Published on 3rd March 2019
John Lodge – Moody Blues
Moody Blues bass guitarist John Lodge makes a welcome return to the UK for a short series of concert dates in April with his 10,000 Light Years Tour.
John’s home city of Birmingham will also recognise his contribution to the city’s musical heritage when he receives a star on the city’s Walk of Stars alongside another Birmingham legend, Carl Palmer of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Together they will headline the Birmingham’s Night Of Stars charity concert, at the city’s Symphony Hall on 11th April, in aid of the Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital. The show will be hosted by Jasper Carrott.
This honour swiftly follows The Moody Blues’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which crowned a momentous year for John and fellow Moodies Justin Hayward and Graeme Edge.
“2018 was an incredible year,” said John, “because we did the Moody Blues Cruise, we were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and we did an incredible tour of America. We then finalised it at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas for three weeks. It is a huge venue and to do three sold out weeks there was just amazing. You have to pinch yourself sometimes and say to yourself, ‘How did this happen?’ But it did, and it’s fantastic that it did and that it continues. I’ve no idea why, but there you go!
“I never really gave it (the Hall of Fame) much thought because I thought it was an American institution. It’s always great to be nominated and recognised for something in a country where you are an alien, and to be nominated was fantastic, but I never thought much about it until the fan vote started. People were telling me, ‘John! You’ve almost got a million votes!’
“I thought, all these people have come out and put the effort in to vote for us, and it gave me a real inner pride, to be honest, and humility. When the day came and we were at the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the concert and the television show, it came home to me just how important it actually was, and not just important for me and the Moodies and the fans, but also the family and friends who could all take pride and be a part of it.
“I thought of all my mates when I was 15, and they would be carrying my guitar into the local pub, none of us were really allowed in as we were underage. And if they carried a guitar in they could get in as well!” he laughs. “And I thought of all my mates saying, ‘Hey, my mate John Lodge has just got into the Hall of Fame!’ One of my mates actually texted to me and said, ‘Not bad for a kid from a council house in Brummie!’ Yeah, it’s not bad really, is it?”
When John joined the Moody Blues, in 1966, they were struggling to find direction. Their big break came early in 1965 when they scored a number 1 hit single with a cover of Bessie Banks’ Go Now! but were unable to follow up with more chart success and the band began to fall apart as the 60s’ musical progression gathered pace.
John had known Moody’s flautist and singer Ray Thomas several years. “I met Ray when I was 15, on a bus. I had learned a few songs on the guitar and I had seen Ray singing in a skiffle band at the local youth club. I said to him, ‘Aren’t you that guy who sings in that band at the youth club? I pay a few chords. Shall we form a band?’ and we did!
“He knew a drummer, I knew a guitarist, and that is how El Riot and The Rebels came about. We worked together for the next four years before the Moodies started. What was wonderful for me was that his parents and mine became friends, so we became a big family. They used to go on holidays together and Ray’s children and my children became friends too, so something magical happened between us all from that meeting on the bus.”
Having completed his studies, John was invited to join the Moodies when bass guitarist Clint Warwick quit while Justin Hayward replaced the departing Denny Laine. The new line-up quickly realised that they would need to create their own original material if they were to survive but little could they have guessed just how great would be their impact and influence on generations of fans and musicians across the globe.
Between 1967 and 1972 they created seven classic career-defining albums from Days Of Future Passed to Seventh Sojourn with John’s songs playing a major part in that success. The Moody Blues became hugely popular in America with the advent of FM radio.
“In the UK, Radio One had just started,” John explains, “and there were problems with a thing called needle–time, which limited how much music you could play on the radio. You would only really get to hear what was in the chart, so there was little chance of hearing an album track in the UK. I think this is where the Moodies did well in America, because we recorded in stereo and American radio was just getting into stereo on the FM stations, particularly in the college towns. They wanted to play albums, sometimes in their entirety, which never happened in the UK. It’s a shame really, because there was so much great music out then and many in the UK missed out on the exposure.”
John’s writing credits include Peak Hour, Ride My See Saw, Eyes Of A Child and Candle Of Life. He earned American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) songwriting awards for the two singles taken from Seventh Sojourn: Isn’t Life Strange and I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).
After such an intense period, the Moodies took an extended break and an opportunity to work on individual projects. John and Justin Hayward produced the much-loved Blue Jays album before John released his solo Natural Avenue in 1977. There would be a long wait, until 2015, for the follow-up.
“Yeah, it’s strange because I recorded Natural Avenue but I never went on the road with that album. And I was really disappointed that I didn’t, both then and now. But the problem was that within a year of releasing that album, we were in the studio with the Moodies recording our comeback album Octave. So that whole album kind of drifted away from my mind and I only revisited it last year because of a film called Private Lives coming out, which features a song from Natural Avenue called Say You Love Me. So I listened to the album and thought, I should do some of those songs onstage. I should have done more (albums), but whatever happens, happens. I’m a Moody Blue and I’ll always be a Moody Blue. I think my energies work well within the Moody Blues and as we went on and got involved with all the albums that followed after that, time goes so quickly. So maybe I could have done more but the Moodies did some incredible work during that period.
“I got interested again through vinyl. 180-gram vinyl came along, and I thought, I want to be part of that.10,000 Light Years Ago was the perfect vehicle for me and vinyl.
“When I was making 10,000 Light Years Ago I wrote a song called Simply Magic, and I realised that it was really like a Moody Blues song and needed a flute. So I went round to Ray’s house and said, ‘I’ve written this song and you have to play flute on it.’ So he listened to it and we went into the studio to record Ray’s flute and he said we should ask (former Moodies keyboard player) Mike Pinder.
I rang Mike in California and asked him to come and play Mellotron on this song and he said yes, which was great. It was like the completion of the circle because Mike had briefly been in El Riot and The Rebels too.
“I can’t wait to bring my 10,000 Light Years band to the UK for these concerts,” said John. “The support of the British fans during my career has been fantastic, and it’s my way of saying ‘Thank you’ for keeping the faith”
Sadly, Ray Thomas passed away in January 2018 but John will pay tribute to his friend by including Ray’s Legend Of A Mind in his set. “Ray and I shared a flat together and I remember Ray singing the song to me when he wrote it. I thought recently, that song will never be played again by the Moody Blues so when I go on tour this year, I was going to play Legend Of A Mind. We were an integral part of each other’s lives and we shared so much together, so I really just wanted to keep Ray’s music alive.
“I’m trying to put a set together which is like a Moody Blues concert but with my songs in there too. It is important because, as I said earlier, I am a Moody Blue and always will be. So when someone comes to a John Lodge concert, I hope they take something with them and I hope they have experienced something that’s emotionally turned them on.”