Interview -- John Lodge (The Moody Blues)
because audiences at first
what was going on."
~ John Lodge ~
Since 1967, when The Moody Blues began recording their groundbreaking album "Days Of Future Passed"...bassist, singer/songwriter John Lodge has been a creative force helping meld symphonic orchestral side dishes with driving rock and roll sensibilities. And for 15 studio albums, the Moodys made some heady mind candy that both rocked us out and chilled us out in satisfying measure. Not an easy line to walk.
Harder still is taking a 5-year break from the music park only to return in an even grander fashion. But that's what The Moody Blues did. It was the MTV generation that saw The Moody Blues pick up the gauntlet once again and string together another run of successful albums. And even during the band's hiatus, John Lodge, with longtime friend and bandmate Justin Hayward, recorded the album, "Blue Jays"... which is now considered by many to be one of the lost album treasures of the 70s.
And so in 2018, after more than 50 years and selling over 70 million albums, The Moody Blues were finally inducted into the RnR HoF. (A much too long a wait, to be sure.) As for the recent inductee, John Lodge will soon be releasing an EP of new songs. And vinyl fans will be excited to learn that later this year, a live double gatefold album from the "Royal Affair Tour" is in the works. It's peak hour, my babies, and we be steppin' in a slide zone. John Lodge. Go get you some.
John Lodge Interview -- June 2021
Casey Chambers: My introduction to The Moody Blues was the album, "Days Of Future Passed." I love "Nights In White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon." But the song that really begs for more airplay is "Peak Hour." It still sounds fun and fresh. Just killer. What do you remember about writing that song?
John Lodge: Yeah, I actually was in the back of the group van that we had before the transit van that we traveled with...with all our equipment. And Graham Edge, our drummer, was sitting in front of me. We had airplane seats so it was pretty comfortable driving along the freeway. The motorway in England. And as we were going along the concrete, he was tapping out a tempo, a really fast tempo. I started tapping my foot and said to Graham, 'Can you play that tempo and not stop for about three minutes?' (laughs) 'Because I think I've just written a song.' And that's where I basically wrote it. I got the main part...the rock and roll part of it...from there. And worked out the bass part. But I really wanted to do something different in the song. That's why I broke it into a cathedral choir-type part in the middle. So it could build back up into a rock and roll song.
Casey Chambers: What was it like performing "Peak Hour" live?
John Lodge: It was really interesting because audiences at first didn't understand what was going on. (laughs) One part of it would go up-tempo and then it stops and becomes really really quiet with the organ sounds and then it starts again rock and roll. I do play it on stage with my band...The 10,000 Light Years Band...and it is still very well-received by the audience. I enjoy it. The bass drives it and it's good to sing to.
"Peak Hour" (live) - The Moody Blues / - Live 1968
Casey Chambers: Your bass is always minding the store, whatever the song may be. A vital component. Is that a natural?
John Lodge: When I was 15 playing bass, it was always my driving factor. Not only in The Moody Blues, but with all the artists I like. With the bass, it was the left hand on the piano. It was always driving the song along. And then Tamla came along with James Jamerson and it was his bass that drove most of the Motown songs. It was brilliant. Brilliant. And Carol Kaye. You listen to how they drive the song and think to yourself, 'How can I do something similar with my songs? Or songs that were written by other guys in the band.' It's what we do.
Casey Chambers: Do you find yourself writing most of your songs on the bass?
John Lodge: A lot of my songs I've written on the bass. "Peak Hour." "...Singer In A Rock And Roll Band." Those two come to mind straight away. "House Of Four Doors," strangely enough was written on the bass. But no, I've got my 6 string guitar and 12 string guitar. And I also write on my piano.
Casey Chambers: When did you get your hands on your first bass?
John Lodge: It was in 1959. The first bass I bought was called a Tuxedo Bass and I have never found one since. I don't think they were very successful. (laughs) And then I bought...I think it was a Hofner President Bass, it was called. Semi-acoustic. But that wasn't what I was after. I was after the Precision Bass. And in January of 1960, I went down to my music shop where I always went on a Saturday morning. And there in the window was a big notice saying, "Direct from the USA, Sunburst Precision Bass." I bought that bass with my father's help. And that Precision Bass has played on nearly every Moody Blues song I've ever recorded. It was recorded on all of the "Blue Jays" album, and is on my new single, "The Sun Will Shine." I use the same bass on that as well.
"I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)" - The Moody Blues / "Seventh Sojourn" (1972)
Casey Chambers: What a history. That it hasn't been lost or stolen after all this time is amazing. You mentioned your new song..."The Sun Will Shine." It's good to have some music that's comforting and optimistic. Especially now.
John Lodge: Yeah, well, you know, it's been a sad, sad year. A lot of loss to people. Family-wise. Friends-wise. Work-wise. Everything. Everybody's lost something during these times. And when the lockdown starts to ease, we've got to come out of this positively, somehow. Let's not come out of it negatively, because we'll go backward if we do. If we stay positive in life, the people around us become positive. That's my way of thinking, to be honest. And that was what I was trying to do with "The Sun Will Shine."
Casey Chambers: And I really enjoyed the single you released last year as well..."In These Crazy Times."
John Lodge: Yeah, well we were all in lockdown, you know. Couldn't get up on stage to perform or anything. Which I'd been doing since I was 15. And it's great to sit down with my bass or guitar and practice every day, but... So I decided...'Ah! I'm going to build a little studio.' Which I did. And started creating music. I wrote five songs in that period of lockdown and the first one was, "In These Crazy Times."
Casey Chambers: So can fans expect to see a new album or a new EP soon?
