Moody Blues on "Rockline"
March 19, 2008
"Rockline" is a radio call-in show, first launched in 1983. They feature "active" rock bands on Monday nights and "classic" rock bands on Wednesday nights. This is a slightly paraphrased transcript of an interview with the Moody Blues.
Host: Bob Coburn
Bob: It's been seven years since you were last on Rockline. April 2001. That's too long! How's the tour going so far?
JH: It's going great! We like it, and they like it. We just played a great gig in Los Angeles at the Nokia Theatre (they launch into a big discussion about how to pronounce Nokia). Everybody's enjoying it.
Bob: So, no orchestra anymore?
All: No, not anymore.
JH: Well, not at the moment.
Bob: Does the rock surface a little more without the orchestra? Is it edgier?
GE: I think so, it's a little different. We might be doing a gig with an orchestra, is it June third? (silence)....everybody's gone quiet! Maybe I shouldn't have said that! (laughs)
JH: No, we're just not sure yet.
Bob: Do you like doing the orchestra shows?
GE: I prefer doing it without orchestra. You have to be so disciplined with the orchestra. As a drummer, I like to be able to speed up and slow down (laughs) ...they're all giving me the thumbs down here! (laughs)
JH: (laughs) We're not doing anything! We're completely straight-faced!
JL: We're stunned into silence! (laughs)
JH: (laughs) We're leaving that one alone!
Bob: Are you filming any concerts during this tour?
JH: Well, they're certainly BEING filmed! Every night I see five thousand mobile phones being held up! (laughs)
Bob: Yeah, you're all over YouTube!
Bob: Does your set list change?
JH: It evolves every tour quite nicely. With us, it's not what you play, it's what you leave out.
Bob: There are 31 dates scheduled for this tour, will there be any added?
JL: We are coming back in June for a week. There's something really exciting in June that might be happening.
~Ride My See-Saw~
Charlene: I have two questions. How do you guys feel about seeing your stuff on YouTube? And do you have any special projects during the break in the tour?
JL: With YouTube, what's interesting is seeing things I never even knew we recorded or filmed! It's quite interesting. I don't know...the judgment is out on that at the moment. I use it for the same things everyone else uses it for. I found some things I was really looking for, it was great.
JH: I never look at Moody Blues things, there's not much point really. I did look for some things by Seals and Crofts, 'Summer Breeze' and all that. It's a great medium for seeing things like that, that you thought you'd never see again. It's probably the only place where you'll see them.
Bob: And during the break?
JL: Well, I know what I'M doing! I've just become a grandfather and I'm going to see him, John Henry. I'm looking forward to that VERY much.
GE: I'll be going out in my boat...
Bob: That's right, you've sailed around the world, haven't you?
GE: Yeah, but with my advancing years, I've gone to a power boat. I'll have a little liquid lunch, it'll be great.
Bob: Justin, how about you, what would you like to do?
JH: What would I like to do? or what will I? ...I'm actually going back to Europe. I'll be doing some work for ten days, that's the reason for the break. I'm also moving apartments, which is quite stressful.
JL: You'll need a road crew! (all laugh)
Bob: Yeah, where are they when you need them? (laughs)
Sandy: My question is about 'Nights In White Satin-The Trip.' I heard you re-recorded it to make it shorter, to make it fit the ride, and you all recited the words to 'Late Lament.'
JH: Wow! How did you know all that? (all laugh) We did a new version, it wasn't really to make it shorter, it was for us really. It's lovely.
JL: And the orchestra was recorded in Moscow, with the Moscow Symphony. It'll be at the Hard Rock Theme Park in Myrtle Beach (in his best commercial voice).
~Tuesday Afternoon (live from LTSY)~
Lisa: What do you crave for a home-cooked meal when you're done with a tour?
JL: Well, there's two kinds of meals: there's "home-cooked" and there's the one you crave for! (laughs)
GE: What I miss most is curries. I live in Florida...we love our curries in England. There's no curry house within 50 miles of me. I've tried to cook it but I don't have the knack.
JL: I think it depends on the time of year you're touring...much heavier food in winter. For me, from fish in summer to meat in winter.
Bob: Hello, you're listening to "Cooking Line!" (all laugh)
JH: It's a very good question. Personally I've obviously thought about this. It's difficult eating on the road. Some people get very particular with the catering and bring along their own caterer. With us, it's a different caterer every night. (chuckles) I just want to eat healthy, which means fresh vegetables and nice fish.
Bob: Heaven is 24 hour room service.
