As a member of the iconic band The Moody Blues, musician John Lodge has been going strong for over five decades. To hear him tell it, there’s no time to rest on one’s laurels.
“I never reflect on any of it... If you start doing that you’ll get lost somewhere else and that’s not who I am,” Lodge states matter-of-factly as he chats with the Observer from a tour stop in Sugar Land, Texas. “I’m always thinking about the next record, the next song or the next tour,” he continues. “That’s who I’ve been since I was 14. I play every day because I love music and I love rock ’n’ roll.”
That frame of mind is currently on display as Lodge is crossing the country as part of Yes’ The Royal Affair Tour, which rolls through town Sunday for a stop at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving. A star-studded collection of kindred spirits, the tour is a veritable “who’s who” of British Rock, featuring Lodge, the classic lineups of Yes and Asia, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy and guest vocalist Arthur Brown.
“What I want to do on this tour is perform some of the classic Moody Blues songs and put about 40 minutes of music together that represent who I was in the band,” Lodge explains. “I’ve had a ball doing that and the reactions from the audiences have been fantastic.”
With catalogs as deep, the shows can sometimes stretch close to the four-hour mark. The constant shuffling and reassembling of musicians, singers and backdrops, however, keep the presentation lively and engaging. It also helps that those involved share a rich history and a shared sense of community that prevents one act from superseding the other.
“We all started out essentially in prog-rock; we just developed different directions in that genre,” Lodge explains.
Born in Birmingham, England, near the end of World War II, Lodge grew up idolizing early rock pioneers like Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. Soon, he had linked together with fellow enthusiast Ray Thomas, and in short time the pair were rocketing up the pop charts with The Moody Blues, a blues-based bar band that quickly morphed into a progenitor of progressive and symphonic rock. As both the band’s bassist and one of its principal songwriters, Lodge would go on to pen some of the biggest hits of the era like “Ride My See-Saw,” “I’m Just a Singer” and “Isn’t Life Strange.”
Though popular at the time, these tracks have grown into staples of classic rock radio, dominating both FM dials and satellite stations and influencing a whole new cadre of fans and musicians. Lodge has interacted with a plethora of new and younger fans through his various interactions on this tour and appreciates the renewed interest and enthusiasm in the type of music he helped develop. Though there are still plenty of older die-hards in the crowd, Lodge appreciates the mentorship role his career has afforded him and passionately strives for new artists to take up the mantle.
“Rock ’n’ roll needs to continue in the way in which it started," Lodge says, "through the energy of the young people and their creativeness. That’s what we did at the very beginning; we experimented and were trying to find which notes and chords fit together and how we could broaden the church of rock ’n’ roll music.
“That’s what prog rock did. We took things away from those two-and-a-half minute songs and stretched things out to eight and nine minutes with The Moody Blues. Yes did the same thing, Led Zeppelin did the same thing and Pink Floyd did the same thing. If you keep working and focus on the craft, the audience will find you.”
Should Lodge one day decide to go against his nature and reflect back on things, he will undoubtedly discover a wealth of riches. His induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is an honor that brings particular joy, especially since the announcement took place before his longtime friend and collaborator Thomas passed away in early 2018 at the age of 76.
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“When we first heard the news, he rang me up and said, ‘Does this mean we’re famous now?’” Lodge recalls Thomas saying. “That was always his sense of humor. But, you know, my grandson can take his children there to the Hall of Fame and tell people, ‘Hey that was my granddad.’”
In the meantime, though, Lodge keeps on trucking. The tour runs through the end of summer and after that will come a frenetic run of promotions for a new solo album out in late August. The collection contains some new tunes, a few remixes, and a reimagining of some of the timeless Moody Blues songs that have been updated and given fresh tunings. To keep the spirit genuine, Lodge used his trusty vintage Fender Precision Bass from the original recordings.
The pace may be exhausting, but Lodge wouldn’t have things any other way.
“It’s a real rock ’n’ roll lifestyle,” he says with a laugh. “We rock one way and roll the other.”