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Apr 20 17 10:44 AM
May 1 17 4:14 AM
May 4 17 3:47 AM
It's a story that has been told a million times. But not all of the stories have this kind of an outcome. On May 4, 1964, to musicians in Birmingham, England decided to start an R & B group. The musicians were Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder, They liked Duke Ellington's song "Mood Indigo" so with a little change they decided to call the band The Moody Blues.
Happy 53rd Birthday to The Moody Blues. Here is a picture of Mike and Ray from 2009.
May 10 17 3:03 AM
The British progressive rock pioneers shine on songs such as "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights in White Satin." The latter tune became a hit upon its re-release five years later. The concept album, whose songs take place over the course of a single day, was awarded a gold record.
May 22 17 5:07 AM
May 22 17 10:22 AM
Thunderous reverbs, haunting vocals and Mellotron galore: we tell the story of recording the Moody Blues' symphonic rock masterpiece, 'Nights In White Satin'.
By the autumn of 1966, the Moody Blues' best days were apparently behind them. Two years on from scoring a hit with 'Go Now', the Birmingham‑formed band was dealing with the departures of bass player Clint Warwick and singer‑guitarist Denny Laine, while owing Decca Records several thousand pounds in advances. Their fortunes, however, were about to change.
After replacing Warwick and Laine with John Lodge and Justin Hayward, the group — which also comprised drummer Graeme Edge, keyboardist Mike Pinder and multi‑instrumentalist Ray Thomas — did a total and unexpected about‑face, by deserting their R&B roots for classical/progressive rock. A deal with Decca's experimental new Deram Records label assisted in this regard, as did the commencement of working relationships with A&R executive Hugh Mendl, staff producer Tony Clarke, staff engineer Derek Varnals and conductor/arranger Peter Knight. This resulted in the Moodies adopting a lush, grandiose, orchestrally integrated sound, and the first real fruit of these collaborations was the most successful, influential and enduring album of the band's career.
Derek Varnals at work in Studio Two, mid‑'60s.
Drawing inspiration from the Beatles' recently released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, Days Of Future Passed was another large‑scale manifestation of the psychedelic era. Melding rock instrumentation centred on Mike Pinder's electro‑mechanical, polyphonic, Mellotron sample‑playback keyboard with the backing of the London Festival Orchestra, the LP is a song‑cycle set within the context of a single day. And this includes 'Nights In White Satin', Justin Hayward's haunting tale of unrequited love that, despite taking several years to become a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, is still the group's most popular number, on the radio and in concert. Nevertheless, there are conflicting theories as to how the entire, conceptual project came to pass.
The most prevalent story is that, in the spring of 1967, Decca wanted to show off their new Deramic Stereo Sound (DSS) format — a more symmetrical, realistic alternative to the kind of 'ping‑pong stereo' that was then still in vogue — by having the Moody Blues record a rock version of Antonin Dvorak's 'New World Symphony'. It's said that Tony Clarke and the band members aborted this idea in favour of working on their own material, with Peter Knight taking care of the orchestral accompaniment, the sections linking all seven songs, and the album's opening and closing sequences. Then again, according to Derek Varnals, this was never the case.
"Between June and August of '67, Decca Records produced six orchestral albums with the Deramic Sound system. All had 'night' in the title,” he recalls. "Strings In The Night, Brass In The Night, Piano In The Night... It was a pretty straightforward theme.”
And not one shared by 'Nights In White Satin', which had been written a couple of years earlier, after a friend had presented Justin Hayward with some satin bedsheets.
"At some point, Decca decided to liven up the label by having a pop group record with an orchestra,” Varnals continues, "but I only heard the 'New World Symphony' story way after the event and I don't think that ever happened. The Moody Blues project was simply described to me as an album with recurring themes, and for the orchestration they'd be using Peter Knight who, among other things, had worked on Voices In The Night. That having been said, 'Nights In White Satin' was recorded as a single before the album was even conceived — the company wanted to get it out because the previous single had failed, and so, with a B‑side ['Cities'] already in the can, the session was booked at short notice, the song was recorded in a day and it didn't even make use of an orchestra or Deramic Sound. What's more, three other tracks had also been written before the album was conceived — 'Dawn Is A Feeling', 'Peak Hour' and 'Tuesday Afternoon' — and so the theme of the record was virtually dictated in advance.”
