John Lodge Of The Moody Blues Talks About Writing Their Classic Songs “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band),” “Isn’t Like Strange” and “Ride My See-Saw”

John Lodge
John Lodge

John Lodge has been a key member of the legendary rock band, the Moody Blues, for the past 51 years. Along with Justin Hayward of the band, Lodge has written and sung several of the band’s classic songs, including the hits “I’m Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),” “Isn’t Life Strange,” “Ride My See-Saw” and “Gemini Dream.” During the past year, the Moody Blues have been touring worldwide and performing their classic album, Days of Future Passed, which was originally released in 1967.

In addition to his work with the Moody Blues, Lodge has recorded two solo albums and he has recently toured as a solo artist. His latest solo album is called 10,000 Light Years Ago, which was released in 2015. This album contains a wide range of music styles—some songs are in the Moody Blues vein, and other songs are quite different.

Last year, Lodge embarked on a solo tour in the U.K. to promote his album, and he was very pleased with the tour and its reception. As a result, he recorded a concert video of his concert in Birmingham (his hometown), which will be released in October (2017) as a special CD/DVD box set. There will also be a limited edition of the live album released on vinyl.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with John Lodge of the Moody Blues, who recalls how he wrote the classic hit song, “I’m Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band).”

Currently, Lodge is launching his first tour of the U.S. this fall, as a solo artist. The tour begins October 26 in Virginia, and concludes in New York City on November 8. For these shows, Lodge will be performing songs from his 10,000 Light Years Ago album, plus his classic Moody Blues songs.

John Lodge Interview

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with John Lodge of the Moody Blues. He tells how he wrote his classic Moody Blues songs, and discusses his recent solo album and upcoming U.S. solo tour.

DK: The Moody Blues recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as a band. How does it feel to still be going strong with the band?

John Lodge: It’s a strange one really, because it’s who I am, you know. And it’s probably like riding a bike, really. If you fall off, then you realize that the bike is [going on] without you (laughs). Although I do my solo work, I am a Moody Blue, and I’ve been a Moody Blue since 1966. It’s an amazing situation, as we were touring the U.S. this year, to think that 50 years ago we went into the Decca Records studio in London, and a week later we came out with Days of Future Passed, an album that changed my life forever.

DK: This fall, you’ll be launching your first solo tour in the U.S. What made you decide that now was a good time to tour as a solo artist?

Lodge: Well, I recorded the last concert on my U.K. tour, which was at Birmingham Town Hall. Birmingham is my hometown—it’s where I grew up and learned to play guitar. It’s also where I started my first band, El Riot and The Rebels, which was with Ray Thomas (original flute player of the Moody Blues). I recorded the Birmingham show and filmed it, and I’m really excited about the concert I did there. It was great for the English fans, because they actually saw what I was doing (with the live show). And my American fans were saying, “Come on John, come to America [to play the solo show].” So now, I thought the best thing to do is to get out on the road and perform the songs on a U.S. tour.

Here’s the video trailer of John Lodge’s new concert DVD & CD.

I’m really looking forward to the U.S. tour. I did the English tour last year and we filmed the concert in Birmingham. The Birmingham show was just a celebration of playing a concert in my hometown. And with American fans asking me to come over to the States to tour, this U.S. concert tour is to say “Thank you” to everyone as well. It’s saying, “Thank you to everyone for keeping the faith with John Lodge.” That’s really what it’s about.

DK: Iin 2015 you released your solo album, 10,000 Light Years Ago, which was your first solo album in 30 years. Was there a reason that you waited a long time to release your second solo album?

Lodge: I’ve been really busy with the Moody Blues, and working with the Moody Blues is always my main goal. But at the same time, you know, the record industry has changed so much, and to be honest, over the last 12 years, the record industry hasn’t been what it was. But a couple years ago, I felt a slight change coming. I think it was the return of vinyl records. I suddenly got excited again—vinyl records were getting bought, and people were buying record players and listening to music again on vinyl. Particularly with 180 gram (audiophile) vinyl, I think the sound of vinyl is just so superior to anything else you could listen to.

People ask me, “Why vinyl?” For me, when you put a CD on and you turn the volume down, on every machine, there’s a loudness button you can press. Because when you turn the volume down, all the volume goes down and you lose the bass and you lose all the intricate parts at the bottom. That’s why you have the loudness button. And you know, that loudness button has got nothing to do with the band that made the music. It’s the technical side, and the [stereo equipment] people who tried to add something. And with vinyl, you don’t need that. You can turn the volume of a vinyl record all the way down, and still get the complete picture. And this excited me. So I thought, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll make 10,000 Lights Years Ago as a vinyl album. And then of course, it was released as a CD as well, and available for downloading and streaming. But it was the vinyl version that really excited me.

