Your Big Sister’s (Record) Rack: “In Search Of The Lost Chord,” Moody Blues

Chick with record player

Nobody's big sister, that's for sure.

That’s not my big sister up there … I don’t have a sister and in fact I was the eldest child in my family.  Growing up in the 1960s, and hitting my teenage years in the summer of 1968, I was in a position to be the big brother who was knowledgeable about music.  And in fact my younger brothers did indeed “borrow” my albums – my first hope is that they learned something, and my second hope is that one day they will return them.

Ha, ha.  A little levity is in order, because today we’re talking about the Moody Blues.  Just their name implies gloominess – or at least moodiness – but in fact these guys were quite enjoyable and upbeat back in the day.  In 1968 everything was pretty heavy: that was the year of RFK, MLK, the Watts riots, etc.  The Beatles were trying to make it In_search_of_the_lost_chordbetter for Jude, the no-longer-Young Rascals were saying people got to be free and the Jefferson Airplane’s newest album (Crown of Creation) pictured the group in an atomic fireball.   The Moodies were sort of psychedelic Lite – their breakthrough album (from ’67) was Days of Future Passed, with an orchestra no less.  “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights In White Satin” from that LP got played enough on the radio to hook us all on the Moody Blues.

When In Search Of The Lost Chord came along in 1968, they just gave us more of the Moody sound – only without that pesky orchestra.  The Moodies were their own orchestra, overdubbing their voices and instruments using a device called a mellotron, a keyboard instrument that plays back pre-recorded sounds from tape (now that job is done by a synthesizer).  British musician Mike Pinder worked for the company that made these instruments, and after he introduced it to the Beatles (who used the mellotron on Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Pinder joined the Moody Blues.

So you drop the needle on In Search Of The Lost Chord and what do you hear?  Sitars, drums and some guy reciting a poem.  Back in ’68, that could be described as “heavy.”  Today, that would certainly be described as “full of shit.”  But that was the Moody Blues – ponderous, pompous and “heavy” even while they cranked out these melodic tunes that never wanted to leave your head.  The poem rolls right into “Ride My See-Saw,” which is one of the most rockin’ tunes the band ever had.

Fans of this album – and the Moody Blues – will cite a number of other tunes from this LP, but the other highlight for me is Ray Thomas’ “Legend Of A Mind.”  Yes, the “Timothy Leary’s dead” song.  What’s it about?  Damned if I know, or care – if you get caught up in the “meaning” of all this psychedelic (or psychedelic Lite) garbage, you’re not enjoying the music.   And what about this song, “The Best Way To Travel” ?!  Could they mean …?

“Voices In The Sky,” by Justin Hayward, is another favorite of many.  Hayward’s expressive voice was the hook behind many of the Moody Blues’ radio hits well into the 1970s – and even in the 1980s, when the group erupted from the grave with the hit “Your Wildest Dreams.”  John Lodge, the band’s other front man, wrote “Ride My See-Saw” and future Moodies hits, including “Isn’t Life Strange” and “Just A Singer In A Rock and Roll Band” would come from his pen.

Today Hayward and Lodge, along with drummer Graeme Edge, are the only members of the Moody Blues from those heady days.  The band has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and continue to tour regularly, making them more than just a flashback from some drug you never took.  The Moody Blues were the best way to travel back then, that’s for sure.

MP3: “Departure/Ride My See-Saw” (I tried to combine these two as you heard on the LP, hope my editing job isn’t too crude)

MP3: “Legend Of A Mind”

MP3: “Voices In The Sky”

YouTube: “Legend Of A Mind” in glorious psychedelic black and white

The Moody Blues official website

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