A picture of the Studio One live room from an early '70s Decca brochure. Apart from the projector screen, this is how it was during the 'Nights In White Satin' sessions.
Days Of Future Passed came Varnals' way during the early part of his first career. Recorded and mixed between 8th October and 3rd November 1967, it utilised Decca's Studio One, where the control room, located upstairs from the live area, was equipped with a custom, 20‑channel, wrap‑around console, 15‑inch Tannoy monitors in Lockwood cabinets, and a Studer J37 four‑track tape machine, as well as an Ampex half‑inch four‑track.
"The console had four groups of five channels in the centre section,” Varnals recalls, "and above them there was another row of faders for echo send, with the equalisers above that. It had four outputs, and what you could do was switch any of the four groups of five channels to any pair of tracks. The only drawback was that if, say, you wanted 15 microphones across the stereo pair and then one mic on track three and another on track four, you'd have to figure out which channel you'd put those mics in. In most cases, you were dealing with rhythm sections and brass, and it was done with a view to thinking about stereo, even though pop music was mainly done in mono back then. The splitting up of the instruments on four‑track was purely for re‑balancing during the mix, and it would give you a chance to replace the vocal. In fact, the Ampex machine was fairly idle until Days Of Future Passed, when we began doing what Brian Wilson was doing [with the Beach Boys], going from four to four — or, in his case, three to three — and back again.
"Meanwhile, the left and right panels on the console had the stereo pan pots. You selected the location on the stereo output of each of the groups — you could have the mic positioned either left or right, meaning it would be on, say, track one or track two, or you could locate that anywhere within the divisions of the pot. So, if, for example, you were putting an orchestra on a stereo pair, you could locate the microphones across the spectrum by spotting them rather than using the so‑called 'Decca Tree'.
This tree usually comprised five omnidirectional mics placed about five feet in front of an orchestra, 11 feet in the air, with the main three‑mic tree arranged above the conductor's head — half‑left, centre, half‑right — and the other two positioned to pick up the outside of the orchestra.
Producer Tony Clarke at the board in the Studio One control room.
With the staircase between the control room and live area located on the left side of Studio One, the main layout for the Days Of Future Passed sessions consisted of piano to the right of the staircase and, from left to right towards the back of the room, Hayward's acoustic guitar, Lodge's bass, Pinder's Mellotron and Edge's drums, all screened off from one another. Nevertheless, this wasn't quite how Varnals had planned things when the first track, 'Nights In White Satin', was recorded on 8th October.
"I told the roadie who arrived with the band's equipment where I wanted to set everything up, and he got the bass and the Mellotron the wrong way around,” he recalls. "Immediately under the control room window there was a stage area, and then there was a small step, half the height of the stage, down to a mezzanine level that ran the width of the studio. Normally, we put the guitar amps on that intermediate stage level, and in this case the Marshall amp for Mike's Mellotron was there, too, blowing away from the control room, while he and John (who also had a Marshall amp) were positioned the wrong way around. Since musicians are often creatures of habit or superstition — 'Oh, that's my spot, I go here' — this setup was cast in stone from then onwards and Mike was playing with his back to the drums, which he was actually happy to do as that's what he did on stage.
"The whole building was on sloping land in both directions, sloping downwards from west to east and from north to south, and although the floor wasn't designed to be a floating floor, when you walked on it you could feel it bounce a bit. We'd therefore laid down big concrete paving slabs where the drums were positioned so that they wouldn't be transmitted to the floor, and that's why the kit was always against the right wall, side‑on to the control room, with screens around it.
"There was a ribbon mic directly above the snare, a couple of feet up, and that particularly suited rock drummers because they played louder than session drummers. They hit their cymbals louder, and if you had your ribbon mic high enough you would pick up the entire kit without the cymbals overloading like they would on a condenser mic. For instance, I once recorded Ginger Baker, and he had a very difficult kit — the way he set it up, there were cymbals everywhere and you somehow couldn't get the mic to just point at the drums. A ribbon therefore worked far better, and so that's what I tended to use, although for 'Nights In White Satin' I also had to use a spot mic of some kind, because at the beginning there was a little time‑marker where a cymbal was in time with the acoustic guitar.
