Justin Hayward on KJSR Star 103 FM
In Tulsa, KJSR Star 103 is located at 103.3 on the FM dial. Below is a transcript of an interview with Justin Hayward.
Host: Mel Myers
Mel Myers: We're talking this morning with singer, guitarist, composer with the Moody Blues, Justin Hayward. This is the guy who wrote 'Tuesday Afternoon' and 'Nights In White Satin,' did the 'Blue Jays' album, did that great song 'Forever Autumn' on the 'War Of The Worlds' project some years ago. Great singer, great writer, Justin Hayward. Good morning, Justin.
Justin Hayward (on the phone): Good morning! What a buildup, thank you!
MM: Well, this is an interview I'm excited to do, because you have had a great impact on classic rock, which is what we specialize here on this radio station. You and your band have been innovators when it comes to several important movements in classic rock, particularly the whole concept album thing - not that other people didn't kind of have that idea before you guys - but you really got in and owned the whole symphonic rock and concept album thing, I think.
JH: Well, I....thank you again for that. I'm not sure, there was one album that influenced us at the time and, funny enough, there was a guy - somebody doing a radio program in the U.K. about this whole sort of concept album, when did it start - and I would have said it started probably with an album on electric or cosmic sounds....actually it was called 'The Zodiac' by Cosmic Sounds.
JH: And I thought that was before us, because I remember listening to it. And then I was just corrected by this author who really - a nerdy guy who should know all about it - and he said, "Oh, it was the same time." So maybe we were the first. We were one of the first probably, anyway.
MM: Well, certainly the Beatles dabbled a bit in what could be called "symphonic rock," but you guys really made it a specialty. But really, the Moody Blues started as a blues band, right?
JH: Absolutely. When I and John came to the group we were a rhythm & blues band. Yes, absolutely. We weren't terribly good at it, I don't think, not really.
MM: Hence the change. You know, as we look back in history - particularly those of us in America - we forget about how many of our favorite British bands really started with the blues. I mean, even bands like Fleetwood Mac were a blues band to start.
JH: Oh, absolutely, yes. And I think they'll probably be remembered on this side of the Atlantic for that era more than any other, yes.
MM: Now, you joined up after the Moody Blues had had an album out, and was maybe starting to figure that the blues wasn't really the way to go, right?
JH: Yes, that's right. John and I joined after the group had been going about a year, yes. And the singer, Denny, had left - or the guitar player, Denny, had left - and then the bass player as well. And then we continued doing the rhythm & blues stuff. But I was writing songs, and so was Mike Pinder, but our songs didn't really fit into that rhythm & blues thing. But we found that, as soon as we changed and just did our own material and our own songs, we started to develop a real following. And then we had the opportunity to record 'Days Of Future Passed' and it really took off from there.
MM: Now, that is a legendary concept album, certainly symphonic rock at its best. How do you get from being a blues band to that? I mean, it seems to me that's kind of a leap - for particularly the business people that maybe you had on board at the time - to say, "Hey, know what? We don't want to do that blues thing anymore. We want to go this direction." Which is really an opposite direction, it seems like.
JH: Well, in truth, we didn't have any business people. We were just a group of young guys who could just about afford a small van to take our equipment round in. So there was no real management or anything. We didn't have a recording contract, so we kind of had nothing to lose. And there was no one sort of "advising" us. And it was only because Decca wanted to demonstrate their stereo system that they came and listened to us. We had a contract with them for some singles, which we'd recorded - some of my songs - well before 'Days Of Future Passed.' And some of Mike's songs, as well, before we were using a thing called the Mellotron. Anyway, they came and heard us, and then they wanted us to do this demonstration album to demonstrate their stereo systems. And that's how it started. We recorded 'Days Of Future Passed' on that understanding. It's just that, two weeks after it came out, and 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Tuesday Afternoon' started to take off, and they sort of turned it into a proper album instead of a kind of demonstation stereo album. There's a series of fortunate events.
MM: I guess so! To the record company, it was just something to show off their stereo.
JH: In that very regard we were terribly fortunate, though, because what they did was, they recorded us in a classical studio with really brilliant engineers. Not like the rest of the....there was another studio downstairs at Decca where all the rock & roll was done, and that was done really for the sound of singles - 45s - just "err err err err," straight down the middle. But we were recorded in beautiful full-width stereo, which not even the Beatles were doing in early 1967. And of course, in later years that really stood us in good stead because when everything went into the digital domain, our recordings just sounded brilliant, and we were very fortunate that they recorded us that way.
MM: I had never thought about that. Because we have these digitally remastered CDs and stuff, and sometimes that brings out the flaws in the recording process. But in your case, it really brings out the sweetness in what you did.
