Justin Hayward & John Lodge on
"Off The Record with Joe Benson"
May 10, 2009
Off The Record with Joe Benson is a nationally-syndicated radio show. John and Justin were Joe's guests on the May 10th broadcast. The interview was recorded at an earlier date. Below is a paraphrased transcript of the interview.
Host: Joe Benson
Joe Benson: The 1968 album 'Days Of Future Passed' was one of the first progressive rock albums. It was also the first rock album to be recorded with a symphony and in stereo. Their use of the Mellotron - an early synthesizer that used tapes instead of self-generated sounds - set them apart and helped make them the first of the progressive groups to achieve real success. Their origins were steeped in blues music. In fact, that's where they got their name....Blues for the blues, and Moody for Duke Ellington's 'Mood Indigo.' We have original members Justin Hayward and John Lodge in the studio with us.
JB: I've heard that after you joined, it took a few months to blend in, but it took about a year to really get going with your own stuff. Is that how it was?
Justin Hayward: Yeah, pretty much. We were just trying to get along. We were just trying to earn enough money to pay off the guitars (chuckle), and the petrol bills. It took about six months before we decided to do our own material and get rid of the blue suits. When we decided to do that, it worked from day one.
JB: You hooked up with Tony Clarke early on....
JH: Tony has the ability to see a record from beginning to end. He was a staff producer at Decca, and he worked with us and decided we were the ones he wanted to produce. He was doing a few other groups at the time, but before too long he was producing us exclusively. He made some changes....he left Decca, started to get royalties instead of a salary....
~Nights In White Satin~
JB: Were you surprised when they remastered 'Days Of Future Passed' for CD, how good it sounded?
JH: No, because the quality of the recording was so wonderful. At Decca we were lucky, we were always recorded beautifully. We were recorded in full stereo, when most things were recorded in mono and then split into this weird stereo - drums right, voices left - that sort of thing. At the time, people weren't even sure that stereo would catch on...."people won't want to buy two speakers, it's too complicated." But our songs were done so well, it proved it could be done.
JB: Your fourth album, 'On The Threshold Of A Dream,' was done right after the previous one. Is that how it was?
JH: Well, you almost had to. We'd go on the road and be thinking of the next record in the back of our minds. We knew that most groups last about two years, so we were thinking of that. And we had a lot to say.
JB: Did you feel pressure to record more albums?
JH: There was some pressure. But we had a lot of energy, enthusiasm and urgency. We were having hits and being successful on the road. It was the days of recording. We put a lot more emphasis on recording than on touring....there wasn't any money in touring in those days. The records were our passport to the world.
John Lodge: It was quite important to record, go home, and have those hours to let things sink in. Every album was a journey. There's so much energy in the recording side....the excitement of the finished album - the finished tape - listening to it was pure magic.
~Ride My See-Saw~
JB: You mentioned 'To Our Children's Children's Children,' when you started wondering if you could perform these songs on stage. And you were doing 'Isle of Wight' and other big shows....was it daunting to go out and perform those big shows, to recreate your sound on stage?
JH: For us, we had a delicate balance. We weren't ever able to get it right on stage. We had a power and energy on stage, but we never got the balance right, until the 80s actually, when technology finally caught up with us. Before that, it was sheer power, great big stacks of Marshalls....
JB: I'll bet the bass player liked that...
JH: At one show, I remember looking at Ray, and he was standing in front of Mike's speakers, and his trousers were literally flapping! (laugh) ...with the movement of the air... (laugh)
JL: We tried to build our own P.A. systems to get that right, but it was impossible. Every venue was different. But we built our own P.A. systems. Then we met Gene Clair - the Clair Brothers - with their sound systems. He built a great system for us.
JH: He actually said, why don't you have a little speaker on stage? That was a revolutionary thing, to have a little monitor on stage.
~The Story In Your Eyes~
JB: What was it like, traveling with the Mellotron? Did you worry about it?
JL: We did. Actually, the size was the big problem...getting it on airplanes, we had to find out the size of the door on every plane, it had to fit in. In the end, we found the best thing was to have three or four Mellotrons and leave them in different places. I remember we had one show in Los Angeles, and the Mellotron was happily winging its way to Hawaii! (laugh) It was a huge beast. Our first time playing in the U.S. was at the Fillmore East. We went on stage - as you know, the Mellotron is tape...lots of tapes...eight-second loop tapes - we went on stage and started playing - it was really hot, really humid - and all the tapes came out the back like spaghetti! (laugh)
JB: 'Isn't Life Strange' was actually done quite a bit before the 'Seventh Sojourn' album, it preceded that album?
