An Interview With
Moody Blues Bassist
Set To Play Solo Show
At Music Box
Newly-inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member from the Moody Blues, John Lodge is set to play an intimate solo show at The Music Box Supper Club on October 25th.
Lodge is out supporting his live album and DVD titled John Lodge: Live From Birmingham-The 10,000 Light Years Tour.
We had the chance to chat with John and talk about his career, his long-overdue induction into the Rock Hall and of course, his upcoming appearance at The Music Box.
Greg Drugan: Hi John! First I want to congratulate you on your long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
John Lodge: Thank you very much! Thank you.
GD: What was your experience in Cleveland like during Hall of Fame weekend?
JL: It was brilliant! We had three days there and they are very gracious, the people there. I didn't realize, coming from England, how important the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was really. I knew it was big, but there is an emotion there that is really something. Rock and Roll came from America and went to England, we repackaged it and sent it back! You've got the Hall of Fame and it's something very special. Once we were there and standing there among the people and the fans, especially during the concert that evening, it was definitely a night to remember.
GD: I got to attend the awards ceremony and I thought you guys sounded fantastic! Usually there is a jam session at the end, do you know why there wasn’t one?
JL: I think it was because it ran a bit long. I think it was time to end, but I was looking forward to the jam session. I don't think we went on until 11:00.
GD: I believe that's right. Was there someone you would have looked forward to playing with if there was one at the end? I think you guys and The Cars would have been a great mash-up.
JL: Yeah, The Cars would have been great! Bon Jovi would have also been great. I love the energy and the songs they do. Richie Sambora, I've never met him before and we seemed to get on quite well. Who knows what we could have done together.
GD: Now that you have a vote, is there anyone that you would like to see get inducted?
JL: I've got to think about that, because there are so many people. I'm gonna look at that list because there are so many people that I've grown up with that haven't been inducted. We've played with everyone, touring through America and the rest of the world, really.
GD: Looking back on your career, what made you decide to pick up the bass?
JL: I wrote a song about it on the album called "Those Days in Birmingham." When I was in school, there was a cafe at lunch time and they had a jukebox in there which played the latest 45's from America. There were songs from artists like Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis. I was listening to the songs obviously, but there was a different sound coming out of this 12-inch speaker, which we didn't have in England except in jukeboxes. I realized that it was the left-hand side of the piano that was driving these songs and it intrigued me. I started learning all of these riffs, but I didn't have a bass guitar, I didn't know what a bass guitar was! I just started playing them on the bottom four stings of my electric guitar.
The first time I ever saw a bass guitar was when I saw an American group called The Treniers. I saw this guy standing at the back and I thought he was playing a white Telecaster guitar, but then I saw that it only had four strings. Then one day I was in a Birmingham, as you do on a Saturday morning, I went to a music store and there it was in the window, direct from America: A Fender Songbird Precision bass! That was it! That bass has played on every Moody Blues song that I've recorded. Every one! "Tuesday Afternoon," "Isn't Life Strange," everything!
GD: That's amazing! The same bass on every song!
JL: The same bass! And it plays beautifully today. I don't take it on the road because I'm scared it will get damaged or whatever. I've got a replica Jazz bass that I play but the original Precision bass is just beautiful.
GD: Do you remember the first artist you saw in concert and how did that impact you?
JL: The first artist I ever saw was an English guy called Cliff Richard. He had a song called "Move It" which was just brilliant English rock and roll. The first people I saw from America were Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, of course. I saw Buddy Holly when I was thirteen. Rock and Roll was a lot bigger in England than it was in America, to be honest. In the sixties you had what was called "bubble gum" music. It was really pop. But real rock and roll was happening in England. Gene Vincent came to England and I was actually going to play in Gene Vincent's English Blue Caps. I wrote a song for him, unfortunately he never recorded it, but it's just been recorded and released on a tribute album to Gene Vincent. They was interesting times!
GD: Were you a Beatles guy or a Stones guy in the early '60s?
JL: The thing is, we grew up with all of them. The Beatles just released "Love Me Do" and we had our own band called El Riot and the Rebels, which was just prior to the Moody Blues. We were always at the top of the bill out in the country near Wales. The promoter said, "We have someone at the top of the bill this week and they've just released a record called 'Love Me Do'." It was The Beatles! I've still got the photograph from that night of The Beatles and us. It was 1963!
I was more of a rock 'n roller. We all grew up with The Beatles and The Stones. We all played concerts together. I was never either a Beatles or Stones, we were all a part of the same- Kings Road, London.
GD: Were you originally schoolmates with Ray Thomas? Did he give you a call when the bass position became available in the band?
JL: No, Ray lived not far from me in Birmingham, England. I was learning to play my guitar and I met Ray on a bus. I had heard he was a singer, so we started talking and said "Let's get together." And that's what we did! I was fifteen and we were friends right to the very end.
What happened was we had a band before The Moody Blues called El Riot and the Rebels and Ray Thomas was El Riot and I was one of the Rebels. We were together for four years. I'm younger than the other guys and I was still at college. When they decided to put The Moody Blues together, they asked me to join the band. They were going to be professional and move to London but I still had eighteen months of college. I wanted to be a car designer but that went by the way-side with my music. I like to finish things that I start so I told Ray, "Nah, I'm going to finish my college and then see what happens." Of course they had "Go Now" and then a year later, Ray rang me up and he always called me Rocker. He said, "Hey Rocker! Have you finished college yet?" I said, "Yeah, I've just finished." He said "Well, get in the car and come down to London, we're putting the old band back together." It was as simple as that.
