The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently announced its class of 2018. The list of inductees included—along with Bon Jovi, the Cars, Dire Straits and Nina Simone—the Moody Blues.
For the Moody Blues, who spent the year celebrating the 50th anniversary of their landmark album, Days of Future Passed, the induction is long overdue. The band, which features Justin Hayward (lead guitar, vocals), John Lodge (bass guitar, vocals) and Graeme Edge (drums), will receive the honor alongside former members Ray Thomas (flute/vocals) and Mike Pinder (keyboard/mellotron/vocals).
Guitar World recently spoke with Hayward about the Moody Blues' upcoming induction and more.
An artist becomes eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. The Moody Blues have more than doubled that. So, I guess the first logical question to ask would be, did you think this day would ever come?
To be honest, I kind of doubted it because it had been so long. But when it finally happened I was absolutely thrilled. For Moody Blues fans, it’s galvanized the music they love. I’m very pleased for them and for us. It’s a privilege to be in the same street as Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers, and then to have Nina Simone inducted posthumously at the same time makes the whole thing complete. She was such a huge influence on me in my late teens and early twenties.
How did her music inspire you?
I think she was a musician’s musician, and those albums she made in the early to mid-Fifties were an exercise in how to put emotion across in a song and to feel it. There was a beautiful tragedy in her singing and playing that I haven’t heard since.
The band's induction will include former members Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas. Are there any plans for a musical reunion with them at the ceremony?
I think the spirit is willing. Let’s put it that way.
The band has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of Days of Future Passed, a celebration that will continue into the new year. Can you tell me about your January tour plans that end in Vegas?
It starts with the Moody Blues Cruise, which is always great fun. It’s wonderful for the fans who get to see and hear us up close and intimate. Vegas is another place where Moodies fans like to gather. I remember the first time we ever played there I wasn’t sure if we even belonged. I thought, 'What are we doing here?' But then as we rolled into town I saw there was a big poster for Neil Young, who’s the king of credibility. That’s when I said, 'Oh, this is OK, then.' [laughs].
What was your plan for revisiting that album after so many years?
I was always convinced we could do it, despite what the people around us were saying. I had the good fortune of meeting a young man named Elliott Davis. Elliott was Burt Bacharach’s musical director whenever he came to Europe and Elliott and I worked on a special for Burt and became friends. I quickly realized this was going to be the key, because the original parts that Peter Knight arranged for the Days of Future Passed weren’t kept because no one thought the album would be a success. But Elliot, me and my engineer worked on a sound map of the whole album. I realized how brilliant the orchestral links were, and that’s when it dawned on us that this could actually work.
People always talk about the album as being “prog rock,” but for me, it was always a romantic record with beautifully crafted songs with Peter Knight’s links, who was the greatest of all romantic string arrangers. I think if it’d been a prog-rock album it wouldn’t have stood the test of time. I was very proud to be a part of it.
Can you give me an update on your solo projects for 2018?
It’s coming up on five years since my last album, Spirits of the Western Sky. I’m going to doing a bit more recording and I’m also going to be out again with Mike Dawes and Julie Ragins from April through June in Europe and the U.K.
How did you connect with Mike Dawes?
It was actually a blessing for me. I had already fixed on a guitar player but at the last minute he couldn’t commit. So, I literally went on YouTube and searched for English guitar players, and I found two people. Mike was the first of the two that I saw. I emailed him and the two of us got together. I remember when he came to my flat in London he was absolutely ready. We stood there and played together and there was a magic about it. After his time was up, I told him I’d be in touch. About an hour after he left I thought, this boy is a genius. How many times in your life are you going to see something like that? So, I called him up and said let’s do it!
Have you ever given thought to writing a book about your life and career someday?
- I actually haven’t, because I don’t want to cease to exist and stop. Let me put it this way. If I’d have known how wonderful it was going to be after Mike Pinder called me in 1966, I would have enjoyed every moment of it more. That’s like life, isn’t it? If we had known, we would have enjoyed it more.
What are you most looking forward to about the Rock Hall induction and the future?
For me, the Rock Hall is about the fans. I’m very thankful for them and for including the Moody Blues. After that? I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with the Moodies. All I can say is that I’m going to make my plans. But for the Moodies, I’m not sure what’s going to happen, and it’s probably best that way.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.