JH: Well, we get that on tour! (laughs)
Robbie Krieger from the Doors (prerecorded question from a week earlier): There's a rumor about 'Nights In White Satin'...at the end there's a gong hit and you hear some other sounds. It sounds like the whole drum set got knocked over. Is that true?
JH: Hello Robbie, one week ago! (laughs) It's kind of true. What happened was, I was there, sitting in the studio when the orchestra recorded that whole part. And they did it in one take, they were THAT good and it was written THAT well. But the studio cat ran through the studio and knocked over the tree bell. I wish it was something psychedelic and weird but....(laughs). There were no edits and no one could do anything. They all went *gasp*!
Bob: So it was the studio cat?
JH: Yeah, the studio cat...the downstairs door was opened, it was summer, it came running upstairs through the studio and hit the tree bell.
GE: I think the cat was being controlled from the astral plane! (all laugh)
~Bob plays the section of NIWS with the sound in question~
Suzanne: If you were a judge on "American Idol," how harsh and critical would you be on the talent? Would you ever consider being a judge on "Idol" or something like "Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp?"
JH: No. I say that because I'm not sure that all the people who make it would have made it anyway, and a lot of the people you think would make it obviously don't. I went on a talent show when I was 12 or 13, and when I played, it was "Next!"
Bob: Oh no! (laughs)
JH: I thought they were absolutely right. I was awful. Personally, your 15 minutes of fame is a very precious thing. You don't want your label from that 15 minutes to be as Rock Idol ..."Oh, you're the one who came in third place on 'Rock Idol'..."
John: Have you ever considered touring again as just the Blue Jays? I was too young to see you back then. (they all laughed at this last bit)
JH: Well, when they want just a guitar and bass player, they DO get just us (laughs).
JL: Well, I think the Blue Jays are alive within the Moody Blues.
Dana: What are your favorite venues, which ones might be the best?
GE: Red Rocks for me is overall the best, for the beauty and the sound, because it's open air so there's not too much echo. Madison Square is unique, Albert Hall is unique. The most modern is Nokia (all laugh and discuss pronounciations), that's brand new, the sound was great.
JH: My favorite is in Amsterdam, its called the Heineken. It's like a recording studio, it's a big rectangular room. It's just perfect, we just sound so nice there and we're looking forward to being there again this fall.
JL: With Madison Square Garden, it's nice to go on the stage and see the size of the venue. We actually did two concerts in one day there, that was really exciting. Carnegie Hall is a beautiful place for sound. Albert Hall, from a sound point of view....it's very one-to-one, you're so close to the audience. We like to rock, but we also like to go to the point where you can hear a pin drop.
Bob: Do you still like playng 'Nights In White Satin' live?
All: Love it, love it.
JL: It's such a great song. It's the reaction from the audience, it means so much to people. You can feel the excitement on stage...
GE: ...you feed from it...
JL: ....they tap each other on the shoulder, "this is it!"
~Nights In White Satin (live from LTSY)~
Petra: Did the synthesizer evolve from the Mellotron?
JH: I think it evolved separately, the Moog was before the synthesizer. In America, it came out of the Moog. Our keyboard player, Mike, was obsessed with the Moog.
JL: When we did the solo in 'Melancholy Man,' it was a whole wall of Moog and you had to program the lights, and you were worried that it would work right.
Valerie: Justin, what can you tell us about your guest appearance in the Marty Wilde 50th Anniversary show and your recent trip to Moscow?
JH: They were both very different. Marty was a rock & roll singer, very famous in the UK in the late 50s and early 60s. I was his guitar player, it was my first professional job. He had a celebration of 50 years in the music business, at the London Palladium, and he asked me to come on it. There was a whole group of other musicians there. It was the most remarkable concert, not because of the other guests and the Wildecats, but... Jet Harris from the Shadows opened up for him, nobody had seen him for years. Another of the Shadows was there, Hank Marvin was in the audience, he burst through the side door and grabbed a guitar, and they all started playing 'Move It'...along with Licorice Locking, the bass player. I found myself on stage with all of the surviving Shadows. It was a schoolboy dream...I was 13 when 'Apache' came out, and 'Move It' was, to me, the first real English rocker.
Moscow was marvelous, the musicians were marvelous. It was a hard-going place, very serious. We made some great music. They all knew 'Nights In White Satin.' I was kinda glad to be on the plane home, though (chuckle).
~The Story In Your Eyes~
Kelly: This is the second time our paths have crossed. Back in the early 70s Mr. Leary introduced us in San Francisco, it was great! Are you gonna go in the studio to record more music? The world needs more Moody Blues music, now more than ever.
