Bassist and songwriter JOHN LODGE is perhaps best recognized for being the “other Blue Jay” in the transcendent and pre-eminent symphonic rock band THE MOODY BLUES.
Born and raised in Birmingham, England, Lodge bought his first guitar when he was 13 years old. He spent two years learning to play his instrument of choice (the bass) and then, with his schooldays friend, flutist and singer Ray Thomas, he formed the band El Riot & the Rebels.
At 16, he bought his beloved Fender Precision Sunburst Bass, an instrument that was employed on such epic hits as: “Nights in White Satin”, “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock ’n’ Roll Band)” and “Isn’t Life Strange?”
Listening to early rock ‘n’ roll recordings, and chiefly influenced by Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, his love for bass guitar evolved as he became interested in exploring “why” the instrument added a dynamic dimension, so meaningful to the pulse of rock ‘n’ roll, as well as vitality and emotionality to the music, and so he developed his now trademark, convincing & textured bass lines that became a characteristic of his songwriting and performance across his career.
Meanwhile, THE MOODY BLUES, which had formed in Birmingham, England in 1964, were going through their own transitions. Hailing from a group called Krew Cats, keyboardist Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas invited vocalist and guitarist Denny Laine and band manager-turned-drummer Graeme Edge to join a new music project and also asked former bandmate from El Riot days, John Lodge, if he’d like to join. Lodge rejected the offer, as he was still in college and taking exams. In his place, they recruited bassist Clint Warwick of Danny King and the Dukes.
This line-up (above) first appeared as the “Moody Blues” in 1964. In this early incarnation, seen on a photo from the sheet music, the group played upbeat numbers with a striking Merseybeat / R & B flavor, for example, their (second) single, Go Now — a number composed by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett (for soul singer Bessie Banks) — became a roaring hot hit for them and launched their career; soon they were seen as part of the 1960s “British invasion.”
But in 1966, this variant of the Moody Blues fell apart. Clark joined The Rockin ‘Berries and although Denny Laine had written material for their next album, he left, too.
So the group re-established itself in late 1966 with new members, including bassist/singer John Lodge, who had by now completed his college education, and Justin Hayward, a former member of Marty Wilde’s band, The Wilde Three. Their new style shifted from simple R&B rhythms to more comprehensive and progressive inventiveness that presented the symphonic sounds of Pinder’s mellotron and made more of Ray Thomas’s flute.
Lodge wrote “Lunch Break: Peak Hour” for their second album “Days of Future Passed” (commonly credited as being the first-ever symphonic rock album and which featured the Hayward-penned number “Nights in White Satin” that was really just a portion within the luscious “Night” movement on the suite.)
Later Lodge wrote, “Ride My See-Saw” for In Search of the Lost Chord (1968). Similarly, he contributed a song to On the Threshold of a Dream (1969) but it wasn’t until the fifth album To Our Children’s Children’s Children that his songwriting abilities rose to prominence (although his voice and bass performance had been vital components in the overall “moody” sound.)
For Seventh Sojourn (1972) Lodge wrote “Isn’t Life Strange” which became a charting-single success for the band despite its length (six minutes) and conspicuous musical grandeur. For this album, Lodge also contributed his monumental (and fan-favorite) barnstorming number, “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)”
Lodge and Justin Hayward’s much-loved album project “Blue Jays” was recorded and released during Moody Blues’ five-year hiatus in 1975. Lodge contributed three new songs to the album and co-wrote two more (with Hayward).
John Lodge will release a new live album entitled ‘The Royal Affair and After’ on December 3rd 2021.
This new release features incredible live recordings of all his Moody Blues hits, plus special tributes to all his band-mates, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas. John describes these songs as ‘the soundtrack of my life’, and continues his deeply felt quest to ‘Keep the Moody Blues music Alive’. They recorded the album live in Las Vegas on ‘The Royal Affair Tour’, with additional tracks recorded during his subsequent USA dates.
During the summer of 2019, Lodge was part of the ‘The Royal Affair Tour’, with YES, Carl Palmer, Arthur Brown, and ASIA, and for John this was an invaluable opportunity to bring his fascinating show to long-established fans, and also to those who may be new to the Moody Blues experience.
The live album incorporates many of the incredible Moody hits mentioned above, and also: “Gemini Dream,” “Ride My Seesaw,” “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone”.
Also included on the recording is a touching tribute to his friend Ray Thomas, who died in 2018 (age 76) with Lodge’s tender version of ‘Legend of a Mind’.
The 2021 album also features a unique recording of ‘Late Lament’, by the Moody Blues’ drummer Graeme Edge. The poem originally appeared on the iconic album ‘Days of Future Passed’, and was composed by Edge, but voiced by Mike Pinder. It delighted Lodge when Edge agreed to record his poem for him. Lodge’s tribute to Mike is his rendition of ‘Sunset’, a new version that exemplifies the transcendent nature of Pinder’s work.
The Royal Affair and After is due December 3rd and out on CD and digital download with vinyl expected January 28th, 2022 (inc. limited edition blue vinyl.) Pre-Order here: https://www.johnlodge.com/
Main photo: credit FRANK PIERCY