Monday, 4 July 2016

The Moody Blues - Non-Album Recordings Part One: 1964-1967

You can now buy 'New Horizons - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Moody Blues' in e-book form by clicking here!

Does the first Moody Blues release [  ] 'Steal  Your Heart Away' have anything to do with the band to come? A curious choice as a debut single, it's a very English take on an American R and B standard written by guitarist Bobby Parker (better known for the slightly tougher song 'Watch Your Step'). It's typical of The Moody Blues in this period that they should cover the obscure song rather than the well known one, but the trouble is there's less immediacy about 'Steal Your Heart Away' than almost any other R and B song they could have chosen. The band also replace the slow dramatic smoky mood of the original for a very 'tidy' production that tidies up all the loose ends. The song, too, is completely unlike anything else the band were playing at the time (with most of the debut album already in the band's setlists by this point), which makes it a daft choice for a style-setting first single - before the band had a following it inevitably flopped. And yet The Moody Blues already sound right at home in the studio. Despite being teenagers and early-somethings with no prior knowledge of the studio and how it works, no doubt pushed to make this recording quickly so Decca could get on with working with a name band, it's a remarkable recording. Denny Laine's vocals crackles with real energy as he purrs his way through this song about getting a lover no matter what. His R and B guitar-work is highly eccentric for the time (it sounds more like Pete Townshend's than his usual style, but it's not a copy - this is so early in the 1960s Keith Moon hasn't even joined the band's rivals yet), while the loudest noise in the band is Mike Pinder's karate chopped piano lines, a sound still comparatively rare in Britain at the time (Mike's closest rival, Alan Price in The Animals, plays the melody to everyone else's chopped karate stabs - it's a world away from the long held notes of the mellotron to come). A case of very much right band then, but the wrong song. An earlier version released on the deluxe edition of the band's first album 'The Magnificent Moodies' - which really is the first thing the band ever taped in a studio - is understandably much more tentative and sounds as if the band are still going for the wild crowds, with a few clumsy mistakes, long periods of silence where nothing happens but lots of big gestures. Find both versions on: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (deluxe edition)

Much more Moodies-ish is the B-side [  ] 'Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose Your Mind)', which manages to sound straight down the middle between James Brown and The Beatles, with overtones of Bob Dylan in Denny's vocal's sly mumbled delivery and Ray's harmonica swigging. Though the piano doesn't feature much, this first band original was written by Mike alone, before his songwriting partnership with Denny got in full gear, and it is significant that already this early on in the 1960s the band are keen to be seen to be writing their own songs. Mike clearly still had a lot to learn judging by this lumpy and rather ugly song which is based around a simple rock riff, but already he's nailed the band's greatest feature (their already spine-tingling harmonies) and the lyrics are fun, a sort of parody of R and B songs about people spending too much money on their girls. Even back in 1964 this is as 'turned on' a song as it gets, vaguely fighting capitalism while the talk about 'losing minds' sounds more like hippie drug parlance. For now, though, this is all incredibly rootsy with Denny turning in a thrilling R and B guitar solo offhand as if he did this sort of thing in front of a bunch of Abbey Road engineers everyday. Once again the band had another aborted ago first, left in the vaults until the 2015 deluxe re-issue of the debut album, which doesn't really6 compare except for curiosity's sake. Slower and more 'normal', you can even hear Denny's words in this one and the guitar work and piano both emphasis every fourth beat in the bar without the natural grace of the finished version. Ray rather messes up his harmonica part too. Find both versions on: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (deluxe edition)

It's strange to think that, for three years until 'Tuesday Afternoon' came along, the curious R and B cover [17] 'It's Easy Child' was, as the flipside of 'Go Now', arguably the second most known Moody Blues song. The sort of yin to 'Go Now's yang, this isn't about the awful heartbreak of leaving but the easy comfortable thrill of hello. Denny does his best with this odd little ballad by a group of previously unknown writers (Redd, Sandler and 'Go Now's co-writer Milton Bennett) and there's a lovely choral backing in the middle where the band stop playing which is really quite effective and is Ray's first time in the spotlight as a singer. However the curiously lacklustre melody is one that's born of plodding so, unable to work out what to do to bring it to life, the band simply plod on. It's not actually easy, child, at all this song which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen that's been through an afternoon of takes too many, with the band sounding as if they're about to crack if they're forced through any more. A slightly clumsy BBC sessions also exists, with Denny getting shriller and shriller by the end. Find both versions on: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (deluxe edition)

The young Moody Blues promoted their records the usual way for stars of the day, including several sessions for BBC radio. In common with most of their peers, by and large the band just played faithful renditions of their hit record and a few other stage favourites, but like a few other bands the Moodies threw in a few 'exclusives' too. One of these is a moody cover of Arthur Alexander's classic [  ] 'You Better Move On', a popular song of the period given distinctive stamps and branding by The Rolling Stones and The Hollies among others. The Moodies, interestingly, are the most faithful to the original, with Denny singing with the same shrill intensity as the original and Pinder finding a an R and B groove somewhere between pop and rock. It's a good cover, especially for radio, but you long for the band do something a little more Moody-ish with it: there are very few harmonies, for instance, and this song lacks the passion of a 'Go Now' even though Alexander was, arguably, exactly the sort of hot/cold songwriter the band should have been covering. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies' 

Alas the drippy [14] 'I Don't Want To Go On Without You' is the worst possible follow-up to 'Go Now' the band could possibly have made and stalled at an embarrassing #33 in the UK charts a mere few months on. The trouble is so many other bands have covered this rather drippy Drifters tune already by early 1965 (including fellow AAA band The Searchers, who don't do it much better) and it's even less suited to The Moodies than other R and B acts. Denny shines when the song he's singing is sincere and this slice of  polite pleading is anything but. Even his guitar solo sounds more like he's decided to tune it mid-song. The only part that stands out is Mike's delicate piano part, but even this makes the song sound uncomfortably pretty: this song should be life and death, but there's no urgency in this version played at funeral speed. I can see why the band released this - they must have been under big pressure from Decca to cover another R and B ballad in the same vein and preferably with a strong piano part - but 'Go Now' was a very different beast, the sort of sound that no other band been able to offer the world back in 1964. The trouble is 'Go Now' was unique and the band will scratch their heads for the next couple of years trying to work out how to re-capture the magic of their previous song. Easily the worst recording of the Denny Laine era. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