John Lodge: Yeah, I went back into the studios with the engineer who engineers all of the music for the band...Yes. And I did a studio mix for "In These Crazy Times." Also, I wrote an instrumental which I'm really pleased with. It's called, "Sunset Over Cocohatchee Bay" and I've got my good friend who was part of my English 10,000 Light Years Band to play guitar on it. I'm gonna release that as an EP sometime this summer. I'm also really excited about a live album being released later this fall. It's a live performance from 2019 while on the Royal Affair Tour with Yes. The album is going to be a double gatefold sleeve on the 180g vinyl with lots of pictures and information. Just the type of vinyl album I would buy.
"In These Crazy Times" - John Lodge / Single (2020)
Casey Chambers: Same here! Speaking of live shows, you guys had the opportunity to play the famous Isle Of Wight Festival back in '70. What do you recall about performing there?
John Lodge: It was amazing. It was interesting because the memories I have of Isle Of Wight is just being on stage looking out at like...half a million people if it was. It was huge. I kept thinking...how on earth are the people in the back going to hear us from the stage? (laughs) It's not like it is nowadays. In those days, most of the sound came from off the stage and not PAs. The PAs were really just for the vocals and drums. (laughs) But it was an amazing moment in time. In fact, I was going to perform the songs we did in 1970 with my band for the 50th anniversary of Isle Of Wight, but it got canceled. And it's going to be canceled this year again. Hopefully, next year will be the 50th + 2 anniversary of the Isle Of Wight. And I'd love to do it. All the bands who played there or members of those bands are gonna play. I think it would be great.
Casey Chambers: Jumping back to "Days Of Future Passed"...was there a feeling among The Moody Blues that you might be creating something magical and groundbreaking while you were recording that album?
"Days Of Future Passed" - The Moody Blues (1967)
John Lodge: Well, we didn't know what we were doing, to be honest. (laughs) We knew what songs we were recording. But we didn't know how it was going to be received by the record company. The record company was expecting us to take Dvorak's "New World Symphony" and put lyrics to the melodies. We didn't do that. We did our own version. Our own album. We chose "Days Of Future Passed." And I remember it only took a week to record the whole thing and mix it. Can you believe it? With orchestra! We had a playback on the day it was mixed for the record company...and they just didn't understand it at all. And fortunately, there were two guys there. The head of Classical at Decca records and an American guy called Walt Maguire who was Vice President of London Records in New York. And they understood it. They understood the album completely. And they became our mentors really. The rest, as they say, is history. (laughs)
"The Sun Will Shine" - John Lodge / New Single (2021)
Casey Chambers: It's interesting that the most famous song from that album didn't become a huge hit until several years after the album first came out. What was going on?
John Lodge: I think it was because it was too long. (laughs) In those days, a record had to be like...two minutes and 30 seconds long. "Nights In White Satin," without the orchestra was four and a half minutes. And with the orchestra, it was six minutes. No one would play it. But what happened in America was FM radio. And college radio importantly. College radio wanted to broadcast longer songs, however long they were. And in stereo. College radio and FM radio started playing our records. It was an era, to be honest, of what they termed in America...bubblegum music. Teenybopper music. But bands like The Moody Blues...we realized that real music...which is what we were trying to create, was gonna last forever. It was music we wanted to do. We were traveling a different road from everyone else. A few bands in the U.K. joined us really. Pink Floyd. Genesis. Led Zeppelin. We were on this totally different road from AM Top 40 records.
Casey Chambers: I remember hearing your song..."Rock 'N' Roll Over You"...featured in the famous ice chopping scene in "The Karate Kid Part II." And sure enough, I recently heard that same song in the series..."Cobra Kai." ("The Right Path" - S:3-E:4 - 2021) "Rock 'N' Roll Over You" is very much a part of the 80s, and yet 35 years later...there it is again! Perfect.
Cobra Kai Soccer Scene
John Lodge: I was flabbergasted when the movie was released and my song was in it. I was knocked out. And "Cobra Kai"...I didn't know what the series was, to be honest. But my son and all his friends...they knew. My publisher came to me and said, "Cobra Kai" wants to use one of my songs. And I saw the episode, and yeah, I was pretty proud of that. It seems to have stood up to the test of time.
Casey Chambers: The Moody Blues were inducted into the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. A big congrats to you again. What was the induction night like?
John Lodge: The usual chaos in the day. (laughs) Everybody busying themselves. Everybody being incredibly important as you can imagine. It was predetermined that we'd perform "Nights In White Satin," of course. But we opened correctly with "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)." We played "Your Wildest Dreams." And we ended the set with "Ride My See-Saw." It was a natural progression, I think, of what we should do as The Moody Blues.
"Ride My See-Saw" - The Moody Blues 2018 Induction Ceremony
And I never write things down. So when they asked me for my speech, I said, 'Ya just have to trust me. I will say what I feel on the night.' When I went on stage, it was then the enormity of it hit me. That the fans out there, not just in the audience, but around the world, had voted me and The Moody Blues into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. It was like...how can I thank so many people? On a personal aside, Buddy Holly was my absolute hero. And suddenly on stage...for just a minute...I'm standing next to Buddy Holly. I'm standing shoulder to shoulder. Here's me...this guy from Birmingham, England from a working-class family...standing next to my absolute musical hero...Buddy Holly. And that's what really crowned it for me.
Casey Chambers: Congratulations again on your induction. Thank you very much for speaking with me today. It's been a real honor. And thank you for all the great music. Stay safe out there.
John Lodge: Thank you very much. Good luck to you. Stay safe. And continued success in whatever you do.