"Graeme had a rivet cymbal, which I hate; a cymbal with two or three drilled holes and little brass rivets that just buzz along. This is fine if it's played delicately, but if you give it a smash it will go on for too long. I therefore used a spot mic on that because the ribbon mic was doing its job of not letting the cymbal overwhelm the drums, and aside from an AKG dynamic on the bass drum — which, I must confess, didn't feature very heavily — that was it.”
The custom console in Studio Two.
Since DIs were nowhere to be seen at Decca in 1967, the Mellotron's amp was miked with a Neumann U67 (as were the bass and acoustic guitars), using a technique that Derek Varnals had developed a short time before, when he'd overdubbed Mike Pinder's Mellotron part onto the Moody Blues previous single, 'Love & Beauty'.
"It was completely new to me, and so I'd just decided to treat it like a keyboard instrument that sounded like strings,” he explains. "The job was to make it sound as sweet and smooth as possible, but of course some of that's down to the player. The Mellotron's attack gives it a percussive quality that strings don't have, but Mike developed the technique of hitting a chord and then using the swell pedal to bring it up a split second later to avoid that attack. Of course, he couldn't hold a chord for very long, because he'd be running out of tape, and he also had to anticipate by half a beat, a bit like playing a church organ where the sound doesn't come out straight away.
"I certainly remember on 'Nights In White Satin' that, while he was putting his sound through the Marshall amp, I was getting hold of that amp and trying to find out what I could do to sweeten it up a bit. We needed a certain amount of clarity, but we didn't want shrieking treble or for it to be too muddy if he was playing low down. You know, if he was playing a gig somewhere, he'd want to fill the hall with sound, but we were only projecting it as far as the microphone. The Marshall had at least three tone controls, so I spent some time trying to get some reasonable ingredients out of it before going into the control room and getting rid of that edgy sound. For that, I kept on using a reverb to blur the edges a bit, and I also gave it sustain that helped Mike and his foot pedal in the chord changes.
"Although the single wasn't being done in Deramic Sound, as it was their first one to be released on the Deram label rather than Decca, it coincided with marketing the Moody Blues in a new way. I therefore decided to try to use the round sound of the echo chamber rather than the EMT plate — I didn't delay it, I just wanted to soften the edges, and so I did a bit of EQ'ing, and whatever I did rounded the sound out. I can't tell you what setting I used — although we did some similar numbers, we never quite got the same sound, but at least on this song we ended up with a smoother‑sounding Mellotron, and from then on, having laid the rhythm track down, it was just a case of adding the layers.”
Initially, these consisted of three Mellotron parts that, together with the rhythm track, were mixed back down to a couple of tracks to provide space for Ray Thomas to perform a flute solo that was created and refined over the course of numerous takes.
"The Mellotron was always a battle,” says Varnals. "You couldn't do the smoothing out if it had a featured part where the individual notes were important as a melody line. Blurring it too much with reverb would mess it up, so you had to take the sound as it was.”
Meanwhile, another mixdown provided an extra track for Justin Hayward's lead vocal, as well as a couple more for him, Lodge and Thomas to sing backup around a U67.
"By the time we began recording the vocals, the reverb wasn't exactly dominating the track, but it was becoming a feature,” Varnals remarks. "The high sound of John's backing vocals was an octave above everything else, so I just pushed up the reverb, attempted to blend it, and the overall effect was quite dramatic. Obviously, we couldn't do the same to the lead vocal, which had to tell the story, or to the flute — that would have lost definition, and we still had to present the music.”
Performing in a three‑sided mobile booth that faced the studio floor at the very back of the live area, Hayward was recorded with the ubiquitous U67 and a touch of reverb.
"In those days, we wouldn't have been able to put any reverb on the monitors,” Varnals says. "However, we also wouldn't want to have the singer listen to a playback that sounded flat and unlike a record, so we did put a certain amount of reverb on the tape. At the same time, we didn't want to end up with too much on there because we couldn't take it off.”
