The Moody Blues may have hung up their rock and roll shoes in 2018 following the retirement of late founding member Graeme Edge, but the band’s spirit very much carries on via John Lodge, the band’s bass player. Last year represented the 55th anniversary of the band’s seminal 1967 outing Days of Future Passed, considered by many to be one the earliest concept albums by an English prog-rock band.
And while it may have not have been the Moody’s debut album (that would be 1965’s The Magnificent Moodies), it represented a wholesale change in the group’s sound, where they went from being an R&B-heavy covers band to an outfit leaning into more complex original material following the departure of Denny Laine and Clint Warwick and the arrival of Lodge and Justin Hayward. For the 77-year-old bassist, revisiting Days is a way of honoring his old group’s legacy, along with the memory of his late friend Edge, who passed away in November 2021 from metastatic cancer.
Click here to read about John Lodge’s favorite early rock & roll pianists.
“I had this idea of celebrating the anniversary [of Days] so I went to see Graeme and he really liked if I would record him reciting the poetry [on the album],” Lodge recalled. “I told him I wanted to film him as well, so he could be an integral part of Days of Future Passed because, ‘Breathe deep, the gathering gloom’ is historic and gigantic. He said he would love to because he wanted to keep the Moody Blues music alive as well, just like I do. I told him he’d always have a place on stage with me. I recorded and filmed him and he’ll be featured on stage as well. As you know, Graeme passed away, so he never got to see it. But his family will and it will be great.”
While the pandemic may have thrown a monkey wrench into touring plans, it hasn’t dampened Lodge’s enthusiasm for carrying on the Moody Blues legacy. Backing the Birmingham native is his 10,000 Light Years Band, featuring Alan Hewitt (music director/keyboards), Billy Ashbaugh (drums), Duffy King (guitar) and Jason Charboneau (cello). Also participating is current Yes frontman Jon Davison and Lodge’s son-in-law, who will be joining the band for special renditions of “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” For Lodge, the set-list set-up allows him to look back 55 years-plus to that week in 1967 when he, Edge, Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas and Hayward “…came out with an album that changed our lives forever.”
“I’m really excited about this tour,” Lodge said. “The show is in two parts. The first one will be basically classic Moody Blues songs and tributes to the guys in the band. The second part will be the complete Days of Future Passed.”
The seven songs on the Moody Blues second album represent an inflection point for the band that started with the band’s decision to ask their label, Deram Records, to allow the band to record on a 24-hour schedule for a week versus coming to the studio for three daily three-hour sessions as was the norm at the time. For Lodge, it was a game-changing moment in the band’s history.
“We all individually and collectively played cover songs from four years before,” he said. “Days of Future Passed represented the fact that we’d done all that and it was time for us to write our own songs. And that’s what we did—write our own songs and created what became the Moody Blues. We had a flute player in Ray Thomas and no band really did. We had Mike Pinder on mellotron, which no one else did. And we had four voices—Justin, myself, Graeme and Mike all sang. We got all the notes in a chord when you record it—we had them all covered. For a week, 24 hours a day, we recorded. It was an amazing thing because I think the camaraderie in the band really set in there because at four in the morning, someone would have an idea and ask the rest of us to try it and we did. We had a great producer—Tony Clarke—and a great engineer—Derek Varnels—and they both became an integral part of our seven major recordings.”
While the pandemic short-circuited the tour behind Lodge’s last solo outing, 2019’s B Yond, it hasn’t dampened his creative drive. Despite the pandemic-forced isolation, he ordered a ton of gear, taught himself how to use GarageBand software and recorded some music including a single called “In These Crazy Times,” which made a little noise on the UK charts. The future includes solo touring, working with orchestras and above all, honoring the half-century plus he spent in his last full-time gig.
“It’s really important for me to say that the Moody Blues is part of my life,” he said. “I’m still a Moody Blue now. That’s why I wanted to record [B Yond] and release it with my band, the 10,000 Light Year Band because they are fantastic musicians and I wanted to show what I was going to be doing on stage in the future.”
John Lodge and the 10,0000 Light Year Band will be appearing on February 28 at The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 E. Main St., Patchogue. For more information, visit www.patchogueheatre.com or call 631-207-1313. Lodge will also be appearing on March 1 at Sony Hall, 235 W. 46th St., NYC. For more information, visit www.sonyhall.com or call 212-997-5123.
So, what’s become of the Bluejays? Have John and Justin gone separate ways?