WOUB-HD to Re-Broadcast ‘Great Performances: The Moody Blues’ Dec. 31 at 11 p.m.< < Back to
In December 1999 a group of second graders in northeast Ohio sat down to watch a VHS tape of what they thought would be Charles Shultz’s heartfelt modern masterpiece, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Instead, the bulky monitor came alight with the likenesses of Justin Hayward, Mike Pinder, and Graeme Edge in the midst of an electrifying, orchestral Moody Blues performance.
This was Andrew Poulsen’s second grade class, and this incident was a product of his father’s intense Moody Blues fandom. When Poulsen’s mother had been charged with bringing in a copy of the cartoon for her son’s classroom holiday party, somehow the family’s VHS of the classic had been swapped with one of Poulsen’s father’s copies of a Moody Blues concert.
“The Moody Blues is not really a band that you think of as being anyone’s favorite,” said Poulsen, a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. “My dad is a very meat and potatoes kind of guy: he loves fantasy football and The Sopranos and a lot of other things that are really mainstream. The Moody Blues are a band that very much caters to those who have very esoteric tastes in music and art; and my dad’s tastes in just about anything else are not esoteric by any stretch of the word.”
December 31 at 11 p.m., WOUB-HD will broadcast Great Performances: The Moody Blues, which chronicles the band’s Toronto stop on their 2017 world tour, in which they play the entirety of their groundbreaking 1967 album, Days of Future Passed. The performance is certainly the kind of thing that a super fan, such as Poulsen’s father, would want to catch – but also a real treat for the casual listener, with the band cracking into the likes of “Nights in White Satin,” and more.
Poulsen said that while growing up, the only person he knew of who had anywhere the affinity for the group as his father was someone in his hometown who played in a Moody Blues tribute act, called Time Traveller.
That man is Jeff Costick, who formed Time Traveller in 1998 with some fellow musicians whose chops were mighty enough to handle the complexity of The Moody Blues’ catalog. It should be noted that Time Traveller (named after The Moody Blues’ 1994 five-disc compilation album of the same name,) is America’s number one the Moody Blues tribute act, having met and performed with various original members of the band multiple times.
“I’ve always been a big music fan, dating back to the ‘60s and ‘70s – everybody, you know, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly,” said Costick in an interview via phone with WOUB, driving back to Ohio from a private show put on by John Lodge, bassist of the Moody Blues. “A lot of Moody Blues fans are very hardcore fans, and they range in age from early teens to people in their 70s. They’re very, very loyal fans – you see a lot of the same people at concerts around the country.”
Cosick is in a similar age bracket as Eddie Ashworth, an associate professor for the Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies.
“I think that The Moody Blues only fits a couple of ‘progressive rock’ categories: they sort of tackle these immense themes – every one of their albums seems to be a concept record. They also have some borderline pretentious lyrics, which are even nonsensical sometimes. A real hallmark of progressive rock is that sometimes you have to sort of turn off what the actual lyrical content is to enjoy the music,” said Ashworth in an interview in his office, the Moody’s In Search of the Lost Chord playing softly in the background. “So, they have concept albums, and the instrumentation they use is definitely progressive. But, where I think the band diverges from typical progressive rock is that oftentimes progressive rock prides itself on infuriatingly complex song construction, and over complicated playing – but at their heart, The Moody Blues are just a classic pop band. When you consider their body of work, it is just too pleasant to listen to, to be considered true progressive rock.”
Earlier this year The Moody Blues were named a 2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame nominee, much to the delight of Poulson’s father.
“Another thing that is worth mentioning is that my dad is legally deaf without his hearing aids, and you would think that because The Moody Blues are so compositionally dense that it wouldn’t resonate with someone whose hearing abilities are already so limited, with someone who can’t even hear birds when they chirp. But he loves them, and when you look at the other musical artists that he likes it’s like Bob Seger and Jackson Browne and The Eagles – sort of your appetizer sampler of dad bands. But he loves The Moody Blues so much that he’s been getting fired up about them being on the ballot for the rock hall for years,” said Poulson, who mentioned that his father draw a distinct connection between Rolling Stone founding owner Jann Wenner selling his stake in the magazine and the band’s recent nomination. “Even though The Moody Blues’ music is something I hated as a child, I dreaded it – their music does have merit, so it makes sense.”
The band is responsible for some incredible things, such as introducing the very first Melotron to pop music.
“But, where I think (The Moody Blues) diverge from typical progressive rock is that oftentimes progressive rock prides itself on infuriatingly complex song construction, and over complicated playing – but at their heart, The Moody Blues are just a classic pop band. When you consider their body of work, it is just too pleasant to listen to, to be considered true progressive rock. – Eddie Ashworth, associate professor at Ohio University’s School of Media Arts and Studies
“That opening to “Strawberry Fields Forever?” We wouldn’t have it unless Mike PInder had introduced Paul McCartney to it,” said Ashworth. “And it’s been said that Brian Wilson was a big fan of the Moody Blues when he was working on all of his Pet Sounds era stuff, too. I think it’s easy to denigrate the band – and there are goofy things about them. Sometimes lyrically they ask you to make quite a stretch, and sometimes they overuse falsetto vocals. But if you look at the band as just musicians and songwriters, Justin Hayward is one of the great unsung songwriters of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He made really consistent, tuneful albums. He reminds me a lot of Neil Finn of Crowded House and Split Enz – but in the way that Neil Finn is hip, Justin Hayward is not.”
Perhaps those second graders who were subjected to The Moody Blues all those years ago ended up purchasing Pink Floyd t-shirts at Hot Topic in their youth, and some of them might have even gone on to become bona fide progressive rock fans.
“Another thing that is really weird is the way in which my generation has embraced and commodified Pink Floyd, and to a lesser extent E.L.O., Yes, and King Crimson, but not The Moody Blues at all,” said Poulsen. “My mom has said that “Nights in White Satin” was the slow dance song at her prom – and that song has a flute solo in it and all these bizarre orchestral swells. When I think of my school dances, it’s like “Get Low” by Lil John and the Eastside Boyz. It’s hilarious to think that The Moody Blues’ music is so fantastical, yet at the end of the day, it was modern pop music.”