Life at 33 1/3: Jumping the wrong train

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Moody Blues: The Magnificant Moodies (Decca)

Denny Laine’s voice had an angelic quality, the sound of loneliness and beauty, suitable for heart broken ballads, the folk songs of elves and a dash of Buddy Holly.  But it definitely did not have what it took to handle the macho attitude of black soul music and rhythm & blues.  Then it sounded more like the sqeal of a pig on its way to the slaughter house.

They possibly could have masked its weakness by drowning it in a fat, thunderous roar of gospel girls, blaring horns and a rhythm section that made mountains sweat.  But The Moody Blues could not make mountains sweat, they were just a bunch of skninny white guys from Birmingham who would find it sweaty enough to just climb a staircase.  Unfortunately they fell in love with a music genre that they simply did not have it in them to master, least of all little Denny Laine.

The group became an overnite sensation thanks to their amazing version of “Go Now”, the ultimate cry of heartbreak.  You sure didn’t touch the dial if that record came floating through the radio waves, it stopped you dead in your tracks.  Wow!  What was that?

So how do you follow up such a sensational recording?  For The Moody Blues the answer simply was you don’t, or rather you can’t.  It could have ended there, and it almost did.  All subsequent singles with this line-up were sub-standard performances of quite tame songs, none of which reached the Top 20

On their way to rock bottom they managed to release an album.  “Go Now” is wisely included.  It’s a fat carrot.  But boy how disappointed they must have been, those poor youngsters who paid good money for this thing and brought it home.  For this is awful stuff.  Content is dominated by American rhythm & blues favorites (say hello to James Brown and Sonny Boy Williamson) interspersed with an evergreen from “Porgy And Bess”, said “Go Now” and four extremely pale Denny Laine/Mike Pinder compositions trying desperately to sound like their American role models, but failing disastrously.

Moody Blues are good musicians even at this early stage, you can hear it, there’s no doubt about that, they just jumped the wrong train.  As a rhythm & blues/soul-outfit they were little boys lost in big men’s suits.  It sure was a long way from Birmingham to Memphis.  There’s nothing wrong with their ambitions, they just don’t have it in them, they sound tame.  The music isn’t tight enough, it’s got no punch, its doesn’t swing and most important: it’s got no b*lls.

“The Magnificent Moodies” is a feminine album.  At the time, in 1965 and 1966, all their ads were designed by a girl, the ads looked like teenage girl doodlings, squiggly letters and all.  It had to go wrong.  And it did.

In November 1966 Justin Hayward and John Lodge came to the rescue, and the classic Moody Blues as the world came to know them, were born.  First stop: “Fly Me High”, and then came “Nights In White Satin”.  Denny Laine was left out in the cold.  He had a bumpy ride until Paul McCartney called and took him under his Wings (pun intended) in 1971.

Released: July 23, 1965

Produced by: Denny Cordell, Alex Murray

Side One

“I’ll Go Crazy” (James Brown) – 2:08

“Something You Got” (Chris Kenner) – 2:47

“Go Now” (Larry Banks, Milton Bennett) – 3:07

“Can’t Nobody Love You” (James Mitchell) – 3:57

“I Don’t Mind” (Brown) – 3:22

“I’ve Got a Dream” (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) – 2:48

Side Two

“Let Me Go” (Denny Laine, Mike Pinder) – 3:09

“Stop” (Laine, Pinder) – 2:01

“Thank You Baby” (Laine, Pinder) – 2:24

“It Ain’t Necessarily So” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) – 3:15

“True Story” (Laine, Pinder) – 1:41

“Bye Bye Bird” (Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Dixon) – 2:45

Personnel:

Denny Laine – guitars, harmonica, vocals

Mike Pinder – piano, organ, vocals

Clint Warwick – bass guitar, vocals

Ray Thomas – percussion, flutes, vocals

Graeme Edge – drums, percussion, vocals

Supporting musicians:

Elaine Caswell – percussion