Justin Hayward interview on KMOX radio, St. Louis
Thursday Night Music Club
July 31, 2008
KMOX, The Voice of St. Louis, is located at 1120 on the AM dial. This interview with Moody Blues frontman Justin Hayward was recorded on July 18, 2008 and was broadcast on July 31, 2008.
Host: John Carney
I Know You're Out There Somewhere
Your Wildest Dreams
Ride My See Saw
Nights In White Satin
John Carney: What a grand pleasure to visit with Justin Hayward from the Moody Blues and Justin Hayward from all of his solo work as well, and a chance to catch up to him. What a thrill...thanks so much for being with us.
Justin Hayward (on the phone): Oh, it's my pleasure.
JC: I gotta tell you, too....my ex-wife always said if Justin Hayward ever showed up at the door, she'd write me from time to time (Justin chuckles) because she was gonna leave with you. And all I can say to you is, God I wish you had showed up ten years ago, you'd have saved me a lot of money!
JH: Ah ha ha! I knew something like that was coming! (chuckle)
JC: St. Louis has been a regular stop for the Moodies and I love that. And seeing you with the band, and seeing you with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Let's jump into the orchestral performances, because the St. Louis Symphony, one of the best in the world, and to see you guys with them was an extraordinary experience. I can't imagine what it felt like for the musicians to see that stuff jump to life like that.
JH: Well, it's always a thrill for us. It's a show that we love doing. In fact, only a few days ago I had an e-mail from CAA, the Moodies' agent, to say whether we'd consider doing it again next year and doing an orchestral tour. And I can't see why not, really. It was always a bit hit-and-miss and it depended.... I mean, you put your finger on it. St. Louis is a world-class orchestra, the same as Washington and in L.A. and the big cities. Some cities, particularly in Europe, it's a bit touch-and-go. We worked recently in Switzerland with an orchestra and it wasn't that great. It was a little bit difficult. But on the other hand, when it comes off it's a very enjoyable show and very tight - very strict, of course - that's the one big difference for us. But it's very enjoyable.
JC: And I think, too, your music has always been better suited for that, because there's always been an orchestral element. I think you guys set off a trend where there's some bands that said, "Hey yeah, let's do a symphonic thing" and did the show and their music was never really suited for that and it really just sounded silly.
JH: Well, the difference for us, I think....why it works probably for us, is because of the very first album, 'Days Of Future Passed.' There was so much real orchestra on that album, so the orchestra could play identifiable hits in their own right, really. They had those pieces that people already knew and it made it work. I would think...Ian Anderson asked me about this a few years ago and I would say...well, I would think it would be difficult if you just used them as a kind of "backing band," but if you feature them in different places and let them have their own spot and their own few minutes with recognizable bits, like the beginning and end of, say, 'Nights In White Satin' and stuff like that, then it really works.
~end of 'Nights In White Satin' with the gong~
JC: Yeah, you really have to know that it's going to be something that's going to work, because you're going to have to split the check 16 more ways, at least!
JH: Exactly. And it's not something you can stand up in the middle of the runthrough and say, "What about if we played an E instead of an A minor?" (chuckle) because that doesn't really work (John chuckles). So you have to get all that stuff right before, and you've got to know that it's going to work beforehand.
JC: That orchestral element that was there in the very beginning....and we go back to the mid-60s, '65, '67....who was this based on? I mean, as far as your influences, there wasn't anyone that was mixing a marriage of pop and classical, unless I'm missing it.
JH: No, I didn't know of anybody, that's for sure. But I think it came out of our particular sound, with an instrument called the Mellotron, that suited the songs that Mike Pinder and myself were writing in the early days of the group. And they made those songs kind of work, and so I think that gave us an identity as a group, and that set us off in that direction. And then when an executive producer at Decca called Hugh Mendl heard us, he really had the idea for 'Days Of Future Passed,' mixing us with an orchestra that we'd play alternately. And there was an ulterior motive as well for Decca, because they wanted to sell their stereo systems. And originally 'Days Of Future Passed' was meant as a demonstration record to demonstrate stereo....that it could be as interesting for rock & roll as it was for classical music. Because albums, even the Beatles then, weren't being made in stereo, they were remixed later in stereo. But 'Days Of Future Passed' was made specifically for stereo, so there's only a certain amount of credit we can take for it. We did have the initial kind of sound that was right for that kind of stuff, but I still have to give credit to the late Hugh Mendl and Sir Edward Lewis at Decca, who put us on that track. And they gave us our big break, and out of that album came 'Nights' and 'Tuesday' and all of those things, and it set us on the road. And then Bill Graham heard that album and then brought us to America with 'Lost Chord,' which was the next album, and that's how we came to America.
~Nights In White Satin~
JC: You're such a staple of classic rock radio, but in the beginning I would think radio stations had a hell of a time trying to figure out what to do with you! Or record stores....where to put the albums?
