Nights in white satin, never reaching the end,
Letters I've written, never meaning to send.
Beauty I'd always missed, with these eyes before,
Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore.
‘Cos I love you, yes I love you, oh how I love you.
Nights in White Satin. © Justin Hayward 1967
My wife Jane and I don’t go to many rock concerts any more. Well into our bi-focal and Metamucil years, we find them expensive, loud, and generally overwhelming. But last week we attended a Moody Blues concert in Salem.
For those readers younger than we are, the Moody Blues are an English band that had a huge influence on rock music with a string of albums beginning with Days of Future Passed in 1967 and continuing to Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Seventh Sojourn in 1972. They melded classical overtones with psychedelic styles to help define progressive rock. They have sold in excess of 70 million albums worldwide. Their best known songs are Nights in White Satin, Tuesday Afternoon, Voices in the Sky, and Story in Your Eyes.
Their stop in Salem was their only concert in Virginia, but one of 34 concerts on the spring tour in 80 days: a grueling schedule! The three members from their 1967 lineup were lead guitarist Justin Hayward, bass guitarist John Lodge, and drummer Graeme Edge.
The crowd shuffling in was noticeably comprised of folks in our similar age group. Many grey-haired women and balding men, all sporting a few more inches around the waistline, separated this audience from those of more contemporary acts. The Salem Civic Center is a small venue to begin with, but fully half of it was unused with the stage sitting in the center of the rectangular floor and seating on the floor and side bleachers only partially full. I guessed there were perhaps 2500 people attending.
Apparently the group’s promoters know their audience, as the concert started close to the advertized 8:00 p.m. time. There was no backup band. An intermission an hour later allowed us to refill our beer glasses and use the restrooms.
The band kicked off one favorite after another, with impressive volume from the loudspeakers. Jane and I wore earplugs for most of it, trying to preserve our hearing. She commented on it during the intermission, wondering whether the performers suffered hearing loss. I guessed they’d probably been fitted with custom plugs decades earlier.
Accompanying the auditory impact was an impressive video screen behind the band, flashing photos of the band members’ younger days interspersed with psychedelic images of the band’s albums and other graphics. The only thing missing from concerts of my youth was marijuana smoke wafting through the air.
I’m not a music critic, but it was great; the music was clear, crisp, and impressive. Hayward may not be of the guitar talent of Eric Clapton, but his riffs were distinctive and bold. Jane noted that Hayward’s distinctive voice had brilliantly withstood the test of time.
At one point, Edge, the drummer, spoke to us about how it had been 45 years since Days of Future Passed had been released and how he had turned 71 the day before. Where did the years go?
The three original members were joined onstage with a second drummer, a saxophonist, a keyboardist, and a particularly alluring flautist and vocalist named Norda Mullen from Tennessee. Hayward’s lyrics captured our ears but Mullin captured our eyes – at least the male eyes!
As they performed an energetic, raucous version of Ride My See-Saw as their encore, I reminded myself what a rich musical era the period of my upbringing had been. Who says oldsters can’t rock?
Ride, ride my see-saw,
Take this place, on this trip, just for me.
Ride, take a free ride,
Take my place, have my seat, it's for free.
Ride My See-Saw. © John Lodge 1968