The Moody Blues are an English rock band formed in Birmingham in 1964, initially consisting of keyboardist Mike Pinder, multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas, guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick. The group came to prominence playing rhythm and blues music. They made some changes in musicians but settled on a line-up of Pinder, Thomas, Edge, guitarist Justin Hayward, and bassist John Lodge, who stayed together for most of the band's "classic era" into the early 1970s.
Their second album, Days of Future Passed, which was released in 1967, was a fusion of rock with classical music which established the band as pioneers in the development of art rock and progressive rock. It has been described as a "landmark" and "one of the first successful concept albums".The group toured extensively through the early 1970s, then took an extended hiatus from 1974 until 1977. Founder Mike Pinder left the group a year after they re-formed and was replaced by Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz in 1978. In the following decade they took on a more synth-pop sound and produced The Other Side of Life in 1986, which made them the first act to earn each of its first three top 10 singles in the United States in a different decade. Health troubles led to a diminished role for founder Ray Thomas throughout the 1980s, though his musical contributions rebounded after Moraz departed in 1991. Thomas retired from the band in 2002. The band's most recent album was December (2003), a collection of Christmas music. They continued to tour throughout the first decade of the 2000s, and they still regroup for periodic events, one-off concerts, short tours, and cruises.
The Moody Blues' most successful singles include "Go Now", "Nights in White Satin", "Tuesday Afternoon", "Question", and "Your Wildest Dreams". The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide, which includes 18 platinum and gold LPs. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
Early years, Decca Records 1964–1966
The Moody Blues formed in 1964 in Erdington, a suburb of Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire. Ray Thomas, a young John Lodge and (occasionally) Mike Pinder had been members of El Riot & the Rebels. They disbanded when Lodge, the youngest member, went to technical college and Pinder joined the army. Pinder then rejoined Thomas to form the Krew Cats. Back from a disappointing spell in the Hamburg region a few months later, the pair recruited guitarist/vocalist Denny Laine and band manager-turned-drummer Graeme Edge. Pinder and Thomas initially approached their former El Riot bandmate John Lodge about being the bass player, but Lodge declined as he was still in college. They instead recruited bassist Clint Warwick. The five appeared as the Moody Blues for the first time in Birmingham in 1964. The name developed from a hoped-for sponsorship from the Mitchells & Butlers Brewery which failed to materialise, the band calling themselves both "The M Bs" and "The M B Five", and was also a subtle reference to the Duke Ellington song "Mood Indigo". In an interview it was revealed that the band was named "Moody Blues" because Mike Pinder was interested in how music changes people's moods and due to the fact that the band was playing blues at the time. Around this time the band were the resident group at the Carlton Ballroom, later to become rock music venue Mothers on Erdington High Street.
The band soon obtained a London-based management company, 'Ridgepride', formed by Alex Murray (Alex Wharton), who had been in the A&R division of Decca Records. Their recording contract was signed in the spring of 1964 with Ridgepride, which then leased their recordings to Decca. They released a single, "Steal Your Heart Away", that year which failed to chart. They also appeared on the cult TV programme Ready Steady Go! singing the uptempo 'B' side "Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose your Mind)". But it was their second single, "Go Now" (released later that year), that launched their career, being promoted on TV with one of the first purpose-made promotional films in the pop era, produced and directed by Alex Wharton. The single became a hit in Britain (where it remains their only Number 1 single) and in the United States, where it reached No. 10. The band encountered management problems after the chart-topping hit and subsequently signed to Decca Records in the UK (London Records in the US) directly as recording artists. A four-track extended play release titled "The Moody Blues" featuring both sides of their first two Decca singles was issued in a colour picture sleeve in early 1965.
Their debut album The Magnificent Moodies, produced by Denny Cordell with a strong Merseybeat/R&B flavour, was released on Decca in mono only in 1965. It contained the hit single together with one side of classic R&B covers, and a second side with four Laine-Pinder originals.
