The lonely blue

Justin Hayward goes it solo

Marcus Way

Justin Hayward has a featured position in the Moody Blues, as singer, guitarist and main songwriter. 

But one thing has prompted him to return to making solo albums and play solo shows when his band is not on tour — the Moody Blues are no longer making it a priority to do albums of new music.

The Moody Blues last released an album in 2003 — the holiday release December. There hasn’t been a studio album of new original music since 1999’s Strange Times. That’s likely to be the band’s final studio album.

“I think this is probably it,” Hayward said. “I did the solo record because I had so many songs, and I could not see a Moody Blues record on the horizon. People want DVDs from us now. I think any product we do will be along that line.”

The solo album Hayward mentioned is Spirits of the Western Sky, which came out in 2013. While touring with the Moody Blues takes up about half of his year, Hayward fits in a good number of solo gigs as well. 

Those shows feature a mix of his solo songs and fan favorites from the Moody Blues catalog — including what has become the group’s signature song, “Nights in White Satin.” 

Ironically, Hayward didn’t have a clue what was going to happen when he wrote his most famous song. If he had, The Moody Blues singer and guitarist said, “I would have run a mile if you’d have told me what would happen. I would have been scared.” 

 “Nights in White Satin” became a hit in 1972, and perhaps more than any song in the group’s catalog, defined the Moody Blues’ progressive pop sound. But it wasn’t The Moodies’ first hit. That was “Go Now,” a 1965 R&B, number that put them in the same bag with the other British Invasion bands.

But Merseybeat wasn’t the Moodies’ sound — at least after Hayward joined the group in 1966. He and bassist John Lodge came on board in time to make the album that saw the Moody Blues evolve from an R&B-based pop band into a far grander style of pop-rock — 1967’s Days Of Future Passed. Featuring the aforementioned “Nights in White Satin,” the album is considered by many the first progressive rock album, and its lush, melodic and expansive songs gave the Moody Blues a stylistic template from which to build.

Hayward said “Nights in White Satin” was originally a fairly modest song.

“I was at the end of a love affair and starting another one,” Hayward said. “I was 19-20 years, and I just had this simple song. They didn’t think much of it when I played it. Then (Moodies’ thenkeyboardist) Mike Pinder, who had one of the first mellotrons, said, ‘Play it, again.’ He played it with me and there it was.” 

“Nights in White Satin” didn’t connect when Days of Future Passed was released in 1967. But when the song was re-released five years later, it reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart.

By that time, The Moodies had released six more albums, establishing themselves as a true classic rock band — with their inclusion of classical music concepts and sounds in their music.

The Moody Blues then took a hiatus that stretched on for six years. During that period, Hayward and Lodge teamed up to release the 1975 album, Blue Jays, while Hayward followed that with his first solo effort, 1977’s Songwriter.

The Moody Blues then returned in 1978 with the album Octave, and they had another run of popularity in the ’80s, turning up on MTV and generating hits like “Gemini Dream,” and “Your Wildest Dreams,” two more Hayward compositions.

“People think the ’60s were our best time,” Hayward said. “But, to be honest, the most fun was that time in the ’80s — to have that opportunity to be on TV and have all the times of having hit singles in your early 40s. I was a kid in the ’60s, with my head down and a little too stoned. In the ’80s, I was able to enjoy it. Believe it or not, a lot of our audience today came from that time, not the ’60s.”

Today, Hayward, Lodge and drummer Graeme Edge, who has been with the band from the beginning, make up The Moody Blues. And if the group’s recording days are over, that probably means Hayward will pick up the pace on making solo albums.

He has released four solo albums since Songwriter Night Flight (1980), Moving Mountains (1985), The View from the Hill (1996) and Spirits of the Western Sky (2013).

Hayward’s solo dates are smaller affairs than a Moody Blues concert. But Hayward said he’d still be playing, even if it was to passersby on the street.

“I kind of feel a duty to do it,” he said. “Number one, it’s a lot of fun doing it. I wouldn’t want to give that up lightly. But I do feel a duty to the music. I’ve got a feeling I’d be doing it somewhere no matter what.”

ON THE BILL: Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.