Moody Blues star Justin Hayward shares his journey to rock and roll success | Music | Entertainment
Justin Hayward’s Voice of Moody Blues Tour Begins September 11
The first performance on that Sunday in October 1972 was at 4 p.m., the second at 8 p.m. “Between gigs, Ray Thomas and I hang out,” singer/guitarist Justin Hayward tells me. “There were fans everywhere but no one recognized us.”
They spotted a tout ruthlessly scalping the fans. Flautist Thomas handed over $400 for two $15 bills, told him to clear, and then gave them away for free.
“And they still haven’t recognized us,” laughs Justin, 75. “They knew the music, but they didn’t know us. Our logo was on the site, not our faces. Ray said, ‘I guess we’ve arrived…’.
Undoubtedly. Their eighth album, Seventh Sojourn, topped the US charts, Nights In White Satin was their first number one single in the US, and the LP that spawned it, 1967’s Days Of Future Passed, also entered the Top 3.
The concerts marked an incredible renaissance for the English group. They went on to sell over 70 million albums and travel the world in their own custom Boeing 707 jetliner, complete with bedrooms, seating area and keyboard player on board.
Yet, just seven years before, the Moody Blues seemed completely exhausted.
Swindon-born Justin was 19 in 1966 when he joined the band consisting of Thomas, keyboardist Mike Pinder, drummer Graeme Edge and bassist John Lodge, another new boy.
Ray Thomas, Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge and John Lodge of the Moody Blues
It was totally unexpected. He had sent a demo tape to Eric Burdon of The Animals who passed it on to Pinder.
The Moodies had started out as an R&B group, landing their first number one with Go Now in 1964. Two years later, the only demand for them was in Belgium, where the UK B-side on Boulevard de la Madeleine had been a minor hit. .
Back home after a disastrous gig in Stockport, a disgruntled fan approached them saying they were the worst band he had ever seen.
“On the way home, Graeme said softly, ‘That guy was right, we’re rubbish’.”
They ditched their costumes and R&B covers and decided to stand or fall by their own songs instead.
Justin’s folk influences and Pinder’s then-radical use of the Mellotron made the Days Of Future Passed LP a Top 30 hit.
It sold over 100,000 copies in Britain alone.
With the sequel, 1968’s In Search Of The Lost Chord, Haywards said, “We have found our soul and our direction; everything froze.
They also found new audiences – the hippies. “We were playing in San Francisco when the whole Flower Power thing was happening and we got caught up in it,” he shrugs.
Hallucinogens were naturally involved and the group began to be seen as (stoned) philosophers.
Justin’s 1970 number 2 hit, Question, sounded profound to a new generation of fans – and compared to Edison Lighthouse, it was.
“I think we were on a journey to find enlightenment,” Justin says. “But we just wanted to be true to our purpose of making music, and that’s still true for me now. Making music, going on the road, making more music…”
I mention that the lyrics, targeting “a world of persecution that burns in its greed” are still relevant today. “There are not enough changes,” he sighs.
“Maybe we’re to blame for not trying harder to change things…”
He pauses and adds, “I love the timing of playing Question live and the crowd reaction as it develops.”
Justin admits he was looking for enlightenment
At the time, he fully embraced the Haight-Ashbury philosophy.
“I’ve tried psychedelics, I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried everything. Many young people past and present want to find enlightenment and inner peace. This search has materialized in our music. We had no answer, we were still traveling.
A journey that would involve befriending Timothy Leary – Ray’s song Legend Of A Mind, the LSD advocate psychologist sweetly teased – and for one band member, not Justin, a meeting with Cynthia the Plaster Caster .
In Texas, a crazed fan spent weeks on a street corner telling passers-by that the Moody Blues were “the real messiahs” destined to save the world.
“Then he met us and changed his mind and told everyone that we were fake messiahs…”
“The whole thing got very Spinal Tap,” adds Justin. “he’s a wonderful bull **** most of the time.”
Among the surreal moments was the moment a fan undid the fake lower half of his leg and threw it over his head on the stage – “he had a very weird arc of flight because he still had a trainer on it; eventually a roadie arrived and sent him away.
Prague was riskier. After taping a TV show in 1968, they returned to their hotel to find that Russian invaders had commandeered it.
One protested: ‘Wait, we were here first and gave you the Thomas Cook vouchers for the rooms’ – but wiser heads prevailed and they crammed into a room at another hotel until the British consulate steals all the stranded ones. The Bretons at home.
David Justin Hayward’s life changed in 1957, when he heard Buddy Holly’s That’ll Be The Day blare from a transistor radio.
“I was ten when Buddy arrived, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
He persuaded his parents to buy him a high-priced £210 guitar and formed his first band aged eleven – wearing glasses without lenses to look like his idol.
“I was lucky, the Swindon music scene was very active and I worked with lots of different bands in my early teens. I earned enough money to buy a Gibson ES 335 guitar and a My parents knew I wanted to be a musician, but being teachers they said, ‘Just get your five O levels and you can do whatever you want.’
He duly passed all five examinations. That summer, he responded to an ad in Melody maker. “It was a job with Marty Wilde, Kim’s dad. I was 16 and playing guitar for him; it was like a baptism of fire.
Justin admits his life changed listening to Buddy Holly
Hayward praises veteran rocker Marty for his guidance and encouragement to write his own material. They were constantly playing; live gigs would also be key to the Moodies’ success.
“We were known as a touring band,” says Justin, who went on to write 20 of the Moody Blues’ 27 hits. “We were on the road a lot, especially in America where we’d be playing bands like Canned Heat, Cream and Jefferson Airplane” – who they befriended The Beatles, Keith Moon and Jimi Hendrix.
“Suddenly, in 1971, we found ourselves headlining. I remember thinking we’d be back at the hotel at 9 p.m., but the promoter said, “You’re a quarter to ten, that’s a real Moody Blues audience.” We would become headliners.
They broke up in 1974 for three years – “we had to grow outside the band to save it”.
In 1975, Justin released his first (of eight) solo or semi-solo albums, Blue Jays, a Top 5 collaboration with John Lodge.
The hit single, Blue Guitar, recorded with 10CC as their backing band, followed. 1978’s Forever Autumn, of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds, did even better.
Hayward played The Journalist in the touring production from 2006 to 2010 and revived the role for its sold-out Easter tour.
Justin wrote 20 of the 27 Moody Blues hits
Justin married model Ann Marie Guirron in 1970; they have a daughter. Now a grandfather, he’s touring the UK next month as The Voice of Moody Blues Justin Hayward, singing songs old and new, and releasing a new single shortly via BMG, recorded in Italy earlier this year with her recording partner Alberto Parodi.
In the rare moments when he is not acting, writing or recording, he enjoys cooking and horses.
Hayward was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Moody Blues in 2018 and was honored with an OBE as part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations in June.
“When I got my OBE I was so proud. My first thought was, ‘I wish my parents were here’ – which would have been interesting as they were socialist middle class. But I I was thrilled, especially in this Jubilee year. It was brilliant.”