GD: That's amazing! You and Justin joined the band at about the same time. Immediately the two of you collaborated on what many consider to be the first progressive rock album, Days Of Future Passed. Did you realize that it was going to be a game changer when you were writing it?
JL: We knew it was different, but we had no idea it was going to be a game changer. When we played it for the record company, they had no idea what to do with it, none whatsoever! There were two people, one from London Records in America and the other from Decca Records in London, a guy called Hugh Mendel, who knew what we were up to. They dismissed everyone else, people in the A & R department, everyone! They said we know what's this record's about and the rest is history. They understood it and they got behind it.
GD: You guys were pretty prolific by releasing six albums in the next five years. Did the constant writing, recording and touring cause the band to take a hiatus in the mid-seventies?
JL: I think what happened in the mid-seventies, well it's strange because we have an album called Seventh Sojourn which was the last one. "Sojourn," of course, means to take a break and seventh is also the end of the week or the beginning of the next one. We didn't realize it at the time, but when we got together in the the sixties, there were five of us in the band and a roadie. By 1974, we had touring companies, we had our own record company, we had offices, a string of record shop stores we had across the south of England. We had forgotten the most basic thing, we stopped talking to each other! We shared all the same emotions and experiences together, we really didn't have anything to say to each other. We said, let's take a break and get rid of the clutter. We did! We waited until the time was right to get back together then we put out Octave.
GD: However, you still had a lot of music in you by releasing the Blue Jays record with Justin and your first true solo record in 1977. Do you have a favorite song from either of those records?
JL: Probably "Say You Love Me" because it was an interesting song from my point of view. From Blue Jays, there's a lot of songs on there that I like, but there's a song called "You" which is really who we were. Guitars and bass and vocals. It ran on it's own.
During the live concerts, it gives me an opportunity to do songs that we don't normally do in The Moodies. I do "Saved By The Music" and I get the audience to participate with me and it works really great live.
GD: That's a great song. The band decided to get back together and you had tremendous success in the 1980s. I read that you are the first band to have your first three Top Ten singles in a different decade. That’s phenomenal, did you know about that?
JL: (laughs) Statistics! You never know, but I've had a few people come up and tell us that you've that many albums on the charts in 1973. I'd be like, "Did we really?"
GD: You took thirty-eight years between solo albums. What made you decide to release 10,000 Light Years Ago a few years ago?
JL: It was vinyl records making a come back. It's the "180 gram." For me, vinyl is the sound. You get a beautiful sound from vinyl records, it's totally different than CD, totally different than downloads. It's a bit like American radio. When I first came to America, American radio sounded so different than English radio. They could be playing the same records, but it didn't sound the same! It sounded so good in America! It still does! You can sit in the car, and listen to American radio and it sounds so different than anywhere else. And vinyl to me is exactly the same. So I thought, yep, I'm gonna go start recording and I'm going to make a vinyl record. I love the whole thing about the double gate-fold, it's loaded with information. People can read who played what. It's just a different thing all together.
GD: I absolutely love grabbing a vinyl record, putting it on and reading the liner notes.
You've been in the music business quite a long time; what gives you the energy to keep going?
JL: I love music, I love playing. Have bass will travel. I play every day. I've got my guitar, my bass and a grand piano sitting there. Every time I walk past, I pick something up and play. I just enjoy it! It's just been an incredible vehicle in my life.
GD: What is your favorite song to perform live?
JL: Ummm, in The Moodies probably "Nights In White Satin" because that was the first song, really, that we recorded. It was the first song that we knew. It was totally different than anything else that anyone else was doing. It was four-and-a-half minutes long, which is one-and-a-half minutes too long for radio. (laughs) For my solo things, I enjoy "I'm Just A Singer In A Rock and Roll Band" because that's who I am. I love the energy and excitement of it. But for the more intricate songs, I would say "Isn't Love Strange." It takes a lot of concentration, not just from me but from everyone in the band. They've really got to be spot on to make it work.
GD: A few years ago, you guys started "The Moody Blues Cruise.” How did that come about and how are those shows different than a regular Moody Blues show?
JL: Well, we were invited to be on a cruise many, many years ago and we kept saying no. To be honest, I've always thought that being on a cruise was the end of your career. (laughs) I didn't realize that it's a floating vessel and there's something really magical about them. We've done four Moody Blues Cruises and next year, in February I will be doing Close To The Edge with my band and Yes and a bunch of prog-rock bands. It's a really special period of time because people are there for the music! It's a cruise on a ship, and you're going to see other things, but when you're walking around the ship there's music playing all the while and it's fabulous!
GD: I’ve never been on a cruise, but now you’ve got me intrigued. So, you will be performing in Cleveland at the end of the month, what can fans expect from this show?
JL: You should go, you'll enjoy it.
As I said, we'll be doing some songs that I don't do with The Moodies, we'll do a tribute to Ray and to Mike by doing a couple of their songs. Songs that The Moody Blues will never play again, I don't think. I still want that music to be played, so I'm going to play it. There's some songs from The Blue Jays. It's a two hour show and hopefully I'll take the audience on a journey with me.
GD: That sounds great! John, I look forward to seeing you at The Music Box; sounds like it’s going to be fun. Thank you so much for taking the time with me this afternoon. I know it's evening over in England, so I really appreciate it.
JL: My pleasure! Greg, all the best and you take care!
Be sure to catch this Hall of Famer in the intimate setting of The Music Box Supper Club. Fans can also purchase tickets and Meet and Greet passes by clicking here!