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Popular Culture (Music) 20120615: The Moody Blues – Peak and Decline

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Last time we discussed Seventh Sojourn, considered by many to the finest album made by the band.  Tonight we shall examine the time after that record.

After Seventh Sojourn was released, The Moody Blues were the top record selling band at the time, and had reached their zenith.  Their success brought a huge world tour.  As a matter of fact, the tour, although broken up into a couple of legs commenced in October 1972, in the US (with at least 13 dates played in late 1972).  They then took a break until the European leg started in September 1973, playing at least 33 dates (some were back in the US).  They played another 12 at least sets in Japan, Hawaii, and California in January and February of 1974.  

That is 58 sets (some dates had two shows) in a little over a year, but in concentrated bits.  I am not sure that this is a compleat figure because the sources that I used all had disclaimers that their lists might not be compleat, but it is a good reliable number for a minimum.  Some things were happening personally to the band members that were complicating factors.

Pinder’s marriage was breaking up during the tour, Edge’s marriage had already failed, Thomas was married, Lodge was married, and so was Hayward.  Touring is tough on a marriage.  In addition, Hayward’s first child was born just a month after the first leg of the tour.  Lodge already had two small children during the tour, and I could not find out anything about Thomas.  Edge and Pinder had one small child each at home whilst touring.  That has to take a toll.

I have read quite a few things about the tour, and am not sure that I believe them all.  One thing that I think is true, although I have not read it anywhere, is that it kept them out of studio and thus prevented them from doing what they did best, writing and recording.  The Moody Blues were not really a band meant to tour (at least at the time with the technology available).  The Who, with a less orchestral sound, were great at touring.  It is ironic that The Moody Blues still tour, but the technology is so much better now that keeping a Mellotron working is no longer a problem.

I also believe it when I read that touring caused conflict betwixt at least some of the band members.  It also caused the very mystic Pinder to go into overload, and he vowed that he would never do a world tour again, and he did not.  The result of the ambitious tour was that the second lineup of The Moody Blues would not release a new studio album until Octave came out in 1978.

From the heights of creative ability shown in Seventh Sojourn to a really poor album, Octave just put the final seal of approval for the demise of the band.  Pinder all but quit, reneging on his initial agreement to participate in a comeback tour.  He was agreeable to continuing to write and perform in studio for future albums, but by then the feelings betwixt him and the rest of the band were too frayed to be healed.

As a matter of fact, Pinder up and quit before all of Octave had been recorded.  Another blow was that Tony Clarke, their producer since 1968, also ended his association with the band before it was completed.  An even worse omen was that Phil Travers did not do the cover art, even though this album kept the tradition of being a gatefold cover.  This time the cover art was done by John Kosh, who was no slouch.  There were two other albums before this that had other than Travers designing the cover, but they were either compilations or a live set.  We shall mention them in passing over the next couple of installments.  He also designed the cover for Who’s Next!  But this cover was very much different, and if you look at it closely, you can see a photograph of Pinder almost completely obscured by the other four band members.

Even though the band were not recording much during this time, they did sort of kind of oversee the compilation album aforementioned, This is The Moody Blues.  That is sort of Americanized, because in UK English it likely would have been This are The Moody Blues, but I get too myopic at times.  It not a remarkable album, just a compilation of their greatest hits.  Because of the themes in the original albums, a compilation to me seems quite flat.  It was issued on Threshold Records, with an agreement with Decca as the canonical albums were.  It was released in the fall of 1974 and charted at #14 in the UK and at #11 in the US.

Tony Clarke produced the songs on the album since it was just a compilation of earlier canonical work.  This is also the last Moody Blues album with the cover art done by Phil Travers.

Their next release was not until the spring of 1977 when Caught Live + 5 was released, also on Threshold Records through Decca.  This was a double album of an underpar performance recorded at The Royal Albert Hall on 19691212.  However, the final five tracks were previously unreleased studio work (produced by Tony Clarke) from the canonical period.  Since we have not listened to these before, we shall cook a them tonight.  This was the last album of theirs to be released on Threshold Records, and the first since the band had the canonical lineup not to have artwork done by Phil Travers, but rather by the graphic design group Hipgnosis.