B-side [19] 'Time Is On My Side', though equally well known and too 'safe' a choice to excite the record buying public of 1964 (The Rolling Stones did it this time in terms of AAA bands), does at least suit the band a little more. Denny has a nice Jagger-style sneer, even if he isn't primal enough to sing it quite as well just yet, while the piano part makes for an ear-catching opening as it sounds like Pinder is trying to zoom from 0-60 in twenty notes. However Pinder's falsetto harmony part is already an acquired taste, while Thomas sounds like he's terribly bored and the whole thing is again far too slow. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

 [15] 'From The Bottom Of My Heart I Love You' is a brave choice at a fourth single, with the early Moodies at their most ambitious. Lasting a full three and a half minutes, with a slow burning fuse, it's clearly based on the similar 'House Of The Rising Sun' by old rivals The Animals, with a melody lifted from Goffin and King's 'Where Have You Been?' thrown in for good measure. This is also a key moment as the first original composition released as a single, with Laine and Pinder's effort certainly on a par with their first and third singles, even if they lack the sophistication of 'Go Now'. The lyrics certainly push Denny to the limit, as he starts the song with a growl from the bottom of his diaphragm and gradually keeps getting louder and higher until he hits his favoured high-pitches falsetto note by the song's end. A simple plea to never go away because the narrator loves his girl so completely, it could have sounded tacky but the melody hints at just what a tall ordeal it is for the narrator to melt his beloved's heart of ice. Far from sounding deliriously happy at being in love, Laine sounds petrified by just how far he's been pushed out of his comfort zone. Though not an obvious candidate as a single, this is a cracking song and even with many radio stations refusing to play it because of its length ('Rising Sun' had the same problem at first till it sold in such droves the stations had to back down to public demand) the single did well to reverse the band's fortunes and head back up the charts to a UK peak of #22.  Shockingly, this is the highest the band will manage right up until 'Nights In White Satin' two years later, another slow dramatic song that might not have been possible without tracks like this one to pave the way. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The song's flip and one of the better Laine/Pinder originals around, [20] 'And My Baby's Gone' deserved a better fate than to be abandoned on the B-side of yet another flop single. In a way this song sounds like a sequel to 'Go Now', the narrator struggling to come to terms with the fact that someone he really loved has walked out of his life. 'Without your love any more I'm not a rich man' the narrator sighs, telling the listener about all the treasures he's 'lost'. A jumpy piano part from Pinder is the backbeat to a beat-heavy song filled with lots of clapping and stomping from the rest of the band that points to the Moodies' R and B past, but it's Laine's heavily psychedelic guitar part that positions this song firmly in 1966. Not so much played as droned, it's one of the more interesting solos he plays while in the band (in fact he'll be under-used as a guitarist in the Wings years). The result is one of the better Laine-era recordings, catchy but slightly deeper and more inventive than a lot of their other songs of the time. A terrifically raw finger-snapping BBC session featuring the song is much better than the album and one of the highlights of the  jam-packed-with-rarities 'Magnificent Moodies' second disc. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The jolly [  ] 'Everyday' is to mid-1965 what 'Go Now' was to mid-1964 and as such I'm surprise it didn't sell better despite being a comparatively forgettable song. The first two Byrds albums are full of folk-rockers like this, while the tune shares a passing resemblance with The Beatles' own Byrdsy 'It's Only Love' from the 'Help!' soundtrack. In contrast to 'Bottom Of My Heart', this Pinder/Laine song is about how the narrator finds it easy to fall casually in love before and vowing that people shouldn't take it too seriously. Pinder uses his favourite stop-start rhythms (see 'Stop!' and 'Thinking Is The Best Way To Travel' in particular) which are probably the main reason this song didn't sell as they are a tad disruptive when used this often, while clocking in at just 1:48 this song feels like it needs a little something else. Still, it's a good song, even a great one for the time period, with some lovely harmonies between Denny, Ray and Mike uncomfortably perched at the top end and a catchy singalong melody. For those keeping score, this song did worse, falling to #44 in the UK charts. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

B-side [ ] 'You Don't (All The Time)' sounds suspiciously like the early songs by fellow Brummies The Move, with a similar folk-rock sound (with some very early Ray Thomas flute playing), hammy lyrics and a music hall/Herman's Hermits style nursery rhyme melody. Given the context that makes sense: as the band dropped further out of sight their management spent more and more time trying to break The Move and never seemed to be available for the Moodies any more, a fact which must have made them, well, moody. The Moodies remain superior to 'The Move' if only for their natural melodic instincts (it speaks volumes that The Move stuck with three minute pop singles while The Moodies progressed to full albums whose songs are longer and deeper in scope) and though this chirpy song about a tiff between lovers is on a par with 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' and 'Fire Brigade', it's not deep enough even for early Moodies. You still don't hear this rare flipside song enough, though, none of the time. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Meanwhile, over at the BBC, The Moodies have decided to have a bash at popular R and B song [  ] 'Jump Back', a Rufus Thomas novelty song not unlike his biggest hit 'Walkin' The Dog'. Goodness knows why - it's not a great song and certainly not a great Moody Blues song, with only Mike's additional piano part and falsetto and Denny's growling frenetic guitar twirls catching the ear. Perhaps sensibly realising they were onto a loser, the band never tried to record this song in the studio although it sounds as if the band know this song fairly well, suggesting it was in their early setlist before being revived for a 'Saturday Club' session. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