After recording 'Nights In White Satin' in a single day and mixing it in mono later that week, the band members and studio crew quickly reconvened to record tracks for the newly conceived concept album. Recording commenced with 'Dawn Is A Feeling' on 18th October and ended on 27th October, before all of Peter Knight's orchestral parts were tracked on 3rd November. The most difficult orchestral overdub, according to Derek Varnals, was the part stretching from the middle of 'Nights In White Satin' to the grand finale, which entailed Knight conducting in time with the band's contribution, already mixed down to two tracks of the four‑track tape.
"There was never any plan to have an orchestra on that song,” he says. "Peter Knight just wrote the little descending woodwind piece before 'Nights in White Satin' comes in, and then he decided it would be hard to pick up the end of the song without having an orchestra over the last verse and chorus.”
Released as a single on 10th November 1967, without the orchestral overdubs or Graeme Edge's spoken‑word poem, 'Late Lament', that is recited by Mike Pinder near the six‑minute mark of the song's album version, 'Nights In White Satin' initially peaked at number 19 on the UK chart, at around the same time that Days Of Future Passed topped out there at number 27. Nevertheless, despite Deram's uncertain approach to marketing an album that combined rock with classical, it did reach number three on the Billboard 200 following its American debut in April 1968. Furthermore, after the aforementioned single hit number two there in 1972, it was re‑released in the UK and climbed to number nine.
"It's just a song, really,” Justin Hayward commented about 'Nights In White Satin' in a July 2008 radio interview, "but we recorded it first, a long time before we recorded it for Decca; we recorded it for the BBC. We recorded it and weren't invited into the control room to listen to it back. And then in our van on the way to a gig we listened to it, because it was on a program called Saturday Club — on a Saturday, of course — and we were going up the motorway and we heard it on the radio. And we pulled the car over, or the van, over to the side of the road, and we said, 'Hey, maybe there's something in that song,' because there was something about it, it sounded really good. We hadn't realized until we'd heard it back ourselves. And then it kind of took on a life of its own...”
May 26 17 3:19 AM
The Moody Blues’ John Lodge is trying to arrange a return of co-founding members Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder to mark the 50th anniversary of iconic album Days Of Future Passed.
But the bassist admits there are some stumbling blocks to staging the reunion in 2017.
Flautist Thomas and keyboardist Pinder both make guest appearances on Lodge’s second solo album 10,000 Light Years Ago, out next month.
But neither of them want to undertake any touring commitments.
Lodge tells ABC: “If it works, it will be fantastic because it’s a natural thing to do. I’m not trying to force it – it’ll be because it’s supposed to be.”
Thomas, who retired in 2002, has remained in touch with his former colleagues. Pinder, who left in 1978, hasn’t seen them in years, but hopes to meet up when the Moody Blues’ current tour takes them near his California home.
Lodge hints that the band could stage some kind of reenactment of the classic album – but admits the difficult part will be “finding a way of doing it without them having to tour.”
He adds: “They’ve been an integral part of my life. You can’t dismiss that. It’s locked in there.”
Days Of Future Passed, released in 1967, is regarded as a defining moment in the development of progressive music. Lodge’s 10,000 Light Years Ago is inspired by the concepts explored in the classic work. The Moody Blues return to the UK in June:
Jun 2 17 5:10 AM
By Dave Thompson
Rather than ask whether or not a band deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there is a growing breed of music fan who asks whether the Hall of Fame itself deserves any bands.
What started out as a reasonably sincere, if always faintly dubious, attempt to legitimize rock ’n’ roll in the same mainstream sphere as the Emmys and Grammys has since become little more than another round of industry back-slapping, its honors neatly divided between populist inevitabilities and patronized obscurities.
Certainly one can argue that the Hall of Fame has completely lost sight (if it ever even understood them) of rock ’n’ roll’s primary cultural objective and purpose — which was to stand up against anything that society deemed acceptable. In a perfect world, Hall of Fame nominees would be judged wholly on how many hotel rooms they’ve trashed, how many Rolls-Royces they have driven into swimming pools and how many TVs they have thrown out of windows. With drug consumption, groupie debauchment and alcohol intake thrown in for good measure.
