The British are Coming: The Moody Blues Rock Pechanga
Fast forward a half century and Justin Hayward, John Lodge, and Graeme Edge, the Moodies, as they call themselves, are currently on a tour to promote their career-spanning box CD and DVD set, “Timeless Flight,” which not only references their epic hits like “Nights in White Satin,” and “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock in Roll Band),” but also introduces lifelong Moody Blues fans to never-before-released tracks and concert footage.
I recently had the chance to speak with Hayward about the current tour, the legacy set by the Moody Blues’ five decades of musical history, as well as his career as a solo artist and songwriter; a duel musical identity that creates a difficult, yet welcome problem, when it comes to Hayward’s schedule.
“It means I work twice as much,” Hayward said. “Having said that, it’s the perfect balance because I love the big production of the Moody Blues but I also love my acoustic guitar and the sounds that I hear when I first write the songs in my own music room. You can hear every nuance of the music in the solo show, yet a Moody’s show is quite grand, so I’m very lucky to have that balance between the two.”
Hayward joined the Moody Blues in 1966, just two years after the original members first performed together. But it was his original writing talents that landed the band on the musical map.
“When I first joined the Moody Blues and we were doing cover versions, it really didn’t happen for us,” he said. “I was writing songs and Mike Pinder was writing and, as soon as we started doing our own songs and really being honest about our own music, then it started to work for us. Because, really, I think it all starts with a song.”
Though their popularity has seen its share of peaks and valleys, the Moody Blues always found ways to reinvent their sound while still retaining their loyal following.
“A lot of our audience came to the band in the eighties, when we had ‘Your Wildest Dreams’ and ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,’ and I think they are still with us today,” Hayward said. “I think the people who came to the group at that point stuck with us and the people of our own generation keep coming back to us. Then, there’s a lot of young people who come to see the Moodies who are enjoying the stuff we made when we were young ourselves. We are very lucky, in that way.”
Though the current tour does include selections from an extensive album catalog, Hayward reassures ticketholders that they will hear the songs they came out to hear – the hits – played by gracious members of a veteran band still at the top of their game.
“There are definitely songs we can’t get off stage without playing and playing them is something I will never give up easily. Performing is like a kind of drug and every moment of it is precious to me,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share [these songs] with our audience every night because the audience brings the magic. Otherwise, it would just be another sound check and that would be very boring.”
With his new solo album, “Spirits of the Western Sky,” soaring up the charts and a concert special filmed at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, called “Justin Hayward: Spirits -Live,” currently airing on PBS (check local listings), Hayward truly enjoys having the best of both worlds; a band that will live on in music history for generations to come as well as his own identity as an artist and a songwriter.
Though he does hope to one day create the score for a mainstream feature film, Hayward could not be more grateful and humbled by his personal success as well as that of the Moody Blues, and despite a few twists and turns on the road to rock and roll immortality, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Youth is the most valuable commodity in the music industry, that’s for sure, but it’s wasted on the young,” Hayward said. “So I can look back on everything and see what I should have done differently. But, in the end, it all turned out okay. I still have dreams I want to accomplish but, until then, I’m just going to keep playing, enjoying being onstage and having fun with my friends.”