#52: The Voice by the Moody Blues
Born in 1941 in wartime England, Ray Thomas picked up harmonica at the age of nine. He was in the Birmingham Youth Choir and in October 1958 he joined a skiffle group called The Saints and Sinners. The band split up in June 1959. The Saints and Sinners helped Ray discover how well his vocals were received by audiences. Next, he formed El Riot and the Rebels, featuring Ray Thomas as El Riot dressed in a green satin Mexican toreador outfit. The band won a number of competitions in the Birmingham area. It was here that Ray became known for making an entrance onstage by sliding to center stage on his knees. On one occasion Thomas sent a row of potted tulips flying into the audience. El Riot and the Rebels appeared several times on a local variety show called Lunchbox. They made their debut on Lunchbox on November 14, 1962, and played “Guitar Tango” and “I Remember You”. Mike Pinder joined El Riot and the Rebels on keyboards. On April 15, 1963, El Riot and the Rebels performed at The Riverside Dancing Club in Tenbury Wells as the opening act for The Beatles. Pinder went off to serve in the British Army. When he returned, Thomas and Pinder left El Riot and the Rebels and formed a new band called the Krew Kats.
The Krew Kats played in Hamburg, Germany, for four months. They played at the Top Ten Club which The Beatles had made famous. But the Krew Kats didn’t see the money they were expecting. Thomas and Pinder had to walk 417 miles from Hamburg to the English Channel and borrow money for ferry fare back to England.
Once they were back in Birmingham, Thomas and Pinder were searching for other mates to form a new band. Seeing what was unfolding with the British Invasion, they signed up Denny Laine from The Diplomats on vocals and guitar. Clint Warwick, formerly with The Dukes, was on bass. For drums, they chose Graeme Edge, formerly with The Avengers. In addition to being lead singer, Thomas played flute and harmonica. Pinder was on keyboard and mellotron. Initially, they called the new band The Moody Blues Five. But within months they billed themselves as The Moody Blues.
The band recorded a single in November 1964 titled “Go Now”. In 1965, the single climbed to #1 on the UK singles charts and #5 in Vancouver. Though it stalled at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, it landed at position #50 for the Top 100 Year-end singles of 1965 published by Billboard in December ’65. The band went on tour as an opening act for The Beatles. Expectations were high for a big followup single. However, the next eight single releases were all flops. In 1966, Denny Laine left the Moody Blues and was replaced by Justin Hayward. Laine would later join Wings, Paul McCartney’s band, from 1971 to 1981. Clint Warwick left to become a carpenter and a steady replacement was eventually found with John Lodge.
Justin Hayward was born in 1946 in Swindon, UK. After playing in school bands, at the age of 15 he bought at Gibson 335 guitar. The instrument would feature in all his studio recordings with the Moody Blues. In 1965, Hayward was in the band with Marty Wilde and The Wild Life. Hayward had auditioned for The Animals. Though he didn’t get hired, Eric Burdon passed on Hayward’s name and demo’s to Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues. While John Lodge, also born in 1946, met Ray Thomas when he was 15 years old. They kept in touch and when Clint Warwick exited the band, Thomas was in touch with Lodge about becoming a new member.
In 1967, nine single releases after “Go Now”, “Nights in White Satin” was released. The song was written in March 1967. It climbed to #1 in the Netherlands, #5 in Austria and #6 in Switzerland and Belgium. However, it stalled at #19 in the UK and fared no better than #103, just beneath the Billboard Hot 100. The song would be reissued five years later in 1972 and become an international Top Ten hit.
The followup to the 1967 release of “Nights In White Satin” was “Tuesday Afternoon”, from the album Days Of Future Passed. It was a #3 hit in Vancouver in August 1968. Touring with material from the album was a challenge, unless the band lined up an orchestra to accompany them on stage. Next, the band released two singles from the album In Search of The Lost Chord. The second of these was “Ride My See-Saw”. On December 8, 1968, the Moody Blues appeared in concert at the PNE Garden Auditorium.
Their next album, On The Threshold Of A Dream, climbed to #1 on the UK album charts. It went platinum in Canada, however “Never Comes The Day” didn’t make it onto the pop charts. In 1969 the band released To Our Children’s Children. The album climbed to #2 on the UK charts and #14 on the Billboard 200 Album charts. But again, no single release was a commercial success. On November 9, 1969, the Moody Blues performed in concert at the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver.
A Question Of Balance climbed to #1 in the UK, #3 in the USA and sold platinum in Canada. Building on that success, Every Good Boy Deserves A Favor went to #1 in the UK in 1971, #2 in the USA and was certified platinum in Canada. It also featured the song, “The Story In Your Eyes.”
On September 29, 1971, the Moody Blues gave a concert in Vancouver at the Pacific Coliseum. In 1972, when “Nights In White Satin” became a #2 hit in the USA, Days of Future Passed became a #3 album on the Billboard 200 album chart.
