The 20 Greatest Classic Moody Blues Songs

April 5th, 2017

By Damian Fanelli | Photo: Cory Schwartz/Getty Images

Although they don’t get nearly enough credit, the Moody Blues were—and are—an incredible band. They have a string of albums—from 1967’s Days of Future Passed to 1972’s Seventh Sojourn—that are just as groundbreaking, polished, substantial and powerful as anything released by any other rock band during that time. And we do mean any other rock band.

They had it all, including an ace guitarist named Justin Hayward, who could write—and sing—the most beautiful, heart-crushing melodies, plus a talented bassist, John Lodge, who also wrote and sang some of the band’s most memorable songs. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that every member of the band’s classic lineup—Hayward, Lodge, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge and Mike Pinder—wrote and sang tunes that are now considered vital pieces of the band’s classic (1967 to 1972) oeuvre.

Later this spring, the Moody Blues, who are still helmed by Lodge, Edge and Hayward (whose voice, like that of the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz and Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers, simply laughs in the face of age), are hitting the road to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Days of Future Passed. That’s the album—recorded with the London Festival Orchestra—that spawned “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin”—lush, sweet-sounding songs that turned out to be just the tip of the Moodies’ innovative, complex and ornate iceberg.

In honor of their upcoming tour, and simply in honor of a great band, we hereby bring you a guide to the 20 (give or take three or four) greatest classic Moody Blues songs. By classic, we—once again—mean music released from 1967 through 1972, although we’ve included vital songs from before and after that dreamy, Mellotron-packed era.

So…are you sitting comfortably?

GO NOW
The Magnificent Moodies | 1965

When they started out, the Moody Blues were an R&B band fronted by Denny Laine, who sang the band’s first hit, “Go Now.” Laine quit the band in 1966, later surfacing as a key member of Paul McCartney and Wings, who performed “Go Now” throughout the Seventies. Bassist Clint Warwick left the Moody Blues around the same time as Laine, leaving Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge and Mike Pinder in search of two new members…



FLY ME HIGH
(single) | 1967

… and along came Justin Hayward and John Lodge. This catchy single was the first release by the band’s new lineup; like so many songs to follow, it was written and sung by Hayward.



NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN
Days of Future Passed | 1967

“I wrote our most famous song, ‘Nights in White Satin,’ when I was 19,” Hayward told the Daily Express in 2008. “It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another. A lot of that came out in the song.”



TUESDAY AFTERNOON
Days of Future Passed | 1967

“I sat down in a field, smoked a funny African cigarette, and that song just came out,” Hayward once said. “It was a Tuesday afternoon.”



RIDE MY SEE-SAW
In Search of the Lost Chord | 1968

This John Lodge-penned rocker sports a brief but exciting guitar solo by Hayward.



LEGEND OF A MIND
In Search of the Lost Chord | 1968

Here’s one by Ray Thomas, the band’s flautist, who also contributed a unique voice—not to mention a unique brand of songwriting—to the band. This particular live version accentuates the fun tune’s carnival vibe, but the highlight is Thomas’ extended flute solo. The song is about counter-culture icon Timothy Leary, who didn’t actually die until 1996.



THE ACTOR and VOICES IN THE SKY
In Search of the Lost Chord | 1968

In Search of the Lost Chord is a concept album built around the loose theme of quest and discovery. In “The Actor,” Hayward tackles lost love; in the brilliant “Voices in the Sky,” it’s spiritual development.



NEVER COMES THE DAY
On the Threshold of a Dream | 1969

This single was a commercial flop, but it has gone on to be a fan favorite (for reasons that will become apparent when you press the “play” button).



ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY
On the Threshold of a Dream | 1969

Are you sitting comfortably? Let the Moodies cast their spell. During what I keep calling their “classic period,” the band’s lyrics had a mystical and often very “English” quality. Both are on display here.