JH: The record stores, yeah. The radio....fortunately, it coincided with the birth of FM radio, and jocks were known for playing what they wanted to play and turning you on, not so much with a format and everything. It was kind of a...sort of a revolution against that AM format, just for awhile, and we were in that "window" in the sort of mid- to late-60s, and our stuff was just perfect for that kind of FM radio. For awhile....until it came back to be dominated by program controllers and lists of tunes that they had to play. But they were free for a couple of years, as you might know, and so I think it was that kind of radio that gave us our break.
JC: 1966, when you joined the band (and I didn't realize that the Moody Blues EXISTED before you), but joining the band....Denny Laine left, and Denny of course a long affiliation with Paul McCartney and various and sundry bands, being such a great player. And you made reference to the Beatles earlier. So what was the mindset? Here you are in England, putting a band together. The Beatles, I think, had just come over here and started to make girls cry and faint and all of that. Was that something in your sights? Did you think, "Let's go do that, that looks fun!"...?
JH: Well, the truth is, there was no kind of "master plan" or any kind of "let's do that." We just took what was available to us, and we just blundered by week by week, just getting gigs. We were always a live band, and that's how we payed for our equipment and stuff like that. And we just got a certain following by playing our own songs and realizing what was right for us and finding our own sound, really. And I suppose...but the Beatles - for everybody in London at that time - they were the leaders of the gang and everybody looked to them. I sometimes look back now and think that they really don't get...although everybody gives them credit, they don't give them the credit that they really have...without them I don't think most of us, DJs and players, the whole shooting match, probably wouldn't be the same. But they were hugely influential and they were starting to do stuff with orchestra as well. It's just that we were making 'Days Of Future Passed' at the same time that they were making 'Pepper,' and so I don't think....we were already playing our stuff on stage by the time they'd made that. But they were certainly the leaders and it was a sad day when that group finished.
~I'm Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band~
JC: I just wondered if hopping the pond was something of a "master plan" because....you look at the British Invasion with the Beatles, and then the Rolling Stones, then The Who....it just seemed like there was an airline who....apparently their sole purpose was to fly to England, pick up bands and bring them to the United States.
JH: Well, you have to....I certainly remember the number of bands, great English bands - or British bands - that didn't make it in America. It was huge. I think in truth, the Beatles were the only one of those myriad of Liverpool groups and northern groups that really made it. The Stones, of course, and The Who, but they would have made it anyway. And...but really, there was a sort of "catching up" by America. Britain did lead the way for a few years - only two or three years - and then there was a very quick catching up by America, with Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, and Poco, and then of course the Eagles, and....but then Britain had moved to a different type of group with Zeppelin. This is only my take on it, but there was that sort of "elastic snap back" ....that America suddenly wised up to the quality of its own groups, and they consistently, after that, made some of the greatest groups in the world. You'd have to say, probably, that Steely Dan and the Eagles are the two greatest groups, probably, that have ever been. The Beatles and those two.
JC: Do you remember how you felt in anticipation of coming here for the first time? Was it a case of "What if I have a party and nobody comes? Are they gonna like us?" ...or did you already know that it was working here in the U.S.?
JH: No, we had nothing. And then the Mellotron, for a start, didn't work, so the first gig we did, which was at the Fillmore East in New York, we did it without the Mellotron, and we weren't too successful. Then we worked our way across America, getting to the second lot of gigs that we had for Bill Graham, which was in San Francisco at the Fillmore West. But our agent got us a gig opening up for Canned Heat, and they did us a real big favor because they took us through working-class America. We went to St. Louis first with them, and that's where our audience really lay. We thought we were kind of "arty" and we'd just get reviewed in the Observer magazine or something like that, and that was about the extent of our ambition. I think Canned Heat showed us where the real music fans were, and they were that working America, right through the midwest of America...top to bottom. And that's the same for us today as it was 40 years ago.
~I Know You're Out There Somewhere~
JC: You were talking about working on 'Days Of Future Passed' and at that time the Beatles were doing 'Sgt. Pepper.' But there was other stuff out there of a similar ilk and a similar feel. The Doors were doing their thing, Jefferson Airplane was doing 'Surrealistic Pillow.' There was a certain kind of "spaciness" in the air. What do you remember about that particular period as far as the music making?
JH: Well, it was a time of discovery, I suppose. And we were certainly seeking and kind of searching, as young guys, for some kind of enlightenment. And I suppose we all were. And there was that wonderful dream, that we could make it all work through communes and without money. The kind of hippie dream really was real for a few years, and I suppose it was only at the end of the 70s when....in the cold light of the 70s....when people realized that it wasn't going to be like that. But I think it was a wonderful dream for a few years. And we were all on a particular kind of trip, whether it was psychedelic - there were a few in my case, that's for sure - or spiritual, and I was part of that, as well. But it was a time of enlightenment and seeking. And it's just that a whole generation of young people did it together. And we're about time for another one, I think.