In 1972, The Moody Blues released their eighth studio album, Seventh Sojourn. Again, the album was a best seller and accompanied by the Top 20 hit, “I’m Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)”. After a world tour with a band called Asia in 1973, the Moody Blues took a break while individual bandmates did some solo work. After a five year hiatus, in 1978 the band reunited to release Octave. Mike Pinder wasn’t happy with the album and opted out of the tour to support it. On May 24, 1979, the Moody Blues returned to Vancouver to perform at the Pacific Coliseum.
In 1981, they released Long Distance Voyager. The album was a chart-topping best seller in the USA and Canada. It went Top Ten in the UK and New Zealand. A single was released titled “Gemini Dream” which climbed to #1 in Vancouver. A followup single was titled “The Voice”.
“The Voice” was written by Justin Hayward. It is an appeal to listen to the voice inside of you and to be present to what it is saying. The narrator of the song implores: “With your arms around the future, and your back up against the past, you’re already falling. It’s calling you on to face the music.” As well, there is a lure to repeat what the voice is saying, confirming what the lover longs to hear: “Won’t you tell me again. Can you feel i? Oh won’t you tell me again, tonight.” As our hearts are “bound by a world of dreams,” we need to be conscious of the chemistry – heart, mind, desire – that needs to be expressed, over and over again. Without listening to what the voice is saying, and giving voice to what it offers, we can be lost in a past or a future and what anchors a loving relationship can cause a couple to drift apart. But, if a couple take control of their lives, and the unfolding events that face them, the turbulent ocean of life can be crossed with success.
“The Voice” peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC), Halifax (NS), and Winnipeg (MB), #2 in Regina (SK), Sherbrooke (PQ), and Montreal, #3 in Kansas City (MO), #4 in Toronto, Racine (WI), and San Jose (CA), #5 in Davenport (IA), #6 in Tacoma (WA), Bangor (ME), and Atlanta, #7 in San Bernardino (CA), Mesa (AZ), and St. Cloud (MN), #8 in Ottawa, #9 in Dallas, and Odessa (TX).
The third single release from Long Distance Voyager was “Talking Out Of Turn“.
In 1983 the Moody Blues had a Top 20 single in Vancouver titled “Sitting At The Wheel”. November 22 1983, and again on February 7, 1987, the Moody Blues appeared in Vancouver, each time at the Pacific Coliseum.
In 1986, the band had a Top Ten hit with “Your Wildest Dreams”. On March 18th, 1992, and later on November 19, 1992, the Moody Blues performed in concert in Vancouver both times at the Orpheum. The Moody Blues gave two concerts a year apart in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby in Deer Lake Park on September 10, 1993, and again on September 16, 1994. Then on May 17, 1996, the Moody Blues gave a concert at Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver. On August 18, 2001, and again on June 18, 2003, the Moody Blues performed in concert in Vancouver, both times at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. On August 18, 2001, and again on June 18, 2003, the Moody Blues performed in concert in Vancouver, both times at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The Moody Blues released their 16th studio album, December, in 2003. Clint Warwick died in 2004. On July 8, 2007, the Moody Blues were in concert at the Orpheum in Vancouver. On July 30, 2009, the Moody Blues gave a concert at the Centre For Performing Arts in Vancouver. The Moody Blues appeared in concert in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on October 7, 2011.
The Moody Blues have released four live albums, the most recent, Days of Future Passed Live, released in 2018. The live concert took place at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Ontario, in 2017.
On April 14, 2018, the Moody Blues were inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. Currently the Moody Blues’ John Lodge is scheduled for eleven concert dates in February and March 2020 across six states in the USA. Justin Hayward’s performance on the Blue Cruise – scheduled to depart Miami on April 1, 2020, for St Maarten, St. Thomas and Great Stirrup Cay – was postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The postponed cruise promises to include the Zombies, Art Garfunkel, Procol Harum, Dave Mason, Alan Parsons Project, Al Stewart, Poco, Deep Purple, Focus and the Strawbs – when things get back to normal.
March 8, 2023
Ray Thomas bio, Ray Thomas.co.uk.
Justin Hayward bio, Justin Hayward.com.
Andy Greene, “Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward on Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Honor: ‘It’s Amazing!’,” Rolling Stone, December 13, 2017.
Scott Mervis, “Denny Laine talks Wings, Moody Blues, ‘Band on the Run’ tour,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 3, 2017.
Pierre Peronne, “Clint Warwick: Bassist with the original line-up of the Moody Blues on their transatlantic hit ‘Go Now’,” Independent, UK, June 3, 2004.
George W. Harris, John Lodge: Isn’t Life Strange?, Jazz Weekly, January 1, 2018.
“Justin Hayward Interview,” The Ed Bernstein Show, April 13, 2018.
“C-FUN Top Thirty,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, September 26, 1981.
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