[  ] 'I Want You To Know' is a welcome release at last of the band's first coca-cola commercial, under a different name (oops I think I've got this one in my 'unreleased' list still - rewrites ahoy!) Though secret communists The Moody Blues seem unlikely choices for capitalism's favourite soft-drink the jingle was actually highly popular - enough for Coke to come calling again in a couple of years' time for two more adverts with Justin Hayward on lead. All three are great but especially this first one, with Denny sounding greatly expressive as he salutes being 'on the right track' with a girl and how much fun he's going to have - so much so that he decides to have a drink he just happens to have with him and sighs 'you never get tired of this taste!' This could have been a great song in other circumstances, with some great Pinder piano once again and the band play it impressively straight, with Denny sounding as if his heart is pounding. Either he's a great actor or his veins have just been filled with too many bottles of sugary goodness! Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The year is now 1966 and things are getting serious. The Moody Blues have now been without a top ten hit for eighteen months - a lifetime in this timezone - and the last, rather desperate choice of single ('Stop!', resurrected from the debut album) was the first band release to miss the charts. The musical mood of the world is now progressively more psychedelic and this year more than any other in the decade made sure to prune back the deadwood left over from previous years so that new bands with even stranger names than 'The Moody Blues' can blossom forth. It was in this climate that the band released  [22] 'This Is My House (But Nobody Calls)', a Pinder/Laine song that 's recognisably like before (with the same shuffle rhythms as 'Lose Your Money' at a slightly faster speed) but also recognisably like what's to come. The slightly ragged harmonies of previous years are now a real thing of love and beauty, while Denny's guitar, Mike's chopped guitar and Graeme's wildest drumming yet really puts some pace into the song (Graeme gets his first really classic moment too, mimicking the 'knocking on the door' that Denny long for but never hears). Though some of the band's Laine-era singles are a bit lightweight and this one too has some rather dodgy lyrics that rhyme 'there' with 'a mouse on a chair' - did this song start out life as a cover of 'A Windmill In Old Amsterdam' as both have similar chords and come at a similar pace?), it is in many ways a breakthrough with the first Moody Blues song of many about isolation, desperation and loneliness. Using the house as a metaphor for the narrator's love life is a good idea too, putting a distance between the narrator and his own misery so he doesn't quite as 'love-struck teenager' as some of the band's earlier songs. It's still very dramatic though: 'If I can't have human company then at least I can pretend!' moans Denny, welcoming his furry friend from the skirting boards. It really isn't too big a leap to go from here to Justin in his bedsitter flat writing 'Nights' about his loneliness (oddly enough at more or less this exact time) - this is the first of the Denny-era songs to really sound like the later Justin 'n' John band and proof that Denny might have well had a future in this band if he'd had just that little more patience. However the seeds of his departure in a year or so's time are already being sown here, with perhaps the most telling complaint in the whole song coming at the end: 'Nobody gets to see me in the limelight!' Perhaps second only to 'Go Now' as the Laine-era's best song, typically all that hard work went unrewarded and this became the first 'new' Moodies song not to chart. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Cannily, The Moody Blues decided to reach out to the one fanbase that was still - by and large - loyal. For some reason The Moody Blues always went down in France from the beginning (even before 'Go Now', debut single 'Steal Your Heart Away' did rather better there), the same way that Germany flipped for The Hollies out of all proportion to most of Europe and Scandanavia really seemed to 'get' The Kinks. With TV appearances and tour audiences dying up in Britain and America across 1965 and 1966, The Moodies spent a lot of time there and picked up a lot of the feel of the local music. [23] 'Boulevard De Madeleine' is, on the surface, another great Laine/Pinder song. The perfect accompaniment to 'This Is My House', it's a tango with accordions as Denny complains about being left behind in a dingy Parisian street, jilted by a girl he really fancied and feeling depressed 'like a part of me died'. However the band clearly hadn't been around France that long - the band simply spotted Boulevard De Madleine on a sign and thought it sounded good for a song lyric. What they didn't know was that this run down part of town was actually famous for its brothels, giving the song a sleazy reputation it didn't deserve and putting the song in a whole new place altogether! France was always slightly prim and proper when it came to rock and roll (The Beatles' shows in France are said to be the moment the band decided to quit touring, because suddenly there was no screaming and they could hear how bad they sounded!) - you'd have to be a very rebellious teenager in 1966 to actually go out and buy this song! Back to the drawing board then...  Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The last Denny Laine/Moody Blues single is another step forward on the band's great journey. [24] 'Life's Not Life' is to 1966 what 'Go Now' was to 1964 and 'Everydays' was to 1965, psychedelic but in the peculiarly tough sense of other 1966 songs (ie its more 'Paint It Black' and 'Paperback Writer/Rain' than 'Ruby Tuesday' or 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds'). A curious blend of R and B, music hall, folk, blues and psychedelia, it sounds very like the first taste of flower power heard across the 'Nuggets' series of psychedelic one-shots. Lyrically, this last Pinder/Laine song sounds not unlike a drug experience (both men were users by now) and like many sneaky songs of the period includes references to a 'fall' without using the word 'trip' while talking about 'altered perceptions'. 