JC: On the psychedelics....the tip of the hat musically that you guys had to Timothy Leary...was there a relationship between you guys?
JH: Yes, there was. Because when we got....when we first played in Los Angeles, we played with Jefferson Airplane....you mentioned them. And they had a truck where you could let the side down and they had a generator on it. And they asked us to do this free concert. It was actually....they used to call them a "love in." But it was in the Elysian Park in Los Angeles, and Tim Leary came down to meet us, and we had a relationship until the time he died, really, all the way through. We saw him regularly through those years, through all of his ups and downs, through his legal problems. But he was a wonderful man, a kind of mischievous Irishman, I would think that he was really.
JC: Is there another kind? (awkward laughter) I think not!
JH: Probably not.
JC: You could break down the styles of music in the different eras, whether it was the classic albums (and the first seven, by the way - and this is what brings a Justin to us - finally we're gonna get the first seven released, remastered, with some bonus material, and we'll get more into that in just a bit), but the first part of that being those classically, very carefully-crafted seven albums. The 80s hit and then you guys kind of jump into the forefront of making the videos. And then the 90s, we get into the symphonic performances and back to the stage shows. So let's move into the 80s era and video. It just seemed like that might have been something that you guys would have easily shirked.
JH: Well, we were very lucky to have at Polygram at the time, a guy in charge of making videos, that was totally into us. And he gave us...for about two years, he gave us the money to do it. We did it ourselves and we made three great videos. After that, he left, and then it went back into the control of people saying, "Well, you should do this, this is what I think..." and then it all kind of fell apart. But we were lucky to have those two years, and they coincided with two of the biggest hits we've had, which was 'Wildest Dreams' and 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere.' And I think it's probably those two songs and those videos that brought the bulk of the audience that comes to see us today, to us for the first time.
~Your Wildest Dreams~
JC: The hits that we talk about were all written by you.
JH: No, not all of them. We were a band where everybody wrote, and I think that was probably the strength of the band, that there was always some relief from me (chuckle).
JC: ....'Nights In White Satin,' which has become a classic rock national anthem....when did you get a sense that it was more than just a good song to the universal collective?
JH: Well, thank you for saying it. I don't know whether it's anything more than a....it's just a song, really. But we recorded it first, a long time before we recorded it for Decca, we recorded it for the BBC. We recorded it and weren't invited into the control room to listen to it back. And then in our van on the way to a gig we listened to it, because it was on a program called 'Saturday Club'....on a Saturday, of course....and we were going up the motorway and we heard it on the radio, and we pulled the car over, or the van, over to the side of the road, and we said, "Hey, maybe there's something in that song" because there was something about it, it sounds really good. We hadn't realized until we'd heard it back ourselves. And then it kind of took on a life of its own. It was already kind of known before we recorded it, curiously enough.
~Nights In White Satin~
JC: And the later stuff, like 'Your Wildest Dreams' and 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere,' a very different style of writing than the earlier works we found from you guys. Did you consciously change your style of writing, or was it just a natural maturity?
JH: I think that we did. And also, Tony Visconti must take a lot of credit. It was his style of recording, and he wanted to make things that were acceptable on the radio, that would work, that would put our music in front of people again. And he took those songs and made them what they were, he made them work for radio, and without him they would have been very different.
JC: 'Tuesday Afternoon'....the inspiration for that?
JH: Well, I think that there was....really, we had decided to write a stage show about the story, a day in the life of one guy. And Mike had written a lovely song called 'Dawn Is A Feeling,' which really sparked it all off. And it was just a question of then taking parts of the day. And that's how 'Nights In White Satin' came about....he'd written the dawn and I'd written the night. But I knew I wanted that....I had a dog called Tuesday, as well, which was (chuckle)...so it was....musically, it always worked - "Tuuues-daaay" - as kind of a two-note thing. And I just went out to where my parents lived in the west of England, sat in a field and wrote that song. And it was kind of a little song, and we did it, not thinking very much about it. And then bang, it was the first record they took off of the album in America and really got us going in America.
JC: Rereleasing some of this classic material, you've had an opportunity to roll your sleeves up and get in there and tweak this stuff a little bit and play with the master tapes and remaster the remasters. Talk about that experience from an emotional level, to go back and visit that. Where does it take you?