Alex Wharton left the management firm, and the group released a series of relatively unsuccessful singles. They enjoyed a minor British hit with a cover of "I Don't Want To Go on Without You" (No. 33) in February 1965, while the Pinder-Laine original "From the Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)" produced by Denny Cordell (with a vocal choral sound towards the conclusion that anticipated their sound on "Nights in White Satin") was issued as a UK single in May 1965 and did a little better (No. 22). But then "Everyday", another Pinder-Laine song, stalled at No. 44 in October 1965 and no further British singles were released for about a year. The group was still in demand for live gigs, though, and they had chart success in the US and in Europe during those months when "Bye Bye Bird" (Decca AT 15048) was lifted from their album in December 1965 as an overseas single in France (No. 3).
In June 1966, Warwick retired from the group and the music business. He was briefly replaced by Rod Clark (born Rodney Clark, 23 November 1942, Surlingham, near Norwich, Norfolk), but in early October, Denny Laine also departed from the group, which made Decca release "Boulevard de la Madeleine" c/w "This is My House (But Nobody Calls)" (Decca F 12498, 1966) only a few days later, as the Moody Blues seemed to be disintegrating. Clark joined The Rockin' Berries.
In the November 1966 issue of Hit Week, Dutch interviewers Hans van Rij and Emie Havers presented their story, saying the Moody Blues had been in the process of recording their second album, Look Out, with Cordell producing. The album was not to be and "Really Haven't Got the Time" (released as a single c/w "Fly Me High" some months later) is the only song mentioned in the article but the authors say Laine had written all of the material, with Thomas, Pinder and Clark (still the bass player) singing lead vocals as well.
A final 'Mark One' Moodies single, Pinder-Laine's "Life's Not Life", was scheduled for release in January 1967 (Decca F 12543) c/w "He Can Win" even though Laine couldn't perform it live because the group had relaunched themselves without him a few months earlier. (This single's release is often listed as being cancelled; however, both promo and regular stock copies have been seen over the years.)
Arrival of Hayward and Lodge
The group re-formed in November 1966. By then, "Boulevard de la Madeleine" had made the Belgian charts and won them more fans, which came in handy when they relocated to Belgium for some time. The new members were John Lodge, their bassist from El Riot who was now finished with his education, and Justin Hayward, formerly of the Wilde Three. Hayward was recommended to Pinder by Eric Burdon of the Animals and was endorsed by famed UK singer Marty Wilde, the leader of the Wilde Three. Pinder phoned Hayward after reading his lead guitarist letter, and was impressed when Hayward played him his 45 rpm single "London is Behind Me" during their car ride to meet the other members in Esher.
After financial misfortune and a confrontation with an audience member, the band soon realised that their style of American blues covers and novelty tunes was not working, and decided to perform primarily their own material. (However, as appearances on French TV show, they continued to do two covers through at least the first half of 1968: the Hayward-sung "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", and "Bye Bye Bird", with the vocal and harmonica formerly done by Denny Laine now performed by Ray Thomas.) They were introduced to Decca staff producer Tony Clarke, who produced a recording session which saw Justin Hayward's "Fly Me High" and Mike Pinder's older-styled "Really Haven't Got the Time" (Decca F12607) as the 'Mark Two' Moodies' first single released in May 1967. These picked up both radio airplay and favourable reviews, but failed to chart in the UK. However, the sound gave clues about the direction in which their music would evolve. Their new style, featuring the symphonic sounds of Pinder's mellotron, was introduced on Pinder's song "Love And Beauty" (Decca F 12670) which was issued as a single c/w with Hayward's rocker "Leave This Man Alone" in September 1967. This too was not a UK hit, but further established their "new" Moodies identity. Ray Thomas's flute had been in evidence earlier ("I've Got a Dream") on their debut album; however, it became a far more featured instrument from this point onwards as they started incorporating distinct psychedelic influences, which was later developed in a concept album revolving around an archetypal day in the life of everyman.
"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"