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"They wanted us to do Dvor†k's New World Symphony, take the different melodies and put lyrics to them. We said we'd like to do this, but we want the studio for ourselves 24 hours a day for the week. And they agreed."
Those naughty Moodies! Not only did they never get around to Dvor†k, they recorded the very songs that had been irritating go-go dancers at the Marquee--with the London Festival Orchestra at their disposal, no less! Freed from traditional 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. time constraints in the studio, the lads began to experiment with overtures, undertures, backward gongs, forward gongs, and, of course, the graveside-solemn spoken poetry, recited by the band's drummer, Graeme Edge.
"It sort of hit us during the sessions that it would be fantastic to have some spoken word that tied everything together," recalls Lodge of the grand tradition which became the band's calling card. But was the seamless cross-fading of each song merely a clever ploy to get the group's material on progressive American FM stations?
"No," reveals Lodge. "We just didn't want the music to stop." But it worked nonetheless. Deejays, needing to take an incredibly long dump, or hoping to put the moves on some cute little intern, used to let whole album sides of Moody Blues music flow by before cutting in. The critics, however, were a different story. Many could never make it past the stiff poetry, the ultraserious cover art, and the surly faces of the Moodies themselves lurking inside every needlessly gatefolded sleeve. One word: pretentious.
But the band was not without humor; even the Lizard King wasn't coming up with tongue-in-cheek lines like "Blasting, billowing, bursting forth with the power of ten thousand butterfly sneezes." As for being preachy, Lodge earnestly disagrees. "We put down in our lyrics what we believe," says he. "If some people think it's preachy, they have to believe that."
Whether preaching or thinking aloud, at least the Moody Blues weren't peddling wicked lyrical content. How many people sought enlightenment from Eric Burdon, only to find themselves stuck in Monterey married to "A Girl Named Sandoz"? Or the aforementioned cosmic folknik Donovan? How many innocent Children of the Sixties burned their fingers trying to smoke Chiquitas simply because he told them "electrical banana's gonna be the very next phase"? What about the Beatles? How many people had to get run over before someone decided--"Hey, maybe we shouldn't do this in the road"?
The Moody Blues, on the other hand, told us things like "thinking is the best way to travel," and "watch children playing, they seem so wise." You can't go wrong with that philosophy unless you think you're an airplane, or give your toddler the power of attorney.
Though Lodge admits the making of a Moodies album did not involve, oh, male-bonding retreats where hugging trees and sharing personal emotions were encouraged, there was always a bit of mystical tradition.
"We used to have a table we called the Magic Table that we sat 'round," he reveals. "That's where the songs were very first played. You'd feel very comfortable because it was the same table from the last album, and the one before that. You'd talk your way through the songs, 'Now, I want it to go this fast,' and tap the tempos on the table."
In 1974, after seven extremely popular albums, the band adjourned from the Magic Table and took three years off to record solo albums. That much of the Moodies' reputation still rests squarely on those first seven sojourns in sonic sorcery is clearly illustrated by Time Traveler's song selection: Three CDs cover the first 12 years of the band's history, while the following 16 years merit but one measly disc. When the Moody Blues regrouped in 1977, Britain's punk era was in full swing. True to form, the Moodies didn't suddenly start playing like the Buzzcocks, although Lodge now freely admits to "really enjoying listening to Motorhead in the car when no one's around." He waxes philosophical about knowing one's place in the pop pantheon. "Every generation has to have its own heroes, and there's nothing worse than somebody trying to be a hero for the wrong generation. If you stay true to yourself, you have a chance that new generations will pick up on you."
New generations did, despite the drastic changes that were under way within the group. For the first time since the Denny Laine days, the Moody Blues allowed themselves to be shown on the front cover of an album. Not only that, they ditched the paintings, the poems, and were now using the same art director as Linda Ronstadt, as if they were--ugh!--ordinary recording artists. It didn't help matters that after 1978's Octave album, the band's most cosmic member, Mike Pindar, bid adieu to pursue a quiet life in the States. It was Pindar who wrote the songs Most Likely to Feature a Sitar, and who was most vocal about his involvement with transcendental meditation, not unlike that other balding Mike from the Beach Boys. (To Pindar's credit, after "doolapping" his thinning hair for three albums, he let his bald dome breathe alfresco, while pesky Mike Love continued to embarrass his bandmates with a procession of silly turbans and caps.) The Moodies' 1968 album In Search of the Lost Chord contained helpful "you say mantra, I say yantra" information inside yet another wasteful gatefold sleeve, as well as Pindar's seven-minute "Om" opus. Moody watchers had to be worried now. With Pindar out of the picture, who gonna play dat lonesome ol' mellotron?