HAVE YOU HEARD, PARTS 1 AND 2 (including THE DREAM and VOYAGE)
On the Threshold of a Dream | 1969

Keyboardist Mike Pinder wrote this three-part, album-ending prog-rock masterpiece (Note: The clip below also includes a spoken piece, “The Dream,” which was written by drummer Graeme Edge but recited by Pinder). “Have You Heard” is a major-key gem that segues into the hauntingly beautiful and triumphant “The Voyage” before working its way back to home base. I’ve always thought “The Voyage” was very slightly reminiscent of Ernest Fanelli’s early 20th-century “impressionist” compositions.



WATCHING AND WAITING
To Our Children’s Children’s Children | 1969

“I wrote some things in those years that I never really understood,” said Hayward when introducing this beauty during a solo show in 2016. “I’m hoping to understand them by the time this tour is over.” The melody is simple yet stunningly beautiful, and the bridge is pretty much perfect. I could probably say that about a lot of these songs.



GYPSY
To Our Children’s Children’s Children | 1969

Much of To Our Children’s Children’s Children was inspired by the 1969 moon landing, including this dense and slightly depressing rocker.



QUESTION
A Question of Balance | 1970

“’Nights in White Satin,’ ‘Question’ and ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere’ are songs that the audience brings something to every night,” Hayward said last year. “They provide some kind of magic. You can’t expect to evoke a great emotion at a sound check—it’s when you start playing it, and you start feeling the atmosphere in the room of what it means in some peoples’ lives. It’s quite important to them, and they bring an emotional feeling into the room that is just wonderful and very moving. It’s not something you ever get tired of.”



IT’S UP TO YOU
A Question of Balance | 1970

There’s a faint “country” edge to this brilliant guitar-centric rocker. Take note of the killer riff and tight harmonies. This tune is just waiting for the right band to come along and cover it. Please thank me in the liner notes.



DAWNING IS THE DAY
A Question of Balance | 1970

Note the lush sound of this recording and the way the acoustic guitars sit just atop the crisp drums. While it starts off like the perfect theme song for an afternoon nap, Hayward winds up giving the ol’ pipes a workout during the bridge.



THE STORY IN YOUR EYES
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour | 1971

This top 40 single sports another brief but effective guitar solo (Hayward was the Glenn Tilbrook of the early Seventies) and some pretty intense lyrics. The video below features a longer, alternate version of the song FM radio listeners have come to know and love.



EMILY’S SONG
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour | 1971

John Lodge wrote this charming lullaby when his daughter was born.



YOU AND ME
Seventh Sojourn | 1972

Talk about your under-appreciated guitar riffs…

I’M JUST THE SINGER (IN A ROCK AND ROLL BAND)
Seventh Sojourn | 1972

Back in the day, it was common to ask rock stars to share their opinions about politics and world events. John Lodge thought that was ridiculous (and he’s right, of course). The point of this rocking track is basically, “Why the hell are you asking me? I’m some guy in a rock band.” Lodge had no answers.



THE VOICE
Long Distance Voyager | 1981

BLUE WORLD
The Present | 1983

THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE
The Other Side of Life | 1986

I KNOW YOU’RE OUT THERE SOMEWHERE
Sur La Mer | 1988

I’ve gone more mainstream with these four choices to show how relevant the Moody Blues were in the Eighties. They were one of just a handful of Sixties bands—including the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and the Who—to have actual hits in the shiny, empty, horrible-drum-sound MTV era (although, unlike at least two of those other bands, the Moodies were able to maintain their success throughout the entire decade).

Success followed them into the early Nineties (“Say It with Love”), an era that produced their impressive live album, A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. They released their final (non-holiday) studio album, Strange Times, in 1999.

In 2017, the Moody Blues exist as a popular touring band. Unlike the case of so many important Sixties bands, every member of the classic lineup of the Moody Blues is still with us. It makes you wish they’d book time at Toe Rag Studios in London (which is known for its spot-on vintage sound and Sixties-era recording equipment) and make a new studio album with an intentionally late-Sixties/early Seventies sound. I’m telling ya, it would be an event. Consider it, Moodies!

  • A great band.Shame there,s nothing in the Pop chart’s like this anymore.Love this music.