Legendary rock band The Moody Blues bring their 14-date UK tour to Ipswich in June. MARTIN HUTCHINSON talks to the band’s frontman Justin Hayward.

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RELAXING at his home in the south of France, Justin is neither moody or blue. As lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for The Moody Blues, he’s feeling good about things.

“Everything’s pretty good in the band, we’re three guys who really want to go out and play,” he says. “For me, this is the best incarnation of the band and it’s all very enjoyable.”

The Moody Blues were formed in the early 1960s by Graeme Edge, Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder, Clint Warwick and Denny Laine; but after a number one hit with the R’n’B song Go Now things didn’t go too well.

Laine and Warwick left in 1966 and were replaced by Justin and John Lodge.

The band’s dynamic changed and their first album with the new line up became a classic.

Days Of Future Passed contained the hit singles Tuesday Afternoon and the song for which they will always be remembered, Nights In White Satin.

A string of hit albums and singles followed and the band became one of the biggest in the world; one of the first so-called Stadium Rock bands.

On The Threshold Of A Dream, A Question Of Balance and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour all topped the album charts in 1969, 1970 and 1971 respectively, while Seventh Sojourn hit the top in America in 1972. Long Distance Voyager returned them to the top in America in 1981.

Singles included the likes of Isn’t Life Strange, Voices In The Sky and the sublime I Know You’re Out There Somewhere, which charted in 1988.

“Somewhere (known simply to the band as IKYOTS) is my favourite song to do on stage, I love singing it.” Justin admits.

Going back to the single Question, when it charted in 1970 it had an impact on the band.

“We hadn’t had experienced that kind of hit single before. Nights In White Satin was a slow burner really (it only reached number 19 in 1967, but returned to the charts in 1972 reaching number nine and got to number 14 in 1979).

“Question had an immediate impact and then everything looked a bit different for us. We played the Isle Of Wight Festival on the back of this huge record.”

The song had an unusual birth as it was originally two songs.

“The recording session was booked for Saturday and the other boys – as usual – expected me to come up with something. On the Friday night I still hadn’t got it, but I had two other songs in the same key and I just changed some of the words.

“I was so relieved and all the guys liked it. Actually, there’s hardly any double-tracking on the song as we were making a conscious attempt to get more of a live feel as some of our songs were complicated to do live.”

The enduring popularity of the band – apart from the excellent music – all started with a bit of good timing.

“We went to America in 1968 and it was the best thing we ever did.” Justin said. “It was just as FM radio was starting over there and our music was perfect for it.”

He has been a member of The Moody Blues for more than 40 years and is still enjoying it.

“I love it even more than I did before; I wasn’t sure for the first 20 years,” he laughes.

For this tour, the nucleus of the band - Justin, John and Graeme will be augmented by four other musicians.

“We’ve got Gordon Marshall on drums, he’s quite a showman; and Norda Mullen on flute, guitar and bass. She’s been with us now since Ray Thomas left us in 2001.

“Julie Ragins is on keyboards and backing vocals and there’s Alan Hewitt on keyboards – he’s a fairly new boy although I’ve known him for years.”

As regards to the set, the band do have a slight problem.

“The problem is not what we put in, but what we have to leave out. There will be songs from most of the albums in the set and we tend to speak on the tour bus and work out what we’re going to leave out and put in.

“We want to rediscover some of the songs we haven’t played for a while- or even at all. Songs like You and Me, one of John’s songs called Nervous; not well-known numbers as such, but the Moodies’ fans know them. We might also put in Driftwood, The Day We Meet Again and Say It With Love as well.”

Justin has recently released a solo album entitled Spirits of the Western Sky, but it won’t feature in the show.

There are also a couple of places he is looking forward to playing.

“I like going back to Birmingham for John and Graeme’s sake as they are from there and their families come from there. Plymouth is nice as my daughter lives there.”

Justin might be 66 now, but he is still optimistic for the future of The Moody Blues.

“The Moody Blues is my band – by that I don’t mean I have any proprietorial hold on the band, it just means I belong to the band. I can’t see us stopping at the moment, but if one of the three of us stopped then it would be hard for just two to continue. I hope it doesn’t happen because it’s great music to play.”

The Moody Blues come to the Ipswich Regent on June 17.

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