Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward still enjoys playing classic songs on tour

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When Justin Hayward joined the Moody Blues, they were essentially a British beat group whose live shows were filled with R&B covers, as brilliantly captured on 1965’s “The Magnificent Moodies.”

The year was 1966 and Hayward had been brought in to replace guitarist Denny Laine, the voice of “Go Now”, which had topped the UK charts, with John Lodge joining the same year on bass.

“I came into the band as a songwriter,” Hayward recalled ahead of his concert at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theater on Thursday, May 19.

“Mike Pinder, the keyboard player, called me when Denny left. Because it was a cover band. It was rhythm & blues – interesting, good and professional for the time. But Mike was also a songwriter. -composer, and he wanted to find a way to make his own songs.”

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Moody Blues decide to make their own songs

At first, they tried to move on without necessarily moving on.

“We just weren’t very good at rhythm & blues covers,” says Hayward.

“It was kind of unnecessary in a way. But they were pay the rent. So, at the end of 1966, we were doing two 45-minute sets – one was rhythm & blues covers, then our second 45 minutes would be our own material.”

They still wore matching blue suits back then.

Justin Hayward: October 14, 1946.

“And we were very stylish,” Hayward recalled. “But it was already dated. The world had evolved.”

It all came to a head in the van driving home after a tough week of shows.

“We just agreed that we had to do our own songs,” Hayward said.

“No more blue suits. Just be us, make our own songs and see what happens. Because we had nothing to lose. If you have nothing, that’s okay.”

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The making of “Days of Future Past”

The Moodies’ first attempt to update their sound was 1967’s “Fly Me High”, written by Hayward.

In May of the same year, they entered Decca studios in London with producer Tony Clarke to begin work on an album called “Days of Future Passed”.

Their label, Decca, had experimented with stereophonic sound on classical recordings and presented the idea of ​​interweaving their material with classical recordings arranged by Peter Knight.

“We recorded our songs for ‘Days of Future Passed,’ which was primarily our stage act,” Hayward said.

“Nights in White Satin” and “Dawn is a Feeling” had been touring for a while.

“‘Nights’ was actually recorded by the BBC in May of that year,” he recalls. “But it became a perfect part of the ‘Days of Future Passed’ album.”

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The orchestrations were performed during a three-hour session which Hayward “was fortunate enough to attend” with Knight conducting the London Festival Orchestra.

“They just crossed it once,” Hayward says. “Wonderful orchestra players. Then they had tea. And then they recorded it from start to finish, the whole 48 minutes, and that was it.”

It was Knight who first approached them with the concept for the album, after going to see them perform at the 100 Club on Oxford Street.

“He was so respected at Decca, the musicians knew if Peter had written those orchestrations it was going to be good,” Hayward says.

“So there was no tinkering. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m just doing a pop session where I’m doing a string line for three minutes. “”

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Justin Hayward

The slow rise of ‘Nights in White Satin’

The album was a moderate success at first, but slowly gained momentum, eventually cracking the US Top 10 five years later, a breakthrough largely fueled by FM airplay of “Nights in White Satin”, a single written and sung by Hayward with a speaking voice. word poem recited by Pinder.

Hayward credits “the birth of FM radio and disc jockeys not having to do Top 40 stuff all the time” for the single’s success.

Another factor was that people were increasingly interested in owning nice stereo systems.

“We were lucky to be with Decca,” says Hayward.

“Their whole philosophy was about sound quality, so we were blessed with beautifully recorded records. It wasn’t just singles that had a solid mid sound with not much else. It was full-frequency stuff.”

“Nights in White Satin” eventually peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot 100, where it spent two weeks.

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“We just broke up”

That same year, 1972, produced their first chart-topping US album, “Seventh Sojourn”, which included a hit single written and sung by Lodge, “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” .

By then they had amassed a string of US pop hits – “Go Now”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, “Question”, “The Story in Your Eyes”, “Isn’t Life Strange” and “Nights in White Satin”. .”

Shortly after the success of “Seventh Sojourn”, they went on hiatus in 1974 with Hayward and Lodge collaborating on an album called “Blue Jays” the following year.

Hayward also recorded the UK Top 5 single ‘Blue Guitar’ with 10cc, but released it as Hayward and Lodge before launching his solo career in earnest with the aptly titled ‘Songwriter’.

The same year Hayward’s solo album hit the streets, 1977, the Moodies reunite.

“We came back to make an album for Decca,” Hayward said. “But that didn’t sit well with Mike, and it didn’t sit well with our producer Tony Clarke. Luckily, nothing was said that couldn’t be said. But we kind of parted ways.”

Pinder quit before he finished following “Octave” and his bandmates continued without him, recruiting Patrick Moraz from Yes to tour on the album.

“In a way, it started a new era,” Hayward says.

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Justin Hayward

‘Wildest Dreams’ came true in the 80s

The 80s got off to a promising start when the album “Long Distance Voyager” topped the US charts and ushered in another wave of hit singles in the US, from “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice” to “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I know you’re out there somewhere.”

“In the ’80s, we were lucky enough to have some really pop hits, which was a real joy,” Hayward says.

“I kind of missed it the first time around. I was somewhere else, mystically and emotionally and chemically as well. But the second time around, I was present, awake and aware. And it was wonderful.”

Hayward was a big fan of the music of this era.

“If I could only have one decade of music, it would be the 80s,” he says.

He particularly enjoyed working with Tony Visconti, a producer best known for his work with David Bowie and T. Rex. Visconti began working with the Moodies on “The Other Side of Life,” which spawned their biggest ’80s hit, “Your Wildest Dreams.”

Hayward liked Visconti’s disciplined production style, “not hanging around for weeks trying to make a song, just make it and commit to it”.

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Induction into the Moody Blues Hall of Fame

The Moody Blues gave their final performance during their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018, an honor that ended up being a bit more meaningful than Hayward had anticipated.

“If you’re European or British, it’s not something you think about a lot,” says Hayward.

“But for the American fans, it was really important. And the more we talked about it, the more I realized that it was a wonderful thing that was happening to us and I’m so happy about it.”

In addition to still touring, Hayward has some new music coming out this year. And he likes to revisit the era of “Days of Future Passed” in concert with guitarists Mike Dawes and Julie Ragins, who toured with the Moodies for many years on vocals and keyboards, and Karmen Gould on flute and vocals. .

The joy of rediscovering the songs on tour

They perform the songs on which his legacy rests in arrangements that the songwriter feels are much closer in spirit to how he envisioned the material.

“We kind of present the songs as they were written,” he says.

“So it’s a joy for me to rediscover these songs, some things that I only played for two or three days when they were recorded. You maybe get a little bit more of the essence of it in this format , because you can’t sort of hide behind a battery.”

He rotated the songs inside and outside the set.

“But there are a few things I have to play, because I wouldn’t leave the stage without playing them, really,” he laughs.

Luckily, he still likes to play the songs he has to play.

“The great songs I’ve done over the years, you can soundcheck them and you can get everything pretty much perfect,” he says.

“But when there’s an audience there, it brings a magic to the room that couldn’t exist otherwise. And that’s a real joy. The audience brings something to it and there’s something that’s created at that time.”

Justin Hayward

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19.

Where: Celebrity Theater, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix.

Admission: $45 to $75.

Details: 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com.

Contact the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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