The Moody Blues have been a driving force in popular music since their formation in 1964. Their hit songs and rich, thoughtfully crafted albums are known to millions of fans worldwide. The Moodies are generally credited with developing and popularizing "orchestral rock," mostly on the strength of their 1967 album, Days of Future Passed, and through the use of the Mellotron, a keyboard instrument that allowed the group to replicate orchestral sounds live and in the studio.
Although they're best known today for their lush, lyrically and musically profound psychedelic albums and singles, the Moody Blues started out as one of the better R&B based combos of the British Invasion.
The Moody Blues originated in Birmingham, England. At the time, Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder were El Riot & the Rebels, a popular band. Pinder left to join the army, but then rejoined Thomas to form the Krew Cats and had moderate success. The pair recruited Denny Laine, Graeme Edge and Clint Warwick, appearing as the Moody Blues for the first time in Birmingham in 1964. All were accomplished musicians with experience in local bands. The Moody Blues quickly earned the notice and later the services of manager Tony Secunda. A major tour was booked, and the band landed an engagement at the Marquee Club, which resulted in a contract with England's Decca Records less than six months after their formation. The group's first single, "Steal Your Heart Away," released in September of 1964, didn't reach the British charts.
Their second single "Go Now," released in November of 1964, fulfilled every expectation and more, reaching number one in England. In America, it peaked at number 10. After touring Britain with Chuck Berry, the Moody Blues traveled to the United States, supporting The Kinks. Finding a second hit was easier said than done. Despite their fledgling songwriting efforts and the access they had to American demos, this early version of the Moody Blues never came up with another single success.
By the end of the spring of 1965, the frustration was palpable within the band. The group decided to make their fourth single, "From The Bottom Of My Heart," an experiment with a different sound. Unfortunately, the effort only reached number 22 on the British charts following its release in May of 1965. Ultimately, the grind of touring coupled with the strains facing the group, became too much for Warwick, who exited in the spring of 1966, and by August of 1966, Laine had left as well. Warwick was replaced by John Lodge, also once a member of El Riot. His introduction to the band was followed in late 1966 by the addition of Justin Hayward, formerly of The Wilde Three. The band soon realized that their original style of American blues covers and novelty tunes was not working for them, and they determined to develop an original style. Their new style featured the symphonic sounds of the mellotron (an early analog sampling keyboard; Pinder had worked for its manufacturer) and Ray Thomas' flute, with the performance organized around a concept--one day in the life of everyman.
The Moody Blues contract with Decca Records was set to expire, and they owed the label several thousand pounds in advances. The reconstituted Moody Blues set about keeping afloat financially, mostly playing in Europe, recording the occasional single. Their big break came from Deram Records, an offshoot of their Decca label, which in 1967 decided that it needed a long-playing record to promote its new "Deramic Stereo." The Moody Blues were picked for the proposed project, a rock version of Dvorak's "New World Symphony," and immediately convinced the staff producer and the engineer to abandon the source material and permit the group to use a series of its own compositions that depicted an archetypal "day," from morning to night. Using the tracks laid down by the band, and orchestrated by conductor Peter Knight, the resulting album Days of Future Passed became a landmark in the band's history. The mix of rock and classical sounds was new, and at first puzzled the record company, but eventually the record was issued.
The album propelled the group to stardom. It stayed on the Billboard charts for over two years and marked a milestone in rock history as one of the very first concept albums, recorded not only with a symphony orchestra but also in stereo, both uncharted territory at that time. Thanks to the singles "Nights In White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon," the record went gold, reaching No. 3 in the charts. The album and the two singles became massively popular, as was the 1968 followup, In Search of the Lost Chord. The top-40 single from this album, "Ride My See-Saw," was the first single to be mastered using eight-track recording technology. The band's music continued to become more complex and symphonic, resulting in 1969's To Our Children's Children's Children, a concept album based around the band's celebration of the first moon landing. After that, the group decided to record only albums that could be played in concert, losing some of their bombastic sound for their next album, A Question of Balance (1970). This album, reaching No. 3 in American charts (No. 1 in British charts), was indicative of the band's growing success in America. For their next two albums, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971) and Seventh Sojourn (1972) (which reached No. 1 in both the UK and the US) the band returned to their signature orchestral sound, which, while difficult to play in concert, had become the band's trademark.