The Moody Blues-On The Threshold of a Dream: A Review

A Personal Look Back at a Classic Rock Album


The band: Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Graeme Edge, Ray Thomas, and Michael Pinder.

The Moody Blues have sold over 50 million albums during the course of their 40+ year career. The album “On the Threshold of a Dream” was released in April 1969 and rose to #1 in the U.K., where it stayed in the charts for 73 weeks. This was the third album by the band following the inclusion of Justin Hayward and John Lodge (replacing Denny Laine and Clint Warwick, respectively). The album landed in the top twenty in the U.S. charts as well, but its only single, “Never Comes the Day”, flopped in the charts, peaking at #91. It’s clear upon listening to the album that it wasn’t crafted with singles in mind, however—it was meant to be listened to as a whole. The album was made during a time before Justin Hayward and John Lodge dominated the band—when Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas had equal opportunity to display their talents. On this album, no one is credited with less than two songs or more than three, and the most significant contributions were actually made by Mike Pinder, who contributed vocals (spoken or sung) to three songs he didn’t write.

The album’s cover painting by Phil Travers was stunning, with dreamlike images of a machine with one eye and two tentacles—a red rose in one metallic claw; the other connected to a peculiar tree evocative of a human profile, complete with a man’s eye and ear. (The oddly positioned tree branches reminded me of a human nose, mouth and chin. More branches and sparse leaves completed the look, vaguely resembling hair.) The blue and purple cover contained other images culled from the music, as Merlin loomed in one corner holding a magic wand; a white eagle spread its wings across the center of the painting; and, ships sailed at sea, as if on a long voyage.

Inside the album was a twelve page booklet offering song lyrics and sleeve notes penned by David Symonds and Lionel Bart. The booklet’s appearance was enchanting with flowing, graceful design and calligraphy. The theme of this concept album centered on dreams, and the transcendent lyrics to these songs transported me to another place, where dreams were as real as everyday reality. Subjects within the theme ranged from the mundane (Thomas’ Dear Diary and Lazy Day) to the inspiring (Edge’s In the Beginning). Bart told us he also lived on the threshold of a dream, and had no plan to leave. After hearing the thirteen songs on this album, I felt the same way.


The Dream Starts Here

The classic album cover featuring Phil Travers art
The classic album cover featuring Phil Travers art
The Moody Blues, 1969
The Moody Blues, 1969

On the Threshold of a Dream: the Songs


Side One.

In the Beginning (Graeme Edge) 2:08. The album begins with a high frequency electronic sound, rising to a crescendo and halting abruptly as the verses begin. (This chilling introduction to the album is the only song in the Moody Blues catalog with multiple band members reciting spoken lyrics.) Justin Hayward represented the common man, questioning his place in the universe. Graeme Edge was the voice of a computer-dominated society, telling Hayward he is nothing more than computer code. As Hayward questioned further, Mike Pinder as the “inner man” told Hayward to “keep as cool as you can” and “keep on thinking free”. As the song ended it flowed seamlessly into the guitar track to “Lovely to See You”, an effect lost in subsequent re-releases where a noticeable pause was interjected between tracks.

Lovely to See You (Justin Hayward) 2:35. One of the best from the album and a staple of their live appearances, this song combined a nice guitar lick with three-part harmonies from Hayward, Thomas and Lodge. Its lyrics are relatively simple compared with the other tracks, but still ushered us into a dream world with the beautiful lines, “Tell us what you’ve seen in faraway forgotten lands, where empires have turned back to sand.”

Dear Diary (Ray Thomas) 3:56. This haunting song from Ray Thomas portrayed a lonely man communicating about his life through his diary. He can’t connect with the rest of society and writes of the world’s failure to notice either his presence or a better way to live. In resignation he retreats into the mundane. Posting a letter and exploding an H-bomb are the same in this man’s world, particularly since the bomb wasn’t set off by anyone he knew. Charming and poignant, this song set the tone for much of the album.

Send Me No Wine (John Lodge) 2:20. This well-crafted tune is a very nice John Lodge composition. Upbeat and energetic, it counterbalanced the previous song perfectly as it lifted the listener out of the depths explored in “Dear Diary”. I never understood exactly what the song was about as the lyrics didn’t really tell a story, but comprehension was not a prerequisite for appreciating this track.

To Share Our Love (John Lodge) 2:54. As I became more familiar with the Moody Blues and their style, I wondered why John Lodge had two consecutive tracks on this album, as opposed to a song on the second side. This song is a rarity in that it was written by Lodge but lead vocals were supplied by Mike Pinder. The two concurrently sang parts “A” and “B” (presaging Mike Pinder’s “Melancholy Man”, two years later) and provided a nice, if slightly raw, sound.

So Deep Within You (Mike Pinder) 3:07). This is an odd song that stylistically never reminded me of a Mike Pinder tune, but it’s a nice contribution nonetheless. The images invoked in this song seem less of dreams than (frankly) lying in bed, pondering lost love and being unable to sleep. This song was made special with Ray Thomas’ flute.


