Gary James' Interview With Justin Hayward Of
The Moody Blues
For more than 40 years, Justin Hayward has performed and recorded with The Moody Blues, selling some 70 million albums in the process. He wrote "Nights In White Satin", "Tuesday Afternoon", "The Voice", and "Your Wildest Dreams". When we caught up with Justin Hayward he was out on the road promoting his "Spirits... Live" CD, which was recorded 'live' at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta.
Q - I interviewed quite a few people who were touring in the '60s and '70s. When they compare touring today with back then, they find touring today to be a nightmare. How do you find touring to be today?
A - I find it much easier than it was in the old days. I enjoy it much more now.
Q - Is that because you are not taking the gear with you from city to city? Someone else provides it?
A - No. On my own solo tours I have one bus and one truck. On The Moodys tour, because it's a bigger production then we have, two buses and two trucks. And the buses are beautiful. They become your home. I keep a record of every hotel room I've ever liked. So that's a useful thing. So, I can go back to not only the same hotel, but the same room because I've been on the road for so long. I enjoy it very much. It's a kind of a Gypsy life. I mean, I enjoy bits of it. There are other times when if you're sitting in a grubby dressing room with "Lemmy Was Here" written on the wall at about four in the afternoon, you think, Oh, the Hell, but I get over that.
Q - I actually interviewed Lemmy!
A - Yeah, well that's fine. I'm sure he was charming.
Q - I interviewed him in one of those clubs you are talking about.
A - In that case, if you're an acquaintance I'm sure he wouldn't write "Lemmy Was Here". It's sort of a metaphor, a euphemism of what does get written on the walls.
Q - If it's true that the record company business has collapsed and you release a CD and can't expect to make any money, where does the money come from to fund Justin Hayward or The Moody Blues to be on the road? Is the money coming from the concerts and / or the merchandising?
A - I think that the groups that were able to make some magic in a room will always survive. We have always been a touring band and I think that's set us in good stead now. In fact, I think we are offered more work now than we ever were in the '60s and '70s. I think we could work every night now. So, we are very lucky. The thing that keeps us together is the love of the music and we're left with the three guys in the band who really like to do that, to tour, to experience and share their songs every night. I don't think royalties have completely collapsed. That would be completely wrong to say that because there is always going to be somebody that will work out a way. Most really young people that I know consider that all music should be free because it is to them. They can go to YouTube and find a great version of what ever you put out and immediately put it on to their iTunes for free. But I still think there's people like me around who would want to pay the $.99 for a beautiful quality version and so it's still there.
Q - Before The Moody Blues you were with Marty Wilde and his wife. You were with them a year, a year and a half.
A - That's right.
Q - How successful was that group?
A - Well, Marty was one of the great Rock stars in the UK in the late '50s and early '60s. He was up there with Cliff Richard. So it was a great privilege to work with him. I was working with the master, really. I was 17 when I joined Marty. He would have been 21. So really we were both just kids. I joined first as a member of his group called The Wildcats, but then Marty wanted to do something that just involved his own songs and I think he thought the best people for that were myself and Joyce, his wife, who was a member of The Vernons Girls, which was a Liverpool group of backing singers. They had a good repertoire in those days and were very well known. Did a lot of sessions. But that was a wonderful experience for me. It was kind of a baptism of fire, almost going straight from school to that, sometimes three gigs a night doing clubs. We did a combined overseas entertainment tour for the United Nations and the British military all over the Middle East. That was when I found out the British weren't really popular in the Middle East, (laughs) for all of the occupying of the Middle East countries that they did, but that's all gone now. I learned so much with Marty. When I was with Marty he told me the best way to survive in the business was to create your own style and write your own songs, which is what I started to do then. By the time I moved on from Marty and he moved on from me really and what he was doing, then I think I thought of myself mainly as a songwriter and put all my energies into trying to promote my songs. That's how I came to The Moodys. I sent my songs actually to Eric Burdon, to somebody in his office that I knew, and that's how it came to Mike Pinder.
Q - Marty gave you some great advice. That's why the British Invasion happened. Those groups wrote their own songs.
A - Absolutely. Until The Beatles, all these sort of Rock artists relied on teams of writers or other writers to provide them with material. That was kind of risky. Then The Beatles changed everything really and I was lucky to be in London in the center of it when The Beatles happened and even luckier to get the call from Mike to join him and the other guys. The Moodys knew The Beatles and were mixing in those circles. It was a very small community really in the '60s. People think it was thousands of people in the center of London, Swingin' London, but it was really a relatively small community of 300 or 400 people and you knew most of 'em.
Q - Weren't The Moody Blues with The Beatles' management, Brian Epstein?
A - Yeah. In fact they were when I joined The Moodys. We were with Brian for a few months when I joined.
Q - You joined when?
A - August 1966. I think the first things we did together were in September and October.
Q - Was the falling out between The Moody Blues and Brian because the group thought Brian would be their personal manager and in fact it was Alistair Taylor who was managing their career?
A - I don't think anybody in The Moodys expected Brian to manage us personally and Alistair was a lovely man and is a lovely man. But it's just that, that organization was just centered around The Beatles. Really they just weren't kind of getting any work. We went then to my old agent, which was a man called Colin Berlin, and that changed everything for us.
Q - I don't understand Brian Epstein's thinking. If everything was centered around The Beatles, why then did he take on Gerry And The Pacemakers, The Fourmost, Cilla Black. There are only so many hours in a day. How could he give his undivided attention to everybody?
