Taking Care of The Past Moody Blues Songwriter Keeper of Band's flame

By Ted Shaw
The Windsor Star

Justin Hayward discovered recently what all the fuss was about those 40 years ago.

Just how good the Moody Blues were was brought home to Hayward as he watched a film of the band at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

"It's a marvellous snapshot of us," said Hayward, 63. "It was a good performance, good sound. I can see what people saw in us then at the time. I'd never really quite got hold of that."

The Moody Blues circa 1970 were riding the crest of a bestselling British single, Question, which Hayward had penned for A Question of Balance, the band's fifth album. All five albums since the 1967 debut, Days of Future Passed, were bestsellers in the U.K. and Europe, and the way was paved for the band's big North American hit and tour the following year -- album No. 6, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.

Question was one of the 20 hits Hayward would eventually compose for the group. In all, the Moody Blues charted 27 hit songs from 1967 to 2003.

Officially, album sales hover above the 60-million mark, although that's a conservative number because sales records were spotty prior to 1978. It's probably closer to 100 million.

"I came to the group primarily as a songwriter," Hayward said on the phone from his office in Monaco. "And that's still my No. 1 occupation. Everything followed from the songwriting."

His first solo album in 1977, in fact, was titled Songwriter.

Of the five musicians who performed at the Isle of Wight that summer, only three Moody Blues remain -- Hayward on guitars, vocals and keyboards; John Lodge, 64, on guitars and vocals; and Graeme Edge, 69, on drums and vocals.

Flutist and singer Ray Thomas retired in 2002, while keyboardist Mike Pinder left much earlier, in 1979.

Today's Moody Blues keep up a steady pace of concerts from February to November. They have also been consistently turning out CDs and DVDs, usually retrospectives, greatest hits, or live albums and films.

Hayward is the keeper of the flame for most of these projects.

"Taking care of the past is something that is left to the three of us," he said. "I take a personal interest on behalf of (producer) Tony Clarke, who died this year, and Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas. It's kind of like looking after a big kid. You always have to keep your eye on it."

Like most bands of that generation, the biggest competition for new Moody Blues material is old Moody Blues material.

"It's true to say," said Hayward, "that our own output is the biggest obstacle in trying to put out new stuff. Whenever we have new product, the record companies can't resist jumping on it with a new greatest hits or unreleased tracks or something. Maybe stuff from the '60s or the BBC -- the temptation is too much."

Of course, the archives continue to make good on the companies' original investment in the Moody Blues, and Hayward can't fault them for that. But he also makes doubly sure that when there are reissues, like the Isle of Wight concert, he controls the remix.

"I have to make sure it's true to what we were," said Hayward.

A dozen years ago, Hayward moved away from England to the Mediterranean coast.

"It really suits me here. Everything functions really well and there is a fantastic business infrastructure in Monaco. Everything is right at hand."

And he doesn't have to endure any more English winters. Or the notorious tax laws.

"Actually, the government took all our million-selling earnings in the 1970s when we were in the 83 per cent tax bracket. That's when George (Harrison) wrote Taxman. They would tax the pennies on your eyes."

These days, the United Kingdom is something of a tax haven for higher-end earners, said Hayward.

"It's a lot better than it used to be."

Other than touring with Lodge and Edge, he rarely sees his old Moody chums.

"We live in different countries and have our own families." Hayward has been married to ex-fashion model Anne Marie Guirron since 1969, and they have one daughter, also a model, Doremi, 37.

"There really isn't a reason for John and Graeme and me to socialize when we aren't playing. Being in the group is what you have in common. Anything outside the group, you don't have in common.

"John and Graeme are the only two people in the music business I don't have contracts with. But I know that everything will be the same as soon as we see each other."

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