Side Two.

Never Comes the Day (Justin Hayward) 4:43. This is a nice if unspectacular song that occasionally finds its way into the Moody Blues live performances. It was meant to be released as a single but found no success in the charts. A standard Justin Hayward tune with strong guitars and thoughtful lyrics, it seems uninspired when compared with his other work. Hayward was always good with a phrase and the line, “If only you knew what’s inside of me now, you wouldn’t want to know me somehow” spoke to the adolescent angst I felt when I first heard it.

Lazy Day (Ray Thomas) 2:43. No one in the band matched Ray Thomas for creating images in your mind with a song. “Lazy Day” perfectly captured the essence of Sunday dinners with the family. Thomas offered an ironic twist with his poignant lines at the end of the song, “It’s such a crying shame, week after week the same” and “That’s how life goes by, until the day you die.” Like “Dear Diary” on side one, Thomas hints at an underlying melancholy in mundane events. This is a terrific song and one of my favorites.

Are You Sitting Comfortably? (Justin Hayward and Ray Thomas) 3:31. Credited to Hayward and Thomas, the melody seemed all Hayward, while much of the lyrics sounded inspired by Ray Thomas’ themes and images. As the most beautiful track on the album, Hayward’s voice and Thomas’ flute co-existed perfectly while invoking images of Merlin and Camelot. This song is so articulate in thought and vision, it is startling to realize there are only six lines to it other than “Are you sitting comfortably? Let Merlin cast his spell.”

The Dream (Graeme Edge) 0:55. Spoken lyrics perhaps seem archaic in the 21st century, but they were Graeme Edge’s specialty and an important ingredient of Moody Blues albums. The words were written by Edge but recited by Mike Pinder. Equal parts dream, nightmare, and hope for the future, it summarized perfectly the theme of the album. As a teenager, I memorized this poem and tried to mimic Pinder’s accent while reciting it.

Have You Heard Part I (Mike Pinder) 1:23. Rumored to have been written by Mike Pinder prior to “Days of Future Passed”, it is beautiful in its simplicity. The haunting, hypnotic melody suggested relaxing into a deep sleep, surrendering to the realm of subconscious images. When I finally heard “Days of Future Passed”, I thought this song could have been added to the end of that album if there was room for it—as sleep and dreaming would be a normal end to the day depicted there.

The Voyage (Mike Pinder) 4:07. It is said this song was inspired by Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra”. This instrumental piece was a masterful composition and the perfect bridge between “Have You Heard” Parts I and II. Mike Pinder’s outstanding work on the organ and piano carried the listener into a beautiful dream or, as the title suggested, a voyage.

Have You Heard Part II (Mike Pinder) 2:38. Part II of this song felt like a reluctant awakening. The lyrics confirmed the voyage just taken with the line, “Now you know how nice it feels,” and the listener wakes, satisfied with the journey just taken. The awakening is slow but comfortable, emphasized by the repetitive refrain, “Have you heard?” I have………

This album was my first exposure to the Moody Blues and the progressive rock style they helped define. It opened the doors for many decades of musical exploration. It has been a musical journey that disappoints me only in the sense that, after more than 40 years, we are closer to the end than the beginning. Hopefully this review might remind long time fans of their music of the wonders this band provided. Perhaps it will inspire a stranger to their sound to stop and see what was going on.  The Moody Blues tour the United States and England on a regular basis.  If you get a chance, buy a ticket and see what the fuss is about.  Hopefully I will see you there, and we can listen together.

Walk along with me to the next bend.


Lovely to See You

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Comments 28 comments

Linda 6 years ago

Moody Blues...the sound track of my life.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

And mine also, Linda. Their music continues to impact my life.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I love the Moody Blues! "Nights in White Satin" has to be the sexiest song of all time.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Habee, thanks for the comment. The Moody Blues are unquestionably my favorite classic rock band, and you are correct--"Nights in White Satin" is an incredibly sexy song. I have always been amazed since I found out Justin Hayward was around 19 when he wrote that song. Can you imagine, a teenager writing something so intense and beautiful? That guy has what it takes.

Thanks again for your comments.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Wow, that is amazing! 19, huh?


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Habee,

Yup, it's hard to imagine being that young and when you try to express what's inside you, "Nights in White Satin" comes out. My teenage years produced some pretty raw paintings, but nothing like that.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Nice - love the Moody Blues!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

RedElf, thanks for reading. I discovered the Moody Blues when I was 12 or 13 years old, and have loved them ever since.

Thanks for reading.


Truth From Truth profile image

Truth From Truth 6 years ago from Michigan

Great Review, Great Music!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Truth, thanks for reading my hub. The Moody Blues truly are a great band. If there was ever a reason to make a movie about my life, I would insist their music be part of the soundtrack!

