Revisit The Moody Blues’ landmark album, ‘Days of Future Passed’

By David Beard,
The Moody Blues The Moody Blues
November 2012 marks the 45th anniversary of The Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed” album, an LP that introduced the music world to one orchestrated movement of a day in the life of one guy from dawn until dusk. Initially released in November 1967, the album reached No. 27 on the U.K. album charts, and it resurfaced on the Billboard 200 five years later in the U.S., where it reached No. 3. Today, “Days of Future Passed” remains a groundbreaking album in its vision of combining album rock music with classical instrumentation. In March, The Moody Blues launched its 32-city 2012 U.S. tour titled “The Moody Blues: The Voyage Continues — Highway 45,” in conjunction with the landmark album’s 45th anniversary. From Draughtsman to Drummer Graeme Edge trained as a draughtsman but soon went into music full time. He got his start with The Silhouettes and The Blue Rhythm Band. He then helped to form Gerry Levene and The Avengers, which recorded one single for Decca: “Dr. Feelgood”/“It’s Driving Me Wild,” and appeared on TV in “Thank Your Lucky Stars.” When that group collapsed in April 1964, Edge formed The R&B Preachers, which included Denny Laine and Clint Warwick. After The R&B Preachers disbanded, Edge, Laine and Warwick linked up with Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder to form The M&B 5, which later became The Moody Blues. Serendipity Strikes In early 1965, Justin Hayward answered an advertisement for a guitar player in “The Melody Maker.” He soon found himself one-third of The Wilde Three with Marty Wilde and his wife, Joyce. In 1966, Hayward branched out on his own and recorded two self-penned solo singles — “London Is Behind Me”/“Day Must Come” for Pye Records and “I Can’t Face The World Without You”/“I’ll Be Here Tomorrow” for Parlophone, aka The Beatles’ original label. Soon after the release of his solo singles, Hayward wrote to Eric Burdon of The Animals and sent him some compositions. Burdon passed the songs on to Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues, who, in the summer of 1966, recorded Hayward’s “Fly Me High” at the Decca Studios, engineered by Gus Dudgeon. Within a few weeks, Hayward had written many other songs for the band, including the acclaimed “Nights in White Satin.” Goldmine: What were your first impressions of John Lodge and Justin Hayward when they joined the group? Graeme Edge: I knew John before he joined. He was, in fact, in the very original M&B 5 meetings, but because we were going to move down to London, and he still had a year of college (to go) … he stayed on to finish school, and we went down to London. The original plan was he was going to be in the band eventually anyway. He had worked for years with Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas. Clint Warwick joined us as a temporary position (bass player), but we got the hit (“Go Now”), so we couldn’t really ask him to hit the highway, because that wouldn’t have been fair. So he hung around until Denny Laine left, and we reorganized the band. The only new member was Justin. Boy, did we pull out a plum!! GM: What were your first impressions of the group when you joined? Justin Hayward: I knew The Moodies and was most familiar with Mike Pinder’s hands because of the record, “Go Now.” The image I had of them was that piano riff and Mike playing the song. I knew that the band was a rhythm and blues band. I was really looking for an outlet for my own songs … I came to the group as a songwriter. My purpose in coming to the band was that I might get my songs done by a good band. That was my rationale, then, really. I didn’t know The Moodies were even looking for somebody, because I had written to Eric Burdon and sent my songs to him, the call from Mike came completely out of the blue. I had to sort of rethink things very quickly. I was happy to go along with it. I’m not sure in truth that any of the five of us was confident that it would last more than a few months. There was no master plan at the beginning, or any plan at all. There was a promoter in Belgium who offered us some gigs, and that was as far as we thought. GM: At the time, you had “London Is Behind Me.” Did you have “Fly Me High” at that time, too? JH: I had “Fly Me High,” and I had quite a lot of things that I recorded in a publisher’s office in Denmark Street, and some things that I demoed up very badly, cheaply and quickly. I didn’t really have much else. I had a record on Pye, that they were gracious enough to release as a formality, and “London Is Behind Me” was one of them. I really wrote “London Is Behind Me” only to fit in with Lonnie Donegan’s band, because that was the kind of tempo that they liked. I knew that I’d be working on that particular session with those musicians, so I wrote something that was in character for their tempo. It wasn’t a reflection of my own feelings at the time; it was just something for that session. “Fly Me High” was the one that I came with that the other guys in The Moodies really listened to and could see some potential in. GM: How much of the new sound was because of Justin? GE: There were two major things that caused it. One was Justin, because he came from an English folk musical background … more than the straight 12-bar rock we came from; and the other was, of course, Mike Pinder and that magnificent (but dreadfully difficult) machine of his … the Mellotron. He worked at the factory where that was made (in Birmingham), and it was actually designed as a retrieval system for sound effects; the BBC were the most interested in it, the idea being they had all these tapes with (effects of) walking on gravel, a dog barking, car door slamming, etc. You could see the potential if you actually recorded instruments, because they used a black and white keyboard for access. If someone could read music, you could put C above