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45 years of 'Nights in White Satin'

Courtesy photo
The Moody Blues, the influential progressive rock band from the 1960s and '70s, comes to the Clay Center Sunday night. This year is the 45th anniversary of the band's biggest hit, "Nights in White Satin."

WANT TO GO?

The Moody Blues

WHERE: The Clay Center

WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: $60 and $75

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This year is the 45th anniversary of the Moody Blues classic rock hit, "Nights in White Satin."

"Yeah, that's what we're celebrating on this tour," said 70-year-old Graeme Edge, the band's drummer and one of its songwriters. "We're celebrating still being alive and pretending it's about 'Days of Future Passed.'"

Whether celebrating the anniversary of a milestone record, an enduring classic hit or simply being around to play both, the British band performs Sunday night at the Clay Center.

Forty-five years is a long time for any pop song, but "Nights in White Satin" has endured better than most. "People come up to us and tell us it was 'their' song," Edge said. "It was important to them. They played it at their weddings."

 The song was part of the band's concept album "Days of Future Passed." Justin Hayward wrote "Nights in White Satin," but Edge contributed the spoken word poem at the conclusion of the song, called "Late Lament."

"When we were making 'Days of Future Passed,' we had a lot of stuff written," Edge said. "It was the picture of a whole day. The whole album is kind of a snapshot, but being typical musicians, we were short on material for dawn to mid-day -- the part of the day we never saw."

He laughed and explained that his part in "Nights in White Satin" came from riding shotgun in a van while going to a show in the English city of Carlisle.

"Back in those days, we had a car for four of us and a van, which sat the roadie and the other one of us."

Who got to ride in the car and who had to ride in the van rotated, Edge explained. "It was my turn to sit in the van," he said.

On the ride, Edge worked on lyrics for what he thought might be a song that could go at the beginning of the record. "I'd written a lot of poetry over the years -- very old fashioned poetry, very Romantic era," he said. "There's nothing Beat about my stuff. I wrote it all up and presented it in the recording studio the next day."

Edge said they all loved it, but Joss said, "There's no way we can sing all the words. It's just too dense."

Disappointed, Edge started to look at his poem in terms of what could be pulled out of it to make it more vocal friendly. Producer Charlie Clark told him to wait a moment. He told the band, "I love the lyric. Let's just put some sweeping strings behind it, some sounds, and let's talk it."

"Lo and behold," Edge said. "A poet was born."

Edge still writes poetry. He recently published a book of what he said were bits and pieces of things he'd written over the years and collected.

"I never liked to actually finish something unless it had a home to go to," he said. "Otherwise, you write something then you fiddle with it. You read it again then you fiddle with it some more. Eventually it turns out to be too clever by half."

He thought it was best just to take the bits of inspiration, store them up and let the idea coalesce and become what it was during the first blush of enthusiasm.

"Otherwise, you seem to kill it off somehow. The human brain seems to trample on human inspiration, which comes from who knows where."

Many things have changed since The Moody Blues first began performing "Nights in White Satin" 45 years ago. Musically, the band sounds better than ever, Edge said. The technology to enhance the quality of a live performance is light years ahead of what it was in the 1960s.

"We used to go on stage with like 80 10-inch speakers blasting because we were trying to reach the back of a 20,000 person stadium."

The people on the front row were going to get blown out of their socks.

"Now we get the exact sound we want," he said. "The new equipment is so much better."

The traveling, however, is worse. In its heyday, during the glory days of rock n' roll, the band chartered private planes to take them to shows.

"But that's just gotten too silly for words, man," Edge said.

Airport security is also a hassle. So the band often travels by bus, which isn't bad, just kind of dull.

"What is great is playing live to people," he said. "We all love that. I'm not getting paid for the two hours on stage. I do that for free. I get paid for the other 22 hours to get there."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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