Thanks again.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Very cool Mike, it must've been great to buy this on vinyl. I caught the very last wave of mainstream vinyl purchasing when I was a boy, then cassettes dominated for awhile. But seeing Travers art on a large scale like that, complete with the Moodie's full lyrics, sounds like a great trip.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ben, thanks for reading. You are correct, it was amazing buying Moody Blues albums on vinyl and seeing those album covers. I still have them in a box somewhere, also.

I was never a fan of cassettes--they just never seemed to last, and I was always pulling them out of my player when they got ruined.

Glad you could visit. Your own hub had me playing Moody Blues tunes all last night!

Take it easy!

Mike


justom profile image

justom 6 years ago from 41042

Nice hub Mike. Starting in the early 70's I've seen them probably 5 times. I've got all the vinyl. I like them so much that my son is named Justin, His middle name would have been Hayward but mom vetoed that one. Check out my hubs for some of my music history. Peace!!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Justom, thanks for reading. Naming your son Justin is a nice tribute and a sign of a true fan. I've seen them live every time they've been in the area since 1979, and I hope they still have a tour or two left in them. I will definitely check out your music history hubs.

Thanks for visiting.

Mike


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

This is a really nice analysis of the Moody Blues songs. I still do enjoy their music, and I would say they are still my favorite band of all time.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Sweetie Pie, thanks for reading. The Moody Blues are my favorite band of all time also, and I have "In Search of the Lost Chord" playing right now, in fact. Their music never sounds old or dated to me--it is as beautiful and meaningful for me as it was when I first heard them, way back in 1969.

Thanks so much for reading and offering your comments. They are greatly appreciated.

Mike


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

Whenever I feel stressed I love listening to the Moody Blues. By the way, do you ever read Justin Hayward's blog, he writes some interesting things.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Sweetie Pie, thanks for returning. I listen to the Moody Blues when I'm stressed as well--their music has a totally calming influence on me, especially their earlier albums. I've never seen Justin Hayward's blog but I would be very interested in checking it out. I suspect he is a pretty intriguing fellow. Thanks so much for the suggestion.

And thanks again for your comments, they are always welcomed.

Mike


Catlyn profile image

Catlyn 6 years ago from Somewhere in the OC

I actually had the opportunity to see The Moody Blues in concert last summer (2009) at the Orange County Fair! Needless to say, their performance was incredible! It was obvious that Justin Hayward has not suffered the ravages of drugs and alcohol on his life and the two female additions to the band added spark and life as well. Great Hub on one of my top five bands of all time!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Catlyn, thank for your comments. The Moody Blues don't tour the Midwest very often any more, but when they do I always try to see them. You are correct about the two ladies--they add an energy to the band, and Norda Mullen is terrific on the flute. It is a crime the Moody Blues aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Mike


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I had to stop at this and give another in the long lists of thumbs up for you. I just can't help it. I love those Moody Blues!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Micky, thanks for the thumbs up. I love the Moody Blues also, their music has always been special to me. Thanks for your kind words.

Mike


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 6 years ago from USA

An older friend introduced me to The Moody Blues- I love them. Especially Tuesday Afternoon, Nights in White Satin, Greatest Hits. Very expressive. I'm a hardcore fan of classic rock...Would like to watch a video!

As bands from that time such as Deep Purple, they were taking on colors for their band names, as well as animal names like Beatles, Turtles, Animals, etc.

Bands like The Moody Blues --love the name--are very romantic and feeling: like Queen, Journey, and Bee Gees.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Schoolgirlforreal, thanks for stopping by. I have always enjoyed the other bands you mentioned, as well. Deep Purple had a particularly talented singer named Ian Gillan, whose resume also includes the part of Jesus in the rock opera, "Jesus Christ, Superstar."

The Moody Blues have always been special for me, and I am happy you discovered them. There are many great Moody Blues videos on YouTube--I might export one to this site at some point.

Thanks again for reading, I appreciate it greatly.

Mike


roger 5 years ago

I'VE BEEN A MOODIES FAN SINCE 1967 WITH THE RECORDING OF 'FLY ME HIGH' . I SEE THEM EVERY TWO YEARS AT THE ALBERT HALL,THOUGH THIS TIME IT WAS THE O2. THEY ARE WITHOUT DOUBT THE GREATEST BAND EVER.BEST WISHES TO YOU MIKE.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Roger, thanks for stopping by. If you've been listening since they recorded 'Fly Me High,' you have indeed been there almost from the beginning. I've been watching them perform live since they reformed in 1978. It's been a few years since the Moody Blues have been to the Midwest in the USA, but I hope they return someday. Thanks again for reading.

Mike


shygirl2 5 years ago

Thanks for this hub...I have just one of their cd's now. 'The Best of the Moody Blues'...love the song, 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere'. I use to listen to them as a teen, and my ex-husband use to have a few of their albums (what they call vinyl's now?) Hmmm...love the group. Soft, soulful with feeling music.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Shygirl, thanks for your comments. 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere' is one of my favorites of their songs, as well. Their music is wonderful and I still listen to it often. Thanks again for stopping by, and I'm glad you are a fan of their music. Take care.

Mike

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