With the Moody Blues touring in celebration of their landmark album “Days of Future Passed”…we’ve been going through the archives.  

The fall of 1967 meant awaiting the Christmas offerings of the Beatles and Rolling Stonesto much disappointment. “Magical Mystery Tour” was merely an EP that served as a soundtrack to the Fab Four’s first misstep–a drug enduced home movie that shocked many and confused more on Boxing Day…while “Their Satanic Majesties Request” saw what happened when the Rolling Stones tried to imitate “Sgt. Pepper” instead of “Aftermath”–a psychedelic journey that never really began or ended with a Bill Wyman song to boot. Nobody expected greatness from a has-been band almost named after a brewery just a few years before. But that’s what they got with the Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”.

A revamped lineup, a change of musical focus and consecutive singles that fail to chart is not the ideal way for a musical group to rebound from a two-year slump. Although neither “Fly Me High” nor “Love and Beauty” made a dent in the UK top 20, Deram Records thought they had something– guinea pigs. Recording at the time was making the move into stereo…and the label thought it would be great to have a demo of what stereo would sound like with classical and modern music. So naturally, they asked the Moody Blues to record and adaptation of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. Kind of like an aspiring painter asked to reproduce something they saw in art class, but with different paints to show off a new canvas.

Fortunately for the group, they were writing quite a bit of new material while touring in Belgium…and were able to narrow the fruits of their creativity into a song cycle about “a day in the life”. Mike Pinder had sat in on one of the Sgt. Pepper sessions for that Beatles song–and perhaps that got things rolling. But it wasn’t just Pinder who contributed songs: Hayward, Lodge and Thomas also wrote while Graeme Edge composed the two poems that bookend the album:

“Cold hearted orb that rules the night…remove the colors from our sight. Red is grey and yellow white…but we decide which is right. And which is an illusion…”

The spoken word poems, however goofy-sounding at times (and depending on your mood they range from profound to downright ridiculous) hold key posts in the groups first five “core” albums (with grunting emerging in their sixth)…setting the table (In Search of the Lost Chord’s “Departure”) or providing a finishing statement (A Question of Balance’s “The Balance”). In Days similar verses open and end a journey through the day.

It was a marriage of rock and classical music like none other. Peter Knight directed the “London Festival Orchestra” to fill the gaps in between songs moving through different day parts. The opening track “Day Begins” touches on different melodies we’ll hear later on the album…and the orchestral pieces mesh perfectly with the songs. Credit producer Tony Clarke with fitting the two genres in tandem.

“Dawn is a Feeling” wakes up the listener to the possibilities of the day ahead…even sneaking in a subtle narcotic hint (“the smell of grass just makes you pass into a dream”)…Hayward and Pinder trading verses and bridges. Justin’s sunshiny pleasantness would provide the Yin to Mike’s soul-searching Yang over the next seven years. “Another Morning” offers the double-tracked voice of Ray Thomas (also known as the dancing machine in the group’s “Ride My See Saw” video”) and no question about it, the Moodies’ flautist vocally dances through whimsical lyrics “a palace is an orange box”…with the key line “time seems to stand quite still–in a child’s world it always will”. “Peak Hour” brings John Lodge into the mix with a up-tempo rocker that ends the first side that showcases Graeme Edge’s accelerating drum solo that instantly makes one think of his intro “I’m Just a Singer (in a rock and roll band)” five years later.

“Tuesday Afternoon” opens side two with the hypnotic combination of Mellotron/bass for the first few bars…and by the time Hayward’s vocal starts and the guitar and drums kick in, the listener is lost in an audio undertow. “Evening (Time to Get Away)” lets us know Lodge has a falsetto in his arsenal and isn’t afraid to use it. “Sunset/Twilight Time” juxtaposes Pinder and Thomas effectively. Booming drums with an Oriental flavor set the tone underneath Mike’s initial vocal…and then Ray’s flute answers the Mellotron in between the verses. After Hayward’s guitar plays the introductory note to “Twilight Time” Thomas’ fall away jumper of a vocal boasts the lyrical gem “an aerial display of a firefly brigade…dancing to tunes no one knew”.

The final song remains 46 years later the group’s signature tune…”Nights in White Satin”. Reportedly inspired when he received satin sheets as a gift, Justin Hayward captures the heart of chances not taken (“letters I’ve written, never meaning to send”)…before being given confidence from Pinder’s Mellotron to declare his feelings. Thomas’ flute enters side by side with Lodge’s bass and Hayward’s acoustic guitar as support during the bridge. A tidal wave of emotion crashes with each line…and for a guy who was only meaning to send letters, Hayward delivers “I love you” no fewer than 15 times before the orchestra kicks in. I hope he bought forever stamps.

“Nights in White Satin” would chart three separate times (#19 in 1967, #9 in 1972 and #14 in 1979) in the UK and reach #2 in the US in 1972 (topping the charts in Canada that year) while taking #1 in the “Cashbox Chart” (the ESPN/USA Today Poll to Billboard’s AP) the same year. “Nights” would serve as scene-setters for movies set in the 1960’s like “Bobby” and “A Bronx Tale” while showing up in “Deuce Bigelow: European Gigelo”. TV shows from “Fringe” to “Two and a Half Men” would use “Nights” for emphasis.

Titled “Days of Future Passed”–and often misspelled “Past”–by the record company (the last time that would happen for the Moodies)…the album would see moderate success in the homeland (#27) while taking off on this side of the Atlantic (#3 in the US and Canada)…and the Moodies would make more than a few trips to America over the next few years. The album’s success ended a two-year descent and gave the group a blueprint they’d go back to six more times over the next four years.

Coming Up Next–How did they lose the chord in the first place?

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