'Life's not life no more, I've slipped up for sure, but not enough to fall' is a great lyric, cute enough for audiences who didn't 'get' it while sure to get nodding winks from those who already knew their Haights from their Ashburys and their weed from their flowerpot men. Interestingly it's a third straight original in a row about isolation and depression and is very much on a career trajectory from 'Go Now' to 'Nights In White Satin' and even '#I Know You're Out There Somewhere', with lyrics about someone suddenly leaving and the narrator feeling guilty for years (decades even) afterwards. A cute performance is more playful and livelier than the last two songs but still suited to the material, with Denny and Mike in tandem spiralling downwards while Ray's sad flute is left in the middle, desperately trying to keep up with the others. Another under-rated classic. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Only released on a Moody Blues EP (the only Moody Blues EP, 'Boulevard De Madeliene', released as a 'cash-in' only in France in 1966) [22] 'People Gotta Go' sounds suspiciously like an older song exhumed from the vaults with a much heavier R and B feel. Though the backing is plodding, with an oom-pah melody and Graeme smacking a tambourine with all the subtlety of a gorilla, the vocals are really coming on a treat with Denny and Ray sounding so great in harmony you wonder why they didn't try the technique more often. Lyrically this Pinder/Laine song is, well, odd: though I thought for years that the lyrics were a comment on either stardom (a la Buffalo Springfield) or population control (a la The Hollies in this period), actually a few close listens studying the lyrics reveal that the narrator means a specific group of people who keep hanging around his girlfriend. She's moved house recently - a shared bedsitter flat or a uni accommodation? - and the narrator wants some alone time, 'just come up from town to see ya and all the things I dread to see, yeah!' Denny sounds wonderfully pompous and you can just picture him standing in a doorway, arms folded, sneering 'what are you looking at me like that for? I deserve to know their names!' Too good to leave in the vaults or abandoned on a French EP, if perhaps a little too weird for release as a single in its own right, it's a shame the band try a few more experiments like this one as they really have a feel for this sort of 'comical' R and B. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The B-side of the band's final Denny/Clint single is [25] 'He Can Win' which is another rather odd song which sounds like Herman's Hermits would if they'd ever taken marijuana. A plea to women not to put their men down, they ask the girls to 'give him all he needs and he can win win win win' and that if they 'get everything right you'll be in in in in'. Later lyrics make out that man is just an animal trying to be polite and it's up to the girl to make the first move and show her that she wants him to unleash his inner beast. Umm, is everything alright at home, chaps? Is this an early sign of Denny's infamously troubled love life? Is Mike's marriage (he married very young and it will only just last the rest of the decade) already in trouble? This song sounds like two bachelors soothing their sorrows in a bar somewhere and as such is highly revealing - alas it's also rather patronising when sobered up the next morning and ends the Laine and Warwick era on something of an anti-climactic note. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Definitely the weirdest song from the Moodies' early years is a Ray Thomas-led cover of [  ] '23rd Psalm' (the one that runs 'The Lord Is My Shepherd'). Though played in earnest at first, with Ray singing the way he did on 'It Ain't Necessarily So' (big and loud and expressive!), the song switches mood halfway through to become a groovy gospel party with Denny trying to get the band to join him in 'shouting my fears as I fear no pain'. Though you can hear what the band were trying to do, this song and performance falls between two stools: it's not pretty enough to be reverential and not rock and roll enough to be cheeky. This is, however, a great starring role for Clint Warwick's under-rated bass playing and he manages to throw in some great rock and roll runs, while Graeme similarly strains at the leash to break free. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'
The year 1966 has long been a blurry one for Moodycologists, a blurred time that saw the band move away from one sound into another, further confused by the loss of two band members (Clint left in the middle of the year, Denny at the end, with temporary bassist Rod Clark also leaving after a few months)  and a new producer in Denny Cordwell (best known for his work with fellow Brummies The Move later on in the decade). For years us fans assumed that the handful of singles released across the year was all the band had recorded but no - the 'Magnificent Moodies' album revealed a near-whole album's worth of discarded material recorded in this trying period (it would have been a whole album if you'd added the period  singles into the equation anyway) - so unexpectedly I've had to re-write this whole flipping section of the book! (Not that I mind hearing new music - would that there were more vintage recordings to find from all the AAA bands, I'd gladly write another seventy). If it seems odd that Decca should go to the expense of having a band spend all that time and effort without much to show for it, then that's a sign of how quickly record contracts have moved on in the years since The Moody Blues signed to Decca for at least a three year deal. The plan was the band had to record a certain number of allocated album and single tracks or else they could be sued for breach of copyright, while on their side of the fence it was up to Decca if it was worth the expense of releasing them or not. Several bands suffered similar in the period, though few had ever fallen from grace at quite the speed of the early Moody Blues. Understandably the band sound half-hearted across this untitled 'second' album, torn between a desire to stretch themselves musically and prove they can keep up with the opposition and feeling fed-up that only a few choice extracts from the sessions are ever likely to be heard (and those are up to the whims of their new producer). To be fair, Cordwell chose for release not only the 'best' songs but the ones with the best chances of success in the commercial market of 1966; even so, there are some excellent lost gems here too good to leave behind and all of them are intriguing from a collector's point of view, filling in more of the 'gap' between the R and B and psychedelic eras of the band.

