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Not Friday on my Mind 49: Legend of a Mind. RIP Ray Thomas

Ray Thomas, who died this week was a multi-instrumentalist not very well-served by most of the time on stage with The Moody Blues merely flourishing a tambourine or otherwise not seeming to do very much. That perception would be to undervalue him greatly.

It was his contribution as a flautist where he really counted, a contribution that only added to the already distinctive sound of the band. As a flautist in a rock band he was for a while unique. (Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull came along later as did Peter Gabriel with Genesis.) That flute embellished mightily the power of Nights in White Satin, the song which became emblematic of the revamped Moody Blues.

A founder member of the band in its first (bluesy) incarnation – Go Now etc – his solid bass voice enhanced the vocal harmonies which were so much a part of the re-incarnated band’s sound.

For some odd reason there seemed to be a regular order of song-writers in those early albums by the “new” Moodies with Thomas always having song three* on side one as one of his spots.

Among his songs were Another Morning*, Twilight Time, Dr Livingstone, I Presume?*, Dear Diary*, Lazy Day, Floating*, Eternity Road, with his collaborations with Justin Hayward, Visions of Paradise and Are You Sitting Comfortably? being especially memorable.

It was song five, side one on In Search of the Lost Chord, though, that was his apotheosis. That song was Legend of a Mind with a lyric about Timothy Leary and supposed mind expansion, “Timothy’ Leary’s dead, No, no, no, no, he’s outside looking in.” Apparently Leary once told Thomas the song made him more famous than anything he had ever done for himself.

But who needed drugs when music itself could be this transportive?

Here’s a promotional film for Legend of a Mind made around the time of its first release. Thomas’s flute solo here is sublime.

The Moody Blues: Legend of a Mind

Ray Thomas: 29/12/1941 – 4/1/2018. So it goes. Thanks for the trips round the bay.

Friday on my Mind 102 and Reelin’ In the Years 93: Say You Don’t Mind

Ex-Zombie Colin Blunstone had a few solo hits in the 70s.
This was one of them. Unfortunately the video isn’t synched. (Perhaps he was miming in the first place, but it sounds like a live performance.)

Colin Blunstone: Say You Don’t Mind

The song’s writer Denny Laine (he of the early Moody Blues and of Wings) had recorded it in the 60s.

Denny Laine: Say You Don’t Mind

Live It Up 20: It Won’t Be Easy (Without You)

This is a curiosity. The theme from the 1987 TV series Star Cops. Written and performed by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.

Star Cops Theme – It Won’t Be Easy (Without You)

This is how the opening credits looked.

Reelin’ In the Years 88: Blue Guitar

After their next LP, Seventh Sojourn, which spawned two singles in Isn’t Life Strange and I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band) both of which – unlike The Story in Your Eyes – troubled the charts, the Moody Blues broke up.

During the five years they spent apart most of them released solo LPs but the most successful venture was a collaboration between Justin Hayward and John Lodge which produced the LP Blue Jays but most memorably the song Blue Guitar, a no 8 hit in the UK. According to the Wiki article above Hayward actually recorded this with 10cc rather than Lodge but nevertheless the two took “Blue Jays” on the road mainly – as I recall Lodge introducing the track on stage – because of Blue Guitar.

Here they are performing it (ie miming) on Supersonic.

Justin Hayward and John Lodge: Blue Guitar

Reelin’ In the Years 87: The Story In Your Eyes

I’ve already mentioned the odd decision to release Watching and Waiting rather than Gypsy as the single from To Our Children’s Children’s Children. The former was an ideal coda to the album but not really single material.

The single that came after, Question, was the Moodies most successful in the new era, only being kept off the No. 1 slot by the England World Cup squad’s Back Home. (Oh tempora!) Despite being described as, “One of the world’s most advanced groups,” while promoting the song on Top of the Pops, the LP it prefaced, A Question of Balance, gave the first indication that collectively the band was going off the boil.

Their next single didn’t even make the UK charts despite being a belter. First below is not the album version from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. This one has a different vocal performance and a more lush mellotron sound. The more familiar album edition follows.

