Here’s reason to give Moody Blues fans blues of another kind. The two men who remained the most prolific members of the Moodies, guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge, have apparently gone their separate ways. Each man has not only fully committed to pursuing a separate solo career, but also captained their own cruises — Hayward with his upcoming On the Blue cruise and Lodge with the recently completed ‘70s Rock and Romance excursion. When — and if — the Moodies will ever reconvene seems to be as much of seesaw as the venerable song of the same name.
Ride it if you will.
For his part, Lodge seems nicely nonplussed. He’s fully invested himself in his 10,000 Light Years Band and establishing his own identity. His current album, B Yond — The Very Best Of, not only reaffirms his role as a prime player in the Moody Blues, but also affirms his new solo stance via his more recent work. The evidence of that credence and capability was on full display on that aforementioned outing, especially when he led his current ensemble through a set list weighted heavily with Moody Blues classics, but still spiked with his individual efforts as well.
Sitting down with Lodge a day later, we found him pleased and content, with scarcely a Moody thought in mind. “The shows have been fabulous,” he beamed, referring to those recent performances. “We’re all here for one reason only. I say it on stage — we’re all just singers in a rock and roll band.”
He’s referring of course to one of the many songs he contributed to the Moody Blues canon, one that still finds a prominent part in his repertoire. True to its title, Lodge continues to maintain that mantra with an ongoing touring schedule that’s recently found jogging up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
“It’s my music,” Lodge insists when asked why he still perseveres with such a rigorous regimen. “I want to share my music. That’s what counts. It’s been a big part of my life since I was in my teens. I’m not going to let it go now. Why would I do that? I’m still having fun. I have a fantastic band. They’re so committed to the songs. And they turn me on every night.”
Two of the members of his 10,000 Light Years Band are players with whom he shares a history. Billy Ashbaugh was the second drummer in the Moody Blues touring band, playing alongside founder Graeme Edge. Lodge said he’s known keyboardist Alan Hewitt some 40 years. He’s played with him for the past 20 years after Hewitt himself was drafted by the reconstituted Moody Blues as well. Guitarist Duffy King and cellist Jason Charboneau are newer additions to the fold, but they too blend in with flawless fitness.
“I just told them they’re great players,” Lodge responds after being asked how he initially set his players at ease. “I told then, ‘Just play. If you go to rehearsals and work out your role, it’s going to be alright. Mostly, just play what you feel.’ That’s it entirely, and that’s what they do. Everybody’s got a great vibe. And since I’ve written the songs, hopefully I remember the words.”
Naturally, Lodge has a legacy to carry on, one he doesn’t take lightly. “It’s really satisfying in a way,” he muses. “The audience can relate to it. People come up to me and tell me how it’s the music of their lives, how they maybe met their future spouse at a Moody Blues concert. The music means a lot to me as well, so I can understand their feelings. When we started out, we wanted to be really truthful with our songs and our lyrics. Now it’s 50 years later. You’ve got to be truthful in what you’re writing and the way you can relate to people. You get a connection and that connection will last. It’s as if the years don’t matter. When you have that connection, it brings you back to that same time at the beginning.”
Unlike some of his former bandmates, Lodge only made a single solo album, Natural Avenue, while he was with the Moodies. However his initial album with the 10,000 Light Year Band, 2015’s 10,000 Light Years Ago, found him plotting out own path with a slight twist. This time around, he was responsible for the material all on his own.
“In the Moodies, we always had a loose concept,” Lodge explains. “And because we were all different people, we could write about the same subject, even though we’d come at it from a different place. There are lots of different ways you can look at a subject. But when I write a song for myself, I can come at it any way I like. I think, ‘This is a song for John Lodge.’ You try to communicate an energy. The song ’10,000 Light Years Ago’ on that first album is about me. It was the realization that I was on my own. I think we all go through that when you’re standing on your own for a moment in time. We all have that little sinkhole where we sink in. Hopefully somebody rescues you. And in my case, it was that song.”
Nevertheless, it ought to be remembered that when Lodge and Hayward joined the band just prior to the making of the band’s landmark album album Days of Future Passed, they were essentially helping to reboot a band that had been mostly doing covers up until that point. “When (Moody Blues flautist) Ray Thomas called me, the first thing he asked me was if I had finished college yet,” Lodge recalls. “And I told him I had, so he told me to come down to London. He said, ‘We don’t want to do cover versions of other people’s songs anymore, and I know you can write songs. We have another guy named Justin Hayward, and he writes songs as well, so why don’t we do something totally different. So we started from there.”
The rest, as they say, is history. A string of history-making albums followed — In Search of the Lost Chord, On the Threshold of a Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and Seventh Sojourn — before the band went on hiatus for nearly six years. Now, more than four decades later, the songs remain as stirring as they one were. So how does Lodge account for their continuing durability?
“I never think about it,” he insists. “Music is music. When I started playing when I was 17 or 18, I remember telling someone, ‘When I finish college, I’m going to do this full-time.’ And then he told me, ‘Well, what are you going to do when you’re 21? Rock and roll is for kids.’ When I look at it now, I find it really interesting. I don’t how you can replicate what came before.”
Nevertheless, it’s pointed out that people continue to carry their love of the music that they came of age listening to, even as they age, and for many people, the Moody Blues’ music was an essential part of that evolution.
Lodge concurs.“I never take anything for granted,” he muses. “I just think that everybody’s been keeping the faith, and so I thank the fans for that. People who weren’t even born when the first Moodies album came out come up to me and say, ‘I’m catching up.’ That’s such a lovely thing to hear.”
Getting back to the subject of the Moody Blues’ future, Lodge again demures, insisting that he himself is unsure. Nevertheless, he’s not concerned. He’s content to pursue his own path forward in the interim.
“I never look backwards,” he insists. “I’m always looking towards the future. That’s why I call my new album B Yond. The Moody Blues are my ‘A’ project, but my ‘B’ project is to continue being John Lodge.”