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Music / The Moody Blues

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The Moody Blues in their heyday. From left to right: Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas, and John Lodge.

Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight
Red is grey and yellow white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion
Mike Pinder's spoken word passage from "The Late Lament"

The Moody Blues are a Long Runner Psychedelic Rock/Progressive Rock band from Birmingham, England, founded in 1964.

Ray Thomas, John Lodge, and Mike Pinder had all been members of various amateur bands before Lodge left to go to college. The remaining two recruited band manager-turned-drummer Graeme Edge, guitarist Denny Laine (real name Brian Hines; later of Wings) and Clint Warwick (real name Albert Eccles) on bass to form the Moody Blues.note  Originally, they were mostly a white R&B band in line with most of The British Invasion bands of this period. Under a recording contract with Decca Records, they first had success with the single "Go Now" (originally written by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett and recorded by Banks' then-wife, Bessie Banks), which was a top 10 hit in the United States and, in fact, remains their only #1 single in the UK. Their debut album The Magnificent Moodies was released in 1965, but they had trouble following the success of "Go Now" with an additional hit, and in 1966, Warwick and Laine left.

Warwick was briefly replaced by Rodney Clark, but it didn't last, and their best-known line-up formed when Pinder, Thomas, and Edge reunited with Lodge and joined up with guitarist Justin Hayward of the Wilde Three. This line-up released two more singles, "Fly Me High" and "Love and Beauty", which also found little success. However, the latter was a definite move towards their classic sound, featuring the symphonic sounds of Pinder's Mellotron and using Thomas' flute as more of a featured instrument. From here on, the Moodies would become a full-blown Psychedelic Rock band.

Their contract with Decca was set to expire, but the label offered them a deal to promote their new "Deramic Stereo Sound" audio format, and its associated Deram Records label, with a rock version of Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony. They were unable to complete this but convinced Peter Knight, who had been hired to conduct the orchestral material on the abandoned project, to continue working with them (providing overtures, conclusions and orchestral linking sections between songs) on a recording that would blend rock music with symphonic sounds, in the structure of a Concept Album about a day in the life of an everyman. The resulting album, Days of Future Passed (1967), was a sales success, mostly on the back of Hayward's Top 20 single "Nights in White Satin" (and, in America, the #24 placing of "Tuesday Afternoon"). Special note must be made of Pinder's contributions: he and producer Tony Clarke removed the sound effects tapes from his mellotron and doubled up the orchestral tapes, combining with Pinder's skills on the mellotron to create a symphonic "wave" sound that would become a defining characteristic of their work. Its concept album structure is also a huge influence on Progressive Rock.

The three following albums, In Search of the Lost Chord (1968), On the Threshold of a Dream (1969, which was their first UK #1 album) and To Our Children's Children's Children (1969, another Concept Album inspired by the then-recent moon landing), were also successes, featuring several more hit singles, and lacked the full orchestra, instead relying on the mellotron. However, this full, symphonic sound, heavily reliant on overdubbing, was too difficult for them to reproduce live, so they stripped down their sound a little more for 1970's A Question of Balance and 1971's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, which were also huge successes, the former yielding a #2 hit in "Question", and they and the final album in their classic period, 1972's Seventh Soujourn, all produced several Top 40 singles. However, five years of touring and recording had taken their toll on the band, and they felt they were running out of ideas. They eventually went on hiatus and would not record for another five years.

The band got back together in 1977 to record a new album, Octave. However, Pinder had married and started a family in the interim, so he declined to go on tour with them. Besides this, there was a fire at the studios they were using, and a landslide after rain marooned them in Pinder's home where they were using his home studio, causing tension to rise. Eventually, Pinder left, and on tour, he was replaced by Swiss ex-Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz. Their follow-ups, Long Distance Voyager (1981) and The Present (1983), were also successful, but they lacked their trademark lush, symphonic mellotron-led sound, replaced with a more modern feel. Similarly, Hayward, who had also been the primary composer of their hit singles including "Nights in White Satin" and "Question", was forced by marketers to have one of his songs lead off each album, and they were now more aimed at getting radio airplay. With Hayward and Lodge now acting as the primary composers, Ray Thomas was being pushed off to the side, and because of all of this, the quality of their albums suffered from this point onwards, particularly in Pinder's absence.