Before we start of the studio pieces from Caught Live + 5, I am going to speculate a bit about the demise of the band.  One of the problems that I see is that they did not have a business management team like The Who had with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.  Although Lambert finally proved to be essentially a thief to support his drug habit, he and Stamp took a lot of business pressure off of The Who and allowed them, for the most part, to concentrate on music.  The Moody Blues were more hands on in the business part, and that distracted them.  Money matters are fraught with risks to otherwise good relationships, and I think that they got caught up in the business aspect of the band to the harm of their art.

I have also stated previously that five member bands seem more difficult to keep together than four member ones.  This is a broad generalization, but it seems to be correct more often than not.  The Who lasted from 1962 to 1978, and only the death of Moon brought them to an end.  The Moody Blues only lasted from 1967 to 1972, really, and it was internal strife that finally did them in, at the peak of their success.  Those are just my opinions, but I think that they have some merit.

Now we shall look the studio part of Caught Live + 5.  Interestingly, the album did not chart in the UK, but made it to #26 in the US.

The first song on the forth side is the Lodge piece “Gimme a Little Somethin”.  It sounds to me like Hayward is singing the solo parts, but sometimes they are hard to tell apart.  I like this song very much, partly because it, like all of the others, were recorded in the same era of my favorite album of theirs, In Search of the Lost Chord, and it has that kind of flavor.  The Mellotron is quite nice.


My life is not as easy as you say

My life is not anything but as the day

My life is surrounded by the things of the day that have gone

My world is built on everything that I want can be won (one?)

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

(Love)(Love)

My heart is not as cold as you can say

My heart is not anything but as the day

My heart is warmed by the way that you love and are gone

My life is founded on the thoughts that we two are just one

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

(Love)(Love)

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

Gimme’ a little somethin’ to help me on my way

“Please Think about It”, by Pinder, is the second studio track.  This hearkens back to their blues roots, and is really a nice song.  I suspect that it was written before the material from Days of Future Past because of the style.  Note the lack of Mellotron, vocals providing the background.  I am not sure if the lyric near the end where “I will be your guide” is a reference to the psychedelic experience or not, but since it is by Pinder it would not surprise me at all.


There in your eyes, I see

That you want to be free

There by your side, I’ll be

If you still want me

Please think about it (Think about it)

I need your love

I’m no good without it (Think about it)

Please think about it (Think about it)

Give me your love

I can’t live without it

Oh no

Never leave my side

Baby please decide

I’m in love with you

I hope you want me too

Don’t go

Say there’s nothing wrong

Stay where you belong

I’ll be good to you

That’s all I wanna do

Please think about it (Think about it)

I need your love

I’m no good without it (Think about it)

Please think about it (Think about it)

Give me your love

I can’t live without it

Oh no

Never leave my side

Baby please decide

I’m in love with you

I hope you want me, too

Don’t go

Say there’s nothing wrong

Stay where you belong

I’ll be good to you

That’s all I wanna do

So, if you have to go

I won’t stand in your way

But, if you decide to stay

I will be your guide

Please think about it (Think about it)

I need your love

I’m no good without it (Think about it)

Please think about it (Think about it)

Give me your love

I can’t live without it

Oh no

Don’t go

The next three songs were all written by Hayward.  The third track is “Long Summer Days”.  This is an atypically simple song for The Moody Blues in that only piano, bass, drums, and vocals are used.  However, the backing vocals are extremely rich and complex.  I like this song very much.


