In honor of The Moody Blues for rocking over five decades now … I present my interview with Justin Hayward, that was published in ESOTERIA-LAND that is no longer in print. The interview was conducted after their album Strange Times and Hall of Fame were released…
The photo of Justin was taken by my good friend Raymond Congrove…
A Question of Balance:
Moody Blues Guitarist Justin Hayward
By Michael McCarty
With a musical legacy that stretches over five decades, The Moody Blues are often regarded as one of the most innovative and successful rock bands in history. Establishing a phenomenal chart history of No. 1 hits, as well as Top 5, Top 10, Top 20, Top 40, multi-Platinum, Platinum and Gold albums and singles, The Moody Blues have maintained their longevity in both the recording industry and on tour. The group consists of guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge.
The Moody Blues have released fourteen studio albums and three live records. Recent releases include the studio project, Strange Times, and the concert CD, Hall of Fame.
Their hits are unforgettable. Everyone knows them: “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “The Story in Your Eyes,” “Question, I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band),” and “Your Wildest Dreams,” to name just a few.
This is what The Moody Blues guitarist had to say about the current music scene and Days of Future Passed, their 1967 release that stayed atop the best-seller charts for two years. It represented a first not only because it used a symphony orchestra (something then uncommon), but also because it was recorded in stereophonic sound.
(Photo by Raymond Congrove)
MICHAEL McCARTY: What changes have you seen in the recording industry in the past four decades?
JUSTIN HAYWARD: The biggest change for English musicians, as we were during the Sixties, was that all the record companies had their own studios. So you just had to book time or get some producer to book your time in their studio. You always knew where you were going to record, what type of people were going to record you.
That was a great advantage; it was cheaper for the record companies. They had their own studios. They could audition people there. They found a lot of acts that way.
We recorded all of our first seven albums in the Decca Studios. Decca had nothing to do with us at all. It was their studio. Things started changing. Independent productions emerged and, with them, independent recording studios.
Now, they are a separate industry in and of themselves. I don’t think there are any studios any more, except maybe little demo studios, which are connected to record companies. That is one difference.
The other difference is that, in the Sixties, mostly enthusiastic amateur music men, people who had been in the business, established and former musicians, ran record companies.
The chairman of Decca, Sir Edward Lewis, was a wonderful man. I remember one wonderful day we went to see him and he said to us, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s jolly good, so go and carry on and do it.”
We said, “No one will interfere with us then?”
And he said, “No, no, no! Not at all. Just go in and do what you want.”
And we thought, “That’s bloody great. That’s what everyone dreams of!”
Now you’ve got, “Why don’t you do this?” and “This is the market” and “the trend is this–” from all the A&R people and all that kind of crap.
Now you’re just as good as your last record. It really is a business run by accountants and lawyers now.
McCARTY: Do you find it frustrating that the classic radio stations, which played all your previous hits, aren’t playing any of your new material?
HAYWARD: Well, yes. Personally, it is what is important to me now. I think it (Strange Times) is one of the best records that we’ve made. It just means a lot to us. At the same time, it is very flattering to know that you’re still on the airwaves, whatever happens. Some guy into demographics I met in February informed me that Led Zeppelin last year was the most played band on American radio, and that is out of any band. It’s incredible, really.
McCARTY: Several bands in England have released BBC recordings of their stuff. Led Zeppelin session has done this, Bauhaus has done this, etc. Is this something The Moody Blues will eventually do, too?
HAYWARD: They sent us a proposal and it has been on the table for some time now.
There are a lot of Moody Blue recordings. We’re not all in the band of agreement if they should go out, or if we’re happy with them. We’re biding our time on that. There are an awful lot of them and a lot of stuff that has never been recorded – cover versions and things like that.
We bring it up now and again when were in a dressing room. “What about that?” We never come to an agreement – it keeps floating along.
McCARTY: If Days of Future Passed was a new CD and you released it today, do you think it would be a best-seller?
HAYWARD: I don’t know. I didn’t think it was going to be a best seller then. I thought what we were making was an arty record. We’d get invited to cocktail parties with authors, get champagne and talk intelligently to people. That’s what it was for a little while, for a few months and suddenly – wallop, it took off.
