Moody Blues

“Nights in White Satin” is a truly timeless classic rock ballad. It will be played until the end of time. The Mellotron, second only to the Theramin as Rock’s most curious instrument, was never more tastefully integrated into a song than through the masterful playing of Mike Pinder on mostly ethereal compositions that were frequently weighted down with cosmic lyrics and spoken word poetry. They took album-making seriously, and many works as song cycles unto themselves.

The Moody Blues were one groovy British band whose leader Justin Hayward not only took to donning medallions but also played guitar with a highly melodic and accomplished style. His solo on “Ride My See Saw” is flawless. His acoustic strumming on “Question” rivals Pete Townshend for speed and fluidity.

No other band quite captured the sixties patchouli-scented zeitgeist like the Moodies. “Legend of a Mind,” with its sing-along chorus about LSD proselytizer Timothy Leary and Left to Right stereo pans during the flue/Mellotron interlude, maybe the finest headphone song ever to listen to after blowing a doobie!

Plus, singer-flutist Ray Thomas sported a porn mustache long before porn, Mark Spitz, Magnum, or John Oates, brought them to a broader audience.

So why aren’t these guys in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

“Foul!” cry the band fans who have seen them overlooked year after year. Indeed they shouldn’t be lumped in with Chicago, Yes, Rush, and Kiss (among others), who not only have sold millions of records but have also established a loyal fan base that still comes out to see them when they tour. Can’t the Rock and Roll Hall take another “Tuesday Afternoon” and reconsider this band?

Perhaps this new Blu-ray release from Eagle Vision might inspire such a reconsideration.

What is essentially an expanded repackaging of filmmaker Murray Lerner’s extensive Isle of Wight Festival footage, The Moody Blues Live at the Isle of Wight Festival captures the Moodies at the height of their popularity. Considered “England’s Woodstock,” this concert featured many of the top acts of the day (the Who, Joe Cocker, and others) who have since had a video treatment similar to the one given here.

The newly recorded footage with the band recollecting the time and concert is terrific stuff – I wish there were more. The Moodies deserve a more comprehensive evaluation than what is provided here. Drummer Graeme Edge, bassist John Lodge, keyboardist Mike Pinder, and guitarist Justin Hayward prove themselves to be articulate re-tellers of the time in which that concert was made. It’s a shame Lerner didn’t broaden his questions to ask about the London music scene, the recording technology of the time, and the competitiveness of the band. I am sure the answers from this crew would have been fascinating. These are all thoughtful guys.

Instead, we have a primarily straightforward performance by the Moody Blues of some of their biggest hits in front of one of the largest audiences in history – all done with a PA system that would now be used for a Sunday church service. So the interest here is primarily historical and for fans.

The video does remind the viewer of what a unique band the Moodies were. They took folk music to a more cosmic level while keeping it intimate and personal. With the Mellotron, they created something entirely their own. I loved the This is the Moody Blues anthology; it is full of great songs. “Watching and Waiting” is one of rock’s best songs about heartache. It’s easy to forget how great they were at the time. I suggest you revisit their music sometime soon, and you, too, might agree.

Not sure these accomplishments merit inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; they might be too much of their time and a bit too nuanced. The “classic rock” they peddled never caught on, and other progenitors, like ELP,  have not aged well. This video makes clear they were an accomplished band. Maybe even a great one!

Recently I gave a re-listening to To Our Children’s Children’s Children, arguably their finest album. The tunefulness of their songs is striking compared to the music of today. That late 60’s/70’s was a once-in-a-lifetime period of quality music output. While their melodies sometimes stray from being merely tuneful to being corny, songs like “Gypsy,” “Eyes of a Child,” and “Live to be a Hundred” still have a great deal of charm.

While The Moody Blues Live at the Isle of Wight may not make a clear case for the inclusion debate, it certainly makes a strong case for revisiting their music where the case might be more robust.

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