Justin Hayward & John Lodge on "Planet Rock"
September 20, 2008
Planet Rock can be found at Sky Channel 0110, Cable 924 and at their website. This is a slightly paraphrased transcript of an interview with Justin Hayward and John Lodge of the Moody Blues.
Host: Mark Jeeves
~'Gypsy Of A Strange & Distant Time' from IOW~
Mark Jeeves: So, what are your first musical memories?
Justin Hayward: Well, for me, it was in church, singing hymns. We sang from the New English Hymnal, which I quite liked. Those songs stay with you forever. Later I had a few piano lessons, and then I learned the ukelele. I picked that up quickly, the ukelele was easy....it's the top four strings of the guitar. When I mastered...well, as soon as I could play that, I knew I could play the guitar...that I knew everything about guitars. Then I got a guitar when I was nine or ten.
MJ: Why the ukelele? Was it just lying around?
JH: Well, a ukelele was really cheap! You could get them at Woolworths, they were made in China or some far eastern country. And the parents...."I want a guitar, I want a guitar" ...."Well, how about a ukelele?" (chuckle) ...you could get them for about three bob.
MJ: What was your introduction to rock music?
JH: Me? I guess it was through American records and radio, and Radio Luxembourg. There wasn't much on the Light Programme. I liked Johnny Ray a lot, that was the early 50s. And I heard other people's songs, and I liked skiffle. When I heard Buddy Holly, I was sold. That was '57.
MJ: Is there a favorite Buddy Holly song we can play?
JH: The first song I remember loving was 'Looking For Someone To Love,' which was actually his second recording of that, I didn't know that. He did it for the Coral Label.
~'Looking For Someone To Love' by Buddy Holly~
MJ: We've heard from Justin. John, what are your earliest musical memories?
John Lodge: Well, I'm from Birmingham. I suppose my first exposure to music was "quiet hour" at junior school. Birmingham has one of the best symphonies in the world, the CBS Symphony, and each afternoon from 3:00 to 3:30 we had to sit down and listen to classical music. That was probably the first time I really listened to music. It didn't really turn me on, but it got me started....it exposed me to harmony. Then I saw 'Rock Around The Clock' when I was 10 or 11 years old, and that was it. There was something about it....it was a whole different thing. My neighbor had finished his national service in Germany and he had bought a guitar in Germany. I bought his guitar for 2 pounds 10 shillings and spent the next few weeks in my bedroom trying to figure out how it worked. Skiffle music was really big. You could learn to play chords with one finger, songs like 'Rock Island Line,' which was the first English #1 in America. There were skiffle artists like Lonnie Donegan, and then came the rock icons like Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis. We couldn't understand how to get like that, they were just such full-blown American icons. And when I heard 'That'll Be The Day' by the Crickets, I fell in love with it. I was fortunate, I saw Buddy Holly live at the Birmingham Town Hall, a front row seat in the circle. Just a guy with glasses and two other guys up there making music, it was incredible.
MJ: What were your first professional paid jobs?
JH: First professional paid jobs? Well, in Swindon, many kids did what I did, left school and started playing. And being "professional" meant staying in bed! (chuckle). You'd be out and someone would say, "Justin, you turned professional yet?" "No, no, not yet...next Monday!" (chuckle). I worked in an office for a few months, from July to September I worked in an office. But for John and myself, we were being paid at school for playing, at church socials and things like that. After I left school I was answering ads in the Melody Maker, while still playing in a local group in Swindon. I answered one ad and went to a house in Eastbrook and Marty Wilde opened the door! He was 6'5" or something...I played with him for 18 months.
MJ: John, you came to London?
JL: I came to London as soon as I could. I finished college at 21 and had a band. Gene Vincent was a hero of mine, and I was asked to be in a band called Gene Vincent's English Blue Caps. I toured with him and wrote a song for him....
MJ: Wow, you wrote a song for him?
JL: Yeah, but he never recorded it! (laugh) His band did though, 20 years later...amazing. Then I put a band together, and Radio Scotland - pirate radio - recorded an Ike Turner song called 'Can't Chance A Breakup,' which made the charts in Scotland, so we had a tour offer for Scotland. I left college and toured Scotland and Germany. Then Ray Thomas rang me up in 1966 and said, "Shall we put the old band back together?" ...just like the Blues Brothers! And we came to London.