E and know that was the rocket ship taking off. So you could retrieve the sounds by writing it like a musical form. Mike figured out to add horns, strings, bagpipes and all that sort of stuff behind it and turn it into a more natural musical instrument. That, along with Justin’s folk chord-structure background with the tonal variations available from the Mellotron, was what set us on the track that sort of ended up as “Days of Future Passed.” GM: Mike was a master at the Mellotron, wasn’t he? JH: He was a master. It was a sound effects machine with a few orchestral sounds. Mike took all the sound effects out and replaced it with duplicates of the orchestral sounds, and he managed to play it. You only had eight seconds when you pressed a note down, but Mike managed to do it. It was very unreliable and very heavy. I often used to wonder who was carrying it into a gig. I was supposed to be one of the people that was carrying it, but I was making the noises … and just doing it with my little finger. It was one of those odd illusions. The Mellotron was very, very unreliable, and the very first gig that we did for promoter Bill Graham — who was one of the main reasons why we came to America — we really let him down at the Fillmore East because the Mellotron broke down, and we had to carry on with just the four of us. Mike certainly got a great sound out of it. As amplifiers developed at that same time, I think it reached its peak around the time of the Isle Of Wight festival that we did in 1970. There was always a compromise: the stage Mellotron and the recorded Mellotron. We’d record a backing track, and then they’d bounce it between machines … Mike always adding another Mellotron track as they went, so it was multi-layered. GM: Do you think your adaptability played a major role in the success of the new group sound? JH: All I know is that the rhythm and blues wasn’t working. Quite frankly, we weren’t good enough at it. Denny Laine had a great R&B voice, and he was the voice of that previous lineup. When the five of us got together, we were like fish out of water … we were out of character. Mike was writing some lovely stuff, but he was trying to fit it around the piano and a rhythm and blues feel, and it wasn’t right, and it wasn’t reflecting his own personality. We decided to throw away the blue suits on a Saturday night, and on Sunday morning we started again. As soon as we started doing our own material — originally I was the only guy writing with Mike — all of us got behind that material, and everything changed for us. Our audience was suddenly different. People started liking us for the right reasons. There was an honesty about our playing that was completely apparent. “Cities” was another song that I had a long time before I joined The Moodies. That was something that I used to do in folk clubs on the big 12-string. If we had all known what we know today about B-sides in those days, I certainly wouldn’t have had the B-side as well as the A-side. We had nothing else … there was only “Fly Me High” and “Cities” that were the right kind of quality. “Fly Me High,” “Cities” and “Nights In White Satin” were with Tony Clarke, and that was a big changing point. Tony livened the whole thing up, and it sounded really good. There was pre-Mellotron and post-Mellotron. As soon as Mike got the Mellotron, my songs just seemed to work. Before that, Mike and I were trying to make songs work with the piano as some kind of rock group, which wasn’t what we were. The moment we got the Mellotron, everything just kind of opened up a wonderful door to a world of imagination and the landscape of our possibilities. GM: It’s interesting that two tracks you wrote are not listed as tracks on the album (“Morning Glory” and “Late Lament”). Do you know what happened? GE: It was a publishing screw-up. It was put right after the first initial pressing. Also, on the first pressing, there was not (really) much of an ego (in the band). There were no photographs of any of us, except the tops of our heads sitting at a meeting ; it was all very low key. The reason for that was we had just come back from a Beatles tour. We were opening for the Beatles. We just saw what a life they led. We said, “No, no, no … That’s not for us.” They couldn’t do anything. They couldn’t get out of their hotel. They couldn’t go to a pub or a club. They were trapped in their hotel room every day. It was a bit scary. I’d step out of the hotel, and just because I was short with long hair … well, long hair then … I’d be chased up the street, and I wasn’t even one of ’em! You get four or five of those 14- or 15-year-old girls … you get four or five of them hangin’ on you, you ain’t got a prayer. When they get a bit hysterical, they are strong creatures, so it was very scary. We were so terrified of that. GM: Had you been writing poetry prior to the inception of the album? GE: I had been writing poems for a long time. The first one I ever wrote, I was about 8. I wish I still had it, because it would be a nice little smile. The master at school gave us (the task of) writing about what we would buy with the equivalent of $50. I wrote the whole thing in rhyme … I actually spent about $500, as well. I was going to do some wonderful thing with it, but I wrote it all in rhyme. When I read it out, the teacher asked to look at it. Then, when he looked at it, he asked me, “Do you read poetry?” I said, “No, not really.” He said, “Don’t you know that you’re supposed to stop the line with the rhyming word and start a new line?” I just wrote it down on the page — straight across. I didn’t know you were supposed to do it like that. I’ve always enjoyed and had a knack for language, and I’ve always been an avid reader. I’m probably more of a poet than a writer, because I’m too idle. You can get it done more quickly in a poem. You’ve got to be a lot smarter to write a book. Continue Reading...
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