Playing the hits: Moody Blues drummer knows what band's fans want to hear Alan Sculley For the La Crosse Tribune IF YOU GO WHAT: The Moody Blues WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2 TICKETS: $39.50 to $85, call 608-789-7400
Graeme Edge Photo By Jim 'JT' Gilbert
Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge says he’s perfectly happy to play the classic songs by his band — even if it’s the 2,000th time he has played a song like “Nights in White Satin.” In a recent phone interview, he said he learned long ago that what the musicians on stage want to play isn’t what matters. “You’ve got to do the hits, and I don’t disagree with it,” Edge said, citing a time some three decades ago when he learned that lesson. “I went to see a favorite artist, and he’d just gotten a new album out and he just did the new album. And I was so disappointed because I wanted to hear the songs that I knew. That’s when I realized you have the responsibility to play those songs because that’s what people come for.” What Edge also has found is that he can always find something special in playing a song like “Nights In White Satin.” “I use it to steal energy from the audience, because when we start to play it, I look down at the people in the audience and see the ones that turn and look at each other and will do something funny,” he said. “It’s special to them, and then I watch them and I play for them typically and watch them enjoy it and sort of leech energy from them.” Edge joked that he’ll need all the energy he can find on the band’s tour, which includes a Sept. 2 show at the La Crosse Center, because the live set figures to be more demanding for a drummer than would be typical of many Moody Blues shows. “This tour is almost entirely full-out belting rock,” Edge said. “There’s not too much about the lyrical, gentle, folky side of the Moodies on this tour. It just happened that way. We picked the songs we enjoy and want to play. And I also think secretly those two are prone to trying to kill me off.” Those two would be singer-guitarist Justin Hayward and singer-bassist John Lodge, the two other musicians who have been in the Moody Blues for most of what, as of next year, will be a 50-year history. Edge is actually the lone remaining original member of the lineup that debuted in 1964 in Birmingham, England. Hayward and Lodge joined in time to make the album that saw the Moody Blues evolve from an R&B-based pop band into a far grander style of pop-rock — 1967’s “Days Of Future Passed.” Featuring the aforementioned Hayward original, “Nights in White Satin,” the album is considered by many the first progressive rock album, and its lush, melodic and expansive songs gave the Moody Blues a stylistic template the group built on as it turned out another six albums of intricate and melodic rock music before going on hiatus in 1974. The band returned four years later with “Octave.” And while that album featured the hit single “Steppin’ In a Slide Zone,” the band members have frequently said the group didn’t really hit stride artistically again until the 1981 album “Long Distance Voyager.” The 1980s saw three more studio albums and hit songs such as “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,” before the pace of studio recordings slowed in the 1990s. “Strange Times,” released in 1999, is the most recent studio CD. As it is, the Moody Blues have enjoyed a long, successful and influential career. The group’s entire 50-year career has been collected and summarized with a lavish box set, “Timeless Flight.” Its 17 discs include 11 CDs of album cuts, outtakes and live tracks. Plus the set includes three DVDs of rare television performances and the official release of what was a widely bootlegged 1970 concert from the Olympia in Paris and three DVD-audio discs of the six albums released between 1967 and 1972 that cemented the Moody Blues as a major force in rock — “Days Of Future Passed,” “On The Threshold of a Dream,” “To Our Children’s Children’s Children,” “A Question of Balance,” “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” and “Seventh Sojourn.” Ironically, Edge said, he wasn’t sure he was on board with putting out “Timeless Flight.” “I initially wasn’t even that excited about the box set,” he said. “But when I saw what a piece of quality work they (Universal Music) were doing, I changed my mind. But at first, I thought, what are you going to call it, ‘The Second Best Album’ or ‘Our Last Despairing Grab For Cash’?” Instead, Edge likes the overall picture “Timeless Flight” presents of the Moody Blues and its career. “I’m very proud of what we’ve attempted, and once or twice we actually got close to achieving it,” Edge said with a laugh. “I’m proud and very glad that we never followed trends. Like I always feel sorry for the Bee Gees. They were a great band, great vocal group. But they made the mistake of going out in the platform shoes in that (disco) era. That was it, they got stuck there. They did some lovely stuff afterward, but nobody took any notice of them. I’m glad we never fell into that trap, more by luck than by judgment.”
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