Fifty years ago, Justin Hayward and John Lodge stepped into The Moody Blues and forever altered the British band’s history.
Largely an R&B outfit its first two years of existence, the band changed course in 1966 and recorded a song from one of the new guys – “Fly Me High,” a groovy toe-tapper written by Hayward.
The song wasn’t a hit, but it was a precursor to what followed on The Moodies’ landmark 1967 concept album, “Days of Future Passed,” with songs such as “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” cementing the band’s legacy.
To celebrate the milestone anniversary of singer-guitarist Hayward and bassist Lodge, they and original drummer Graeme Edge are on the month-long “Fly Me High” tour that is rolling primarily through the South.
The show – which includes four additional musicians backing up The Moodies – will unfold at The Fox Theatre on Saturday.
Hayward, who lives in the South of France when he isn’t zig-zagging around the world, chatted earlier this week from his hotel room in Orlando during a day off between concerts.
On being in The Moody Blues for 50 years:
“When I came to the band in the summer of 1966 I thought, I’ll give it a couple of months. Who’d have known? None of us had any money, I at least had an amplifier and some songs and my purpose was to get (the other musicians) to not be a. R&B band.”
On his relationship with Lodge and Edge:
“I think it’s an interesting relationship. I had a brother who died at 41 and people say, ‘(Being in a band) must be like family.’ But it’s not, curiously enough. It’s a relationship that is unique in that you had your 15 minutes of fame together. They’re kind of stuck with me. It is a curious relationship. It’s not something you kind of choose, but when you’re together you have this common purpose. It’s not friendship, and it’s not like a marriage, but you’ve shared something very deep together… We don’t hang out together at all (when not touring). They see enough of me!”
On touring in the South:
“It’s always been good to us, there. It’s a part of the world that’s very beautiful. I first traveled there in 1968 and was 20 years old and saw the moss hanging from the trees — it’s a very romantic part of America. My daughter studied American history at university and (the South is) steeped in history. As a kid, I just thought America was N.Y., L.A. and Lubbock, Texas, where Buddy Holly was born.”
On performing with the Moody Blues and performing solo:
“I’ve made them two completely different things. My solo thing is all acoustic with the wonderful Mike Dawes on guitar. He’s a great young guy; he is something special. I try to present the songs as I wrote them and took them into the studio. You can hear every nuance in my solo shows – I bring my guitars from home. The Moodies’ shows are great. They’re a lot louder because that’s the way it is, but it’s also just as enjoyable, I’m very lucky to have both opportunities.”
On technology interrupting live shows:
“It is sometimes rather hard. We don’t mind anyone taking pictures, but sometimes buildings do. (At our Clearwater, Fla., show), it was striking to me how many people see the concert through their phone. Maybe they just hold their phone up and watch the show at the same time!”
On what fans will hear at the concert:
“We’re doing ‘Fly Me High’ this time, of course. Our problem is never what we play but what we leave out! That’s the dilemma of being an album-selling band. The second half (of the show) is the greatest hits; I would hate it if I couldn’t play them.”
On why “Nights in White Satin” (which turns 50 next year) lives on:
“It does seem to have a life of its own, doesn’t it? When you do it in a concert, from my point of view, it takes on the emotions and feelings of the people in the audience. It’s a great pleasure. You can go anywhere in the world and do that song, even if they’ve never heard of the Moody Blues. I did some work in Russia a few years ago and I was amazed to hear that they knew that song. Bettye LaVette did a version of ‘Nights’ and she sent it to me when it was coming out (in 2010) and I listened to it in bed one morning and it really got me. My wife came in and said, ‘What is the matter with you?’ and I said, ‘It’s this version of ‘Nights.’’ I wrote it when I was 19 and I’m tempted to say I heard it for the first time when I was 65 when I heard someone else doing it. I wrote to her and thanked her.”
On whether “Nights in White Satin” is his masterpiece:
“Oh, I don’t know. All I know is that when we first started our own record label, our first single was ‘Watching and Waiting’ (in 1969) and people would say, ‘Can’t you just write another ‘Nights’?’ And I thought I had done that, but only occasionally do 5 million people agree with you. ‘Watching and Waiting’ came out and sold 10 copies. (Laughs) It’s totally subjective.”
On his listening choices:
“There are always some things that really get me, going back to Nat King Cole to Buddy Holly. People often say the music of today will never last, but it will, because people are always falling in love and enjoying it. There’s a record last year, Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Dime Store Cowgirl’… every time I play it, it lifts me up in the morning, Trevor Hall, I like him, too. There’s always something new.”
On plans for the rest of the year:
“I’m doing a solo tour for a couple of months after the Moodies (tour), then solo in the U.K. and Europe and back again with the band. We have a short residency at the Venetian in Las Vegas in October. Then we continue through November and then it’s into celebrating the anniversary of ‘Days of Future Passed’ and ‘Nights in White Satin.’”
The Moody Blues
8 p.m. Saturday. $37-$87. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, www.foxtheatre.org.