The band enjoyed a boost in commercial fortunes with their 1986 album The Other Side of Life and another Hayward tune and U.S. Top 10 single, "Your Wildest Dreams". This album and their followup, 1988's Sur La Mer, are the results of producer Tony Visconti and synth programmer Barry Radman introducing the use of sequencers, samplers, and drum machines in order to remain contemporary in the musical climate of the '80s. However, Hayward and Lodge's compositions were becoming increasingly lightweight and not as deep musically, and since the music they were producing did not fit with a flute, Thomas continued the process of becoming a Lesser Star (going so far as to be mixed out of Sur La Mer entirely, though this was partly due to illness). While these albums and 1991's Keys to the Kingdom remained good sellers, critical reaction for the Moodies was mixed by this time, and Moraz was expressing dissatisfaction with being in the band, eventually leaving in 1991. The other members continued on as a four-piece, supported by live keyboardists.

Faced with critical maulings and a lawsuit from Moraz in 1992, the Moodies took a hiatus from recording, instead continuing to tour. This time, they performed with an orchestra, finally allowing them to fully recreate much of their early work on stage. Eventually they got back into the studio to record their latest all-original album, 1999's Strange Times. This was a huge improvement, cutting down on the 1980s excess and giving emphasis to guitars instead of keyboards, creating a pretty decent comeback. Thomas retired in 2002, and the band again continued as a trio of Edge, Hayward, and Lodge (with unofficial fourth member, flautist Norda Mullen), cutting their latest album, the Christmas album December, in 2003. Clint Warwick died in 2004 from liver disease. The Moodies continued touring until 2018. In December 2017, they were announced as inductees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Thomas passed away on January 4, 2018. Edge passed away on November 11, 2021. Shortly after Edge's death, Hayward revealed the band had quietly ceased activity in 2018.

Principal Members (founding members in bold):

  • Rodney Clark - bass, vocals (1966)
  • Graeme Edge - drums, percussion, timpani, tabla, tambourine, VCS3 (1964–2018, died 2021)
  • Justin Hayward - guitar, backing and lead vocals, piano, keyboard, sitar, cello, mandolin (1966–2018)
  • Denny Laine - guitar, backing and lead vocals, harmonica, piano, keyboard (1964–66, died 2023)
  • John Lodge - bass, guitar, backing and lead vocals, cello, double bass, harp, keyboard (1966–2018)
  • Patrick Moraz - keyboard, synthesizer (1978–91)
  • Mike Pinder - keyboard, piano, organ, backing and lead vocals, mellotron, harpsichord, guitar, cello, autoharp, tambura, VCS3, celesta, synthesizer, chamberlin (1964–78)
  • Ray Thomas - flute, percussion, tambourine, backing and lead vocals, harmonica, horn, keyboard, saxophone, oboe, french horn, bass flute, woodwinds (1964–2002, died 2018)
  • Clint Warwick - bass, backing and co-lead vocals (1964–66, died 2004)

Studio Discography:

  • 1965 - The Magnificent Moodies
  • 1967 - Days of Future Passed
  • 1968 - In Search of the Lost Chord
  • 1969 - On the Threshold of a Dream
  • 1969 - To Our Children's Children's Children
  • 1970 - A Question of Balance
  • 1971 - Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
  • 1972 - Seventh Sojourn
  • 1978 - Octave
  • 1981 - Long Distance Voyager
  • 1983 - The Present
  • 1986 - The Other Side of Life
  • 1988 - Sur La Mer
  • 1991 - Keys of the Kingdom
  • 1999 - Strange Times
  • 2003 - December

Live Discography:

  • 1977 - Caught Live + 5
  • 1993 - A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra
  • 2000 - Hall of Fame
  • 2005 - Lovely to See You: Live
  • 2007 - Live at the BBC: 1967–1970
  • 2008 - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970