MJ: Is there a Gene Vincent song we can play?
JL: I like 'Rocky Road Blues' because....well, it shows what rock & roll is about.
~'Rocky Road Blues' by Gene Vincent~
MJ: What can you tell us about your first meeting?
JH: The first time John and I met? Well, we probably have different recollections of it. I met Mike first, Mike Pinder the keyboard player. He asked me to come to London to meet with him, and we had a coffee and a chat. Then the following week I met Graeme and Ray, and a few days later I met John. So it all went very quickly...that was towards the end of summer 1966. I'd sent songs....I'd answered an ad and sent songs to Eric Burdon, who passed them on to Mike. I did have an amplifier, too, which was a huge advantage (chuckle)....
MJ: Yeah, so many times you hear of people getting in because they've got the equipment!
JH: It's a darn good reason (chuckle)
JH: ...but I don't know if my amplifier got me in or not! (chuckle)
JL: And the guitar....
JH: Well, I'd sold my 335 a week before I met Mike Pinder. I had no money and was staying with my parents. I was going all "folky"....I had decided to do folk music because I had an acoustic guitar (laughs). So I bought a Telecaster, which got me through the first year. It worked great on the first album. It had a great sound on 'Ride My See-Saw'...probably my favorite guitar riff.
MJ: Why is that your favorite guitar riff?
JH: Well, it's just such a "guitarry" thing. It's a rhythm thing, just a great riff....it's the "sound" of the old Telecaster.
~Ride My See-Saw~
MJ: What did you hope to achieve during those early years?
JL: Well first, for me, there were two different areas. One was where Ray, Mike and Graeme were still thinking Moody Blues, of 'Go Now' and the blue suits. The other area was, we should be more English, we should be doing our own songs, not American copies. Mike wrote some songs, Justin too, and they just didn't fit with the bluesy style. We went into the studio in 1966 and recorded some demos of songs. We went to Belgium for three months and wrote a stage show. We were doing two 45-minute sets, the first set was copies of American songs, the second was our own material. It wasn't long and people said, "Forget the first bit, make the second bit longer!" (chuckle) ...then came the universities and colleges and it became touring history.
MJ: Did you start collaborating on songwriting?
JH: No, we all wrote individually. The songs reflected each person's individuality, their personality. It made the first seven albums unique....it defines us and sets us apart from other groups. I was writing, Mike was writing. Then we had the opportunity and everyone started writing. It brought out the best of the band. Our songs worked with the style of the Mellotron. People thought we played with an orchestra in the 60s, but we didn't. It was the sound of the Mellotron before synthesizers.
MJ: What got you into the Mellotron?
JH: Well, with Mike.....Mike was restricted to the piano, the Hammond organ -which wasn't his style - and....
JL: He played a Vox Continental, too...
JH: It just didn't fit, it didn't work.
MJ: And the Moog?
JH: ...the Moog...Mike had the first Moog in '69. Mike actually worked for Mellotronics. The Mellotron was used for sound effects, cockerels and train sounds. There was one at the BBC...they were huge...
MJ: There was even one for your house!
JH: It was as big as your desk!
MJ: ...and probably as reliable!
JH: We removed the sound effects and kept the orchestrally bits and doubled them. We all ended up playing it from time to time. You only had eight seconds for each note, so you had to roll your hands across and fake it. When it was blasting through the amps it sounded great!
MJ: You had to write the chords to compensate for that and go along with it.
MJ: Was there record company resistance when you started recording your own material?
JH: We had a nice transition. We recorded three or four songs, one was 'Fly Me High,' which had a different sound for us, not R&B. At Decca we had a deal for four singles, and it was used as a jingle. Then they wanted us to help them demonstrate stereo. They were promoting their Deramic stereo system, a full-frequency way of recording, and they wanted to promote the hardware. They asked us to do a rock version of Dvorak. We weren't saying no to anything! (chuckle) We didn't have anything else, so we weren't able to say no. Then Peter Knight, who was the greatest romantic string arranger the UK has ever seen - everyone has heard him even if they don't know it - he came to us and said, "I really like your songs." Between him and Hugh Mendl, we turned it around and recorded our stage show, and that became 'Days Of Future Passed' with 'Nights In White Satin' and everything else.
MJ: What song, besides 'Nights,' is most evocative of that album?
