The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Justin Hayward. Courtesy photo.

Justin Hayward

When: Wednesday, May 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, 39 Main St., Plymouth
Tickets: $55 and up at 

Moody solo
Justin Hayward brings Stage Door to New Hampshire

By Michael Witthaus

 In late 1966, the Moody Blues were at a crossroads, soldiering on with two new members after nearly breaking up earlier in the year. The revamped band’s first single was “Fly Me High” — a bright, melodic toe-tapper that didn’t chart. To mark the song’s anniversary, Justin Hayward recently began performing it at his solo shows. 

During an interview in March, Hayward noted that most Moodies fans probably don’t know the track, which appeared on the box set Time Traveller and is atypically poppy for the usually majestic group. “It’s interesting to do a song that’s under three minutes; we get it up, get it on, and it’s over,” he said. “It’s such an early to mid-’60s thing.”
What followed the obscure non-hit, of course, was Days of Future Passed; the 1967 album launched a multi-platinum career. Considering that the seminal record’s 50th birthday is approaching next year, Hayward was asked if he thought the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might finally induct the band, righting an injustice in many fans’ minds.
“It’s interesting the way you put that — it seems to be how you feel,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know; it’s subjective … a bit like ‘Fly Me High.’ One person’s hit is another person’s annoying piece of three-minute noise.”
He added that continental pride colors his feelings about the U.S. institution. 
“I’m English, and there’s a little bit of, ‘Why should they have a rock and roll hall of fame, anyway?’ Why should they choose?” he said. “But the American Moody Blues fans see it is a kind of snub and for their sake, I hope it happens, but I can’t see it. They’d be caving in if they gave it to us now. The honest truth is I don’t know, but I can’t see it happening.”  
Songs like “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” make a strong case for the band, which Hayward — perhaps unintentionally — buttressed with his memories of the album’s surprising reception. 
“What nobody realized in Europe was that America was turning to FM radio right at the time, and what we were doing was perfect. … You couldn’t have planned it any better,” he said. “The Beatles had great recordings but you had the drums on the left and the vocals on the right; it was painfully bad stereo. This was much more interesting. … It actually put you in the studio with the group.”
Days of Future Passed was an accidental masterpiece. The Moody Blues began with orders from their label Decca to produce a stereo demonstration record aimed at classical music audiophiles. Working with producer Peter Knight, however, they made an orchestral recording using original material. Hayward penned “Nights in White Satin” one night after a gig, under a bit of pressure. 
“The other guys were expecting me to write a song,” he said. “I sat on the side of the bed and just wrote the first two verses. … It would have scared me to death if I had known what was going to happen.”
“Nights” is arguably the band’s most recognizable hit. Oddly, though, it didn’t chart in the U.S. until five years later. 
“It was an interesting story, but there is a lot of truth in that record — ‘Just what you want to be, you’ll be in the end’ is probably true,” Hayward said, adding, “I certainly write letters never meaning to send [them]. I find myself waking up in the night and turning things over in my head; the only way to get back to sleep is to write it down and put it to one side.”
Classic rock era musicians seem to be a dwindling tribe; the deaths of David Bowie and Keith Emerson happened days prior to the interview. Hayward gave tribute to Prince recently on his web page, noting he’d mixed a live album at Paisley Park Studios. 
He was asked if bands like the Moodies are carrying the torch for what’s left of his generation and said that a new flock of performers, among them his solo band’s guitarist Mike Dawes, keeps him inspired. 
“I knew David when we were young; we had a nice friendship that continued, and we had a producer in common in Tony Visconti [and] Keith was just an acquaintance really; it’s all really sad,” he said. “But there will always be a kid walking down the street with a song in his heart that is really going to turn me on. As people leave, people arrive; I know it’s callous, but that is the way it goes. All I’ve done is have some fun and do what I thought was right, really.”  

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