Drummer Gives Moody Blues an Edge

Graeme Edge Graeme Edge
TimesOnline.com PITTSBURGH -- If you're in the Benedum Center crowd for Monday's Moody Blues concert, Graeme Edge might be looking to draw energy from you. That's what Edge, the band's drummer since 1964, does when he needs a lift. "People ask all the time, 'How can you sing the same songs for the 2,000th time?' said Edge, who turns 71 today. "Well, no problem. You just look out at the audience and that gives you all the energy you need. I feed off audiences, seeing them moving and rocking. "When two people in the crowd turn to each other and say something and look excited about a particular song that's bringing back a nostalgic memory for them, I steal that energy from them. It inspires me and pushes me on," Edge said. Edge and his Moody Blues mates Justin Hayward (lead vocals-guitar) and John Lodge (bass and vocals) are touring in celebration of their 1967 album, "Days of Future Passed," the groundbreaking disc that dared to mix rock 'n' roll with symphonic music in a conceptual form. Their record label feared initially that the album would alienate both rock and classical fans. The result was anything but alienating, with songs like "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon" becoming radio staples. "People have said that was a courageous work, but I think we were just too dumb to know we weren't supposed to be doing it," Edge said. "We blazed a trail, though, didn't we?" For Monday's show, the Moody Blues will play selections from "Days of Future Passed," though not the entire album, in deference to vocalist-flutist Ray Thomas, who left the band for health reasons, and keyboardist Mike Pinder, who quit in 1974. "It wouldn't be fair to do the songs that they sing," Edge said. The Moody Blues also will play three songs from 1981's U.S. chart-topper "Long Distance Voyager," which produced the Top-20 singles "The Voice" and "Gemini Dream." There are other songs, too, the band simply must play to avoid disappointing fans, such as "Your Wildest Dreams," "The Other Side of Life," "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)," "Isn't Life Strange," "Question" and "Ride My See-Saw." "The songs that quite rightly fans want to hear, and I can't disagree with them," Edge said, chatting by phone from a Florida hotel room he said offered a lovely view of tennis courts, a golf course and a pool full of screaming kids. Cheekily checked into his room under a phony name reminiscent of a British slang term that would make any lad snicker, Edge said, "I can't believe I'm 70; how did that happen?" Seconds later, he partially answered his own question: "(by) giving up spirits altogether." He said the first three nights of the 32-city tour went off without a hitch, which wasn't surprising. "If after 45 years of playing live music, we haven't got it down now, we're never going to get it," Edge said. During concerts, his bandmates address the history of the Moody Blues and their long, warm relationship with fans. "Justin gives one epic speech; John does two," Edge said. "I do a bit of comic relief." Edge also supplies the voice-over to "Late Lament," the poetic passage that dramatically punctuates "Nights in White Satin"("Breathe deep ... the gathering gloom ... watch lights fade from every room.") "I get quite Shakespearean with it these days," Edge said. The Moody Blues haven't released a new album since 2003, and it's not due to a lack of songwriting ideas. "We're old-school, and used to working with record labels and A&R men, and they just don't exist anymore," Edge said. "We're ready if someone wants to get in touch with us. We've got plenty of material, there's just no offer." Hailing from the old manufacturing town of Birmingham, England, the Moody Blues always feel comfortable visiting Pittsburgh. "We've seen Pittsburgh when it was a thriving steel town, then became part of what was called the Rust Belt, and then its astonishing recovery," Edge said. "We haven't seen it during the last few years of this horrible economic situation the whole world is going through." Through it all, the Moody Blues keep rocking. "I just can't think of anything else to do," Edge said. "I love playing for audiences. That's the way it is with us original British Invasion musicians, we couldn't think of anything else to do with our lives. We just wanted to play music."
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