Roots Report: An Interview with John Lodge

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Okee dokee folks… I had an opportunity to speak with John Lodge, bassist, singer and songwriter of the iconic band The Moody Blues. Lodge will be bringing his solo tour to the Greenwich Odeum on Sunday, October 21. The Moody Blues were formed in Birmingham, England in 1964, initially consisting of keyboardist Mike Pinder, multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas, guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick.  They had a hit with the song “Go Now” but but by 1966 the band had mostly dissolved. The band reformed later that year adding Justin Hayward and John Lodge along with original members Pinder, Thomas and Edge. This would become the classic Moody’s Line up. Hugely successful albums such as Days Of Future Passed, In Search Of The Lost Chord, and A Question Of Balance follwed. Lodge is responsible for such classic Moody’s songs such as: “Ride My See Saw”, “Isn’t Life Strange”, “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band” and others. We had a conversation about the days of the future and some of the past. Read on…

John Fuzek: Hey, it’s John from Motif Magazine in Rhode Island, just calling to talk about your upcoming show in East Greenwich Rhode Island.
John Lodge: Fabulous!
JF: Was that your wife that I was communicating with about the interview?
JL: No, my daughter, she is tour manager for our tour, keep it in the family!
JF: Is this the first time that you are out on the road by yourself?
JL: No, I did a tour in the UK to support the album 10,000 Light Years Ago, and we recorded the last concert at Birmingham Town Hall, it’s an iconic venue in England, when I was growing up I saw all the American superheroes, you know, the Eddie Cohrans, Gene Vincents, the Little Richards, amazing American rock icons, but the first I saw there was my hero growing up, it was Buddy Holly, I was in the front row of the balcony looking down on Buddy Holly of the Crickets, I was probably thirteen years of age, so I ended my tour there and recorded it on DVD, it was a very special moment for me
JF: So is the first tour of the US?
JL: Well we did some concerts last year, but this time is a more extended tour going through the US starting in Nashville and ending up in Cincinnati.
JF: You are playing City Winery In Nashville tomorrow night?
JL: Yes, we are looking forward to that.
JF: I played City Winery in Boston, they are pretty cool venues!
JL:Yes, I did the City Winery last year in New York and had a great time and I wanted to do the City Wineries again. I am looking forward to playing the one in Nashville, I enjoy being in Nashville anyway
JF: You’re in Nashville now, correct?
JL: Yes, we’re in Nashville, we’re rehearsing
JF: DId your band mates come with you or are you using US players?
JL: No, US band, all US-two guys from the Detroit area and two guys from the Florida area
JF: Do you play bass in this band or guitar?
JL: I play bass, of course, a couple of songs I play 12 string guitar because that’s what really leads on that particular songs, but it’s bass, that’s my primary instrument, obviously I write on guitar or piano, but bass is my primary instrument
JF: I asked because I saw the promo photo of you playing bass but there was an acoustic guitar in the background and wasn’t sure if that was a Moody Blues shot and that was Justin’s (Hayward) guitar.
JL: No, it’s my 12, as I said I use the 12 string on a couple of songs on stage.
JF: I didn’t realize until now that you wrote some of the iconic Moody Blues songs, will you be performing any Moody Blues songs that you didn’t write?
JL: Actually, yes, I am doing a tribute to Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder in the show, a couple of songs that we don’t do as the Moody Blues, that we’ll never do as the Moody Blues, so I decided, being a part of that music all of my life, and Ray and Mike being part of my life, I wanted to continue keeping that music alive, I thought it was important to do.
JF: Have the Moody Blues been retired or is there still a chance for them to perform again?
JL: Well, we have no plan really, we just had Days Of Future Passed celebrate 50 years, but we don’t have any new plans, but I am a Moody Blue and always will be a Moody Blue
JF: That’s great, I have been a fan of the Moody Blues for, umm, well, probably about 50 years!
JL: Thank you!
JF: I have seen you quite a few times in the past but not recently, I am a musician so I don’t get to shows as much as I would like to sometimes!
JL: I think that’s the truth about all musicians, we never get to see anyone else
JF: What is the instrumentation in the band you will be touring with?
JL: OK, Keyboards – Alan Hewitt,  Drums- Billy Ashbor, Guitar- Duffy, he’s from Detroit, and on cello, that’s a difference, I’ve got a cello/guitarist Jason, he’s from Detroit as well.
JF: Cool, I like the cello
JL: Yeah, the cello, really, a lot of the songs have featured cello, or that part of the orchestra, you know…for me it’s an integral part of the song, the drive of it…
JF: Ok, i hate to ask this question and I think I know the answer but I will ask for folks who may wonder… is Nights In White Satin in the set?
JL: No
JF: I didn’t think so but I just wanted to ask because it’s probably the biggest Moody Blues song and many folks wonder about these kinds of things!
JF: “Ride My See Saw” is a great song, love that one, and “Isn’t Life Strange” and “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band” those are all great songs, those are all iconic Moody Blues songs.  What was the inspiration for “Ride My See Saw”?
JL: I think it’s just coming out of, I think all of us, you know, coming out of school with preconceived ideas of what life’s about and then you hit the brick wall and realize that it’s a totally different place, and you have to readjust to everything in your life, you know, and I think that’s what it’s about really, I wrote it a long times ago so it’s a bit difficult to sort of disappear back 50 odd years to that period of time