JL: Actually, we were working....Justin and I went into the studio on Friday night to finish the vocals, we left the next morning for our U.S. tour and took the tape with us, we dropped it off in New York on Saturday, and it was released the following week while we were on tour. That was the speed of things in those days.
~Isn't Life Strange~
JB: 'I'm Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band'....what's the story behind that?
JL: It really was part of 'Seventh Sojourn,' part of us starting out as just five people....people were giving us attributes we didn't have - "you do have all the answers to the world" - and we were in our mid 20s! We had to say "we're just singers in a rock & roll band, everyone is, just look at the questions for yourself and try to figure it out."
~I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock & Roll Band)~
JB: As 'Seventh Sojourn' was being released in 1972, 'Nights In White Satin' was experiencing a resurgence in America. The band launched their 'Seventh Sojourn' tour and took a lengthy hiatus. Next, how they spent that break and what resulted from that.
JB: You took a hiatus of five or six years, you had solo work and you were living as real people, which I imagine was a real shock for you. What made you decide to get back together in '77-'78 to put 'Octave' together?
JH: We were working, the four of us still living in England - Mike had moved to California - we were putting together a greatest hits album, which in our selfish way we wanted to have total control of. It was our first greatest hits package, 'This Is The Moody Blues.' We realized that we enjoyed each others' company, and we fantasized about making another record. And there was pressure from the record company to make another record. Actually we had to come to Los Angeles to make it, Mike couldn't, or wouldn't, leave. We came here and we found....I don't think Mike's heart was in it. But it got done after many adventures. The studio burnt down....it was the time of the big rains....
JL: ....we slid down the mountain....
JH: ...we slid about five foot down the mountain, that was scary. But we came out with only two casualties....Mike and Tony. That was the last we saw of them, and we miss them. But it sorted out who wanted to be there and who didn't, and who wanted to continue and who didn't. It left us freer. We miss Mike, he decided to pass - he didn't want to go on the road - but we miss him.
JB: Did you approach Patrick Moraz at the end of 'Octave?'
JH: We approached him when we were going on tour. Graeme had met Patrick, and he auditioned and went on tour with us.
JB: Did he seem happy to be away from Yes? (chuckle)
JH: Yeah, Patrick was happy. He made a huge impact on our sound, a wonderful player. He contributed greatly to 'Long Distance Voyager,' after that we went our separate ways, but he had an immense impact on 'Long Distance Voyager.'
JB: 'The Voice' was put together before the rest of the album, wasn't it?
JH: Well, it was the first song we recorded, so yeah. It was also the first time we played to a click, which was a new phenomenon. We went on to do that with most of our other albums.
JB: 'The Voice' was written by Justin Hayward and was put together before the rest of the album. It set the tone for the album. Upon release in 1981, 'Long Distance Voyager' spent three weeks on the American charts and sold more than one million copies. The Moodies had effectively staged one of the biggest comebacks in rock & roll. Next up, the band performs with an orchestra and releases a new album.
JB: A few years ago, you decided to tour with an orchestra. You never had before, you've always been a five-person rock band. What was the deal? Were you getting bored? Looking for a new challenge? Emerson Lake & Palmer were doing it so...?
JH: Well, PBS were really interested in doing a special for us. Our late manager, Tom Hulet, it was his dream to see us work with an orchestra. I don't think any of us thought it would work, but Tom kept working at it, and our promoter Barry Fay put the idea to the Colorado Symphony, and they went for it. And then it was just a question of working out the parts, we already had the orchestrations done. We were lucky, the Colorado Symphony had a conductor, Larry Baird, who was totally into rock music. It could have gone quite differently, but it fell into our laps. With us, the symphony is not just a backing keyboard scraping away, they're a featured part of the show. Other groups say, hey maybe we'll play with a symphony, and we always say, they have to be featured in their own right, they can't just be scraping along behind you. Anyway, Tom, Barry and Larry set it up with PBS, and we had the songs to pull it off.
JL: If you play a record for anyone, everyone will have a different opinion of what they're hearing. It's really about getting our music across into everyone's heads.
JH: Songs are like a diary of people's lives. So evocative, they bring back memories. That didn't occur to me when we were having hits. Then, with 'Question,' I thought, maybe we've made it. With 'Seventh Sojourn' and 'Singer' and 'Isn't Life Strange,' I suddenly realized we'd made it. People love the old songs...they love the new stuff, but they really love the old stuff. Kids, I've found, love the music we were making then.
~Your Wildest Dreams~
**A click-track is an electronic metronome that plays during the recording process. Usually, the drummer will play to a click-track while laying down the first track of a song. Using this technology makes multi-track recording and overdubbing easier and more precise. Some musicians argue that using a click-track is necessary in today's world of digital recording. Others feel that using it removes the spontaneity of a recording and leaves it sounding too mechanical.