A - Well, I don't know whether that's right because I visited the office several times. It was a big office, a big functioning office. Of course it had to handle The Beatles, but in truth The Beatles weren't doing very much. They were in the studio all the time and after 1966 they weren't touring anyway. There was a lot for the office to do. You're right in saying The Beatles were Brian's first love, but his organization was doing well. It's just that they didn't put their minds to getting us much work. And we had to survive. Only three months after I joined I was living back with my parents because we had no money. We were just trying to work for petrol, gas for the car. That was about it.
Q - Did you ever have the chance to sit down and talk with Brian Epstein?
A - I was in his company. You can take that for what it means. (Laughs). I probably did say something, but I was in his company.
Q - How did you find him to be?
A - I found him to be gentle and a gentleman. It would be unfair of me to say anymore than that.
Q - According to Rolling Stone's Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll, "If it were not for The Moody Blues purchase of a mellotron in 1967, The Moody Blues might never have been heard from again." How fair of a statement is that?
A - Very fair.
Q - Was it just pure luck that you purchased a mellotron?
A - No. I was having some success with my songs with the band. We did one great record called "Fly Me High" before the mellotron. We made a few recordings at our own expense, but one that really pricked up the ears of Decca's executive producers was "Fly Me High". That was the best thing we did pre-mellotron. It was just that Mike and I were the first people to write the songs with the group. As you know, before the change where Clinton and Denny left, really the band was doing cover versions and relying on producers to find them, particularly Denny Cordell, to find them songs. Mike was thinking of a very different route for The Moodys to go, and it was very brave. I was a huge fan of Mike. He was the one who brought me to the band and he was a great musician, a lovely guitar player. A beautiful voice as you know, but what he was doing was very different than what had gone before and so was my stuff. You certainly couldn't have called it Rhythm & Blues at all. So, we were struggling to make the songs work. It wasn't a chance thing of stumbling across it. Mike worked for Mellotronics. He said, "I know this instrument and it could really work." We found one at the Dunlop Social Center in Birmingham and I went with Mike, actually with a roadie, to go and find this mellotron. We found it stuffed up in the corner and paid 25 Pounds for it and brought it back down to London. I can only really speak for myself. It made my songs work with The Moodys and the other guys became much more interested in the songs that Mike and I were doing when we had this. "Nights In White Satin" for instance; I wrote "Nights" after a gig. I came home from a gig, 4 o'clock in the morning. I sat on the side of the bed in a small flat I was sharing, in a one bedroom flat I was sharing with Graeme. He was sleeping in the lounge. I was in the bedroom. I did the basic song and I took it into play to the other guys the next morning where we kept our equipment and I played it through a couple of times and the other guys were like, "Yeah, that's all right." Mike said, "Play it again." I played it a gain and everybody became interested. So that was the difference it made to my songs in one small example.
Q - It took you how long to write that song?
A - About five minutes. I'm only talking about the two versus. I was at the end of one big love affair and the beginning of another. When you are 19 years old, that's quite heavy.
Q - Those words, "Nights In White Satin", that's different.
A - I know it's different. I never thought about, well this is going to be heard for years. It was just a series of thoughts of a young guy who was desperately in love with one person and desperately falling in love with another. Fortunately we were surrounded by some beautiful girls in those days that really looked after us. The girls around us then have gotten no credit over the years, but they were a great inspiration to us.
Q - Did you see the British Invasion long before it hit the American shores? Did you say to yourself, "This is going to take the world by storm"?
A - Yeah. In the '60s we were only getting 20 pounds a night, each group. So there were no stadium acts as you know that. We were just playing clubs and ballrooms. There were always four or five acts on a night. You were only expected to do a half hour spot or something and there would be at least three bands. So you knew everybody. Everybody knew each other. Nobody needed to be introduced because you had seen them at gigs. There were only certain clubs in London and everybody was in London whether they were from Liverpool, Manchester or whatever. They were all in London. They all came to London. And so there were only a handful of clubs you would go to after a gig and you'd see all the guys there. I knew they were great, but at the same time in 1967 along came Buffalo Springfield and of course The Beach Boys were already there.
Q - Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin.
A - Yeah. It was a wonderful time. Not so wonderful personally, but musically it was a wonderful time.
Q - Not wonderful personally? Why would that be?
A - 'Cause it was a tough life living from hand to mouth. Like I said at the very beginning, traveling was very difficult in cars. We didn't stay in hotels. Couldn't afford hotels. There were no buses that were nice to travel in. It was very difficult. We were on a lousy royalty from Decca, although we had great studio time. So it wasn't the easiest of lives, until the late '70s it started to turn around.
Q - You said you were getting 20 pounds a night. What was that equivalent to in American dollars back then?
A - $35.
Q - I suppose that went a long way 50 years ago.
A - Well, you could just buy petrol and then get something to eat. It was hand to mouth. You needed three gigs at 25 pounds in each week and you could survive. Better than working!
Q - That's right. Nobody applauds when you work.
A - Yeah. (Laughs).
Q - Do you ever get tired of singing "Nights In White Satin"?
A - No. That's a wonderful thing to be able to share. "Tuesday" is the same. There is another song called "Your Wildest Dreams" and I'm getting tired of playing that and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere".
Q - And now you're out on the road with your solo tour.
A - My solo thing has been a joy to play acoustic. I've found an exceptional player in a guy called Mike Dawes. You won't believe his playing. He's a dear friend. Young boy. Just to be on the road with him is a real pleasure. So, that's great.