there's a 100-foot screen behind the stage, a hologram of Richard Burton who narrates the story, and an orchestra and the Black Smoke Band with Chris Spedding, Herbie Flowers and myself. And it's a spectacular story, you'll never see anything like it. It's Martian fighting machines coming down out of the sky and....
H: So it's the film coming to live on stage, or....?
JH: It's the original story coming to life, yes, and it's very impressive.
H: Well, we'll meet in July then, Justin, and we'll talk about 'War Of The Worlds' and everythng that happens that night.
JH: And I'll look forward to that.
H: What about your plans with your solo things? What's happening?
JH: I'm doing quite a lot of recordings, and I hope to find an outlet for those, some way to release them. And I think....also this summer I'm out with the Moody Blues through the United States for quite a long tour, two and a half months. But just about to come out, is the Murray Lerner film of the Moody Blues at the Isle Of Wight in 1970, so we're concentrating on making that the theme of our Moody Blues tour as well. And it's a very special film and it really shows us at a point in our career that is quite unique.
H: OK, that's the Isle Of Wight, it was a great festival.
JH: Yes. Well, now this summer it's out on DVD as a film, yes.
H: Justin Hayward, it was great talking to you.
JH: It's always a pleasure, thank you so much.
H: Thanks a lot, and we'll meet in July in Holland for the production of 'War Of The Worlds.'
H: OK, thanks. Bye!