Music can still surprise you


I’ve just finished watching this week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, which was book-ended by an extract from a song. I’d never heard it before, and I liked the sound of it. It wasn’t credited, so after striking out at TV.com (that site has gone so far downhill) I googled until I discovered what it was.

The track is by The Moody Blues and is, apparently, “Have You Heard? (Part 2)”.

Now I used to be a big Moody Blues fan, long ago in my youth in the west that is lost (sorry, there’s just something about the Moodies that does things like that to you). It began with the re-issue of “Nights in White Satin” in 1972, when it reached the top 10 at last, and it led me, over the following year, to collect all seven of their albums (excluding the very first album, The Magnificent Moodies, as being by the pre-Justin Hayward/John Lodge line-up, and being a completely different band all together).

They were also my first ever rock concert, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, one midweek night at the beginning of September 1973. Not a good gig, frankly, though I loved it at the time, having nothing with which to compare it. Ironically enough, it was the last ever gig by the classic Hayward/Lodge/Thomas/Pinder/Edge line-up, so it had historical significance. After that, they split-up for five years, all recorded solo albums and, when they re-convened in 1978, Mike Pinder, he of the mellotron, had relocated to California, and had to be replaced by Patrick Moraz (and there’s another name more recognised in that decade of keyboard-manglers than it is now).

By then, after years of having the Moodies as my favourites (they overtook Lindisfarne when the latter split in two, but were surpassed by 10cc), after years of playing those rich, lush, aurally enveloping albums, often done when lying on the bed, unmoving, removing every other stimulus but the music, so that I could, really, you know, listen, I went off them.

This was all the fault of Justin Hayward and John Lodge. They were first out of the blocks as far as solo albums go, with a collaboration entitled “Blue Jays”. It was good, traditional Moodies, an ornate, gatefold sleeve with the lyrics printed on the inside, and I bought it from the first Virgin Records shop in Manchester, a little, scruffy, hole-in-the-wall far removed from the later Megastores. I crossed the road to the bus stop for the 95/96, climbed up to the top deck, sat at the front and started to study the lyrics.

That’s where it all went wrong. As I read the lyrics, I got a distinct impression of what each of its ten songs would sound like. And when I got home and put the record on the deck, damme but if I wasn’t exactly right! That wasn’t good. Music that was that predictable wasn’t good. I ended up looking hard at all the Moodies albums with a more sceptical eye (so to speak). I still vividly remember a quote in relation to Seventh Sojourn, some long-gone late-night DJ on BBC Radio Manchester describing the band as ‘long-winded but never boring’, and starting to question the second half of that statement. I became uncomfortably aware of how many six minutes songs were actually a three minute song played twice.

And I didn’t buy any of the others solo albums after that.

Hayward and Lodge had a hit single in 1975, with a non-album track, ‘Blue Guitar’, which I did love. Ironically, I now discover that Lodge did not appear on the track, it was a Hayward solo. With 10cc!

In 1976, I began selling off my Moodies albums. There was one further track, ‘Driftwood’, a gorgeous 1978 single that got airplay but not sales, but that was it. The Moody Blues have been but an era, a past enthusiasm that holds nothing but nostalgic appeal for me now, and not much of that.

So here they were again, sounding half-decent out of the blue. When had they recorded “Have you heard? (Part 2)” Which later album had it come off? None of them. It was recorded in 1968, it was the closing track on On the Threshold of a Dream and I had played it dozens and dozens of times and it wasn’t in the least bit familiar to me at at all.

Music can still surprise you.

The YouTube clip below is actually a medley. Technically, nearly every Moodies album was a medley because of their annoying affectation of running all their songs into one another, which was bleeding annoying on vinyl, when you’re trying to play one specific track. It comprises the last four tracks on side two of Threshold, starting with ‘The Dream’, written and spoken by Graeme Edge, the drummer, and followed by Pinder’s trilogy, ‘Have you heard? (Part 1)/The Voyage/Have you heard? (Part 2)’. It’s perhaps a little more understandable once you listen to it, that a song I listened to so many time should not ring the faintest of bells.

Enjoy it though, if you can.

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