An Interview With Graeme Edge, from Lancaster Online

Jon Ferguson

Graeme Edge has made some concessions to age.

The drummer for the Moody Blues, who turns 69 on Tuesday, says years ago the band did hire a second percussionist.

"It was getting to the point where I was having to pace myself instead of going full-out, and I didn't like that," the affable Edge says during a telephone interview from his Florida home. "That stops you from enjoying the show — that you can't give 100 percent to every song.

"We figured we'd bring in a drummer so I could take a couple of free rides and grab all the big ones for me."

Though the Moody Blues, which formed in Birmingham, England, in 1964, have all but stopped recording, the band remains a touring powerhouse.

True, the band now plays theaters instead of arenas, but it still mounts about three major tours a year, selling out many of the venues. That's true of Saturday night's show at the American Music Theatre, which sold out shortly after it was announced.

Edge is the sole remaining original member, which scored a hit in 1964 with "Go Now," which was sung by Denny Laine, who went on to become a member of Paul McCartney's Wings. The Moody Blues also worked as a supporting act for the Beatles during a tour of the United States.

"That generation started playing just because they loved it," Edge says of the musicians that led the British Invasion during the 1960s. "You thought you might get to cover an American record and get record sales in England, but the thought of getting a hit on your own and hits in America — that was too far away to even be a dream.

"When it started happening for all of us — the Beatles kicked the door open and we all ran through — it was such an exhilaration. The feeling was there was room for everybody."

Edge says there was more a spirit of cooperation than competition among the musicians at that time. He well remembers musicians gathering at a London bar because it stayed open until 4 a.m., and taking the stage for impromptu jam sessions when the regular band finished its final set.

"One night I was on drums, Jack Bruce was on bass, Eric Clapton was playing guitar and Chas Chandler (bassist for the Animals who went on to become a successful manager) comes over with this young black kid he brought over from Seattle. And so Jimi Hendrix got up there and I was playing behind him. It was breathtaking."

The Moody Blues didn't hit its artistic and commercial stride until singer-guitarist Justin Hayward and singer-bassist John Lodge, both of whom still perform with the band, joined.

With those two in the lineup, along with original members Mike Pinder on keyboards and Ray Thomas on vocals, the band released "Days of Future Passed" in 1967. That same year saw the release, among others, of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," the Rolling Stones' "Between the Buttons," the Kinks "Something Else," Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow," Cream's "Disraeli Gears" and debut albums by Hendrix, Traffic, the Doors and the Velvet Underground.

"Days of Future Passed" was widely hailed for its innovative use of a symphony to give an orchestral sweep to the band's rock songs.

The album also introduced Edge's poetry — which was recited, not sung — as an integral part of the band's sound. Most of the band's albums included these spoken-word snippets.

Edge says he was trying to write songs but wasn't capable of putting his words to musical accompaniment so he gave them to the other band members with the hope they could conjure up a tune.

"They just said: 'It's too many words; you can't actually sing this.' I said, 'Oh, that's a pity.' They finally said, 'Well, screw it, let's put that on as a poem.' A poem on a rock album? Well, why not. We were young and stupid and didn't know you couldn't.

"Especially when the albums were more thematic, the poems were sometimes used to sort of highlight the themes, give people a few clues."

The Moody Blues have enjoyed many hit singles, including "Nights in White Satin," "Tuesday Afternoon," "Ride My See-Saw," "Voices in the Sky," "The Story in Your Eyes," "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock & Roll Band)," "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere."

Especially in its early days, however, the band was known more for its concept albums, including "In Search of the Lost Chord," "On the Threshold of a Dream," "To Our Children's Children's Children" and "A Question of Balance."

The last album the Moody Blues released was "December," a holiday album of sorts, in 2003. Despite a misguided cover of "White Christmas," the album was solid, though it did not sell well.

Edge says the band has enough material to record a new album but lacks the will.

"We'd love to make an album but the recording industry is in such disarray at the moment," Edge says. "There's nobody that will do it, I suppose, the old-fashioned way — give us an advance so we can go in the studio. We wouldn't make any money out of it it but we'd enjoy it."

Meanwhile, Edge says he and his band mates, both present and past, watch in bemusement as each year the Moody Blues is passed over for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The snub always sparks an outcry among its fans on the Internet.

Edge says the band probably draws more attention for not getting in than it would if it gained admittance. He admits, however, that he believes they belong.

"Deep down, yeah, I think we should be there," he says. "What the hell."

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