Justin Hayward: The Moody Blues' Story In His Eyes

Justin Hayward Justin Hayward
Most rockers can become immune to the offerings tossed on stage during a concert, but Justin Hayward recalls one item that stands the test of time. "We used to get a lot of joints and drugs," says the Moody Blues' longtime front man. "Belts, T-shirts, brassieres -- everything. Once, when the crowd was packed in very tight and very excited, Ray caught my eye, and he said, 'Look, look!' And there was a guy sort of twirling his wooden leg around his head, on a strap where it had been strapped into his knee." And then it happened. "He threw it onstage," Hayward says. "And it landed right between me and Ray." Don't expect to see similar projectiles April 14-15 when the Moody Blues play two sold-out shows at NYCB Theatre at Westbury. The tour, "The Voyage Continues -- Highway 45," holds particular significance for Hayward. Forty-five years ago, the Moody Blues, with two new band members and a new direction, recorded "Days of Future Passed," arguably the first true concept album. "Our lives, when we were young, revolved around 45s," says Hayward, now 65. "And when this 45th anniversary thing first came up, we were thinking of using a '45' logo because one of the deepest impressions on us was that we had a 45 that we'd performed on and written, 'Nights in White Satin,' that was a big hit. That particular 45 was dear to us, and that led us to this anniversary issue. Yes, it's a very special album." Mention concept albums from 1967 and, undoubtedly, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" opens the conversation. But the Moodies combined the elements of a single day into their own concept album, and those elements provided a spontaneous combustion still ablaze 45 years later. Rock historian Dennis Elsas, a DJ for 25 years at WNEW /102.7 FM until 1998, recalls the album's genesis. "Basically, they took something they had already written, the 'Nights in White Satin' concept of going through the day, and linked it up with classical pieces," says Elsas, who now shares music and his thoughts at WFUV/ 90.7 FM and SiriusXM Satellite Classic Vinyl/26. "When Justin and John Lodge joined the group, just before 'Nights in White Satin,' it totally changed the group because they had a hit single, the cover of 'Go Now,' which was a different sound," he says. "Then they just went in a totally different direction." The new path regularly put the Moodies on the Billboard charts. "One of the things which is so interesting is they put out seven albums between 1967 and 1972," Elsas says. "And they were all involved albums with a lot of songs, and, in addition to being album sellers, they are also top 40 sellers. That's an amazing accomplishment." Yet Elsas still calls "Days of Future Passed" -- which preceded The Who's concept album "Tommy" by two years -- their most memorable effort. "Clearly, we'd never heard anything like that," he says. "That was something new, that ability to blend the classical and the pop together, and the soaring voices, and we didn't know it at the time, but that Mellotron was making all the difference. "As Justin told me in a 1996 interview that I've just posted on my website, denniselsas .com, the London Festival Orchestra that's featured on the album was not an actual orchestra but was specifically created to play the orchestral interludes that connect all the musical elements." And, Elsas says, not just the music makes "Days" unique. "If you look at the album cover, it's really interesting," he says. "The cover painting by David Anstey is almost psychedelic with swirling colors." Literally, their music has been out of this world. One big fan, space shuttle Commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson, took a pirated "Days" cassette on four NASA trips. So you'd think, with such a noteworthy album, every tour stop on their first American visit in 1968 would be as smooth as satin. "The very first one we were supposed to be opening for Tiny Tim, in Minneapolis," Hayward says. "We were there and made an appearance on the stage, but our equipment wasn't. It was held by U.S. Customs over some problem, so that was a bit of a disaster. After that, we just played a few clubs before we got to the Fillmore East, and then the Mellotron broke down, so it was quite difficult." Continue Reading...
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