It's always good to be on tour when you are confident in the show, in the songs and the musicians around you. Right now it's a real, real pleasure and we are rolling along just fine - we just have to keep healthy, and sane. Touring is never easy and with one stumble things can get difficult. There have been many stand out gigs over the years but one recent performance really stands out for me. Julie Ragins and Mike Dawes and me were playing the Fox Theater in Tucson in May last year and it was absolutely magical. There was a great vibe in the air, it is a very special old theatre and everything went right for us and the crew. Sometimes everything falls into place beautifully and that warm night in Tucson all the 'stars aligned'. I don't remember playing that town before - maybe that's why the audience swept us along so wonderfully. Whenever I'm asked the question about a stand out Moodies gig it would have to be Madison Square Garden in the early '70's when we did two shows in one day. I think it was the first moment we thought 'maybe we have made it after all' and at the end of the night the building presented us with 'The Golden Ticket' award for selling more seats in the Garden than anyone else - only because we played it twice in one day - I think it was 5pm and 9pm shows. Me and Ray went outside between shows (nobody recognized us - it was the music that was famous) and gave away our guest tickets to anyone looking for a ticket. The scalpers weren't too pleased with us! It's interesting the changes over the years that have come about around 'how' to tour. In the first few years we travelled in a car or a van - we were often late because we usually misjudged the driving, or leaving time, but we always seemed to make it somehow. Then, in the 1970's we moved up to taking scheduled flights between shows. That was really gruelling - it meant getting up really early, taking connecting flights and falling into bed exhausted knowing you only had about 4 hours before it all started again! In the 1980's we moved up to a private plane - which was just great - as soon as we found out that you need a small plane for touring! Big aircraft can't land anywhere near most gigs. But the downside was that most of the time we were working just to pay for the airplane! Lately we have been travelling by bus and that's the best way. American tour buses are fabulous and they become your 'home from home' for a tour. That's why so many artists tour with their own gorgeous buses. So, I think we have got it down now - until the next fad comes along that is.
I recently added a post about my favorite guitar solo, which is, of course, James Burton's solo on Ricky Nelson's 'Hello Mary Lou'. Below I've shared 'It Won't Be Easy,' the theme song to Star Cops, which includes my favorite guitar solo of mine. I hope everyone enjoys it. Justin Hayward - It Won't Be Easy (Theme from Star Cops) from Justin Hayward on Vimeo.
I clearly remember playing Glastonbury in 1967 (although 'clearly remembering 1967' is not something I can often say) but that was well before the famous Glastonbury Festivals started. I'm reliably told that we did play at one of the early events although I don't remember it, but then maybe those psychedelic substances I occasionally enjoyed convinced me I was elsewhere? Whoops.
We certainly played at the Isle of White, and we were at the Bath festival and a few others. They were always enlightening, and sometimes a bit mad. However, the Glastonbury gig that I do remember was a real turning point for my dear Moody Blues. It was the first time 'the beautiful people' had graced us with their enthusiastic and magical presence - yes, there were such a crowd - and we were presenting our new music. Before that we had been doing mostly cover versions and wearing our smart (but a bit naff) blue suits - but the night before the Glastonbury gig we boldly decided to discard our suits, and our old set. Well, after all, now we had "Nights In White Satin' and 'Twilight Time' to play. This was the real stuff. To my surprise and joy they loved it. At mystical Glastonbury we were entering a new age, and I was playing close to my childhood home in Wiltshire for once. It was really important for me. It's important now, and it's a great pleasure. Thank you for the gracious invitation to be here with the beautiful people once again.
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.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.
