Moody Blues front­man look­ing for­ward to play­ing in NZ

The Southland Times - - TELEVISION -

At their tow­er­ing, psy­che­delic peak, the Moody Blues was one of the big­gest bands on the face of the planet.

It was not al­ways thus. Lead singer Justin Hay­ward, who is vis­it­ing New Zealand next month, re­mem­bers a time when world dom­i­na­tion was lit­tle more than a dis­tant dream.

Any­thing else would have been delu­sional when Hay­ward joined the band in 1966. De­spite suc­cess with the Denny Laine-penned Go Now the pre­vi­ous year, low sales and group de­par­tures had slowed them to a stand­still.

‘‘It got so bad that within two months of join­ing the band I’d gone back to liv­ing with my par­ents,’’ Hay­ward says. ‘‘I was try­ing to get my dad to sign up hire-pur­chase agree­ments on my am­pli­fier and my gui­tar. Our price had dropped to about £20 a night.’’

Yet even though he was only 20, Hay­ward had been around the block. By the time he joined the Moody Blues he’d al­ready had a busy ca­reer, a high­light of which was play­ing and writ­ing songs for skif­fle star Lon­nie Done­gan.

He knew what was needed to turn it around, and stick­ing with the group’s es­tab­lished R’n’B sound wasn’t it.

‘‘We had to find our own iden­tity,’’ he says.

Man­ager Brian Ep­stein was ditched, to­tally oc­cu­pied as he was with the Bea­tles, and a new, artier sound based around Hay­ward’s tunes was adopted.

‘‘We started to get an au­di­ence,’’ Hay­ward says. ‘‘We were do­ing two sets, one R’n’B and the other an hour of our own ma­te­rial, and that was start­ing to get a fan base. By the March of 1967, we were do­ing all our own ma­te­rial.’’

In Novem­ber 1967, the group de­buted Days of Fu­ture Passed. They never looked back.

With their break­through al­bum came the band’s big­gest hit, the lush, or­ches­tral Nights in White Satin.

It’s still a clas­sic rock sta­ple and the band’s best-known song, but Hay­ward says it took a while to re­ally take off.

‘‘It wasn’t un­til 1972 that the song re­ally be­came an in­ter­na­tional hit. It was a force that, in the end, be­came un­stop­pable.’’

Be­tween 1968 and 1972, the Moody Blues re­leased six al­bums, at the rate of at least one a year. Yet that pe­riod was all a bit of a blur, for var­i­ous rea­sons.

‘‘In the ’60s and ’70s I wasn’t all that aware,’’ he ad­mits. ‘‘I was stoned for a lot of it. Noth­ing wrong with that, I don’t knock it, but I wasn’t quite present a lot of the time.’’

Sur­pris­ingly, when look­ing back at his ca­reer, Hay­ward doesn’t rate the heady 1960s as his favourite era. In­stead, that falls to quite a dif­fer­ent time: the 1980s.

‘‘I loved ev­ery mo­ment of that time,’’ he says. ‘‘We were on MTV sud­denly, and it was a great gift to be given suc­cess the sec­ond time around. The tours we did then were just bril­liant, they brought a whole new, young au­di­ence to the group.’’

He’s re­leased solo al­bums on a semi-reg­u­lar ba­sis, the most re­cent stu­dio al­bum be­ing 2013’s Spir­its of the West­ern Sky.

‘‘I’m very lucky to have both [solo and the Moody Blues],’’ he says.

‘‘I’m also lucky to have the big pro­duc­tion of the Moodys, and long may that be there - al­though I don’t know how much longer that’ll be there.’’

For now, he’s just happy to tour, play­ing songs to new au­di­ences across the globe.

‘‘I’m look­ing for­ward to com­ing down, meet­ing old friends, do some catch­ing up.’’

Justin Hay­ward plays the Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch, Oc­to­ber 13; Michael Fowler Cen­tre, Welling­ton, Oc­to­ber14; ASB Theatre, Auck­land, Oc­to­ber 16.

MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

The Moody Blues - Graeme Edge, Justin Hay­ward and John Lodge - ar­rive at Welling­ton air­port in 2006.

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