First up is [  ] 'Sad Song', a very pretty lament which Denny wails more than he sings, although it also has a more 'upright' R and B feel than the band's period singles like 'Boulevard De Madeleine' and 'Life's Not Life'. Perhaps a little too retro for 1966, with a very Beatley sound, it is nevertheless a great song for release in 2015 with gorgeous harmonies and some excellent early Ray Thomas flute. The song is another collaboration between Mike and Pinder and feature lots of heartbroken lyrics as Denny tries to get a loved one to stay (it's much closer to Denny's future solo style than anything Mike will write, incidentally). However there's a twist, seemingly aimed squarely at the Decca executives who will likely be the only ones to hear this material: 'Sad you should think of the bad things about me, what have you been thinking about leaving without me, what can I do to make up to someone I don't want to lose?' The rest of the song deals more with motive and career than love too: 'I'm not too proud to cry if I don't succeed ...' A nice period piece. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

I'm surprised that The Moodies were allowed to have two separate goes at covering the Tim Hardin song [  ] 'How Can We Hang On To A Dream?' given the circumstances. A lovely slow sad sighing ballad, it's very much in the vein of the songs Justin will soon be bringing to the band, although Denny does a great job adding his usual take-it-by-the-throat vocals with just the right tinge of haze and helplessness. Mike turns in a variation on the 'Go Now' piano solo that's far scarier and sadder, while outgoing Clint Warwick gets a last chance to shine on a quick solo (presumably the band are taking off The Who's 'My Generation' here,  using the bass instead of the harder-edged guitar). The second version, with new boy Rod Clarke on bass, has a little more going on than the first (flutes, backing vocals and bass flourishes across the song rather than just near the end) and is taken quite a bit faster too, so is the one I'd have chosen for release at the time as a 'hit'. However sitting here all these years later, with no regard for hits of the music of the day, the first take sounds better: Denny has a better grasp of the 'how can this be happening?' shocked lyrics while this is as heart a simple song that sounds better delivered as simply as possible. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Pinder and Laine's own 'Jago and Jilly' is either the greatest song of the period or the worst - I still can't quite tell. A waltz ripped wholesale off The Beatles' 'Baby's In Black' with weird words, it somehow just comes up with enough ideas to keep you on your toes (including a bass and guitar duel an octave apart, with Ray's flute flying between them, an extra 'arum bum bum' drum solo from Graeme on particularly good form and some more excellent backing vocals). Jago is 'free' - presumably after a drink binge or a drug trip - and wants to tell Jilly that he's long fancied her; she can't stand him and turns him down. However is he being 'silly' (nice rhyme there) or is it best to get his feelings out into the open so they can carry on? The Moodies really making unrequited love their 'thing' aren't they, even before 'Nights In White Satin' comes along and though a bit more clod-hopping than later classics, this song has a real swing to it and a tongue-in-cheek style (the narrator ends the chorus by telling Jago 'keep her for me!') that's refreshing compared to the band's other songs. They'd have either had a big hit with this song or seen their careers killed off for good had they released it, I'm not quite sure which! Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

However the best of these second album sessions - and perhaps the best song of the entire Denny Laine era after 'Go Now' - is the Pinder/Laine collaboration [  ] 'We're Broken'. Though still based around Mike's R and B piano licks and those same lovely harmonies, this is a very different sound indeed with a fuzz guitar and wild rock thrashing. Again it sounds like the heavier moments of the 'Nuggets' psychedelia one-hit-wonders sets, full of the same unfocussed thrashing rhythms and simple lyrics conjoined to complex melodic structures with the message that life will never be the same again. Denny wishes he didn't have to feel as discarded and betrayed as he does, but the more he tries to calm himself down the more histrionic he gets, with an eerie 'weeeeee're broken!' hookline interrupting his thoughts and bringing him back to his knees every-time he thinks he's got over the loss and moved on. fans of the peculiar 1966 branch of psychedelia (with heavy rock overtones) will love this song, which is a classic of the genre. There's even a terrific scat piano solo from Mike which really does sound like what he was meant to be playing - his usual solos from similar songs - has been broken and scattered across the keyboard, as fragmented as the couple's relationship. Denny is just great, holding things together till near the end with a more understated performance than normal and only a wild squeal near the end, while Ray's backing vocals are already the glue holding the song together and stopping it flying away. For once Decca messed up - with the right promotion this surely had to be a hit - and the Moody Blues' career (not to mention Wings') might have been oh so different if it had. Sensational and worth the price of the 'deluxe' set alone. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Not much is known about [  ] 'Red Wine', an unusual song which could be a PInder/Laine original but if so sounds more like what the band were offering on the first album. I also can't tell whose singing the lead vocal to Denny's falsetto harmony. Is it Rod Clarke because he's the only Moody vocal I don't know (it isn't Denny, Mike or Ray and it doesn't sound much like Graeme's 'whispered' voice of later recordings either). Not unlike 'Send Me No Wine' to come, it's a frenetic retro rocker full of clipped sentences about the good and bad of an alcohol-involved meeting ('Red wine, good time, send you outta your mind!') although am I the only person to think the band are actually singing an 'ode' to something stronger as the 'mind blown' imagery is more like a 'drug' song ('Won't go in a straight line!') Graeme has fun getting out months of pent up aggression on the song and like much of the 1966 sessions the band are noticeably tighter than they were in 1965, rescuing a so-so song with a terrific band performance. Like the other songs unreleased from the sessions, this song deserved better than to be stuck in a box for a full fifty years. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Meanwhile, over in a bedsit down South, a still-teenage Justin Hayward has just signed to Pye Records, thanks to his friend and mentor Marty Wilde pulling a few strings, before being dropped and switching to Parlophone (meaning that Justin has gone from being a stablemate of The Kinks and The Searchers to The Beatles and The Hollies before ending up at Decca alongside The Rolling Stones when he joins The Moody Blues - what a great career trajectory!) Though the two sides of both singles Justin recorded for the label are less remarkable musically than what's to come - and still rather behind what his Moody colleagues are up to - they are nevertheless pretty darn amazing for someone so young and inexperienced. Justin writes all four track himself, which is impressive enough by itself for 1966, but what really comes across is the sense that Justin has already 'found' his inner voice - the world-weary shrug and questioning doubt of so many future Hayward classics is already here intact, it's just the means of getting that voice across that isn't quite there yet. None of the recordings quite match the songs, with Justin still easing into that sugar-coated voice and the playing os the session musicians erratic, sounding like nobody else in the room is quite comfortable with this hybrid of rock 'n' folk. Many of the songs are performed with an OTT orchestra and drumming best described as 'eccentric', which will be good practice for times to come, but somehow none of these performances sound as 'real' as the Moodies will in a few years and if ever there was proof that Justin needed the band as much as they needed him, then it's here. Both records flopped, despite as much publicity as Justin and Marty could muster, partly perhaps because of the indifferent performances but more likely because these songs are, however good, slightly old hat by 1966. These songs sound like the folk-rock of 1965 - The Byrds and The Beatles' soundtrack album for 'Help!'- and Justin was unlucky at coming along just as the world was rather spoilt for choice for talented young songwriters. His loss was The Moody Blues' gain though and you can trace a real line from these solo recordings to 'Fly Me High', just as you can hear the Justin 'n' John era Moody Blues in the Denny Laine recordings of the year. Sadly, to date, none of the four tracks have ever been re-issued or have appeared on CD (well officially anyway - they're a favourite of bootleggers): Justin has always been slightly embarrassed about them, but he really shouldn't: they're a fascinating, insightful and perfectly respectable part of his development as singer, writer and guitarist.

