Moody Blues begin tour Thursday at Morris - Interview with Graeme

South Bend Tribune Staff Writer

Graeme Edge has a request.

That he’s The Moody Blues’ drummer may help him get it fulfilled. Maybe not.

“Right now, I’m petitioning John (Lodge) to sing ‘Eyes of a Child,’ ” he says by telephone from his home in Bradenton, Fla. “We haven’t done that one in ages. I don’t know how successful I’ll be. I just heard it recently, and it struck me.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Edge will start to get a sense of whether bass player John Lodge is willing to try that album track from 1969’s “To Our Children’s Children’s Children.”

As the band did in February 2006, The Moody Blues — Edge, Lodge and guitarist Justin Hayward from the band’s classic periods of 1966-74 and 1978-90 — will spend two days this week rehearsing at the Morris Performing Arts Center before kicking off the next leg of this year’s tour Thursday night at the South Bend theater.

“If we decide to give it a try, we’ll rehearse it a couple of times at the tech thing, and then when we do the sound check each day, we’ll play it,” Edge says about adding “Eyes of a Child.” “If it’s really good, we’ll pop it into the show.”

Of those 40 songs, Edge says, the band’s concerts always contain the “big five” — “Nights in White Satin,” “Question,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Ride My See-Saw” and “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band.”

“Then we do songs that always change that are representative of the rest of the albums,” he says. “We try to build up to a big finish, take our break, and do the same thing in the second half.”

Known for writing the poems that became signature elements of The Moody Blues’ albums (“The musical side of my talent is somewhat limited, but I’m very wordy”), Edge has a fast and gleeful sense of humor that allows him to take the long view on the band’s future.

“We’re just waiting for the damn Rolling Stones to admit they’ve broken up,” he says, “because then we’ll be the oldest surviving rock ’n’ roll band because they have us by six months.”

Edge, keyboardist Mike Pinder and flutist Ray Thomas formed The Moody Blues in May 1964 with guitarist Denny Laine and bass player Clint Warwick and had a No. 10 hit in the United States with their 1965 cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now.”

Laine and Warwick soon left the band, however, and Hayward and Lodge joined in 1966 to form the band’s classic lineup.

The band’s record company asked The Moody Blues to record a rock-classical version of Dvorák’s “New World Symphony” with conductor Peter Knight and an orchestra made up of session players dubbed the London Festival Orchestra.

Instead, The Moody Blues and Knight scrapped the Dvorák project and Knight orchestrated the band’s original songs. Their collaboration produced November 1967’s “Days of Future Passed” — and the band’s transformation into a progressive rock band known for its use of complex and dynamic arrangements.

From 1967 to 1972, the band released a remarkable — in terms of quantity and quality — seven albums, including “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” “In Search of the Lost Chord” and “A Question of Balance.”

The five of them, Edge says, were cooperative rather than competitive about writing songs for each album.

“It was very exciting,” he says. “The great thing about it, especially for me and Pinde — we used to come in with loads of bits and pieces, and the guys used to help us sew them together. Ray and Justin and John came with complete songs. … Pinde used to come with a great musical idea and probably one verse. We’d develop the musical idea and give him a hand with the verses. At the time, it was all hands on the album.”

Those core seven albums also all featured surrealist cover art by Phil Travers, often in the form of a gatefold.

“We spent a lot of time talking it over with him,” Edge says. “We thought the artwork was one of the most important things. Being a record buyer, I loved the cover, who was playing, but invariably, the art was just a photo, which is very cold. We wanted the art, a bit like the music, that you could interpret it yourself.”

The band broke up in 1974 but reunited in 1978 for the “Octave” album, the last to include Pinder.

Patrick Moraz replaced him in 1978 and continued with the band until 1991, a period that saw The Moody Blues enjoy their greatest commercial success with such albums as “Long Distance Voyager,” “The Present” and “The Other Side of Life” and such singles as “Gemini Dream,” “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.”

In 2002, Thomas retired and has been replaced on tour by flutist Norda Mullen. Earlier this year, keyboardist Paul Bliss left The Moody Blues touring band after 19 years on the road with the band.

Also this year, The Moody Blues re-released 2000’s “Live at the Royal Albert Hall With the World Festival Orchestra,” and earlier this decade, the band released remastered versions of its core seven albums, with Hayward overseeing the re-releases.

“ ‘Seventh Sojourn,’ when that album was being made, I was going through a divorce,” Edge says, describing the memories listening to the reissues conjured. “It was a particularly difficult period for me. I’ve always associated the album with that. I’d never played it. … I’d forgotten all about it and remembered the songs as they came up, but I hadn’t thought about them. I thought it wasn’t a bad album at all. It’s the closest I’ve come to hearing a Moody Blues album fresh.”

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