JH: I believe so. And just earlier this year....well, Universal had been rereleasing all of the "quad" things that we did. Because we did these albums in quad as well, although they were mixed in quad a couple of years later in the same studio by the same engineer - and of course, now that's "5.1." And I was part of that mixing and mastering process, and I was able really, for the first time, to listen to it and appreciate the work that had gone into it, particularly going back to the original stereo masters. And I think it was also fortunate that when we were brought to America by a promoter called Bill Graham, who had the Fillmore East theater in New York and the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Well, he booked us for some dates in early 1968. Well, we brought the 'Days Of Future Passed' with us, and just when real FM radio was starting really in America, and our stuff was perfect for FM. They were desperate for stuff like ours to play on it, because they had these beautiful delivery systems in people's new FM radios.
MM: Well, you mentioned quad, and for people who don't know, quad was an early version, or an attempt at, surround-sound, that just really didn't take off. So, because you had done these quad mixes, you guys were ready for surround-sound once it finally came into its own in the past few years.
JH: Perfectly. That's what was amazing, and I was so glad that these mixes, these quad mixes....all I had to do on it was take some ambient noise and put it on the sort of fifth central kind of speaker. I was so glad that these mixes were done in the same studio, with the same real echo plates. Not anything electronic or digital or anything like that; it was an actual plate in a great big sort of wooden box thing, and some of it was an actual "echo room" that they had on the roof at Decca. So they were done in exactly the same spirit and feeling as the original recordings, which I was very pleased about. Because it would have been a nightmare to try and remix from the beginning, that stuff. It was good as it was, there was no need to do it.
MM: Well, you went out and toured that material right away too, when....one thing I heard is that the Beatles quit touring because they were recording material that they didn't think they could pull off live. But here you have this massive orchestral undertaking. 'Days Of Future Passed,' and you went out and actually performed that material live.
JH: We did. We were fortunate in that Mike Pinder, our keyboard player, had really mastered an instrument called the Mellotron, that gave us a lot of those orchestral sounds. LIke on 'Nights In White Satin' and 'Tuesday Afternoon,' there's no real orchestra playing, that's just the Mellotron sound, that sounds like an orchestra. So it gave us that flavor, and that became our identity, really. The sound of our own songs, the instrument - the Mellotron - and our vocal style was the whole....what made up the Moody Blues package, and it was really nice.
MM: Justin, how does today's technology help you put on maybe a better show than you did in the 70s, even?
JH: Well, insomuch that we sampled all our early Mellotron sounds when we were recording with Tony Visconti a few years ago. He got quite hung up on the old analog kind of sounds, and so we took a few days in his studio and set up the Mellotron again and sampled all of these sounds, and now they're the sounds that we take....same sounds we take on the road.
MM: OK! That's a little secret there, I'm sure a lot of people didn't know. That's very cool. Now, you wrote 'Tuesday Afternoon' and 'Nights In White Satin.' Did you write the "breathe deep, gathering gloom" ....did you write that part?
JH: No, that was written by Graeme, our drummer - the spoken word - and spoken by Mike Pinder. Recorded on his back, in the dark (Mel laughs), smoking the funny cigarettes....
MM: Had to be in the mood, didn't he?
JH: Yes, absolutely, yes! (both chuckle) It worked, too.
MM: It does. Well, it's very memorable. I think people, when they hear it on the radio, they talk along with it...."breathe deep, gathering gloom"....they probably do the whole deal, I think, when it comes on. Now, I understand 'Nights In White Satin' is being used on a theme ride at the Hard Rock theme park in South Carolina. How'd that all come about?
JH: That came about because they wanted a part of that park to sort of represent this kind of "psychedelic" kind of era. And they just sort of beamed in on 'Nights In White Satin,' and they built this ride. And they call it a "dark ride," which I just think means "indoors." What they did seems to work perfectly with 'Nights,' and good luck to them.
MM: Now, I read on Wikipedia online - and I've learned not to believe everything I read online - but I read on the Moody Blues entry on Wikipedia that you had applied to join the group the Animals and actually ended up in the Moody Blues. Is that true?
JH: It's....ummm.....not quite....
JH: Ummm....I never know what to do with Wikipedia, because it's always almost right, but not quite (Mel chuckles). I actually sent some songs to Eric Burdon, because I knew somebody in that office. I didn't care....I was just firing off my songs to lots of people, hoping that somebody would record them. So I sent them to his office, and then, because they were a demo of me - or of a guitar player and singer - Eric met Mike Pinder of the Moodies in a club some time after that, and he said, "Oh, this guy, you know, sent these demos in, and you're looking for a guy, you know, like a singer-songwriter-guitarist guy," and he gave them all to Mike, and that's how Mike came to call me.