The Moody Blues: The Story In Your Eyes

Not Friday On My Mind 20: Never Comes The Day

Tuesday Afternoon was followed as a single by Voices in the Sky (with its flute flourishes and distinctive vocal from Justin Hayward) which, like its follow-up, the hard-driving perennial favourite Ride My See-Saw, featured on the next LP, the even more pretentious concept album, In Search of the Lost Chord. That was the first Moody Blues LP I bought – possibly my first ever and there’s barely a dud on it – with the possible exception of the spoken passages and the final track Om. Its standout is the Ray Thomas song Legend of a Mind embedded within the House of Four Doors sequence with its classical pretensions placing the group’s output firmly in Prog territory.

By this time the Moodies were firmly established as my favourite band.

Then we had this song – later to feature on On The Threshold of a Dream – which I remember in its review of the single the NME referred to as “beautifully constructed.” Here the group plays it live.

The Moody Blues: Never Comes The Day

Not Friday On My Mind 19: Tuesday Afternoon

I didn’t buy the Moodies’ next single, Tuesday Afternoon, a song which – like Nights In White Satin – appeared also on the LP Days of Future Passed but I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking it was almost as good. It seems the single version was edited down to a ludicrous 2 minutes 16 seconds – missing out the repeat of the opening riff and “Tuesday Afternoon” chorus.

This is how it appeared on the LP and so contains the orchestral afterpiece tagged on by conductor Peter Knight. Knight’s “classical music” interludes linked all the songs on the LP – supposedly to demonstrate the record label Deram’s new “Deramic Sound System.” The story that the band were asked to record an album based on Dvorak’s New World symphony but instead recorded their own songs without the label’s knowledge has been disputed.

Edited (7/6/14) to add:- Those orchestral interludes and the fact that it was a concept album probably make Days of Future Passed one of the first prog rock albums.

The Moody Blues: Tuesday Afternoon

Not Friday On My Mind 18: Cities

I missed the Moody Blues next single after Fly Me High, the Mike Pinder song, Love and Beauty, where his mellotron made its first appearance on record, but I actually bought the one after, the initial issue – on the Deram label, DM 161 – of Nights In White Satin, written by Justin Hayward, which crept into the UK top twenty, making no. 19.

I was impressed by the B-side too, also written by Hayward. That mono version has the harpsichord, which features more prominently on later stereo releases, much lower down in the mix.

The Moody Blues: Cities

This is the stereo version with the more pronounced harpsichord:-

Not Friday On My Mind 17: Fly Me High

(This is the way my mind works. One word different from last week’s title.)

This single comes from the time when Denny Laine and Clint Warwick had quit The Moody Blues and John Lodge and Justin Hayward had just joined the group. The change signalled a new direction in which they would play only their own songs, develop a more harmony based approach and an “orchestral” sound. Fly Me High was the new line-up’s first single and was something of a transitional song as Mike Pinder had yet to acquire what would become his trademark mellotron.

The hairy guys in the picture below would only appear a few years later. At the time of this recording they were much more clean-cut.

The Moody Blues: Fly Me High

Reelin' In The Years 53: Forever Autumn

In a passage in Adam Roberts’s New Model Army (see my thoughts on it a few posts below) one of the characters thinks of Jeff Wayne rather than HG Wells when he hears the words, “War of the Worlds.” He at once mentions Richard Burton, David Essex and the Moody Blues. Well, as another song has it; two out of three ain’t* bad.

The character can be forgiven for the mistake, though. His mind wasn’t working properly at the time and it is understandable. Richard Burton and David Essex were both heard on the recording but it wasn’t all the Moody Blues who contributed to Jeff Wayne’s endeavour but their lead singer, the distinctively voiced Justin Hayward, certainly did. While Richard Burton was the spoken voice of the journalist Hayward took over for the singing and thus gave us the haunting Forever Autumn.

Justin Hayward: Forever Autumn

*Sorry for the inelegant language in the quote there.

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