I can only remember having one proper fight in my life. I was probably about nine years old and the fight was with Michael Mobbs outside the newsagents on The Green, a small row of shops in Winchmore Hill, near where we lived. I can’t remember what the fight was about but I do remember rolling on the pavement, throwing a few punches and walking away, bruised, angry and embarrassed. Michael Mobbs was one of my good friends, partly because he was another Michael M. At the time, I didn’t have the social skills to make our falling out last. The next day, we just got on with playing football together in the playground. If I’d had more social skills, I would have got everybody else to gang up on him and call him a “flipping idiot”, which was about the worst insult at the time. I could have “cut off my nose to spite my face” and sulked and not played football. Or, these days, I could have posted something on social media. Luckily, none of these things happened because they never occurred to me. It wasn’t that I was so mature and I didn’t let the fight affect me – it was that I was so immature that I didn’t know how to behave any differently so I resumed our friendship. I lost touch with him when we moved to Kent two years later and the last I heard of him, he was an accountant in Reading.
I’m glad that I did maintain our friendship because it meant that I went to his eleventh birthday party in January 1965 which was the first time I heard “Go Now” by The Moody Blues. By this time, I was playing only Beatles records but I liked this single. It felt slightly treacherous to like another group other than The Beatles, but I subsequently bought the single and played it non stop. Well, not exactly, non stop but I probably played it as often as I played “I Feel Fine”. Little did I know that a few years later I would be insisting that my Dad listen to Moody Blues’ records because I knew he would like them – they were orchestral and he liked classical music. It was only after he expressed his opinion that I discovered the meaning of the word “pretentious”.
I didn’t buy “Days Of Future Passed” when it came out. In fact, I never owned a vinyl copy. I’m not sure why. I had their second, third and fourth albums but never went back to buy their first. That’s a shame because it’s excellent and luckily, I have the Deluxe CD reissue, released in 2017.
Denny Laine was a member of The Moody Blues when they recorded “Go Now”. As well as releasing ten solo albums, he was a member of Wings during the Seventies. He was replaced by Justin Hayward in 1966 and the band went through a transition at this time. Before joining The Moody Blues, Mike Pinder had worked for a company that manufactured mellotrons and in 1966, through his contacts, he was able to buy one for £300 (one tenth of the normal cost). The use of the mellotron was to transform the sound of the group, moving from an R’n’B sound to a progressive or underground sound. The impetus for this change of direction came after a gig at the Fiesta Club in Stockton-On-Tees when a member of the audience came backstage and said “You’re the worst band I’ve ever seen in my life. I take the wife out every Thursday night, spend two pounds and ten shillings and you’ve bloody terrible. I just thought someone should tell you.” On reflection, the members of the band agreed and thus the course of rock music changed forever. Or not, depending on your point of view. If I had the opportunity to develop this argument over a few beers I would maintain that The Moody Blues first four albums were a huge influence on such English bands as Genesis, Yes, ELO, Deep Purple and King Crimson. I know some people who would say that, in that case, The Moody Blues have a lot to answer for but I do think that they bridged the gap between the pop sensibilities of The Beatles and the pomposity of the bands mentioned above without ever indulging in egocentric virtuosity.
The Moody Blues had a contract with Decca and they owed money in lieu of the advances they had been given. In 1967, Decca wanted to promote their new stereo recording system called Deramic Stereo Sound. The Moody Blues were offered a chance to record a rock version of Dvorak’s New World Symphony with The London Festival Orchestra. Decca felt that a record showing how both rock and classical music could be presented in improved stereo would be a good showcase. Luckily, the conductor of The London Festival Orchestra, Peter Knight, was open minded enough to accept the group’s request to record their own songs instead of Dvorak’s. The result was “Days Of Future Passed” which consists of eight songs composed by members of the group, linked together with orchestral pieces. There’s also an overture called “The Day Begins” which contains themes from all the subsequent songs.
The titles of the tracks describe the passing of a day. The titles are “The Day Begins”, “Dawn”, “The Morning”, “Lunch Break”, “The Afternoon”, “Evening” and “The Night”. These tracks include such songs as “Peak Hour” and “Nights In White Satin”. The former is the most upbeat song on the album and includes an orchestral start which reminds me of a Sixties documentary film showing groovy young chaps showing off their cars to beautiful women.
The most well known song here is “Nights In White Satin”. It was written by Justin Hayward after a girlfriend gave him a gift of satin bedsheets. He has said that it is a very personal song and every word has a special meaning for him.
The title “Days Of Future Passed” was given to The Moody Blues by the label. I’ve been trying to think what it means. Luckily, I can find an interpretation by searching Wikipedia. “Days of Future Past” is a story from a 1981 comic in the X-Men series. An adult travels back in time to try to prevent a cataclysmic event occurring. This storyline was used to write the script for a 2014 film in which someone’s consciousness is sent 50 years back in time to change history. However, by changing history, the future from which he came no longer exists and so he needs to quickly learn 50 years of history. I wonder if the writers were inspired by the clip of Ray Thomas’ bare chest playing a flute at The Isle Of Wight? There’s probably a significant difference between future days being past and future days being passed. The title of Moody Blues album, I think, means that our future has passed us by and we shouldn’t worry about it – live for the moment. I once made a mistake by giving an assembly to two hundred Year Nine students encouraging them to live every day as if it were their last day. What a ridiculous thing to tell adolescents. Don’t worry about the consequences of your actions. Make the most of today. Swear at your teachers. Rip up your school books. Your future has passed you by. Live for the moment. Oh well. The days of me giving assemblies are passed. Or past.