There’s a beautiful naive kind of innocence about that record. We were very lucky that it was recorded so perfectly. So many other Sixties records were recorded very badly, including those by the Beatles. There were tops sliced off and bottoms sliced off. They went straight down the middle to make the recording really loud. When it came to CD, the Beatles weren’t really shown at their best. You saw them, for what they really were – the recordings were obviously fantastic, but, technically, they weren’t that good.
Our recordings were recorded with perfection. Days of Future Passed is a masterpiece of recording because it is so clear and clean and true.
McCARTY: Do you see a parallel between Strange Times and Days of Future Passed – both conceptual CDs about time? Was that intentional?
HAYWARD: Yes, it was, yes. There was a time, perhaps about seven minutes at dinner one night of doing Days of Future Passed 2. We quickly dropped the idea, we would still refer to it and come back to it; it was always in our minds. We’re reminded of Days of Future Passed all the time we’re together. At most concerts it is mentioned or we mention it – it looms so large in our lives. I think there is a comparison there in the concept of it.
McCARTY: How did you enjoy working on The Simpsons (“Viva Ned”) and do you think younger fans now recognize you now because of that appearance?
HAYWARD: I don’t know if it made any difference in younger fans recognizing us. They probably didn’t know who we were anyway. I enjoyed it tremendously. When we did it, I had no idea what we were doing, because they only gave us certain parts of the script. And some parts they had already recorded. And they weren’t going to play it, which was about six months before it was on TV. They weren’t going to tell us the beginning the middle or the end, or what is happening. They were just interested in us doing our part. They got us to say a lot of different things and used what they thought was right. They put it together like a radio show first. Then they put the visuals to it because the dialogue is the most important thing. It made me famous with the kids that I know (laughs).
McCARTY: You did Live at Red Rocks and Hall of Fame – both live CDs. What do you see as the biggest difference besides Red Rocks being recorded outside and Hall of Fame being recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in England?
HAYWARD: Hall of Fame, being a British audience – it’s a little bit more reserved, a little bit more polite. Technically and musically I think Hall of Fame is better.
McCARTY: Did you record Caught Live Plus Five at the Royal Albert Hall in the Seventies?
HAYWARD: Yes, we did and that was a disaster, I thought. I never wanted to release that. We were out of contract when it was released, we didn’t have any choice in it. I never liked that record at all.
I never liked the Albert Hall as a venue for recording – nice atmosphere and everything, but I can think of much better places to record.
McCARTY: Is it because of the high ceilings?
HAYWARD: Yes. A round building is not the best place for rock ‘n’ roll.
McCARTY: Do you have to do a lot of rehearsals before going on the road or making a new CD?
HAYWARD: Usually not – no. We pride ourselves in doing as little rehearsing as we possibly can. We manage to scrape by – but with new material, we take that very seriously. The older material, we know it good enough, if we can’t do it by now.
McCARTY: If you had to choose a favorite guitar solo from a Moody Blues song, what would it be?
HAYWARD: I’m betraying my red (Gibson) 335 here, which, of course, is the love of my life. The solo I’m going to choose is “Ride My See-Saw” – and that guitar was a Telecaster I had when I was a kid.
I remember playing the whole track from start to finish, just kind of making it up as I went along, and I got to the end of it, and everyone said, “Great!” “Fantastic!” And I said, “It’s a bit weird. It’s a bit out of time,” and they said, “No, no. We loved it.” All my other solos were carefully constructed and thought out, but that is my favorite.
I’m not the greatest guitar player in the world. Very few people come to look at my left hand – I can promise you. I usually have more order with my solos. The best ones I’ve done come from straight off the top of my head. “English Sunset” was like that. I knew something strange – I’m not going to play normal and play notes that almost work.
McCARTY: Your red guitar that you talked about, is that a ’62 Gibson?
HAYWARD: It’s a ’63.
McCARTY: Oh, I was off by one year (laughs).
HAYWARD: Sorry about that.
McCARTY: You always have a 1955 Martin D28 acoustic guitar?