[  ] 'London Is Behind Me' is the A-side of the first single, sung by Justin apparently doing everything he can not to sound like himself and adding a Nashville twang to his voice. However the mood is still predominantly English: Justin's narrator is alone, travelling down one of those new-fangled motorways (the first one had only opened in the UK in 1959) and wishing his girl was by his side. At first the despondent way that Justin sings the song makes you think that this is an early 'Nights In White Satin' 'Who Are You Now?' or 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere', the first song addressed to the mystery partner he lost touch with early on, but the song veers somewhere different by the middle picturing Justin's girl anxiously waiting for him as he turns up late (no mobiles in those days to let her know he's got a puncture you see). Interestingly this song is a rare case of the Moodies mentioning money and a lack of it (they'll be above such worldly things in another year or two), complaining 'The car's laid up and I haven't got the bus fare, all I've got's a quid and I'll save it till I got there'.  Played on folk instruments but with a rock pounding, it sounds more like early Simon and Garfunkel than anything, especially the twin-part harmonies with an un-credited backing singer. Symbolically, of course, Justin is about to turn his back on a career in London for one in...Birmingham with the other Moodies (ninety-nine times out of a hundred it was the other way around!) Find it on: Befriend your local millionaire, turn him onto the Moody Blues and plead with him to buy a copy of this rare single. Either that or spend a fortune on e-bay.

The B-side [  ] 'Day Must Come' is a little more derivative, the sort of breathy orchestral ballad-with-drums that was big at the time (well, actually, a little before this: think the Righteous Brothers or Tom Jones in 1965). Justin is already having fun with his stop-start time signatures, but the melody is nearly non-existent and the words very repetitive and ordinary (Alone at night without you near, I can see you oh so clear, did you leave me here to wonder days must come and I'll forget you till the night falls and day must come again'). However, for Moody fans this is a fascinating song: the first Justin recording about loss and a track that just happens to be set late at night full of desperation and loneliness - it's not that big a jump thematically from here to 'Nights In White Satin', although in quality there's a chasm between the two. For a start the drummer never hits the same beat in the bar twice which is incredibly wearing (unless you're at the level of a Keith Moon where you can hit every beat at once!) and makes Graeme look like a virtuoso! Find it on: It's a golden day. The sun is shining - look at the view. You've decided to head to your local rummage sale/record fair/read an ad in the paper when suddenly your eyes spot this long lost Justin Hayward classic in good condition at a reasonable price. It's a scenario that could happen I suppose - but only if you're really really lucky!

Justin's second single has a heavier, rockier feel than his first and is a little more sophisticated. I've grown rather fond of A-side [  ] 'I Can't Face The World Without You', which sounds like period Searchers or Peter and Gordon (breathy orchestral ballads with a real rock stomp and a touch of echoey Phil Spector about the production). Justin sounds oddly deep on this song and still hasn't quite found his voice yet, but the chorus line features him reaching for the notes and flying, rather than simply walking, on the line 'pleeeeease' for the first time and it really knocks a slightly awkward song into first gear. A dose of George Harrison-esque guitar switches the backing to Beatles, but the orchestra is pure Scott Walker, with Justin caught somewhere between 'Fly Me High' and 'Nights' again (while Justin's guitar solo is played more like a sitar, impressively early for mid-1966!) Lyrically it's another song of loss, though you get the sense that Justin is writing this song to step in line with the expected theme of songs in this era rather than because he's writing from the 'heart' as yet. Find it on: You have a choice - a roof over your head, a complete collection of Alan's Album Archives books or owning this very rare single. Our advice is go with the books - they'll keep the rain off you when you lose your house and they'll probably release this on CD anyway one day, just maybe.

The B-side [  ] 'I'll Be Here Tomorrow' is more like the early Moody Blues, a fun and funky rocker with a very 1950s riff. Justin is trying to woo a girl with promises of always being there for her and sharing sighed miseries over 'love gone wrong', but strangely his commitment to 'being here tomorrow' comes across as slightly hollow. The second verse, after all, is basically a nagging set of words about how she messed up (the 'hidden' message of the song is 'well, that's what you get for dating him when you could have had me!') while there's nothing about this song that makes you think 'what a great guy!' just yet (don't worry, it will come). Find it on: I know you're out there somewhere, somewhere somewhere, I know I'll find you somehow somehow and somehow you'll return again to the Moody Blued discography.

