It was announced this week that The Moody Blues are candidates to be in the 2018 class of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Think they should make it?
The first time The Moody Blues hit the charts, they were a Blues/Rock group. It was 1965, “Go Now” was a top ten hit, and the lead singer was Denny Laine, who would later join Paul McCartney in Wings. By 1967, the main lead vocalist and songwriter was Justin Hayward, and the sound of the band was completely transformed.
1967 was a very key year for Rock. It was the year of Sgt. Pepper, The Doors, Jim Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, Cream’s Disraeli Gears, and The Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed.
No one can agree on what was the first “Concept Album”. The 1940’s & ’50’s had some albums that had similarly themed songs that flowed nicely from one cut to another, and maybe Beach Boys albums about cars and surfing were “concepts”. Sgt. Pepper definitely started as a concept. But, the first album to really be a complete concept in thought and execution may be 1967’s Days Of Future Passed by The Moody Blues.
The album takes you through the cycle of a complete day, from “Dawn Is A Feeling”, to “Tuesday Afternoon”, to “Nights In White Satin”. This was two years before the “Rock Opera” Tommy by The Who.
It’s really an amazing work. The Moody Blues wrote the songs for the album, then arranger and conductor Peter Knight skillfully used those melodies to create introductions, end pieces, and musical links to tie the whole album together. It was the first successful combination of a rock band and an orchestra for an entire album. The orchestra was made up of classical studio musicians using the name London Festival Orchestra for this album.
Besides the high concept and use of an orchestra, the album is generally considered an early Progressive Rock album because of it’s heavy use of a Mellotron, which was a new instrument at the time…an early synthesizer. Mike Pinder used the Mellotron to match the songs the band played to the sound of the orchestra. This made the whole sound of the album cohesive, even though the orchestra and band were recorded separately.
The Mellotron was actually invented as a quick playback method for sound effects recorded on tape loops. Mike Pinder worked at the factory that built Mellotrons, and reworked some units, taking off the sound effects, and replacing them with musical instruments. One of these was used for the introduction to “Strawberry Fields Forever”.
So, how was Days of Future Passed received? The single “Tuesday Afternoon” went to #24 in the Billboard Top-40 in 1968. The album was so far ahead of its time, that it wasn’t until 1972 that it peaked at #3, and the single “Nights In White Satin” hit #2.
Besides “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin”, some of their other songs from 1968 through 1988 include: “Voices In The Sky”, “Ride My See Saw”, “Question”, “The Story In Your Eyes”, “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band”, “The Voice”, “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”. They had 13 Top-40 hits, plus many album cuts that also received airplay.
After more than 20 years of recording success, The Moody Blues continued their popular tours, including playing with orchestras across America.
So, the original question was…Should the Moody Blues be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? The answer is…”Of course, it should have happened years ago”.
I’m sure some of the critics and industry people think The Moody Blues are too soft, or their lyrics don’t have enough bite, or whatever, but their body of work is far more convincing than many other artists who are already in the hall.
In fact, with all the pop and hip hop artists that are in the hall, the name should be changed to the Rock & Pop Hall of Fame. That’s not meant as any kind of slam or joke. It’s truly a more representative name that should be given consideration. This would be a way to cover most forms of music, and country music has it’s own hall anyway.
The other Hall of Fame candidates this year include: Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, The Cars, The Zombies, J. Geils Band, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Judas Priest, Kate Bush, The Meters, Radiohead, LL Cool J, MC5, Rage Against The Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Link Wray.
It’s all individual taste, but I’d vote for The Moody Blues and the first four on the above list to fill the five slots.
Even if their career hadn’t lasted 40 years, and their only album had been Days Of Future Passed, it was such an innovative album that The Moody Blues should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.