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The Moody Blues Cruise: An Interview with Moody Blues' John Lodge

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On the Blue cruise charters has announced the 2nd annual Moody Blues Cruise, a rockin' six-day adventure to be held aboard the new ship MSC Divina as she sails from Miami on April 2, headed to Grand Turk Island in the Turks & Caicos and Nassau in the Bahamas. Passengers that purchase the Moody Blues Cruise ticket will get to see shows by The Moody Blues, Roger Daltrey of the Who, Carl Palmer of ELP, Shawn Phillips, The Orchestra featuring former members of ELO, The Zombies, Starship, Lighthouse, The Little River Band and many others. In addition to all the concerts, there'll also be lots of chances for fans to interact with the musicians at Q&A sessions, meet & greets and other special events like the "Moodies Showroom and Storyteller" performance where the band's Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge will appear in an intimate setting. The theme for this year's Moody Blues Cruise is "Return to the Isle of Wight," a reference to the band's appearance at the legendary British music festival in 1970 where the Moodies performed before an estimated crowd of 600,000. I spoke by phone with Moody Blues singer and bass player John Lodge, reaching him at his home in Barbados, to ask about his memories of the Isle of Wight show and the upcoming Moody Blues Cruise.

antiMusic: How's beautiful Barbados this morning?

John: It's very nice! Do you know Barbados?

antiMusic: Well I was there once. My tour guide told me a lot of rock stars live there and we drove by Cliff Richards' house. Are you a longtime resident?

John: I'm not a resident; we just spend the winters here. The winters of darkness and rain and cold are too much for me. I prefer a bit of sunshine. Cliff and I did a concert a couple weeks ago for charity and there are musicians here and a vibrant music scene. There's a wonderful beach bar called Lobster Alive which is lobsters on the beach, basically, and they have a jazz band playing every Sunday and Thursday. Everybody gets up and jams and different people turn up with saxophones and flutes and trumpets; it's just a blast.

antiMusic: The theme for the Moody Blues Cruise this year is "Return to the Isle of Wight." I was just watching the film of you guys playing there and Justin (Hayward, Moody Blues guitarist and singer) comments that "Everyone left the festival differently than how they entered it." Does that apply to you?

John: Yeah. No one knew what a huge group of people getting together for music, what the atmosphere would be, or what was really happening. When we arrived on the island and saw all these people going to the concert…it had never been done before in England, or the world really, a concert putting all the rock bands together. And it wasn't a case of an artist and an audience. It seemed to me a case of everyone being the same; there were just listeners and players. When you saw that people had come from all over Europe you suddenly realized that the barriers were down. All these restrictions across borders --- if you're French you're different from German, you're different from Italian, you're different from Dutch --- but suddenly it was perhaps we are all different but music has joined us all together somehow. I think a lot of friendships were made, not just between people, but between countries. As far as I'm concerned it was the beginning of the Berlin Wall coming down. That was all part of the younger generation trying to take charge and saying "we've had enough of the old ways." Let's just get up and get our lives together so we can all be one.

antiMusic: The Who played at Isle of Wight in 1970 too and Roger Daltrey will be performing on the cruise. Is it true that the Moody Blues have never had occasion to share a billing with the Who or Daltrey in the 40-plus years that've passed, until now?

John: No we haven't. British bands are, I think, a bit different with touring than American bands. If the Moody Blues are touring, as we are today, it's just the Moody Blues. You never have this thing where you put ten acts on stage. I remember coming to America for our first tour in '68 when we joined forces with Canned Heat. I actually really love that band; they're a great, great boogie band. But we thought, "How can the Moody Blues and Canned Heat work together?" It's a different type of music. But it worked. That was really our only tour we did with another artist. Well, we did a Beach Boys tour. But the chances of The Who and The Moody Blues being on the same concert, or Led Zeppelin and the Moody Blues…everyone was on their own tours.

antiMusic: This is the second year for the Moody Blues Cruise so obviously it was a success the first time out. When the idea was first pitched to you, did you think the concept would work?

John: No. I think we were approached about four years ago initially and I was very skeptical. I traveled on the QE2 when it used to go from Southampton to New York and they used to have artists on the cruise and I felt, "No, that's not who the Moody Blues are." We're not an act on the ship. So we said no. Eventually Mike (London, cruise promoter) and the cruise ship company came to us and said, "No, you've got the wrong idea. You're not the act on the ship, you are the act!" It's a Moody Blues cruise, it isn't a cruise where the Moody Blues are playing. So we looked at the ship and they told us where we'd be going and the different events we could do and it all seemed to be a great idea. I was still a bit skeptical when I got there; I still wasn't too sure. But when the ship left the dock and everybody was in Moody Blues T-shirts and music was playing and everybody was cheering and clapping I thought, "This is pretty cool!" And it was. That's why we're doing a second one.

antiMusic: I see that the cruise will feature a "Moodies Showroom and Storyteller" event. What can fans expect from that?

John: We hope that the fans will ask us some questions that will ignite stories about some periods of our touring or our lives that we can share with them. It's really good if you have the fans ask questions because they always come from a different place, their questions always come from somewhere else. And then you can get into a story and start talking about what happened to us at a particular venue or at a particular time, particular recording session, or with a particular artist. And normally we just take our guitars and we'll probably sing a few songs that are not Moody Blues songs just to change the picture a bit. Hopefully it'll let people understand where we came from before we were Moody Blues, what inspired us. These are things that people really want to know, I think. It's what I've always wanted to know about artists I like.

antiMusic: Speaking of non-Moody Blues songs, your 1977 solo album Natural Avenue has just been re-released by Esoteric Recordings. Will there be a tie-in on the cruise?

John: I'm going to do a signing of the album. I've re-mastered the album completely and it has wonderful sound developed by our engineer and it's been manufactured on 180-gram vinyl. We've enhanced the sleeve too; it's the same sleeve but I've put a few new notes on. And two additional songs are included; "Street Café" which I recorded in the '80s and another song called "Threw It All Away" which I wrote for Elvis Presley. Unfortunately Elvis never got to record it. Those two songs will be included on a separate 12" vinyl included in the gatefold package. And Roger Dean, who did the artwork on the album for me, is going to be on the cruise as well. So we'll do a double signing of the album.

antiMusic: Are you a diver or a snorkeler? Are you planning on hitting the water when the ship is in port at Grand Turk Island?

John: I do snorkel. I used to do SCUBA diving but I don't do it anymore. I'm a great explorer, and I've never been to the Turks & Caicos before, so I'll probably spend the day wandering around the island and seeing what's there. I'm looking forward to that.

antiMusic: The Moody Blues are coming real close to a 50th anniversary. Are there plans in the works, or how would you like to see the milestone celebrated?

John: We've been talking about that. I think it would be nice to do some concerts maybe with orchestras or maybe orchestra and not orchestra at the same venue. We've got a few things we're thinking about. But we've got our upcoming tour, the cruise, another tour of the U.S.A. August through September, then a British tour starting in the spring of next year, so those are the things we've got on our mind right now.

The Moody Blues Cruise takes place April 2-7. For ticket information and a complete list of performers and special events, visit www.moodiescruise.com

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