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The Moody Blues

Robert Downes - June 21st, 2010
The Moody Blues bring the power of poetry
By Robert Downes
Blasting, billowing, bursting forth
With the power of ten billion
butterfly sneezes
Man, with his flaming pyre
Has conquered the wayward breezes
Climbing to tranquility,
far above the clouds
Conceiving the heavens,
clear of misty shroud.

-- “Higher and Higher” by Graeme Edge

If your musical memory goes back to the late 1960s, chances are you
were awed by the advent of The Moody Blues, who combined psychedelia
with orchestral rock, hard-driving rhythms, electronica, science
fiction, poetry and cosmic themes over a succession of concept albums.
At the time, The Moody Blues occupied much the same trippy, “art rock”
territory as Pink Floyd, albeit with a lighter, more optimistic and
romantic point of view that played well on the radio airwaves of the
time. They performed with a whimsical orchestral/electronic
instrument known as a melotron and sang of the afterlife, outer space,
reincarnation, LSD and the search for the mysterious “lost chord.”
One defining link between each Moodies album was the poetry of drummer
Graeme Edge, who contributed what was then (and still is) an
enchanting confluence of the spoken word leading off some of the best
songs on albums such as “Days of Future Passed” “To Our Children’s
Children’s Children” and “Threshold of a Dream.” Edge’s accessible,
inspiring poetry gave the band “the power of ten billion butterfly
sneezes,” helping to engineer the sales of 70 million albums over the
past 45 years.
Today, speaking from his home in Florida, Edge, 69, is looking forward
to banging the skins once again on a 32-day tour that will include 25
gigs. The band plays Interlochen’s Kresge Auditorium this Saturday.
Edge was one of the founding members of the band in 1964, several
years before their heyday. “I still love playing live anywhere and
just l-o-v-e touring,” he says in an accent that is still thick with
his Birmingham, England roots. “I don’t love the traveling part of it,
but playing live is still one of my favorite activities.
“We like to work a lot because we tend to get into more trouble on our
nights off,” he adds with a laugh. “You have dinner and some wine and
before you know it you’re playing with a hangover the next night and
it hurts too much.”
You get the impression that Edge likes to party and has a great sense
of humor. Does he still write poetry as well?
“Yes, it’s tough getting published much these days because we’re not
releasing new albums at the moment, but I still write some stuff down.
You don’t actually finish anything though because then you tend to
start tampering with it and losing something in the expression.”
Edge has a scrapbook of writings that are ready to go on a moment’s
notice, however. In the meantime, he tends to step out from behind
the drums during the live shows to recite some of his poetic intros to

When the white eagle of the North
was flying overhead,
And the browns, reds and golds of
autumn lay in the gutter dead.
Remember then the summer birds
with wings of fire flame,
Come to witness springs new hope,
born of leaves decaying.
And as new life will come from death,
Love will come at leisure.
Love of love, love of life and giving
without measure,
Gives in return a wonderous yearn
for promise almost seen.
Live hand in hand
and together we’ll stand,
On the threshold of a dream.

-- “The Dream”

Speaking of drums, these days the original members of the Moody
Blues are augmented by the talents of several newcomers, including
flautist & rhythm guitarist Norda Mullen, Paul Bliss on
keyboards/guitar, and Bernie Barlow on keyboards/percussion. Drummer
Gordon Marshall has backed up Edge for the past 20 years, pumping up
the percussion. “Gordie has been a great help. I got to a stage where
I had to husband my resources and I don’t like playing like that,”
Edge says. “So I try to play flat out on a few favorite songs.”
Whatever happened to the Moodies’ songwriting streak that produced so
many hits through the years?
“We don’t have the management and the old record labels are all gone,”
Edge says, adding that the individual members of the band are kept
busy managing their own affairs and sifting through materials of the
past. The band also doesn’t care for the recording style of today’s
music industry. Edge notes that they used to spend a month or so
recording, but today the emphasis in the music business seems to be
more focused on “slapping something together in the studio.” They do
have a current re-release out, however: “The Moody Blues:  Live At
The Royal Albert Hall With The World Festival Orchestra.”
“Also, there’s the fact that we’re mature people now and have a life
other than rock and roll,” he says. “It’s not like back in the ‘60s
when the band consumed our whole lives. Recording really makes it all
a lot of work, and of course, albums aren’t selling now -- they’re
loss-leaders. We get plenty of attendance at our concerts and in
general, people don’t want to hear new stuff from us.”
In any event, the past 45 years have been one good ride for Edge and
the band. “I wouldn’t change anything,” he says. “One of the best
things about my job is to get up there on the stage and have people
say, ‘if that old fart can still do it, so can I!’”

Breathe deep, the gathering gloom,
watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people, look back and lament,
another useless day’s energy spent.
Impassioned lovers, wrestle as one,
lonely man cries for love, and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles
her son,
senior citizens, wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb, that rules the night,
removes the colors from our sight,
red is grey, and yellow, white.....
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion.

-- “Nights in White Satin”

The Moody Blues perform at Interlochen’s Kresge Auditorium this
Saturday, June 26 at
8 p.m.

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