JF: I have that issue, too
JL: Life was different then, lot’s of things were different, you know, especially if you came from England, you had the East and West, you had the Berlin Wall and Eastern Europe was different than Western Europe…and the Hippie movement around the world changed so much, and music then just changed everything, it was all part of that time you know, “Ride My See Saw” was about music changing my life and hopefully changing the lives of people who listened to the song.
JF: How old are you now?
JL: 73
JF: OK, you’re younger compared to some of the other folks from classic rock bands that I have been talking with recently! You’re just a kid!
JL: Yeah, absolutely!
JF: How long will you continue to do this? You must do it for the love of music at this point.
JL: I always have done it anyway, from when I was very young I said, “have bass will travel!”
it’s as simple as that, if people want to listen to the music then I will play it
JF: When did you start playing the bass, how old were you?
JL: I was 15, it wasn’t actually the bass at 15, I was playing the bottom four strings of a guitar, in England the first bass (guitars) didn’t really arrive until like 1958, I remember seeing my first electric bass and it was in a band…I didn’t know what it was…I thought it was a white Stratocaster, it only had four strings…up until that time, people like Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Crickets bass player played double bass, you know, and most of the recordings were with double bass…and I was just learning bass riffs on the bottom four strings of my guitar and then when I was 16 I went to my music shop, as we all do as musicians, I’m sure you do, everyone else does, saturday morning, sit there and listen to everyone else and see what new chords somebody’s learned or new riffs someone’s learned, when I got to my music shop in Birmingham, Jack Woodruff wrote about it on my album, a song called “Those Days In Birmingham”…I went to the music store and there in the window, it said “direct from America, Fender Sunburst Precision Bass” and there it was, in the window, I remember rushing home, to my house, Saturday morning, my father was home and I said, “Dad, you have to come with me to the music shop they’ve got the bass” and I bought the bass and I’ve still got it and that bass is what I recorded nearly every Moody Blues song with.
JF: How old were you when you joined the Moody Blues?
JL: I was 21, before that I was in a band called El Riot and the Rebels and El Riot was actually Ray Thomas in the band and for a short period of time Mike Pinder played keyboards as well with us. That was a band pre Moody Blues, the rest of the guys were older than me and they went down to London and formed the Moodies with Denny (Laine) and Clint (Warwick) and recorded “Go Now”, which was huge of course, then about a year later Ray said that band is now finished and he said to me, “have you finished college yet?” and I said I had just finished, and he said, “Oh! Can you get down to London…let’s get the band together?” and that’s what we did!
JF: What were you studying in college?
JL: Engineering, when I was very young I wanted to be a car designer, so I went for engineering so I could do car design
JF: Are you a car buff then?
JL: I was, I really enjoy driving, I like the outside of the cars, the engine part wasn’t my forte,  I was more interested in the aesthetic design of the car and you know, I’ll drive anything, I’ll drive any car! But from and aesthetic point of view there are some beautiful looking cars.
JF: Do you have a “classic car” in your garage?
JL: Not really, I have over the years but I don’t now, I suppose the fun one that I bought, a Lincoln Continental in 1977, two door, white on white on white, Cartier model, and we drove that, my family, we drove that from LA to New York via Route 66 in 1978 and I’ve still got that car, it’s in my garage, I kept it and it still sits there.
JF: How does it feel being one of the iconic band of the 60’s and have songs that are, I keep using the word iconic, but the Moody Blues are an iconic band, Days Of Future Passed being such a big album, you’ve performed with orchestras… how does it feel to be part of something like that?
JL: I don’t know, obviously it’s very, very special, but because it was part of who we were or who we are, from day one really, it’s sort of grown along with us, you know, it’s very difficult, to take a step out, and look back and think about it, but it’s just been fantastic, what can I say?
JF: So, you’re coming to East Greenwich, RI in a few weeks…what can I tell the fans to expect at your show?
JL: Well, it’s songs, iconic Moody Blues songs, some from my new album 10,000 Light Years Ago, songs we don’t play in the Moody Blues like “Saved By The Music” and we get the audience to participate because I think we’ve all been saved by the music to be honest and then songs like “Candle Of Life” which I’ve never done, and a couple of songs in tribute to Ray and to Mike, I think the whole thing about a concert is at the end the concert you hope something emotionally has happened to the audience and that they’ve really enjoyed the music from the evening and want to come back again one day and listen to it again. The single that we have released is available for a free download and they can get a listen to what the album is about.
JF: OK, thank you for taking the time to chat today, i will let you get back to your rehearsals and I look forward to the show in a couple of weeks!
JL: OK, brilliant! Thanks! Take care!

John Lodge will perform with his band at the Greenwich Odeum located at 59 Main Street on Sunday, October 21 at 8pm. For more, “Time to Get Away” to: www.GreenwichOdeum.com That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. Www.JohnFuzek.com

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