In an English essay during my GCSEs entitled, “If You Could Be Anybody Else, Who Would It Be?” I chose to write about Justin Hayward. Oh, I would have technically preferred George Harrison but wrote in the essay that I chose Hayward because he was a rock star but less recognisable and could probably still live a reasonably normal life. No idea what mark Mrs Sloan gave me but I enjoyed the essay. It was probably one of my first efforts at writing about music.
What this all reveals is that around 1977 I was a big fan of The Moody Blues. Indeed I think Santa brought me Hayward’s solo record Songwriter, Hayward and John Lodge’s Blue Jays record and The Moodies’ To Our Children’s Children’s Children. I was sixteen and though almost two years before I discovered faith I had started seeking music that was more than bubble gum pop and asking questions about the meaning of human existence. My developing pop fan self loved Nights In White Satin and that led me to their albums. The Moody Blues even had a hit called Questions:
Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war?
When we stop and look around us
There is nothing that we need
In a world of persecution
That is burning in its greed
So, over the years, I have returned again and again to The Moody Blues, particularly what have been become renowned as the seven classic albums between Days Of Future Past and Seventh Sojourn. Everytime I have a Moody Blues’ phase, which usually lasts for a couple of months, I am always scrambling for a book to help me delve deeper into the music. Nothing!
Until now. To coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the release of Days Of Future Past, there is finally a biography! Do not think, that it is a cheap, quickly put together cash in. Marc Cushman’s Long Distance Voyager has over 800 pages and is only Volume One, stopping the tracking of the Voyager before the album of the same name as the book was even released, stopping for its break after 1978’s Octave and the tour that followed.
Cushman has done a thorough work of research. He does only speak to two members of the seventies line up Pinder and Thomas but he has traced every possible interview that there has been and there are very few gaps that he has left. Indeed, what we have after all these years is a compilation of books in one. There’s the biography that tells us of the origins, business side, the changes in personnel and how albums are made.
Then there is song by song. Cushman does a great job on this. This is my favourite part of rock writing. I love insights into the inside stories of the songs and what they might mean, what influenced them and how collaborations worked. Cushman has it all.
Added to that is another book within a book. John Blaney has made a career out of books on solo Beatles that go further than the song by song but adds the collector’s side with photographs of artwork etc. It is all in here.
Cushman is a fan and wants his book, as he has said himself, to be as positive as the music he is writing about. It is pro Moodies but never a hagiography. Neither does it invade the privacy of the band with any sensational scandal. It sticks to what it should stick to, the making of great music by great musicians, and actually a great producer, and how it came about!
If you are a Moody Blues fan at all, then this is what we have been waiting for… and it was well worth the wait!