So much for a perfect world. Sadly, we live in a very imperfect one, which some people believe is the only explanation for why the Moody Blues have still to be inducted. They have, after all, now been eligible for inclusion for longer (26 years) than the period of eligibility (25) itself, and every time another batch of nominations rolls around, there they are, absent again.
Why? What does the Hall of Fame judging committee have against our favorite Knights in white satin? They won’t tell us, of course. So we’ll just have to make stuff up. Here are five reasons why the Moody Blues should be inducted into the Hall of Fame immediately. And five reasons why it’s good that they’ve been kept out.
1. In a sea of British Invasion heroes, only the Zombies (“She’s Not There”) and the Animals (“House of the Rising Sun”) can be said to have said so much with one song as the Moodies did with “Go Now” — a 1964 megawhopper that remains the all-time definitive reading.
2. Prog Rock, no matter how successful its creators, has never comfortably fit in with most people’s notion of truly merit-worthy rock ’n’ roll – which is why Yes, ELP, King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator are also absent from the Hall. Can you imagine the jam at the end, if they were invited? “Thank you. Now we’d like to play for you sides two, three and four of our third concept album.”
3. Whether or not one actually likes the music, it is impossible to dismiss the impact of “Days of Future Passed,” the Moodies’ second album, but their first to feature what we now regard as the classic lineup. Both commercially and culturally, “Days…” not only vies for the title of rock’s first true concept album (as opposed to a bunch of bad Beatles songs bookended by an even drabber title piece), it also contains one of the defining sounds of psychedelia ‘67, “Nights in White Satin.”
4. For heaven’s sake, get these men a tailor. Watching Moodies footage from the end of the ‘60s is like gazing upon a bunch of very trendy geography teachers, being dressed according to a blind television producer’s mix-and-match concept of what is currently “hip.” Or was, a few months before. For sartorial reasons alone, the Moody Blues are about as rock ’n’ roll as Lawrence Welk. And at least Dudley Do-Right liked him.
5. The original 1964-1967 Moodies lineup, fronted by future Wingsman Denny Laine and co-managed by maverick genius Tony Secunda, were recently commemorated with a 2-CD “complete works” box set whose contents stand alongside any similar period package of British R&B’s transition into weightier topics and themes. Their previously unissued version of Tim Hardin’s “Hang on to a Dream” is at least the equal to their treatment of “Go Now.” Although Hardin’s not been Hall of Famed either.
6. There’s weighty and there’s wearisome. If the Moodies had stopped at two albums, and never followed up “Days of Future Passed,” they’d probably have been nominated two decades ago. But they had to keep going, and frankly, they talked themselves out of contention somewhere around the time of “To Our Children’s Children’s Children’s Psychiatrists… Please Make Them Stop.” Or whatever it was called.
7. In a mid-1970s age where every band of a certain mindset felt compelled to splinter off a slew of solo albums, the Moodies were the single exception that proved the golden rule. Most of their efforts were actually really good, with one of them, Justin Hayward and John Lodge’s Blue Jays project, even spinning off a single that sums up 1975 as eloquently as “Nights in White Satin” encapsulated ’67. “Blue Guitar” is a work of genius.
8. And so, according to some poor souls, is the solo Hayward’s “Forever Autumn,” although it’s probably best known as one of the lynchpins that bind Jeff Wayne’s “The War of the Worlds“ concept monster. Seriously, do you really want giant three-legged Martian fighting machines strolling the streets of New York City, ruthlessly incinerating every industry bigwig that they see? Umm … don’t answer that.
9. Rock ’n’ roll is not merely about the music, it is the entire package — music, artwork, lifestyle and philosophy. Quite frankly, if more people lived their lives according to the teachings of the Moody Blues, relating to their lyrics and the meanings thereof; adhering to the tenets of love, intellect and tranquility that pervade their every breath, the world would be a far happier place.
10. Sorry. You lost me when you called them rock ’n’ roll.
Jun 3 17 11:05 AM
10. Sorry. You lost me when you called them rock ’n’ roll.
Jun 4 17 1:21 PM
Charles Crossley Jr wrote:10. Sorry. You lost me when you called them rock ’n’ roll.LOL!
Jun 21 17 8:57 AM
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