Currently touring to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their classic album, Days Of Future Passed, The Moody Blues continue entertaining like few others. Maintaining an almost nightly performance schedule, Justin Hayward, John Lodge, and Graeme Edge remind us why their timeless music has attracted so many loyal fans. Edge recently talked about the tour, poetry, family, and his pre-tour jitters. I suggest using your best British accent while reading this and laughing along, heartily and happily. The transcription is below.
I know you are in Nashville tonight celebrating the 45th anniversary of Days Of Future Passed. Is it surreal that your album has become such a classic?
We had no idea that was going to be happening when we made it. If we knew what we did, we’d do it again! (Laughs).
The band’s lineup has stayed consistent since the ‘60s too, except for a break of four years or so.
Yeah, around ’71 to ’74. We were just exhausted, not physically—well, we were physically exhausted as well—but we’d made seven albums in five years. We went into the studios and made three songs, maybe four, and they were crap. We’d just run out of steam. So we went off to recharge and worked on our solo albums but we weren’t much better when we were apart so we got back together. It was insane from ’65 to ’71. Just insane.
So you’ve lasted on just that one recharge in the ’70s all the way through 2012?
Well, there might have been a bit of maturity, too. Also, we took a little more control. We didn’t allow ourselves to be rushed and pushed around. In the early days you’re so afraid of missing something that you know everything. We learned to be a bit more discerning and prioritized our social lives so that our children didn’t start calling us Uncle Daddy. You know, we made sure things were more balanced.
I’m sure you’ve mastered that balance between touring, recording and family by now. Do you have grandchildren that know you’re in such a successful band?
Yes, I’ve just had my fifth grandchild; a little boy born eight days ago. I’ve got three grandkids by my daughter and two with my son. I love going over and seeing them and have an early Christmas with them every year.
Do they realize who their grandpa is?
(Laughs) They don’t care about me, but they do call me Grandpa Drums. When I talk about this I like to talk about my son. When he was probably 19 or 20, he was a big Lenny Kravitz fan. He’d seen me playing Albert Hall and a lot of other gigs and just didn’t care. Lenny Kravitz had an article in the paper and had said he was influenced by Jimi Hendrix. So I get home from wherever I was and my son comes running down the stairs and says “Oh, dad, you’ve got to hear this record!” and he passes me the Electric Ladyland by Jimi. I said, “Oh, I was the first person outside the studio ever to hear this because Jimi was recording it in the studio right around the corner from my house. He showed up at two o’clock in the morning and woke me up, just to play me the tape.” My son turned, looked at me and said, “You knew Jimi Hendrix?” (Laughs) The first time I ever impressed him!
I understand all too well how hard it is to impress them.
Another saying I like, and I’m sure you’ve heard it, goes “When I was 15-years-old I was horrified to discover how stupid my dad was; when I was 20 I was amazed how much he’d picked up in five years” (laughs).
I wish it wasn’t true, but I think it’s something they all have to go through isn’t it? I certainly did.
Oh yes, absolutely. I’m not sure but if I had a 14, 15, 16-year-old that wasn’t out there causing a little bit of trouble and got himself into a couple of messes, I’m not sure I’d be happy about it. I’d kind of think to myself, ‘If you don’t learn it at 14, you’re really going to make a mess of things at around 30!’
At your shows, you are selling a book of poetry that you’ve published. Do you find poetry to be a natural medium to work in?
It’s always been a natural medium for me. I like to tell the story of when I was about 10 or 11, we had an English test and the master said he wanted us to write an essay about what we’d do with $100 if he gave it to us. Well, I was going to do wonders with it (of course I spent about a thousand) but I did write the essay all in rhyme. It just seemed to come natural to me. When the master saw it, he saw that I didn’t know when rhyming you ended a line and started a new one below. I just wrote mine clear across the page. I had no idea that you were supposed to leave the rhyming words at the end of the line. He asked if I’d read poetry and that started him off. He gave me [Alfred] Tennyson and [Lord] Byron, all the Romantics. I still prefer the Romantics; beat poetry and stuff like that doesn’t interest me. The thing about poems is you can make them so much denser than essays because you have the tyranny of the meter and rhyming. You’re forced into a much more direct and finite universe. I’ve tried to write a couple of stories and I lose it. The characters take over and I go into all kinds of arguments with myself and soon I’m writing absolute rubbish! (Laughs).
Shortly after I interviewed ex-keyboardist Mike Pinder, I went to one of The Moody Blues’ shows. As expected, your performance was excellent.
Well thank you and I am very proud of the one we have going on at the moment. We’ve got some new LED lighting which is producing some really great effects—we’ve been told. We don’t get to see much of it when we’re right in the middle of it, you know. So we have to go by people’s impressions.
One thing that I certainly noticed when I saw the band is that you look thrilled and so happy to be performing.
I love it up there. I do, I do. I look down and see the audience and during certain songs like the biggies, “Nights” or “(I’m Just A Singer) In A Rock And Roll Band,” I pick out the people that are enjoying the show. Especially “Nights.” You look out and see their hands come together or the exchanged looks and that’s my connection. I watch them and see how much they’re enjoying it and I suck energy from them. That’s how I get through the show. I’m like one of the guys from Twilight but I don’t take blood; I take emotion. (Laughs).
That’s better to take! I also read, talking about you in particular, that you still get a bit of stage fright.
Yes, but not before the shows. Oh my word! Before the tour starts, the last two weeks before the tour, I’m a nervous wreck. Certainly through rehearsals I don’t handle it very well at all. Then the moment we go on for the first show, play the first note, then I’m fine. And now, imagine me trying to tell myself, ‘Listen this is your 400th tour and everything has always been okay in the past. It’s going to be fine this time.’ Intellectually, I know it, but my subconscious says, ‘Nope. No. It’s gonna be a disaster!’ And I get all these wonderful dreams of getting up on stage and instead of drumsticks I’ve got bananas or The Moody Blues are announced and the curtain goes up and (A: We never have curtains!) and I suddenly realize I’m sitting in the audience and all the guys are on stage so I’m trying to get by people to get up there and play. Then the standard ones where you can’t find the stage or the dressing room.
You must be very comfortable with Justin and John though.
Oh yes, yes. They are my brothers. And not phony brothers. Real brothers. We have our fallouts and arguments and stuff like that but you step between us and you’ll get meshed.
Well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me and I’m sure your show in Nashville tonight will be fantastic. Don’t be nervous!
I’m okay now that we’re into the tour. I get it kind of the last 15 minutes before we go on but I don’t think that’s so much nerves as it’s just the adrenaline starting to run. And you know, adrenaline is fight or flight and 15 minutes before the show you can do neither! (Laughs).
The Moody Blues tour dates:
4/7—Easton, PA – State Theatre Center For The Arts