Moody Blues Bassist John Lodge on Stereo Sound, Having Hits and…Golfing?

Moody Blues bassist John Lodge was first introduced to rock ‘n’ roll via American artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, American movies (“The Girl Can’t Help It”). And then Buddy Holly, not only a songwriter but an artist whose music made John realize that there was harmony in music, too. John then made up his mind which road to follow.

John’s prolific songwriting for The Moody Blues has produced such hits as “Ride My See-Saw”, “Isn’t Life Strange”, (which won John an ASCAP songwritting award) “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band”, (which also won John an ASCAP songwriting award), “Steppin’ In A Slide Zone”, Talking Out Of Turn”, “Sitting At The Wheel”, “Lean On Me (Tonight)”, and co-writing “Gemini Dream”, winning him an ASCAP songwriting award.

After the Moodies took a break from touring and recording, John joined Justin in the making of the beautiful album Blue Jays in 1975 and they toured extensively in England. Following that, John and his family spent time sight-seeing in Europe and America, taking time to enjoy all the sights that had passed him by so quickly during the Moodies’ tours. Refreshed, John then worked on his first solo album Natural Avenue, which was released in 1977.

Since getting back together in 1978 for the album Octave, John has once more been a driving force behind The Moody Blues and his happy, engaging personality, and obvious enjoyment for performing on-stage, shows itself to his many fans. As a musician, he has always placed an emphasis in playing live and believes that the group’s stage performances have been the key factor in keeping the group’s unity and sense of purpose. He believes that the success of the band has been their willingness to travel the lesser-trodden paths in music, to stay true to their own feelings of direction, and to perform only their own material.

Eric: I want to go back, something that’s always intriguing about British bands is you guys were always great, you had to be great. You had to work hard, but one thing that stood out to me was the invention of the stereo and getting it into the UK homes. Especially since stereos were only really sold for people who loved classical music and then in 66 and 67 deca had come up with a dynamics stereo which features a wide spread of sound. It was clean, it was crisp. And the Moody Blues were perfect for that sound, right?
John: Yeah. What happened was, Sir Edward Lewis who was chairman of the Decca Record Company he also, for a little bit of history for everyone, he started the Decca Record Company in the USA as well before World War II. During WWII he had to give it back because foreigners were not allowed to own companies at that time. But Sir Edward always had this dream about building a stereo system that could be used to play in people’s homes to listen to music every day. So they invented these radiograms, two speakers on either side, record deck in the middle and then a radio. Then he wanted the software, as we call it today, to go with it. And he invented DSS sound system, or dynamic super sound or stereo sound and he wanted a band who he thought could actually make this work. They wanted to combine, as everyone knows now, classical music with what in England at the time was called pop-band. Rock and Roll bands were not allowed to be called that, you were called a Pop band. The Moody Blues were on the Deca Label and they asked us to do it. What’s interesting is, when we made Days of Future Past, which was our stage show, we put the orchestra on in between and Peter and I did a beautiful job with the intro and the outro. We actually mixed it in stereo and if anyone who’s got the original albums, they’ll see that there’s a little hole in the top right hand corner. It was only in stereo and it was only after the record started to gain popularity that we were asked to go and re-mix it in mono. We had to go back and remix it and I think those albums have a little red dot on them to signal them as mono. You’re right, as far as I know, Deca were the first people to have home stereo hardware and software.