Also, I found a new way of recording. The old days of going into the studio for weeks on end and trying to make a record, didn’t appeal to me, because you might get somebody in the studio whose mind is somewhere else and not ready to create. So I decided to make the album in a totally different way. All the musicians I used have their own studio. So I would make the demos, then send them to my music director & keyboardist Alan Hewitt, and he would put it together. And then I would send the files to the drummer and he would put the drums on, and then he would send the files to my guitarist Chris Spedding, and Chris would put the guitars on when he felt right. Eventually, I ended up with a musical jigsaw. Then I rented The Music Factory studio in Naples, Florida, and put it all together in the studio. I put all the bass work on, the acoustic guitars, and all the vocals. And to me, it was a great way of working. I really enjoyed making an album like that.

Here’s a video of the Moody Blues performing their hit “I’m Just a Singer
(In a Rock and Roll Band),” which was written by John Lodge.

DK: I liked listening to your solo album, and I noticed that some of the songs could fit the style of a Moody Blues album.

Lodge: I did envision all the songs as solo songs. As I approached writing and recording the songs for my solo album, I wanted it to be a cross-section…a diverse collection of songs that for me, covered who John Lodge is.

DK: Going back to your Moody Blues songs, one of the most popular songs you wrote is “I’m Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band).” What inspired you to write this song?

Lodge: It was a strange time in the world [back in the 1960s), and I know we live in strange times now (laughs). The Vietnam War was going on, and at the same time, people around the world were looking for different things—looking for hope and looking for some way to get out of everything that was piling pressure on them.

I suddenly thought…just a minute…I’m only a musician. I didn’t know the answers to the questions that people were seeking. I wanted to say that. But also, there’s a reference in the song to a famous photograph from the Vietnam War. There’s a little girl running along the street who’s just been on fire, and so I had to write that in the song as well…the line, “scorching the earth.” So I wanted to put everything in [the song]. I wanted to tell you what is actually going on in the world, [but] it seemed we couldn’t do anything else about it. And that’s really what this song is about.

DK: Another classic Moody Blues song is “Ride My See-Saw.” Can you talk about how you created that song?

Lodge: Yeah, I wrote that song on my very first, steel-stringed, acoustic guitar. I still love that guitar. The song is really about growing up. It’s about what you learn at school and everything else…it’s pretty cool. But when you grow up and go into the real world, you can’t take that with you. You need to see what’s happening in the real world, and whatever you learned in life up until that time, it will give you a nice grounding so you can find your way in life. It’s really important that you’re aware of the world and what’s actually happening in it, and to try to relate to that. “Ride My See-Saw” is the fact that you’re going up and down—you learn a bit and you lose a bit. That’s what this song is about.

DK: Another hit song that you wrote is “Isn’t Life Strange.” What inspired you to write this song?

Here’s a video of the Moody Blues performing their hit “Ride My See-Saw,”
which was written by John Lodge.

Lodge: There’s an interesting story behind how I wrote it. A friend of mine was (British composer) Lionel Bart, who wrote major musicals like Oliver. He wrote everything on a baby grand piano, and he suggested that I buy this [same] piano. So I bought a piano and put it in my house. Then one night, I was having dinner with my wife and some friends, and I suddenly heard this melody in my head. In the middle of dinner, I went to the piano—it probably wasn’t the right thing to do to leave the dinner table (laughs). So I sat down at the piano and I wrote the music and I came up with the title for “Isn’t Life Strange” in about 15 minutes. I had the song (mostly) finished, and then I went back and had dinner (laughs). Then I said to my wife, “I think I’ve written a song.” Then the next morning, I played it to see if it still had the same feeling, and it did. I then wrote the lyrics, which came straight away. The song is all about how life sort of keeps repeating itself…Isn’t life strange? It is strange that life keeps repeating itself. You can’t really ask what the future’s got for you. You just turn the page over, move on, and see what happens.

DK: After your solo tour this fall, what are your plans? Will you be back touring with the Moody Blues?

Lodge: In January, we’ve got a Moody Blues Cruise which goes out of Florida down to Mexico. And then we’ve got 14 concerts scheduled for Florida, Louisiana and Texas, and then we end up in Las Vegas at the Wynn (hotel). We have been promoting the 50th anniversary of our album, Days Of Future Passed, and this December we’re also releasing a live video of our Days of  Future Passed concert in Toronto. So we’re looking forward to next year [and playing more shows].

Here’s the link to John Lodge’s site:

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima