The Moody Blues were formed in Birmingham (UK) in 1966 with Clint Warwick, Mike Pinder, Denny Laine, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge. Their second single (a cover of Bessie Banks’ Go Now) topped the UK chart in 1964, but singer Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick quit the group not long after.
Justin Hayward (pictured at left) and John Lodge then joined and they embraced grisly prog, orchestral symphonies and cosmic guff such as Nights In White Satin – the low-point of the Beatles-influenced Days Of Future Passed album (1967).
The Moodies were derided by purists for their cosmic Brummie jive, their pop sensitivities and for failing to look the part.
They started out playing hippie pop and ended up with the keyboard player from Yes. Go figure.
In Search Of The Lost Chord (1968) changed the Moodies’ world from black and white to vivid technicolour. Even today the album seems boundlessly ambitious.
Along with its more psychedelically inclined songs there was the West Coast pop of Lodge’s Ride My See-Saw, the interstellar The Best Way To Travel – which finds its protagonist speeding through the universe on beams of light – and a pair of Hayward songs imbued with bucolic wistfulness: Voices In The Sky and Visions Of Paradise. The latter an extension of the lustrous balladry he had already shown on Nights In White Satin.
They Gregorian chanted as well as The Yardbirds, they structured their song cycles wonderfully, they made better use of the Mellotron than anyone, and nobody sang daft lyrics more beautifully.
On the other hand, Justin Hayward’s solo albums, Songwriter (1977) and Night Flight (1980), are purely for lovers of songs with titles like Lay It On Me, Crazy Lovers and Nostradamus.
The Moody Blues staged a successful comeback in 1986, hitting platinum with their LP, The Other Side Of Life, and playing months of sold-out shows in auditoriums filled with – among others – the children of their original fans.
Ray Thomas died of cancer on 4 January 2018, aged 76.
Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Flute, vocals, harmonica
Guitar, bass, vocals