JL: We have no plans except for the touring. The world is changing and the way to get music out is changing. We're looking for that way to get our music to everybody.
Bob: (to Kelly) What do you do for a living now?
Kelly: I own a hemp store in Florida... (all laugh)
GE: My man! (all laugh)
Kelly: You'll all have to stop by and listen to 'Time Traveler.'
JH: That sounds lovely. I just might do that! (laughs)
Valerie: I read that 'English Sunset' was just a title and guitar riff sitting in a drawer. What was the circumstance that caused you to finish it?
JH: Hmmm..the circumstance....it was probably a good recording day...and knowing that we would be making a record...it just came together. I did have the riff for ages, and the title and some of the words. Songs suddenly find their moment. With the album, a lot of things came together. The whole album is one of my favorites, and it was the last album with Ray, which makes it very special. I was living in the south of France and in Italy, living away from England, so I was looking at it in perspective.
Bob: Justin, tell us about 'Question.'
JH: I know we had a session booked for a Saturday, and I think the other guys were relying on me to come up with something. I had two songs, a slow one and a fast one, same key but different tempos. At three in the morning I came to my senses and straightened up (laughs) and thought, "I really need something for ten o'clock tomorrow morning! Why don't I just put them together?" I took them into the studio. It was one of the quickest records we made, no double-tracking. It just seemed to work. It was released a long time before the album. For 'Question Of Balance' you (Graeme) wrote 'The Balance' and the title came together. 'Question' was the only #1 we had, everywhere at the same time (unlike 'Nights In White Satin,' which was a hit three different times in different places). It was a great year, 1970.
GE: All over the back page of Cashbox.
JL: We almost won the World Cup! (all laugh)
Jane: Someone had mentioned new music. With artists like Radiohead bypassing record companies and releasing the music themselves, would you ever do that, like over the internet?
GE: If we could find someone smart enough to make us learn the internet! (laughs)
JL: We are looking at that. I think the important thing is, we've always made music when we really wanted to make music. When we do release something, it will probably be over the internet.
Bob: You need to have something to say?
JL: You've gotta have the time and you do need that calling.
JH: You do need some kind of promotion or organization to help you. Radiohead were in a wonderful position where they could command attention, so they could do it. Will they do it again? They might do something else next time. I think it was a great news story, as much as it was about their album.
JL: Technology has changed so much. Who knows what the technology will be when we finish our next record? You can listen to music so many different ways, and I do listen to it many different ways.
GE: CDs are almost done, aren't they?
JH: With the Moodies, it's started to dawn on me, people are coming to us for DVDs, and we're doing that, we've got the 'Isle Of Wight' DVD coming out. There's a lot of buzz, people want to be able to see you. Maybe that'll be the direction we take.
Pamela: Justin, do you have an iPod?
JH: No, I don't have an iPod, isn't that awful? But I have a computer and iTunes, and bucketloads of songs on them. Funny enough, well not funny enough, listening to music is a very personal thing. I'm not one to go around with a set of headphones when I work out. It has to be right to have my full attention. No, I haven't done that yet.
JL: Apple shares have just gone down! (laugh)
JH: No, because I'm a committed Apple and iTunes man! (chuckle)
JL: They've just gone back up! (laughs)
Bob: Let's go around the room...John?
JH: John was the FIRST person I knew who had one. He has everything!
JL: I've got an iPod, iPhone....I seem to live my entire life there! I listen to music when I work out, I work out almost every day. It's a wonderful way to listen to music.
GE: Yes, I do have an iPod. I bought a new Apple computer four days ago and an iPod was included. What music is on it? None as yet (laughs).
Bob: We have a virgin iPod!
Bob: John, tell us about 'I'm Just A Singer.'
JL: The period of time towards 1972, people bestowed on us that we had the answer to everything. It was very hard to tell people we just came up from England, we're just like everyone else. The quickest way was to put it in a song. That's why, at the very end, we ALL sing "we're just singers in a rock & roll band." But no one believed us! (laughs)
~I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock & Roll Band)~
Tim: Of all the songs and albums you've done, which are you most proud of?
GE: Obviously 'Nights In White Satin,' for obvious reasons. I love playing 'Question.' That was the quickest and most honest recording we ever did. It highlights the two faces of the Moody Blues.
JH: About albums, they're constantly changing. Right now it's "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,' it's a little bit of a forgotten album, because we never released a single from it. I'm kinda revisiting that one right now.
JL: We are an album band. Every album has a different place in my personal history. I think of where I was and what I was doing. They're all very personal and important.