  • '70s Hair: The video for "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" was filmed in 1972, and features all five Moodies with 1970s hair par excellence. Justin Hayward and John Lodge have clean-shaven faces but shoulder-length hair (Justin's is straight, John's is curly), while in increasing order of length, Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder, and Graeme Edge match hair past their shoulders or longer with thick, bushy full beards.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • From "How Is It (We Are Here)?": "Man's mighty mine-machines..."
    • From "Higher and Higher": "Blasting, billowing, bursting forth with the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes..."
  • Album Title Drop: On the Threshold of a Dream comes from the final words of the spoken-word poem "The Dream".
  • Artifact Title: The band's name is derived from their origins as an R&B (rhythm and blues) group. Despite reinventing their sound entirely after their debut album, they chose not to change the band's name.
  • Artistic License – Geology: "Visions of Paradise" refers to "blue onyx from the sea". According to Wikipedia, blue is one of the few colours which isn't possible for onyx.
  • The Band Minus the Face:
    • Averted with their first lineup. They were originally a well-respected but only moderately successful white R&B band. After lead singer Denny Laine left (along with bassist Clint Warwick), the band brought in Justin Hayward and John Lodge, switched to symphonic rock, and became massively popular.
    • Played straight later on. Mike Pinder wasn't exactly as popular as the two aforementioned members, but it's generally perceived that they lost something with his departure following Octave.
  • Book Ends:
    • Days of Future Passed has bookends within bookends.
      • Lyrically, the album begins and ends with Mike Pinder reciting the same five lines in the Graeme Edge-penned "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament".
        Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
        Removes the colors from our sight.
        Red is grey and yellow white,
        But we decide which is right,
        And which is an illusion.
      • But the very first thing we hear is the sound of a gong being struck, played in reverse; the very last thing we hear is the same sound, this time played forwards.
    • On the Threshold of a Dream: "In the Beginning" starts with a howling-wind sound effect. "Have You Heard? (Part 2)" ends with the same sound effect.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Few people remember The Magnificent Moodies nowadays, the only album of the Denny Laine era. It is always ignored whenever the Moodies' catalog gets remastered/reissued, and songs from the album are almost never included on compilations, despite "Go Now" being a Top Ten hit.
  • Chronological Album Title: Seventh Sojourn is the seventh album by the Hayward-Lodge lineup. Octave is the eighth.
  • Concept Album: Most of their early albums. Days of Future Passed, To Our Children's Children's Children, A Question of Balance...
  • Dark Reprise: Eyes of a Child, parts 1 and 2.
  • Dystopia: The music video for "The Other Side of Life".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Magnificent Moodies sounds nothing like what people associate with the Moody Blues.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Likely the meaning of Melancholy Man, as he talks about all the stars falling down (which is likely a reference to Revelation 12:4) as well as a beam of light granting the character knowledge of every good thing ever said.)
    • YMMV on that one. This troper finds the lyrics match her struggles with depression very well.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin/New Sound Album: As heard on The Magnificent Moodies, the Moody Blues really were a blues-based band to start with. Then came the Justin Hayward era, and the switch to the familiar symphonic soft-rock sound.
  • Face on the Cover: Mostly averted; only two albums feature photographs of the band at all, and neither is a straight-up photo of the band's faces. Octave features the band from behind as they walk through a door, with only Graeme Edge turning toward the camera. The Other Side of Life is a collage of small photos of each band member's face superimposed against an image of a laboratory of some sort.
  • Fading into the Next Song: The early albums (through Octave) all do this. The only gaps are between the first and second sides.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Mike Pinder had worked in the factory that made the Mellotron. He was able to make modifications to his as well as repair the temperamental instrument, which was notoriously prone to breaking down on tour.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Several. 1974's This Is The Moody Blues — which was specially mixed and sequenced by producer Tony Clarke, with the songs presented non-chronologically and crossfaded in order to flow like a "proper" album — is an especially notable example.
  • Intercourse with You: "So Deep Within You" and "Deep" both have lyrics that are not-so-subtle, and the moans heard in the latter song do little to help matters. Same goes for "Say What You Mean, Part II", where the words spoken are rather... well, let's just say suggestive. Some other songs have hints of this, too.
  • Laughing Mad: "Departure" ends with Graeme Edge collapsing into this as it fades into "Ride My See-Saw".
  • Lead Bassist: John Lodge has become a Type B more and more with each album.
  • Lead Singer Plays Lead Guitar: Denny Laine was this before he joined Wings. His replacement, Justin Hayward, became one of the mainstays in the band - even releasing up to four solo albums during his tenure.
  • Lighter and Softer: Mainly the post-Clarke albums.
  • Live Album: Several.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Four different lineups qualify as a Type 2.
    • The core lineup of Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, John Lodge, and Justin Hayward lasted from 1966 to 1978.
    • After Pinder left the band, the lineup of Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, John Lodge, Justin Hayward, and Patrick Moraz lasted from 1978 to 1991.
    • Then Moraz left, and the remaining quartet of Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, John Lodge, and Justin Hayward lasted from 1991 to 2002.