JH: Well, it's very, very interesting. I sat there and listened to some of it, and I went back to the original vinyl masters because I found out that there was a fault, a big fault, on the original digital transfer that was done in the 80s, and everything from that time really suffered from that fault. There was such a rush to put things into the digital domain that it was really badly done. But I was astonished really, particularly with the first couple of albums, thinking, "How on earth did we do that?" Because, for a start, it was four-track and it changed very quickly after that as the years went by, up until....to 16-track I think, which was coming in by about 1970. But it was quite emotionally moving because I don't often listen to those albums, but to hear them with the original vinyl masters was quite exceptional. And the first few albums, I was able to do in the 5.1 surround sound. I don't know whether that's released in America, it's probably an import. But I was very careful to go back to the vinyl master and not the copy that they'd used that did have this digital fault on. You can hear it particularly - the fault - on 'Legend Of A Mind,' one of Ray's songs, and the cymbal and the guitar aren't quite right, and I always just thought it was just badly recorded. But when I went back to hear the original master, I heard how it was actually very well recorded and it was just badly transferred.
JC: Your songs have been rerecorded on many occasions and covered by lots of different groups. And I'm sure you've gotten the Muzak treatment along the way as well. And I'm sure there has been an occasion where you were on the phone with your banker and got put on hold, only to realize you were listening to a string version of 'Ride My See-Saw' on the hold button (Justin chuckles). What is one of the more odd occasions where you've heard one of your numbers, or one of the stranger treatments of a Moody tune?
JH: I think I was in a bar in Venice, at a hotel bar in Venice, and some guy did it on the karaoke machine, and he was Norwegian, and he went down a storm! He did 'Nights In White Satin' on this - he was very drunk - but he put his whole emotional day into this song and he really gave it the full kind of "wellie." And I was very pleased for him and ....but I thought, I couldn't say anything, but....anyway, I thought, "Well, I'll sing something, too." So I sang 'My Funny Valentine' and died a death, so....but I was very pleased for him that he went down well with my song.
JC: Did he know you were there?
JH: No, no, no....no! My friend said to me at the time, "Why didn't you just say something?" I said nobody'd ever believe it, you know. No, I didn't say anything. It's best not to....best to leave, walk away from that.
JC: Oh, that's hilarious! 'Return To Center Of Earth,' some work with Rick Wakeman, another guy, a visionary musically. Doing some interesting things and the two of you coming together on an interesting project had to be a lot of fun, I would think.
JH: Yes, it was, it was, and um....it always is. The thing with Rick is kind of, "expect the unexpected," I suppose.
JC: Do you listen to music at home?
JH: All the time, yeah, of course, yeah.
JC: Well, a lot of people like to leave their work at the office, and can't get far enough away from what they do, even though they love it, but just to split it up a little bit. So when you listen to something to just relax and not get inspired, what do you listen to?
JH: I listen to a lot of different things. I don't have any kind of musical prejudices, really, so there's nothing that I don't....there's no sort of genre that I don't like. I like a lot of classical things, and I'm a bit hung up on the 'Last Four Songs' at the moment. I don't know....some Steely Dan things that I'm revisiting again, and there's a group called The Streets over here. And there's always something coming along. Music used to be a kind of river, with clearly defined banks and borders. Now it's a huge kind of swamp, so it's very difficult tramping through it, but there's always things that are worthwhile. There's always a kid walking down the street with a great song in his heart that's just about to turn me on.
~What Child Is This~
JC: Around the holidays, you will always find 'December' in one of our CD players, just to set the mood for the holidays, which was a release from you guys, a Christmas album. And I was a little shocked when that first came out. I was curious - I poked around - that you hadn't done that before. It seemed like there was a trend with record companies that every artist....I think Michael Bolton has seven Christmas albums out....so how come you didn't visit that earlier, and why visit it at all?
JH: Well, I'm not sure why visit it at all, and why not visit it earlier, because nobody ever thought about it. We had an association with a guy called Miles Copeland, who is the Police's manager, and it was his idea to do it, really. And he got the enthusiasm from Universal, and then that came back to us and they said, "Yeah, yeah." And it was a good angle to record some songs, whether it was the right thing to do or not. But I think there's a couple of songs on it that are really becoming Moodies staples and that people really love. I don't know whether it was the right decision or not, but that was what the record company wanted from us at the time, so that's what they got.
JC: Well, I loved it, it's wonderful. It probably put you in kind of a strange position because, if I'm not mistaken, I don't think you've recorded another band or another person's songs.
JH: No, we never did. No, certainly not. No, that was something quite difficult to do. I mean, half of the songs were ours, original songs, and half of it was things that probably most people would know. But I think they were just the things that people in the band thought, "Ahh, that'd be fun to do." And so it was an album where we were a little bit self-indulgent.
JC: Well, I'm glad the material's being rereleased and redone. We can't get enough Moody stuff, and we can't get enough Justin Hayward stuff, and you've certainly been very kind with your time. And we look for a visit to St. Louis, which I'm sure you'll make before too long.
JH: Well, I'm sure we will. We're planning a tour next summer, next July and August, and I'm really looking forward to coming back to town, yeah.
JC: Safe travels and be well. Thanks so much.
JH: Thank you very much.