HAYWARD: I do. God, that is such a beautiful guitar. When I do sessions and I take it out of the case, all the other session musicians – it is like a sharp intake of breath, and I say, “Have a play.” I can see them being really choked. The intonation is just prefect.
McCARTY: Has your Gibson been on all The Moody Blues albums?
HAYWARD: I didn’t get it until 1967 – it made its first appearance on the third album, On a Threshold of a Dream, 1969 (it didn’t appear on Days of Future Passed or In Search of the Lost Chord). On the first two albums, I played a Fender Telecaster.
I bought the Gibson used in 1967. It was four years old. It really hasn’t been out of my sight since then. I just love that guitar.
I met the guitarist who made it. He knew he made it by the serial number. He knew before he met me that he made that guitar because he had seen an advert for Gibson. He knew he made a few like that, at that time. I met him, he was lovely.
McCARTY: You only signed one record contract. How come you have been with so many different record companies?
HAYWARD: We only signed one recording contract in 1966 – that was with Decca Records. Then we’d get to the end of the contract and it would be renegotiated. Then in 1981, Decca was bought by PolyGram Records. It had nothing to do with us, PolyGram just inherited us. Then PolyGram renewed the contract. Then in the mid-Nineties, Universal bought Polygram – they didn’t buy us, they just got us.
McCARTY: When working with an orchestra, the musicians are following sheet music. Do you find this confining and is there still room for any spontaneity when you play?
HAYWARD: No, there’s no room for spontaneity any more. It has to be very disciplined and precise. I enjoy the show, but I enjoy it more when we’re on our own, because that’s what the real thing was.
It works with an orchestra and for us because of Days of Future Passed. We have recognizable pieces of music that were always played by an orchestra, not a huge backing synthesizer. They actually have validity in their own right.
McCARTY: How do you synchronize everything? Do you have a click-track that you are listening to? How does The Moody Blues keep in time with the sheet music? How does the conductor keep the band and orchestra together in time?
HAYWARD: The conductor is, but we have a young drummer we are working with: a second drummer named Gordon Marshall and he is our link between us and them. He is really responsible for the time and keeping the orchestra on the spot. He always delivers the time and the place in the songs through the conductor.
McCARTY: You are playing with a different orchestra in a different city each night. How do you build a rapport with these new musicians? And some of these orchestras are larger piece and smaller piece – how do you adjust to that difference, too?
HAYWARD: We have a minimum of forty-four and a maximum of eighty-eight and we can play with anything in between those. You are very lucky in America to have, in most decent-sized towns, a subsidized orchestra of real professional-quality musicians. I never really found that in any other country in the world.
In fact, I don’t think most people in their towns know that they are doing that – subsidizing their wonderful orchestras – until they come to a Moody Blues concert, and say, “Hey, there is a Poughkeepsie orchestra?”
The stage is ours. The microphones are ours. The seats are ours. The music stands are ours. The lights are ours. The only thing that changes is the musicians and they just play as written and it will work. And it has done.
McCARTY: It is pretty amazing, too. I talked with Charles Abplanalp (see the article about Charles Abplanalp and The Moody Blues in the Articles and Essays section). I saw all the sheet music that you had delivered to him.
You have all this sheet music, for the flute parts, the violin parts, etc. It is like this giant jigsaw puzzle with a million little pieces.
HAYWARD: I am looking at it now with the mixing of the video and CD of Hall of Fame. I have to go through these parts, to make sure that they are playing right or if they are playing slightly wrong and I can fix it. I have to know exactly what they are doing. I can only know that by looking at the part. They get a little loose sometimes when we are playing loud – they get a bit carried away. They are on their best when it is quietest or they are on their own.
McCARTY: Which one influenced your guitar solos more – Buddy Holly or George Harrison?
HAYWARD: Buddy Holly. Then Hank Marvin.
McCARTY: Last question: There are several bands working with orchestras these days, like KISS, Rod Stewart, Elton John, etc. What do you think about Metallic’s S&M orchestra CD? Have you heard it?
HAYWARD: Oh yeah, I wish them luck. It is great – I think they did it well.