    • Finally, Thomas retired, and the trio of Graeme Edge, John Lodge, and Justin Hayward (with Norda Mullen as Thomas' unofficial successor on flute) lasted from 2002 until they called it quits in 2018. Do the maths and you'll realise this means Edge, Lodge, and Hayward have been part of the band for over fifty years.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Go Now" opens with Denny Laine delivering the song's first line, "We've already said..." unaccompanied. Mike Pinder enters on piano in time for Laine to complete the line with "'Goodbye'..."
  • Misplaced Wildlife: "Dr. Livingstone I Presume" had Captain Scott encountering polar bears — evidently Ray Thomas, who wrote the song, failed to realise that "Antarctic" comes from the Greek for "no bears".
  • Mood Whiplash: The ending of "Dear Diary" from On the Threshold of a Dream, after describing a typical pleasant day, ends "Somebody exploded an H-bomb today... but it wasn't anybody I knew".
  • New Sound Album: Days of Future Passed marked their shift from white blues to symphonic rock. Long Distance Voyager was the beginning of the synth-heavy Moraz years.
  • No More Lies: The song that has the same name off of Sur la Mer.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title of "Legend of a Mind" does not appear in the lyrics.
  • The Not-Remix:
    • Days of Future Passed was remixed in 1978 due to the original master tapes deteriorating.
    • Also done for the This Is The Moody Blues compilation, to allow the songs to be crossfaded in a new order.
  • Pretty Boy: Justin Hayward — in his prime (and even now) is one of the most beautiful frontmen in rock history, with a voice to match.
  • Progressive Rock: Arguably the first major prog group, if Frank Zappa's band The Mothers of Invention don't count (Days of Future Passed and Absolutely Free, both major cornerstones of progressive rock, each came out in 1967, although Absolutely Free was earlier by a few months).
  • Psychedelic Rock: Most of their early albums.
  • Record Producer: Tony Clarke helmed all of their albums from Days of Future Passed through Octave, and played a major role in shaping their classic sound.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: In regards to the two keyboardists. Patrick Moraz is rather flamboyant, especially onstage. Mike Pinder, on the other hand, is not only a master mellotron player but also a singer on par with both Hayward and Thomas.
    • To a lesser extent, the two guitarists Denny Laine and Justin Hayward.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin:
    • Ray Thomas, having already fallen afoul of Misplaced Wildlife in "Dr. Livingstone I Presume" by putting polar bears at the South Pole, trips over this trope in the very next line when he refers to "Antartic" eels. Presumably those would be eels that aren't hinged in the middle.note 
    • "Nights in White Satin" is sometimes misspelled "Knights", by people who evidently don't realize that this song is the album closer from a concept album about a day in the life of an everyman, and so represents the night that follows the day.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Hayward himself admitted that he came from a different background than the rest of his bandmates, who he said were "four very strong personalities, a lot of testosterone flying around."
  • Sequel Song: "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" (from 1988's Sur La Mer) was a sequel to their 1986 hit song, "Your Wildest Dreams"; the music video for the aforementioned song continued where "Your Wildest Dreams" left off.
  • Siamese Twin Song: The Present does this twice, with "Hole in the World"/"Under My Feet" and "I Am"/"Sorry". The triplet version appears in Long Distance Voyager as "Painted Smile"/"Reflective Smile"/"Veteran Cosmic Rocker".
  • Spin-Off: During the Moodies' first hiatus, Justin Hayward and John Lodge recorded one self-titled album under the name "The Blue Jays". This name was probably an allusion to the Moody Blues plus the shared initial letter of their first names.
  • Spoken Word in Music: One or two songs on each of the first few albums is a spoken word poem by Graeme Edge, though usually read by Mike Pinder.
  • Stage Names: Denny Laine was born Brian Hines. Also, Clint Warwick was born Albert Eccles. Before joining the Moodies, Ray Thomas was known as El Riot, leading the band the Rebels with John Lodge and Mike Pinder among them.
  • Synth-Pop: Their output during Moraz's tenure in the band.
  • Title Track: Only two Moody Blues albums have proper title tracks, The Other Side of Life and Strange Times. Others do come close, however, such as December ("December Snow"). A Question of Balance arguably has two title tracks that bookend the album: "Question" and "The Balance".
  • Un-person: Ever since they parted ways with Moraz, the Moodies have denied that Moraz was ever an official band member — even though he receives equal billing with the others on all of their 80s albums.
  • Ur-Example: Due to its lush orchestral arrangement, blending of classical with contemporary music, and baroque-style vocal arrangements, "Go Now" from The Magnificent Moodies in 1964 could be considered the first progressive rock song ever created. Granted, it doesn't have all the elements, but it's undeniable that "Go Now" at least could be called a predecessor to prog rock.
  • Vocal Tag Team: A trademark of Hayward and Lodge, but Pinder and Thomas typically had one or two songs on lead vocals per album as well. Edge occasionally recited his own poems and also assumed the duty on "Late Lament" in concert after Pinder left the band, although Pinder did do the lion's share in studio. Laine had the lion's share of lead vocals when he was in the band, but Thomas and Pinder got a few showcases.
    • Of note is "After You Came", in which each member apart from Edge sings one line of the bridge.
      Thomas: I've been doing my best
      Pinder: What else can I do
      Hayward: Is there something I've missed
      Lodge: That will help you through
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Frequently.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: "You Can Never Go Home" from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: "No More Lies" and "Love Is on the Run" are a couple of these examples.