Tonight in Plymouth
Good timing for a visit from The Moody Blues’ John LodgeBy EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader November 02. 2017 7:29AM
If you go...WHO: John Lodge
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today
WHERE: Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth
TICKETS: $39 and $49
INFO: www.flyingmonkeynh.com or 536-2551
It’s a good time to be a Moody Blues fan.
The iconic progressive rock group’s bass player and vocalist, John Lodge, is winding his way through the Northeastern United States, heading to Plymouth’s Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center for a show tonight.
Lodge is touring with his 10,000 Light Years Band, a nod to his 2015 album “10,000 Light Years Ago” and its subsequent UK tour, to play a blend of new music and Moody Blues fan favorites.
This comes following the release of a CD/DVD box set, “John Lodge: Live From Birmingham,” and a double album is on the way. Plus, an upcoming deluxe edition of “Days of Future Passed” will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moody Blue’s iconic album.
And finally, the Moody Blues this year scored a nomination for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Lodge, speaking from a New York City hotel room, helps bring things up to date in a Q&A with NH Weekend.
The Moody Blues was finally nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2018. How do you feel about that?
I’m really proud of it. It’s a great honor for people to acknowledge your music. When you’re a 14-year-old boy learning to play bass and write songs and get on stage, and then to get to know that your music is being listened to by lots of people ... You must have gotten into their conscience somewhere.
And, of course, I’m really grateful to all the fans, The Moody Blues fans, because they’ve done such a great job (helping to generate that nomination).
Can you speak to how The Moody blues was one of the first progressive rock bands and how it gained traction?
All we knew, or all I knew, was that there was an AM music radio where it was all very pop-y, and 2 ½-minute songs, and then we were just at the time when albums are coming out in stereo and long-form music. And we were writing songs that lasted 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes.
FM radio suddenly was just perfect for bands like The Moody Blues. The DJs didn’t have to play a 2 ½ -minute song; they could play the whole album. They used to play “Days of Future Passed” nonstop, both sides. Sometimes they’d put the whole album back on again. It was brilliant.
So, when you first started it was more about the AM/FM dial?
On FM radio, you’d find artists that were really exploring different things, bands like Cream and Canned Heat, so it was an interesting time. And the Beach Boys made a crossover from AM to FM as well, with the “Pet Sounds” album. There was a big change in the ‘60s to FM and to stereo. It sounds old-fashioned now with digital radio and Sirius and everything else. But it was a big, big change in those days.
Why did the Moody Blues use the London Festival Orchestra so prominently?
We were using the flute, we were using vocal harmonies, and, of course, we were using the mellotron (electronic keyboard), and liked the strings part of that.
The orchestra was a realization of what we were doing already on stage, because we’d written “Days of Future Passed” as a stage show. It was a 45-minute set we were doing. The orchestra was just really almost following what we were doing.
Why is Birmingham Town Hall special to you?
I was born in Birmingham. All the major rock ‘n’ roll artists from America when I was growing up came to Birmingham. But my hero was Buddy Holly. The person that really turned me on to music was Buddy Holly. And the first record that I ever bought was “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets. He played at Birmingham Town Hall, and I was there in the front row in the balcony looking down at Buddy Holly.
When I toured England last year, I wanted to finish the tour at Birmingham Town Hall and stand where Buddy Holly stood and look up at the balcony and imagine a young Johnny Lodge sitting in the balcony looking down at Buddy Holly. It seemed to complete the circle for me. And in the dressing room there was a great big picture of Buddy Holly, so it made it really nice.
What do you like about him? Was it his guitar playing, or his voice or style?
“Before Buddy Holly, most of the really iconic rock ‘n’ roll singers from America, they were just larger than life. I think English people couldn’t really relate to that ... because they’re really flamboyant — people like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran. They were just massively iconic people.
But Buddy Holly came along, (and) there was a guy wearing glasses, writing his own songs, and performing them. And suddenly it was like, well, yeah, that’s the way to do it. Write your own songs.
So when I bought my first guitar, I’d spend hour after hour in my bedroom, learning all the chord sequences to Buddy Holly guitars and singing along. It was brilliant because it taught me the structure of songs.
Who are some artists you’ve had the chance to work with?
I’ve actually performed with Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, George Harrison, Ringo. I’ve done a concert with Don Felder from the Eagles, playing “Hotel California,” (and) Kenney Jones from the Who and the Small Faces.
Musicians, it’s a very parochial, a very small amount of people, really. And you get to know people and just have a great time.
Do you still enjoy being on the road?
After you get on stage, there’s a magic that happens between the audience and yourself. And that’s why I wrote a song called “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band),” where at the end of it, I have to say (that) we were just singers in a rock ‘n’ roll band. Because (whether on stage or in the audience), when we get together, it’s all about Moody Blues music.
What have been some personal highlights for you?
I think when we released an album called “Long Distance Voyager.” That was really the second start to Moody Blues. I remember we were in New York at Madison Square Garden when it went to No. 1. That type of thing is pretty special.