Moody Blues Drummer Still the Cutting Edge

By Caroline Fontein
The Moody Blues The Moody Blues
After more than four decades of composing hit songs and performing sell-out tours around the world, drummer Graeme Edge of English rock band The Moody Blues shows no signs of slowing down. On April 27, his group is launching their U.S. Voyage 2011 Precious Cargo Tour which includes a stop in Vegas at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel on May 13. “I have to rule myself with a will of wrought iron in Vegas because I could get into a lot of trouble there. It’s everything a rock ‘n’ roll drummer wants to do, all in the one place,” said Edge who recently turned 70. This time around the group is paring up with a local charity to host an instrument drive in each of the city’s they’re touring. In Vegas, it’s The Boys and Girls Club. The week before the show fans can donate new or gently used instruments at the Boys and Girls Club’s donation site or at the concert venue on the day of the show. Edge along with guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward and bassist/vocalist John Lodge make up today’s Moody Blues. The group formed in London and were part of the historic, original British invasion of Supergroups that took over U.S. airwaves back in the ’60s. Their inspiring anthems including “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon” and “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)” conveyed positive themes that were embraced by audiences around the world and continue to be heard on the radio today. Their monumental album “Days of Future Passed,” released in 1967 became one of the most successful selling albums of the time and set the tone for a subsequent string of hit records. Throughout their astounding career The Moody Blues has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide. For many younger audiences, like myself, you probably think you don’t know any songs by The Moody Blues, until you listen to “Nights In White Satin.” It’s one of those songs that everyone’s heard somewhere before, and that’s the story of The Moody Blues. Their timeless repertoire of songs has become an embedded part of pop culture. The group has been immortalized on an episode of “The Simpsons” and their music has been featured in movies, televisions and in national advertisement campaigns including this year’s TV ad for VISA featuring “Tuesday Afternoon.” had an opportunity to talk to Edge about his upcoming show in Vegas and what has continued to inspire him and The Moody Blues after more than four decades of performing. What can fans expect to hear from you at your upcoming show in Vegas? “Well we try and represent all of the albums. There’s about five or six songs that we’ve got to do otherwise people get really annoyed (”Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “I know You’re Out There Somewhere”), and then we try to represent all of the albums.” Does the band take any time to enjoy anything in Vegas when you’re here for your show? Hahahahahahaha. “You’re kidding aren’t you? I have to rule myself with a will of wrought iron in Vegas because I could get into a lot of trouble there. It’s everything a rock ‘n’ roll drummer wants to do, all in the one place. Especially at the Hard Rock Casino, it’s almost like you’re given pre-license there because it says Hard Rock. So I’m a rocker, let’s go at it hard. But of course you’ve got gigs coming up the next day and stuff like that. I’m old enough now to have got a little bit of sense.” As the only remaining original member of the band, what has kept you going for so long? “Well, I’d like to take issue with that. In strict terms, yes I am the only remaining original member, but in real truth everybody thinks of The Moody Blues with Justin Hayward and John Lodge… What keeps me going? A lot of music, that’s what keeps us all going. Getting out there and playing to people. Playing your songs that you’ve worked on over the years to people and seeing them enjoying it. It’s what you got on stage for in the first place, that and the girls. Now I’m 70, and the girls don’t matter so much so I’m left with the music.” What is it like for you performing your music now versus when The Moody Blues performed back in the ’60s and ’70s? “The feeling has changed enormously. Now I am really proud of the songs. Before I suppose I was kind of proud, but I was still thinking of the future and the next record and stuff like that … More recently I’ve calmed down. I’ve realized what a great body of work we’ve got to pick the songs for the show from. Picking up old ones (songs) that you’ve maybe kind of forgotten about, dusting them off and playing them you realize, I really enjoyed making this. It’s not as intense. I don’t sweat like I used to and scream and yell and do all of that. But the enjoyment is immense. I have a lot of pride, and I’m very proud. I love playing live to people.” What was the band trying to accomplish with their music when you released the “Days of Future Passed?” “We were trying to do the best we could. I don’t know that we were that much thinking of the people hearing it, as we were making it for ourselves and playing what we wanted to hear and hoping the people liked it.” Was there a certain message that you wanted people to get when they listened to your music? How has that changed today? “Well our early ones (albums), their message was of faith and hope. If you remember at the time, the world was just recovering from the Vietnam War… Lots of things were changing, and we were in the middle of the change and reflecting it. I’m not sure we were trying to lead it in any way. We were just being part of it and seeing it and doing all the experimentation. With songs like ‘Fly Me High’ and ‘Legend of the Mind,’ we dabbled in a little bit of that chemical enhancementure, we call it. But, that didn’t last very long with us because it’s not real. If you’re in a studio and you’ve dabbled and you play something, you think it’s fantastic. You come back the next day and hear it, and you realize it’s really crap. You think well that doesn’t work. ” Your poetry was featured on several of the band’s albums. Do you continue to write today? “I’m always writing down a couple or three lines, things that seem interesting. I write the very, very best just before I fall asleep, and then I can’t remember it the next day which is a drag… I tend not to finish poems at the moment because if I coalesce all the things into a completed piece of work, and I don’t have anywhere to put it. I keep coming back to it and fiddling with it and messing with it and basically in the end, take all the freshness out of it and spoil it by tinkering too much. So I get a few lines, and then I’ve got a big green folder that I keep it all in.” Why do you think your music continues to be relevant today and continues to draw fans? “Without realizing it, I think we avoided some of the traps like we never sang about schools out or we never sang about borrowing your father’s car or stuff like that. So they don’t date. We always seem to internalize. We always seem to be talking about feelings and emotions and stuff that was happening to us, which strangely enough, although your internal feelings and emotions change, the same words could be relevant to two different conditions. ” I know the band is also working on an instrument drive where people can donate music instruments the week before your show in Vegas. Why do you think music education is so important for students? “Performing music helps develop a young psyche really well. It’s sort of like the story, if you give a starving person a fish you feed them for a day, you give them a fishing rod you feed them for life. You give somebody an instrument and if they get interested in it, they learn all sorts of disciplines. Because they love it, it doesn’t feel like it’s a job, but it requires concentration, effort, time and teaches you values which are good for other parts of your life as well. “ What advice would you have for an aspiring musician or entertainer? “First off, you’re going to need a lot of luck. When you have the luck, you’ve got to have the talent to see it through. Read everything before you sign it, and if you really, really, really can’t live without it, go for it. If you’re not that deeply involved, don’t do it because your ego. It’s like I can’t watch ‘American Idol’ because I know what it’s like to be on a stage and be emotionally, totally exposed. Then to have someone say, ‘well that wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t like this and I didn’t like that.’ I know how much that hurts. I can’t stand to watch it. If you can’t take that, don’t become a professional performer of any kind… Learn your chops. That’s the other thing. Get control of your instrument, unless of course you want to be a punk rocker which then that’s quite the reverse. Don’t learn anything.” Do you have a favorite song that you enjoy performing live? “Yes, because of the audience reaction. I love it when we hit the first few bars of “Nights in White Satin.” I’m always staring down at the audience when that happens because you see all the heads of the couples turn and face each other, all the ones who it’s their favorite number … I just love staring down and seeing the connection that they have with that song.”
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