Long summer days, I keep thinking

What to do with my time

So many ways, I keep sinking

What’s to do with my time

Take me back, I don’t mind

(Take me back) I’ve got time

(Take me back) and let me start again

Time hurries by, I keep thinking

What’s to do in our time

Don’t let it by, just keep thinking

What’s to do in our time

Take me back, I don’t mind

(Take me back) I’ve got time

(Take me back) and let me start again

Utopia’s within our sight (Utopia)

Don’t kick it or we lose it

Though you think the world’s too fast

It’s that way ’cause we choose it

Automation is the cry (Automation)

Our minds have been forgotten

To understand me, you must try

My thoughts are turning rotten

Oh, please, please

Don’t mess it up now for me

Please, please

Don’t sit there and condemn me

Please, please, please

Long summer days, I keep thinking

What’s to do with my time

So many ways, I keep sinking

What’s to do with my time

Take me back, I don’t mind

(Take me back) I’ve got time

(Take me back) and let me start again

Ah, ah, ah, ah long summer days

“King and Queen” is next, and this is equal to any of their best work.  It is strongly psychedelic, has LOTS of Mellotron, excellent choral work, and Edge is really rocking on the drums.  The style of it reminds my very much of material from In Search of the Lost Chord, and I wonder if it found the cutting floor when they were putting the record together.  Remember, at the time 45 minutes was about all that could be put on a single vinyl.  I looked back, and sure enough, it was included in the 2006 SACD edition of that very album!  By the way, be sure and watch the slideshow in this embed as it has some pictures of the band wearing really cool clothes.


It’s like awaking from a dream

All I remember is a lullaby

I couldn’t tell you where I’ve been

A thousand images just flutter by

Takin’ my time

In a white limousine

If I was the King

She’d be my Queen

And my thoughts are growing louder

And my mind has lost its way

And the flames are getting higher ev’ryday

My mind is back behind my eyes

And there before me sits a butterfly

And as I watch, she gently cries (And as I watch, she gently cries)

Can there be anyone who’ll pity her? (Who’ll pity her?)

How many faces

Have all of you been?

If I was the King

She’d be my Queen

And my thoughts are getting louder

And my mind has lost its way

And the flames are getting higher ev’ryday

My mind is back behind my eyes

And there before me sits a butterfly

And as I watch, she gently cries (And as I watch, she gently cries)

Can there be anyone who’ll pity her? (Who’ll pity her?)

How many faces

Have all of you been?

If I was the King

She’d be my Queen

And my thoughts are getting louder

And my mind has lost its way

And the flames are getting higher ev’ry day

And the flames are getting higher ev’ry day

And the flames are getting higher ev’ry day

The last song is “What am I Doing Here?, a plaintive, hauntingly beautiful song is what I believe to be a protest over the conflict in Viet Nam.  This song is set in the Middle Ages, but the concept is transcendental.  It is nice, with understated Mellotron and good bass.  I like the song very much, but not as much as “King and Queen”.  It still is in their upper echelon of work.


Pale the young squire who goes to fight

To die at his master’s side

Living is just a dream inside

You ask me why he cried

“What am I doin’ here?”

“What am I doin’ here?”

Beautiful princess, fair and pale

Stares out across the sea

Alone in her castle dark and grey

Her love she’ll never see

“What am I doin’ here?”

“What am I doin’ here?”

Tenderly bury the fair young dead

Place a wooden cross at his head

All the words you can say

Have been said

It’s for you my tears are shed

What can be done, you won’t believe

Listen and you may see

Everyone’s dream is deep within

Find it and you’ll be free

“What am I doin’ here?”

“What am I doin’ here?”

Tenderly bury the fair young dead

Place a wooden cross at his head

All the words you can say

Have been said

It’s for you my tears are shed

Tenderly bury the fair young dead

Place a wooden cross at his head

All the words you can say

Have been said

It’s for you my tears are shed

I am debating whether or not to do a piece about Octave next time.  It was a mediocre album for The Moody Blues, so it might be better to go back through the material from the extended CD versions of the canonical albums.  What say ye?  Please comment freely and I promise to be nice tonight.  I was very wrong to be curt with a commenter last week, and I shall not do it again.

Finally, for those of you who did not know, the former Mrs. Translator had a total knee replacement yesterday.  She went through the surgery well, and I spoke with Youngest Son tonight and she continues to do well.  She has 79 degrees of flexation now, and has been walking with help.  Please wish her well!

Warmest regards,

Doc

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and

firefly-dreaming

2 comments

  1. Translator

    history and some great music?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

  2. Translator

    I very much appreciate it.

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

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