MM: Oh, OK! So it kinda grew out of that and some songs.
JH: Absolutely, through Eric, yes. And I'm very pleased that Eric did make that move. Actually, Eric did me a compliment years later by recording 'Nights In White Satin' with a group he had called War, and he did a great version of it.
MM: War is up for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, one of the nominees this year.
MM: We'll find out in a few days whether or not they actually make it in, but they're definitely nominated. I wanted to ask, too....you're a guitarist, you're often seen with a Gibson 335. Now, is that your favorite guitar?
JH: I think it is. I mean, I write on my old Martin D28, which is a 55-D28, and just recently I've been completely enamored with Collings guitars. They're made in Austin, Texas, and they are absolutely beautiful. And they really compare with any Martin - in a different way - but they compliment....they're a different kind of style. But my 335 is....the red 335, I'm pleased to say, has become kind of an iconic thing in its own right. Not much to do with me....it's now featured on a series of collectors cards, one of a series of collectors cards of iconic guitars, and I'm very pleased for it.
MM: Yeah. I say, a very unique guitar, with a block of wood running down the middle....got a little more "sustain" than your average hollow body.
JH: Yeah, it's a 1963, and very hard to find now, that particular model. And it was kind of at the peak of Gibson. I met the guys who made that, in Kalamazoo, and they formed a company called Heritage after Gibson had left Michigan. And anyway, I went back there and saw the machines that it was made on and met the guys who made it. It was quite exciting for all of us.
MM: Do you still take your old original on the road?
JH: Oh yes, yes....oh sure, yeah.
MM: Well, the shows coming up....Brady Theatre, Thursday, December 11th. Give us a little idea of the kind of performance we can expect that night. Are you guys doing a really long set and packing in all the songs we want to hear?
JH: We do a couple of hours, and we do things from most of the albums over the years. The first half of the show includes some of the newer things from the 80s and 90s. And then the last half of the show really is the....well, you'd have to call it kind of a "greatest hits" thing. I hope there's something there for everybody. We certainly try to cover every sort of era of the Moodies, but our problem is not what we play, it's what we leave out (Mel laughs). There's so much, there's such a lot of material.
MM: I know, you almost can't win for losing. Those deals where people walk out...."I loved 'em, but I wish they'd played such-and-such."
JH: Yeah, that's right. Some people still say....we were on such a long U.K. and European tour, and there's people who haven't seen us for years, and some people that you knew years ago - school friends or people that you knew growing up - and they often say, "I didn't know that was you!" They hear songs that we've done, that they kind of heard on the radio, but didn't realize it was the Moody Blues. That's nice, too.
MM: That is nice. Well, we look forward to the show. The Brady is a great place for the kind of show that you put on. It's got good acoustics....it's the old Municipal Theater of Tulsa, built back in the 20s.
JH: Oh, I'm so glad, Mel. I was a bit concerned about it because....have they kind of renovated it?
MM: Oh yeah, they've kept it up and they've done remodeling over the past years and stuff. And it's a great place to see a show that is like the kind of show you put on. A group that comes in and does those orchestral sounds and stuff just sounds great in that room.
JH: Oh good. Oh, I'm pleased. Good.
MM: We do look forward to it. Now, last year you released two discs of rare BBC performances. You got any other releases in the works now?
JH: So much of my work, really, is taken up with kind of taking care of the past. But I suppose that's because we're a band with so much history. And just now, there's a DVD coming out of us at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970. It's a film by Murray Lerner. It's very good, it's one of a series. They stared off with the Hendrix performance, and then the Who, and now it's our full performance that evening. And that's quite interesting, too. It's a sort of snapshot in time for us that I didn't think existed. And last year, Murray called me and said, "You know, I recorded the whole thing and shot the whole of your performance." So I had no idea, I thought they just did 'Nights.' And I like it....I saw it only a few days ago, and it's just about to come out, so we're kind of plugging that as well.
MM: I love that whole concept that - this has happened with groups other than you - but I love the idea that someone will pop up with an entire live performance that you didn't know existed even.
JH: Absolutely, yeah. And I got to mix the sound this summer, and I was really pleasantly surprised. I was quite glad that I didn't have to do that much fixing. Well, there was no fixing I could do, but I wanted to mix it right and to make it sound good. And I was quite impressed....we didn't sound that bad, you know, we were pretty good.
MM: Well, we're ready for the show you're bringing to Tulsa....the Brady Theatre, Thursday, December 11th. Moody Blues in T-town. We're talking this morning with Justin Hayward. Justin, thank you for your time.
JH: Oh, Mel, it's my pleasure, my pleasure. You're very kind. My best regards to all of the station and to all in Tulsa.