Talking with John Lodge of the Moody Blues

This originally appeared in Hippo Press, 7 February 2019

Although he wasn’t an original member of the Moody Blues, John Lodge holds founder’s stock in the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers. As a teenager, he was in band that included Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder, but he declined an invite to enjoy the edition of the Moodies that scored a hit with “Go Now” so he could finish college.

Lodge came on board along with Justin Hayward in 1966 and helped create Days of Future Passed, an album that changed   music’s landscape upon its release a year later. He’s remained with the band ever since; when the the group’s not touring, Lodge plays solo. His latest release is Live from Birmingham: The 10,000 Light Years Tour.

Lodge performs at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry on Feb. 13. He talked via Skype from Barbados.

How did it feel to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

It’s a great honor. You know, rock and roll came from America and it was sent to England – to be honest, we repackaged it and sent it back … for me to be honored and stand tall next to my heroes, my icons – Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Little Richard – when I was 12 or 13 looking at them on stage in Britain and thinking, “how on earth can I be part of that?” Buddy Holly came along and showed me and lot of other English people how to become musicians, how to write songs and perform. You didn’t have to be this huge larger than life icon.

Your 2017 live album marks many high points of your career. Is your current show similar to it?

Well it is in a way, and it isn’t – I’ve just expanded it a bit further … there are songs that I’ve never played with the Moody Blues like “Candle of Life” and “Saved By The Music.” I think the show’s got a lot of energy, incredible energy. It’s got keyboards, guitar, but I’ve got a cellist in there. I love cello, it’s an integral part of my sound. Songs like “Isn’t Life Stange” feature cello. Also on this tour – Ray Thomas and I were great friends; I met Ray when I was 14, and we’d been working together ever since. Unfortunately Ray passed away… I wanted to keep his music alive, so I’m doing “Legend of a Mind” on stage in tribute to Ray; I’m also doing a song of Mike Pinder’s. I think it’s really important, because they’re not playing those songs anymore – the Moody Blues will never play them.

“Saved by the Music” was on your duo album with Justin Hayward, Blue Jays. Will there ever be a follow up to that?

I’m not too sure. All these things you have to have someone who really believes in you to do these things. It’s never just been the artist writing the songs. You have to have a record company that really wants to be with you. We were very fortunate coming up in the years we did by the music men that were part of our lives, people like Sir Edward Lewis and Walt Maguire and Davey Braun and Jerry Weintraub. We had music people who loved what we did and they would be first in line to come and listen to any new songs we made. So if you could replicate that, perhaps we could do something.

What are your memories of joining the Moody Blues after Denny Laine left?

Ray rang me one day and said – he always called me Rocker – he said, “hey, Rocker, have you finished college yet?” I said, “why?” and he said, “Denny’s left, and I’d like it if you came and joined again – let’s get the old band back together.” So when I turned up it was like going back to see my friends again and playing music together, which we’d done before for so long. So it progressed from there… one of the things I didn’t want to do was be in blue suits and perform songs written by other people because I’d done that for five years before. I’d started songwriting and I wanted to perform my own songs.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nod came 50 years after Days of Future Passed was released. How did it come to be?

Decca Records… also built music consoles [and] wanted to make this stereo record to go along with their record players so it could show you how great having two speakers would be. So they came up with this idea of trying to put a pop band and orchestral music together. They wanted to use Dvorak’s Symphony and they asked us if we were interested, because we were signed to them. We had a meeting and talked about Dvorak and then we met Peter Knight. He came along to see us at a concert [and] he said it would be better if we recorded our own songs… we said to [Decca founder] Edward Lewis, “can we have a studio 24 hours a day for a week?” He said yes, and we went into the studio and didn’t allow anyone in there but us. At the end of the week we had a playback for the executives of the record company and all our friends and girlfriends… the record company didn’t know quite what they got or what to do with it, because it wasn’t the sampler type of record that they thought they were getting. But there were two people there – one was Hugh Mendel, who was the head of classical music at Decca Records, and an American guy, Walt Maguire from London Records in New York. They understood what we were trying to do. They became our mentors, really, and kept telling everyone else, “yep, this is it, this is so different” – and then the rest is history, I suppose.

The Moody Blues’ John Lodge

When: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 8 p.m.

Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., DerryTickets: $55-$60 at tupelohall.com