The Moody Blues’ second studio album ‘Days of Future Passed’ is among the most definitive pieces of music from the year 1967. The LP’s innovative sound is dominated by the addition of a full orchestra, which was an uncertain experiment at the time. One of the earliest concept albums, it recounts the story of a single day.
Guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge joined the group in 1966, after founding members Danny Laine and Clint Warwick (briefly replaced by Rodney Clark) quit. Hayward and Lodge, as well as keyboardist Mike Pinder, flautist Ray Thomas and drummer Graeme Edge all contributed to the writing of the album, and they all sang lead vocals, with Edge’s exception.
Recorded in the summer and autumn of 1967 at Decca Studios in London, the album marks the beginning of the band’s collaboration with producer Tony Clarke: they worked with him on all of their subsequent releases before parting ways in 1979. The Moody Blues were originally asked by Decca’s Deram Records label to create a rock arrangement for ‘Symphony No. 9’ by Antonín Dvořák with the help of the London Festival Orchestra, in order to showcase their revolutionary stereo recording techniques. However, the band decided to continue working on the material they had been writing instead, with the help of Clarke, engineer Derek Varnals and conductor Peter Knight.
The record company was initially disappointed that they got something very different to what they had asked for; the album was impossible to classify, so they didn’t really know how to market it. It was neither classical or pop music, but one of the first examples of symphonic rock.
When finally released on 10th November in the UK and a day later in the US, ‘Days of Future Passed’ received mixed reviews: some critics didn’t appreciate its novel sound, while others praised its original take on the psychedelic music of the time. Against the odds, it did well commercially – especially in the US, where it peaked at third place on the Billboard 200 chart. It reached a modest number 27 on the UK Albums Chart.
Featured on the record is the most recognizable single in the band’s history, ‘Nights in White Satin’. Written by Hayward at the age of 19, the song laments the pain of platonic love and is one of the two segments of the album’s closing composition ‘The Night’. Although it didn’t enter the top 10 when it first came out, it was reissued in 1972, charting at number one on the US Cash Box Top 100, number two on the Billboard 100 and number nine on the UK Singles Chart. It was awarded a gold certification in the US, after selling a million copies.
Other highlights from ‘Days of Future Passed’ include the haunting ‘Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling’ and the folky-psychedelic ‘Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)’ (released as a single titled ‘Tuesday Afternoon’). Also very memorable is the elaborate classical composition ‘Evening’, comprising of two parts: ‘The Sunset’ and ‘Twilight Time’.
The line-up established in 1966 stayed together until 1978, when Pinder was replaced by Patrick Moraz on keyboards. Moraz left in 1990 and Thomas in 2002, leaving Edge, Hayward and Lodge as the only permanent members.
The Moody Blues have issued 16 studio albums during their long career, the last one being 2003’s ‘December’. Hayward and Edge have also released several solo records, and they frequently perform live with their own bands.