Justin on How the Music Industry has Changed

If you are reading this you know that the world of music is constantly changing and moving. Regarding the ‘music business’: right now there is a push by influential and powerful artists to take more control of their recordings. I do hope it succeeds, as many of the things that the generation of musicians before mine fought for have been eroded.

Justin has been in the music industry for most of his life and is still going strong!

Justin has been in the music industry for most of his life and is still going strong!

As far as the music itself, that will always move on, change shape, and be vibrant. I hear new things every day that I think are great, and there will always be brilliant and inspiring music being made. Most of the big changes belong to the young generation, and rightly so, they are always at the forefront. The most valuable commodity in music is youth.

I’m sure young people know that the chances of success are rare and often fleeting. I do feel for many of the TV talent show performers because they must know that the judges are the stars, rarely the singers. But one time in a hundred it can bring fame. It’s just that your 15 minutes of fame, and the manner of it, will be remembered for ever. Mostly, I admire the groups, singers and artists that can play live and create magic. That’s where happiness lies, and that’s where they will find a lasting career.

The technology of music is moving quickly too. Everyone can ‘sing in tune’ on any recording because of fabulous auto-tune software, and samples of great sounds are heard on every recording. That’s as it should be. The echo chambers of the old Decca studios were as much part of the Moody Blues early sounds as the group ourselves.

Often it’s worth finding, and following the producers and writers nowadays, maybe more so than following the pop artists, as the boys and girls that put the music and recordings together are developing huge followings, and artists will flock to them. Many of those great music makers started in their bedroom with a computer – and can still make wonderful recordings there! New software and processes are introduced everyday.

But I think the huge change in music recording was in the 1980’s with the introduction of the Lynn Drum as well as gorgeous sounding keyboards and samplers. ‘Time’ in music is so important and the Lynn drum took it from being ragged to ‘in the pocket’. It was so exciting to be in London, and working with Tony Visconti, and having hit singles during those years. London was a fabulous place to be with beautiful people and music. If I could only listen to the music from one decade it would (probably) be the 1980’s.

Right now there is so much music fighting to be heard, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have found my way through the music jungle in the 1960’s. The day Mike Pinder called me in Swindon, after I had moved on from under Marty’s wing, was a great day. Things are like that in music and the music business – you never know where the fortunate breaks are going to be, or come from, but I am optimistic and secure in the knowledge that music is in good hands as we go ahead into more musical adventures – in my own life, for all music makers, and for music lovers, like you and I.

Justin Hayward on Album Art

My favourite Moody Blues cover is ‘A Question Of Balance’. I have the Phil Travers original painting, which is about the size of a door. Instead of working across in a ‘letterbox’ shape, Phil painted it down (keyhole?). That choice led to a hilarious realization when we finally held it in our hands after the first production run. What hadn’t dawned on us was that if you opened it up vertically to see the full picture, the 12″ vinyl dropped straight through the inside of the sleeve on to the floor. It was too late to change it at that stage, so there it is – anyone who has the original open gate-fold – try it !

The top half of the album art for "A Question of Balance"

The top half of the album art for “A Question of Balance”

There is so much detail in the picture, including Einstein, a power mad mogul and the six of us sitting in deck chairs on the beach at the bottom, along with all sorts of other characters and incidents, wonderfully depicted by Phil, after he had heard Question and most of the recording sessions of the songs that followed, and when, during the making of the album, he had listened to our ideas for the theme.

But a bizarre series of events was about to unfold. Within a couple of weeks of the release in the UK we, and Decca, were served with legal papers from lawyers acting for Colonel Blashford Snell (and from a daily newspaper), who maintained that his image had been used on the cover holding a gun at an elephants head! What ?? I remember speaking to Phil and asking him if this could be some kind of surreal coincidence, He told me that he sometimes used photographs from newspapers as working templates for figures and scenes, and, well, this must have been one of them.

The bottom half of the sleeve

The bottom half of the sleeve

The original photo was from the front page of a newspaper (the one that served us) and it was a very clear likeness – except that Blashford Snell was not shooting an elephant – but he was holding (or posing with), a gun in the same way. Well , we had to own up, and Phil and Decca did their very best, first of all to place a black bar across the figures eyes, and then , when that was still not acceptable, to alter the image as much as they could by removing the pith helmet and changing the colour of the shirt. If you can find the original and the altered images, check it out.

It’s a crazy record sleeve masterpiece in my opinion, and it was made at the peak of that superb grand sleeve design era. Those wildly creative days of covers on that kind of scale, have sadly passed. Never mind – it was huge fun – and why┬áit’s my favourite sleeve.