Non-Album Recordings Part #4: 1967

Entry number [26] 'Fly Me High' is a red letter day for The Moody Blues. Their second single of 1967 but their first to feature Justin Hayward and John Lodge, no matter how much they try to shape this song like the R and B styles of the past it's still clearly a 'new' sound and a new direction. Pinder having exhausted all his ideas for the moment it's the new boy who gets a first shot at an A side and it's the two new boys who dominate the sound, with Justin playing a hypnotic guitar riff and a bouncy vocal while John Lodge's falsetto harmonies warble away behind him. It's a sound that's going to reap huge rewards in years to come and the band's brave move in nominating their two newbies centre stage almost pays off. 'Fly Me High' is a fascinating song about a sudden feeling of joy that sweeps over the narrator for reasons he never explains to us, with Justin determined to make the most of it now because 'in a few hours more it'll be gone'. There are two obvious interpretations to make here, given that Justin offers no clues as to 'why'. The first one is drugs: even the title seems to hint at 'getting high'. The question then is what has Justin taken? Some lyrics refer to 'loving everyone' (a key proponent of LSD), while  the idea of 'whoops here I come, I've travelled too fast' suggests amphetamines (the sort of things The Beatles took in Hamburg to keep them awake all night). If all this conjecture is true than it makes 'Fly Me High' the only overtly drug song in the Moodies' canon - and a really brave move for a band whose reputation in 1967 was a little bit stuffy and behind the times. The other possibility is that Justin, after years and years of knocking at the gates of success, has finally been welcomed into a 'hit' band. At times the lyric to 'Fly Me High' sounds like a lecture, a determination to fly 'straight' rather than mess up a golden opportunity. A warm and sweet little song, with psychedelic overtones but also a strong R and B beat, this is a perfect stepping stone from the band's 'old' sound to the 'new'. Alas it flopped as badly at the time as any of the past year's efforts with Denny Laine, only becoming a sort of 'retrospective classic' in the CD age where it became the welcome opening number to many a Moodies compilation. Funny, sunny and right on the money, it's one of the band's better ideas from their 'golden year' of 1967. Find it on: the 1987 compilation 'Prelude', the two box sets 'TimeTraveller' and 'Timeless Flight' and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Relegated both to writing solo songs and to the B-side, Mike Pinder's [27] 'Really Haven't Got The Time' is still firmly inside the band's traditions. A rushed pounding four-bar-blues with a rock and roll beat, this busy song cleverly mimic's the narrator's rushed impatience. Pinder even plays a striking piano solo that's both jazzier and more scatterbrained than anything else he's played for the Moodies so far. The lyric is probably just about the narrator being rushed off his feet, but notice that the opening line to this B-side is 'I don't want to ride...', another bit of drug slang (which is interesting given that in time Pinder will get more, shall we say, 'psychedelic' than anyone, even if he is still the self-styled keeper of the flame for the band's traditions right now). A fun backing vocal which is so busy it can't even spit the words out in full ('I Really! I really haven't! I really haven't got the time!') offers an early glimpse at how the band's new backing vocals now sound (the above song featured only Justin and John; this one features Ray Thomas loudest but John and Justin are in there too). Apart from some misguided blues hollering at the end and a loudly chanted 'hey!' in the middle, this is more fine, fun stuff from a band who sound as if they finally know what their direction is after a year or more of trying to find it. It's certainly an improvement on an earlier version cut at one of the last recording sessions with Denny in September 1966 (who sings falsetto backing alongside Mike's lead and provides some chunky but ill-suited Chuck Berry style guitar) and which comes off as more novelty music hall than hard-hitting rocker. Find the released version on the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed' and the earlier outtake on the deluxe set of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

[28] 'Love and Beauty' is where the Moodies' sound fully changes forever: while here more for a bit of colour than the cornerstone of the band's sound as it will become Pinder's mellotron is now present and correct. Perhaps inspired by Justin, Mike is fully in charge again on this track, falling head-first for the sounds of psychedelia with lyrics about 'helping every man as a friend' and a slightly wonky, wobbly backing that's edging ever closer to the band's famous style. Like many a Pinder song, this one comes in 'sections', with each one signposted by a twinkly piano arpeggio and a loud whallop from Graeme's drums which rather disrupts the sound, but the song itself is a good one. The narrator walks around in crowds of people every day but feels alienated from them, glancing at the weather, looking at their shoes (It's a quirk of environment that practically all of American psychedelia is set in sunshine and all of British psychedelia set in rain, with many 'trippers' rushing out to experience what always used to seem a nasty experience afresh and seeing it through different eyes; Pinder may have been inspired by classic Beatles B-side 'Rain' here, released the previous Summer). 'If only they could see what I see!' this song loves to yell, urging them to look up 'and realise we're not the only ones alive'. That's a very Moodies theme - the first in this book that if anyone else had sung it we'd be saying 'gosh that's a very Moodies song!' -and they'll return to the theme some 19 years later with 'The Other Side Of Life', another composition about a world that exists in parallel to 'our' one. With one of Pinder's better vocals and a backing track that's confident on the mysterious verses (if less so on the poppy chorus, which arrives with a lurch each time - perhaps mimicking the narrator finding himself back on 'Earth') this is another strong step forward for the band searching for that winning sound and a much under-rated song. Find it on: 'Prelude' (1987), 'Time Traveller' (1990) and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

This time it's Justin whose decided to give the band something more in keeping with their R and B past. [29] 'Leave This Man Alone' is a great gutsy rocker hammered home by a fierce riff and another tight backing performance with a rare chance for John Lodge to show what he was actually hired to do - play R and B with a distinctive walking bass part to hold the band together. Justin's lyric is defensive, full of indignation and fury at being made to feel small by persons unknown and he rattles the lyrics off at a million miles an hour, still seething at some injustice. 'Leave my mind alone!' he cries as people try to put him down, young girls who 'stand and stare' with 'their faces' (a very psychedelic line, suggesting that the 'face' is somehow separate from the 'soul') taunting him. While ostensibly a song about wanting a date and not getting one (hard to imagine for Justin even before he was famous!) this song seems to be a little deeper than that, with the key perhaps in the second verse where someone recognises the narrator but 'can't think where', rabbiting on about how he 'knows so much about me'. This was a common experience among drug takers in the 1960s so I'm told, with people assuming that they 'knew' people on more than just an artificial level, perhaps exaggerated by what might have been the first taste of 'fame' Justin ever got (The Moodies' records still weren't selling but would have been recognisable from TV and concerts). This would 'fit' with what we know about the band circa 1972/73, effectively splitting up because they hated being taken for prophets when they were 'just singers in a rock and roll band', but seems awfully early to be making an appearance in this book. A great snappy riff, a terrific punchy band performance (especially Edge's eccentric drumming), a wonderful guitar sound right on the cusp of R and B and psychedelia plus a great vocal from Justin make for one of the band's finest flip sides, an unusually aggressive and harsh song which proves that they could do 'tough' as well as any other band when the right song came along.  A slightly differently arrangement appeared on a BBC recording of the song, which benefits from the raw power of a 'live' performance (bar Justin's double-tracking) but loses out thanks to a faster arrangement and some random tootling from Pinder on the mellotron, clearly bored without anything to play on the original song. Find it on: 'Prelude' (1987) and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