Eric: It’s amazing to think about. Usually, with The Beatles now, their next box set is going back to the mono stuff. Was a record label, I know Deca understood the band from the top. They knew what they were getting. But did they even know how to market the band at the time?
John: When we finished the album, we had a playback in the studio and we put the speakers in the studio itself, not the control room. We put the speakers in the studio and we invited all our friends, girlfriends, record company. We played the album to everyone and I’ve got to be honest, when I heard it finished, it was like gee, what have we done?
Eric: In a bad way?
John: No, in an unrelieved way. It was so different, because we had been playing in nightclubs and we knew we did in the nightclubs. You knew what everyone else was doing. Suddenly, this was a totally different type of album. It was a few days later when the record company had no idea what to do with it. They thought they were getting a sampler album out to show everyone what stereo was. We had a meeting with the record company and fortunately for two people at the meeting. One was the head of classical, a beautiful man called Hugh Mandel, the other person was the vice president of London Records in New York who was over in England at the time and he heard the album and the two of them got it. They understood it. But the A&R department at Deca had no idea. They didn’t get it at all. So we had another meeting with Sir Edward Lewis with everyone and the A&R department, Hugh Mendel. But the president chairman Sir Edward Lewis just said to everyone else at the meeting. I’d like to dismiss everyone in the A&R department from the meeting and just want to keep the band. He turned around to the other manager of the record company and said, whatever these boys are doing, let them do it.
Eric: To have that kind of control was rare back then. Very few record labels had the philosophy of ‘Uou do what you do, we’ll do what we do and if we both do our jobs it’ll be fine.’ Back then, you guys were kind of creating the album format as we know it. For a lot of teenagers, this was probably their first time listening to a whole record as a concept piece.
John: I think so. You have to remember, those times the same as in America it was very rare that an artist was allowed in the studio. A lot of them had session musicians working and everything else. Also, when you got into the studio, there would be three hours sessions. 9-12, 1-4 and then 5-9 or something like that. You had to book a three hour session. For the chairman of Deca recode, he used to say, let them do what they want. They can have the studio 24 hours away, which we did! We found our creative part was really in the evening and early morning when there’s no distractions and lots of quietness and we could get on with it. We had the luxury of having a total lock out in the studio, we could be in there as long as we liked.
Eric: When I got into the band it was in the early 80s. I was 11, 12 years old. It just seemed like all these bands that I heard of going back, it was you, YES, Genesis, all of these bands just started having monster hits. “Gemini Dreams,” and “In Your Wildest Dreams.” What happened? It’s wasn’t a case of the band just got better. You were always great, but somewhere along the line, it seemed like a lot of these bands started writing…pop hits? Did you consciously start writing songs for the radio or shorter songs?
John: I think what happened, when we started we wanted to make records. So we were in the studio, writing and recording songs and albums. Finding the theme, making it. When we toured in the early 70s, we just toured for 2-3 weeks just to promote the album, do radio shows and a few live concerts. Then television shows, interviews. Then when we stopped working together in 1974, we got back together and record for an album called Octave, when we finished it we didn’t know how it was going to be received it was the year of punk music and everything else. Suddenly, we had another platinum album. I think it took us by surprise and then the touring industry changed. Suddenly we were asked to do 5,6,7,8 week tours. Then we started touring, and the influence of the touring changed the philosophy in a way. Where before, any contact with the audience was through our records. We didn’t have a one to one contact, we knew people were listening to the music, but we didn’t see the reaction to it. We weren’t there listening with them. But I think when you’re on stage, you’re suddenly in front of 8,10, 20 thousand people and you have this instant reaction with the audience. It’s like “Gemini Dream,” after the tour we started writing, Justin and I. I think the working title of “Gemini Dream” was touring the USA. I think thats what it was all about. We suddenly realized, as well as making records, we were making music that was going to a live audience. So I think that’s where most of the English bands changed philosophy in the 80s. Also, I think there was a slight change. In the 80s you started having a lot of electronic music and what I call the Japanese music or the arpeggiators, everything formatted. I think a lot of the English bands reverted back to who they were by playing live. Zeppelin just became bigger and bigger.

Eric: I was dumbfounded by doing some research, you love golf.
John: Yes, I do.
Eric: You’ve got an audio cassette called Rhythm of the Swing which helps fellow golfers improve their game. Since it’s the British Open and my dad listens to the show and he is such a golf fanatic. I hate golf, I can’t play it, and I’m horrible at it. What is your best tip out there for me, my dad and everyone listening?
John: Golf for me is great sport. What I like about it is its you and you alone, no one else. I found it was fantastic when I was in the studio writing, I’m going up a wrong road with either recording or writing. If I go out for an hour and I just concentrate on playing golf, me on my own. If there’s one tip I’d always give, when you’re putting with your dad, hold your breath. Don’t breathe. Stop breathing. Completely stop breathing. You can use that technique for everything. Stop breathing when you are going to hit the ball, stop breathing before you start singing, stop breathing before everything because – to me, it’s instant Karma. If you stop breathing before you do a show, like your radio show, before you start stop breathing. If you look at all the great athletes, if you stand there. Before they run 100 meters, you see them breathe in and then they don’t breathe.

Eric: I have a feeling if I stop breathing on the golf course, then it’ll stop all the people behind me asking me what I’m doing.
John: Maybe. But at least you’ll be having a better time than before!

Catch The Moody Blues here:
Thu 03/19/15 Worcester, MA The Hanover Theatre For The Performing Arts
Fri 03/20/15 Port Chester, NY The Capitol Theatre
Sat 03/21/15 Port Chester, NY The Capitol Theatre
Sun 03/22/15 Wallingford, CT Toyota Presents The Oakdale Theatre
Tue 03/24/15 Lancaster, PA American Music Theatre
Wed 03/25/15 Rochester, NY Rochester Broadway Theatre
Fri 03/27/15 Westbury, NY NYCB Theatre At Westbury
Sat 03/28/15 Westbury, NY NYCB Theatre At Westbury
Wed 04/01/15 Niagara Falls, ON Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
Thu 04/02/15 Niagara Falls, ON Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort
Fri 04/03/15 Newark, NJ New Jersey Perf. Arts Center
Sat 04/04/15 Atlantic City, NJ Caesars Atlantic City
Tue 04/07/15 Akron, OH E.J. Thomas Hall
Wed 04/08/15 Columbus, OH Palace Theatre
Thu 04/09/15 Merrillville, IN Star Plaza Theatre
Wed 04/22/15 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre
Fri 04/24/15 Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
Sun 04/26/15 Oakland, CA Fox Theater
Tue 04/28/15 San Jose, CA City National Civic Of San Jose
Wed 04/29/15 Santa Rosa, CA Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
Fri 05/01/15 Rancho Mirage, CA The Show At Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa
Sat 05/02/15 Temecula, CA Pechanga Resort & Casino
Sun 05/03/15 Las Vegas, NV Pearl Concert Theater
Tue 05/05/15 Los Angeles, CA Greek Theatre
Wed 05/06/15 San Diego, CA Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge & Club
Fri 05/08/15 Scottsdale, AZ Talking Stick Resort
Sat 05/09/15 Albuquerque, NM Route 66 Casino
Sun 05/10/15 Morrison, CO Red Rocks Amphitheatre