The Moody Blues' Lost Years: Their Solo Work Remembered
The forgotten years
Singers in a rock and roll band
The Moody Blues are one of the most enduring and beloved rock bands in music history. Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas have been performing for over 40 years, and have written some of the greatest rock/pop songs of all time. Their catalog of hits includes Tuesday Afternoon, Question, and I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band). The landmark first album Days of Future Passed was a masterpiece and its hit single, Nights in White Satin was #1 on Billboard three separate times. The early success of the band dates back to an era of flower power, and it is a testament to their talent and creativity that the Moody Blues are still popular today.
After producing Seventh Sojourn in 1972, the Moody Blues took a five-year hiatus to work on solo ventures. Band members Justin Hayward and John Lodge collaborated on an album titled Blue Jays before moving on to individual projects. Lodge contributed Natural Avenue while Hayward came up with Songwriter and Night Flight. Justin Hayward also worked with Jeff Wayne on the War of the Worlds album and recorded the worldwide hit, Forever Autumn. Ray Thomas produced From Mighty Oaks and Hopes, Wishes and Dreams; Graeme Edge made Kick Off Your Muddy Boots and Paradise Ballroom, while former band member Mike Pinder recorded The Promise.
The years the band spent working on solo projects were in many ways as productive as their time together. Hayward, Thomas and Pinder in particular wrote music worthy of inclusion on a Moody Blues album. In fact, their songs in some respects surpassed their contributions to the band. These are the tunes that should have been Moody Blues songs, but weren’t. These are songs that deserve to be remembered for their beauty and eloquence.
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Forever Autumn performed by Justin Hayward
War of the Worlds
Justin Hayward sang what should have been the definitive Moody Blues song for Jeff Wayne and his War of the Worlds album. Forever Autumn is a haunting love song with beautiful music and lyrics. It is a song of tragedy and loss—which is all too often the nature of love. This tune so perfectly matches the Moody Blues’ style; it is easy to forget that it was actually written by Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass specifically for the War of the Worlds album. Hayward began performing Forever Autumn with the Moody Blues approximately five years ago, but Lodge and Edge usually leave the stage for this number.
Ray Thomas performs "The Last Dream"
Hope, Wishes and Dreams
Ray Thomas penned the lovely “The Last Dream” for his second solo album: Hopes, Wishes and Dreams. His song told the story of a man who stood outside his home, gazed out to the sea beyond the shores and reflected upon his life. He saw that life was beautiful and realized he had finally reached a point where he could appreciate its magnificence. He was accepting of himself and his past deeds—both for good and bad. In that acceptance, he was at peace with whatever came next.
Mike Pinder's "The Promise"
Mike Pinder's goal was to write this song
In 1976, Mike Pinder released an album called “The Promise.” It had none of the lavish orchestration found on albums produced by Hayward, Thomas and Lodge, suggesting he was about to embark on a musical path that would separate him from the rest of the band. His songs spoke of love, hope and faith but the lyrics also included references to God and religion. The spirituality of Pinder’s work lacked the psychedelic, quasi-mystical qualities more in keeping with the band’s image but remained beautiful songs that represented the culmination of Mike Pinder’s musical ambitions. The final song on the album seemed to summarize his thoughts about life, spirituality and music. Like the album itself, it was named “The Promise.”
Blue Jays and more
Justin, John, Ray, Mike and Graeme recorded many other fine songs during their hiatus. These are a few of my favorites, and any fan of the Moody Blues would enjoy listening to these wonderful compositions.
Nights, Winters, Years by Justin Hayward (Blue Jays). This song is about living a life without love. The promise of passion is almost enough, but not quite.
Maybe by John Lodge (Blue Jays). Peter Knight, who worked with the Moody Blues on Days of Future Passed, returned to provide orchestration for both this track and Nights, Winters, Years.
You’ll Make it Through by Mike Pinder (the Promise). Pinder wrote a song of hope, imploring us to remain optimistic and rely on each other during difficult times.
“Didn’t I” by Ray Thomas (Hopes, Wishes and Dreams). This is a song lamenting the unexpected loss of love. Thomas’ vocals are magnificent and one can almost hear the anguish in the wailing sounds emanating from the orchestra.
Wish We Could Fly by Ray Thomas (From Mighty Oaks). Wish We Could Fly is another powerful song from Thomas’ first solo album. Thomas is a master of crafting fanciful lyrics, and this song is wonderful in its evocative imagery.
When the Moody Blues split in 1972, no one knew that Mike Pinder would only contribute to one more album upon their reunion. The group resumed recording together in 1978 with Octave—the Moody Blues’ last album with Pinder as an active band member. Three years later they gained a new generation of fans with the release of Long Distance Voyager. Patrick Moraz of Yes fame replaced the departed Mike Pinder on keyboards. Moraz didn’t contribute to songwriting or vocals, but he brought energy to the band that had been lacking. After nearly a decade with the band, Moraz also left to work on other projects.
In 2002, Ray Thomas retired and was replaced by Norda Mullen, a young woman from America who previously played with Baju Rang. Thomas’ songs were lost to their live performances with his resignation from the band, but Mullen was outstanding on the flute and faithful to the music. Over the years Paul Bliss, Gordon Marshall and Bernie Barlow were also hired to provide musical support. In 2003 the Moody Blues released the latest recording of new material—a collection of new and classic Christmas tunes called December. Among the original music recorded for this album was a beautiful song titled December Snow.
No new music is forthcoming, but the Moody Blues still tour the United States and England. Their hair is gray now and a few more lines crease their faces, but the band and their music continue to touch new and old fans alike. The music they crafted while the band was on hiatus deserves to be a part of their musical legacy. Then, and now, they’re singers in a rock and roll band.
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