JH: Well....every song is evocative of the album...
JL: You should play 'Nights.'
MJ: OK, we'll play 'Nights.'
JL: Play 'Nights.'
~Nights In White Satin~
MJ: What groups did you work with in the 60s?
JH: We were on our own, doing FM radio, which really helped us as it was just beginning in America. We toured a few weeks with Canned Heat and we opened for them. They were brilliant, the best boogie band in America. I went out to watch them every night. They took us through working-class middle America, and that's still where we have our greatest success. We did the Cream farewell tour, when they rushed around America. We were on bills with lots of people, that's how it was in the 60s.
JL: We played with Jefferson Airplane, we had a good relationship with them. They had a truck where you could let the side down, and a generator.
JH: We played with It's A Beautiful Day, and Love. Just being a musician at that time was special, it was like being a member of a fantastic club. It was great doing all that...as long as you didn't expect to get paid! (chuckle) We did what they called "love-ins." Once, this was announced at a gig, the love-in at Elysian Park.
JL: There were thousands of people. We played on the truck, everyone was coming up and saying they love you....
JH: "I love you, man" (chuckle)
MJ: We have the 'Isle Of Wight' CD out now. What do you remember about that concert?
JH and JL: ....umm......(it seemed to take a few seconds for this one!)
JL: Well, we did two Isle Of Wights: 1969 - the Bob Dylan one - and 1970. 1970 was the biggest-attended and the best put-together festival. It had Jimi Hendrix....
JH: The Who, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell...
JL: It was just the amount of people. It was something special just to have it happen in England. Not just an England thing, but a Europe thing as well. To me, Isle of Wight '70 was the beginning of the wall coming down. It was a very European thing, and Europeans came, and Americans as well. It was one of the factors to bring everyone together.
MJ: It crossed over so many boundaries.
JH: The CD does sound pretty good. I don't remember it being a great day. We had a good time, but so many others didn't. Kris Kristofferson got heckled and left the stage, someone jumped up on stage while Joni Mitchell was on and banged her mouth and she was bleeding. Then the fence came down! They stupidly put it on the side of a hill, so everyone got a free concert. They decided they wanted a closer look so the fence came down. We were lucky....we just had a big hit with 'Question' and people were ready for us. We were supposed to go on at 11:00 a.m., but things were so late we didn't go on til sunset, which was just right for us. I didn't have a good night - I was tired and it was stressful - I can see that on the film. When I listened to it I was happily surprised. I was worried when they decided to remaster it, what I'd find there. I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn't bad. I'd heard 'Nights In White Satin' because it was on the movie 'Portrait To Love' ('Message To Love'). Murray Lerner, who produced that movie, was the one who orchestrated releases from the festival, including Hendrix.
~'Dolly Dagger' by Jimi Hendrix from IOW~
MJ: There were half a million people there.
JL: I wondered how the sound got back to everyone! There were no huge PAs. Well, we had a jillion speakers and amps, but I don't know how far it could go.
JH: We had mega amps!
MJ: They were behind you as well. How's your hearing? (chuckle)
JL: Pardon? (laugh) ...I don't know what the audience actually heard, but it obviously was about something more than that. I did an interview not long ago and they asked me about the fire backstage, who started it? Was it because of all the dope and whatever? At home I found a local Isle of Wight newspaper from the following day. There was a WVS van running food backstage. They had a chip caravan and set it on fire! (chuckle)
MJ: That's the least "rock & roll" story you'll ever hear! (laugh)
MJ: From 9/22, you'll be on tour in the UK. What's a Moody Blues show like? You're still so successful.
JH: I'd say that's because we have something for everyone. We do songs from most of the albums over the years, from the oldest to the most recent, which is 'December.' We do songs from all albums through the 80s and we've gone back to the earlier songs, too. For the last part of the show, we kind of "bring it on home" with our best-known songs. If you don't like the last part of the show you shouldn't bother buying a ticket. We seem to have songs, where people who have never heard us before say, "I never knew that was you! (chuckle) I've heard that song, but I didn't know that was you!"
MJ: Does that bother you when they say that?
JH: No! I'm just pleased it registered somewhere with them. It's the music...it's not about images or personalities, it's about the music.
JL: Our first seven albums had no photos of the band. We always wanted the music to be the Moody Blues.
~'Tuesday Afternoon' from IOW~