A deeply unusual Justin Hayward song, [30]'Cities' - the best-selling B-side of 'Nights In White Satin' - is the only one of his songs to deliberately sound 'ugly'. A rare protest song about a dark and dingy city 'filled with smells and noise and darkness', it's more like something The Kinks would write, laughing at the idea that filling towns with smoky factories and grimy rivers turned into sewers somehow represents 'progress'. The golden moment of the record, though, is the middle eight when Justin screams 'no, not for me, no no I don't believe you!' on the middle eight and the song changes key, the musical equivalent of going from black and white into technicolour. This is one of the first time Justin has used what will become one of his favourite tricks of contrasting moods (a key theme of every song from the A-side 'Nights' to 'Question') and it's one of the best, delivering realism and escapism all at the same time. I'd love to know if Justin had a specific city in mind - is he singing about his joy at turning his back on London after a difficult and unrewarding year as a solo singer in 1966 or is he being rude about a visit to the band's spiritual home in Birmingham?! Whatever the cause, it's unfortunate that the band do such a comprehensive job of capturing the slow, boring slog of a city that's impenetrable. The actual sound of this record is impressive, with Mike playing a harpischord for the one and only time (perhaps it's that which gives this B-side such a 'Kinks' feel?), while John's bass against Graeme's drums make the song sound as if it's stuck in place and immoveable. The highlight are the echo-drenched backing voices that sound surreal and scary, like an L S Lowry painting of workers traipsing along their futile existence with their heads hung low. However by Moody standards this is a hard song to love and does rather too good a job at keeping us 'out' and emotionally unconnected apart from that all too-brief middle eight. Still, if nothing else, it's the perfect accompaniment to 'Nights' as a single, with the isolation and loneliness of the 'A' side kind of the result of the 'B' side's dark dingy grey sprawling urban surroundings. Find it on: 'Prelude' (1987), 'Time Traveller' (1990) and the deluxe re-issue of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Rather lost amidst the other great material on offer across 1967, [31] 'Long Summer Days' is the most generic songs Justin recorded with the Moody Blues and sounds more like his 1966 singles. The band sensibly didn't put as much time and effort into this song as usual and the track sounds unfinished (Justin would surely have been made to change the very different ways his double-tracked selves sing 'what to do with my time' had the song got any further). The band were also probably right to dump this song in favour of 'Love and Beauty' a couple of months later, but like most Moodies songs of the immediate pre-'Future Passed' sessions there is still a large dollop of Moody magic where the sheer excitement of watching things turn out right infects the band. The long held notes on the middle eight really test the band's recently-formed four-part harmony (with a rare case of both Mike and John singing falsetto) but sound great, while Justin is again using his masterstroke of contrasts, turning the middle eight into a demonstration of all the great times his girl and he specifically but also the world in general could be enjoying had life been slightly different. 'Take me back - and let me start again' is the theme of the song and a rather apt on in the circumstances given that the Moody Blues are still re-inventing themselves in front of our ears. The song was later dug out for the 'Caught Live+5' album of 1977, one of the first 'outtakes' sets released where it surprised many people more used to the later, sophisticated band with both its naiveté and its charm. Find it on: 'Caught Live+5' (1977), 'Prelude' (1987) and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Recorded the same day as 'Leave This Man Alone', Pinder's [32] 'Please Think About It' lost out to that song and 'Love and Beauty' perhaps because it sounded so much like the 'old' band rather than the 'new' one. Apart from Justin and John's prominent backing vocals you could easily believe that this was one of the band's early follow-up attempts to 'Go Now', with a double-tracked Mike doing a good job at trying to re-create the slow burning intensity of Denny's original. On one of his last 'normal' piano parts, with no mellotron attached, Mike also dominated the sound like never before, going through slow R and B crawl to soft shoe jazz shuffle on the solo, while neither Justin nor Ray appear to play at all on what is for the time a very empty (and un-1967 like) backing track. Many fans don't like it and the song is perhaps a shade too slow, while it seems unlikely knowing the band's perfectionism that this was ever intended as a last take (Mike messes up his lines towards the end). However the song's slow sad shuffle of a melody, fitting lyrics (again pleading with a lover to take the narrator back - what were the band up to?) and some excellent harmonies raise this song to the rank of good, if not quite great. Another 'Caught Live+5' outtake that, without any sleeve notes or credits back then, everyone assumed was a Denny Laine era leftover. Find it on: 'Caught Live+5' (1977) 'Prelude' (1987) and the deluxe re-issue of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Recorded for a BBC session but never featured on record, the band's cover of Nina Simone's  [33] 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' was a popular live number, surprisingly only recorded this once for posterity. Compared to the most famous version (by The Animals, although fellow AAA member Cat Stevens will go on to record it too) The Moodies' version offers both torment and solution. Justin's edgy vocal does a good job at conveying guilt and worry but the rest of the band seem to be trying to 'heal' the song: one of Ray's earliest flute solos is delicate and light, while Ray, Mike and John offer some empathetic 'oohs' that take the sting out of the song. The result is a nicely dressed up version of the band's old R and B sound, captured for nearly the last time, with a strong song done justice by the Moodies. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed' and 'At The BBC'

A Now Complete List Of Moody Blues Related Articles At Alan’s Album Archives:

'The Magnificent Moodies' (1965)

'Days Of Future Passed' (1967)

'In Search Of The Lost Chord' (1968)

'On The Threshold Of A Dream' (1969)

'To Our Children's Children's Children' (1969)

‘A Question Of Balance’ (1970)

'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (1971)

'Seventh Sojourn' (1972)

'Blue Jays' (Hayward/Lodge) (1976)

'Songwriter' (Hayward) (1977)

'Long Distance Voyager' (1981)

'The Present' (1983)

'The Other Side Of This Life' (1986) http://alansalbu

‘Keys To The Kingdom’ (1991)

'Strange Times' (1999)


Surviving TV Clips 1964-2015:

The Best Unreleased Recordings 1961-2009:

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967:

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2009:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part One 1969-1977:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two: 1979-2015

Essay: Why Being A Moodies Fan Means You Can Never Go Home

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