The first truly professional recording studio that I remember working in was Regent Sound in Denmark Street in London. I was with Marty and Joyce Wilde and we recorded a couple of songs of Marty's and one other song which Joyce sang. Me and Marty played all the parts, and we doubled up on instruments to fill out the sounds. I think we were only there for part of one day so we must have worked fast. Although it was small and a bit rough round the edges the studio was already becoming legendary - The Stones had recorded their first album there - and I saw The Pretty Things there one day (they were a huge live band at the time - as powerful and (almost) as popular as the Stones). I remember the walls being covered with egg boxes to dampen the sound, and the engineer was quick and efficient. I hung around Denmark Street a lot in those days. Within a year of those Marty recordings I was back in the same studio with The Moodies - I only remember recording "Leave This Man Alone" (not the greatest song - or recording that we ever made) and the first version of 'Really haven't Got The Time' that day, but we must have done a couple more tracks while we were there. I loved the little studio though and I'm so glad to have recorded at Regent Sound in it's most productive and famous days. My first experience of big record company studios was at Pye studios near Marble Arch, where I recorded my first solo records with producer Alan Freeman. But - as soon as I entered the Decca studios at Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead I was hooked. It was such a wonderful magical complex of workshops, cutting rooms, full sized studios, control rooms and offices, with an efficient canteen, a caretaker (imagine how he must have felt with us working through the long nights) and a personnel officer with a sense of humour (evidenced by some of the 'larger than life' characters employed there). For musicians it was a fun palace - full of great music, laughs and strange happenings. All generations thrived at Decca and we all knew it was a privilege to be part of it - and of course, it was never to be taken too seriously! Our first sessions were in Decca No 2, they called it the rock and roll studio, downstairs at Broadhurst Gardens, which had a brilliant well hammered Steinway piano. That piano featured on 'Fly Me High'. I think 'Cities' was one of the first recordings we made there. After that we were regular visitors to the studios and when the idea for DOFP was put forward we were assigned the Decca No1 studio - it became our second home for many years after that and in the early 1970's Decca;s owner Sir Edward Lewis gave us the studio to create our own space and build the first Westlake studio outside of the USA. I worked and recorded in lots studios in London and all over the world in those years - but nothing else came close to Decca No 1. Decca had the greatest engineers and technicians in Britain, and their training and experience was invaluable. Derek Varnals and Alberto Parodi are the best engineers I have know in this long journey, but Derek created the historic recordings that the Moodies will (hopefully) be known for. As for Broadhust Gradens studios themselves, as you entered the building (which was once the West Hampstead town hall), and came up the impressive steps, Decca No 1 studio was directly in front of you, past the reception desk which was on your right (the broom cupboard where Ray and myself wrote some early things was on the left). Two large double doors opened out to the big high ceiling studio. It was the full height of the building which, apart from the basement below No 1, was three or four stories high elsewhere. As you entered the vast studio room the floor was oak parquet which gave way to carpet half way across the space. Then on to the raised 'stage' area, set beneath the small control room window that was set high up near the roof. At the back of the stage, underneath the control room, were set a row of deep cupboards that housed microphones, music stands, chairs and lots of other assorted equipment, including my own acoustic double bass, the one that I played on a quite a few Moodies recordings. Two flights of stairs led up to the control room, where the engineers wore white lab coats and the assistant engineers (or 'tape ops') wore brown lab coats. I wasn't until each final 'take' of a session was pronounced done that the group, was invited in to the control room, and any time in there was precious as musicians and artists opinions were not always welcome. The engineers and producers communicated with the musicians through speakers placed down in the studio. But after DOFP we were all in it together and each one of us had 'all access'. The success we had, and shared, in those studios mean that I can remember every detail of that wonderful place, and our dreams were fulfilled there.
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 !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 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 it's my favourite sleeve.
Perseverance is the best advice for anyone wanting to play the guitar. It will be painful on your hands and fingers for a while, but try and push through that - it will soon pass. I'm not a believer in talent, I believe in desire - you must want to play more than anything. But you must get a good quality guitar, and preferably one that you choose yourself. If you have a clear connection to that particular guitar from the beginning it will mean more to you. A guitar is a friend and you should want to be with it.
I think it's best to start learning with chords on the top (high) four strings. The chords are then easier to form and understand and when you have learned a few good shapes on four strings the whole chord will come easier later.
If you really like certain songs learn to play the chords, however slowly. Then make sure the right hand (if you are right handed) keeps a good rhythm. I always think the right hand can make people tap their feet to a good groove - so keep that groove - and when you play always go to the end of the song. Try not to stop in the middle - just go past your mistakes and move on along the song. Stopping in the middle never works.
And finally, I know it seems obvious but maybe most important of all, make sure your guitar is perfectly in tune when you play. Buy a tuner, and keep your guitar well tuned, otherwise, no matter how good you get, it will never sound great.
Song writing is a mysterious art and I tend not to analyse it too much. For me, I have to put my mind to it, make the time to be with my instruments and enjoy them. Something will come out of that joy. Often I start by just playing for pleasure then listen for a phrase, or a line of music to move me. It's often a long process and sometimes can take months for something to resolve itself into the right piece of music that works as a piece that I 'feel' from beginning to end. It's joyous hard work! The lyrics have to come 'from the heart' - that's all I know about that. I have to mean it - and it has to mean something to me.
I need to have some time completely on my own before a show, and I know I'm not the best person to be around for the hour before I go on. I feel I need to be absolutely quiet. It's very rare that I meet guests before a show. Strangely, I could have the best sleep just before a gig (but I rarely do) - maybe it's a just a form of nerves that sends me into a really relaxed state. But even the first few moments on stage are kind of difficult for me, until my mind is engaged properly. I'm sure performance psychologists would have a valid opinion about why I should change my pre stage routine and attitude, but I find need to go deep within myself in that time - my songs must be sung from the heart - if I don't do that it doesn't work - the magic between us (the us being the audience) needs a genuine emotion. The fans, and the whole audience, bring that every night, every bit as much as I do, and that's good enough for me.
As most fans will know, me and John weren't there when the band was named - but, still to this day I have not heard an 'undisputed' version of how the name was adopted. I know Mike liked 'Mood Indigo' and that was part of it. More pertinent to the MB thing was the fact that Mitchells and Butlers, a local brewers and pub owners, had a number of gigs that could be played, and I believe it went from the M and B Five to Moody Blues through Mikes input.