At 72, John Lodge can look back on an extraordinary life as a musician who has played bass and sung and written songs for The Moody Blues since 1966.
Having sold more than 70 million records worldwide with The Moody Blues and with the band recently earning a nomination into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Lodge certainly has earned the right to rest on his laurels.
But after 50-plus years in the music business, he decided September of 2016 was the right time to embark on his first solo tour—eight club dates in the UK.
With last year’s release of his second solo album, 10,000 Light Years Ago, Lodge didn’t want to make the same mistake he did after releasing his first, Natural Avenue. He never toured after releasing that album 38 years ago.
“I always felt like I hadn’t completed that circle, really,” Lodge says, during an Oct. 20 phone interview. “So when I recorded my new album, 10,000 Light Years Ago, I was determined to go on the road and perform not only that album, but also songs from The Moody Blues that I’ve never played [live] before.”
Now he is bringing the tour to the U.S., with a stop here at The Queen on Sunday, Nov. 5. In addition to cuts from the solo album, Lodge also will be performing songs that can be heard on his new concert recording, Live in Birmingham, which was recorded on the last night of his UK tour in the town where he was born.
The Birmingham Town Hall show was especially significant, for it was there, as a as a 13-year-old boy, that he sat in the front row of the balcony and watched Buddy Holly perform for the first time in his life.
“Buddy Holly was the biggest influence in my career completely,” Lodge says. “People talk about rock ‘n’ roll, and I say, ‘Yeah, I was into rock ‘n’ roll from Day One.’ But Buddy Holly really tuned my music.
“What I wanted to do with my live album was for me to stand on that stage where Buddy Holly was and almost look back up at the balcony and see a young Johnny Lodge looking down. So that sort of completed a circle.”
Here are Lodge’s takes on his favorite Buddy Holly album and a few other records that have been on his turntable—or on his mind —recently and most resoundingly:
The Crickets – The “Chirping” Crickets
[This is] the album that really changed my life from a musician’s point-of-view, as a 13-year-old boy with a six-string guitar for the first time. There was a program in England called Jukebox Jury that played new records, and they played a record by Buddy Holly and the Crickets called “That’ll Be the Day.” I was just absolutely intrigued.
I tried to find it—it took me ages—two months I think, before that album was actually available in the UK.
It’s a go-to album, because of the double-tracking of guitar parts and the bass playing. It’s stand-up bass, but it’s really interesting the ways the bass and guitars work together.
The wonderful thing about Buddy Holly is that basically up until then, rock ‘n’ roll was 12 bars or eight bars. But Buddy Holly just changed everything by putting minors in there; putting sevenths in there; not playing 12 bars; putting guitar solos in there; different rhythms. Chirping Crickets was all of that.
Every time I play that album, it magically transports me back to that time. It reminds me of everything that got me hooked on rock ‘n’ roll. And the English version of rock & roll, I might say. I know Buddy Holly was American, but somehow he translated so well into the Englishness of rock ‘n’ roll.
John Lennon – Imagine
It’s just such a brilliant, brilliant album. Everything about it. The way it was played, the musicianship, and some wonderful songs on that album, like “Jealous Guy.” There’s a string part in that song. It just comes in once, and every time I hear that—there’s just something magic about that album.
Nina Simone – Baltimore
Nina Simone’s voice is unbelievable, and the orchestration on that album is beautiful. What I love about that album is that is the different way in which each song is approached. You’ve got sort of West Indian music in there, but you also have wonderful orchestrations in the song about a father going to Paris. If people want to listen to a fantastic album, listen to Baltimore.
Her voice just transcends everything to me, it’s pitch-perfect. There’s a melody in her voice. If there’s anybody who wants to be a fantastic singer, find the melody in your voice. It’s not so much about trying to hit the highest note possible and singing it as loud as possible. It’s about getting that melody, where you actually draw people into that melody. And her voice just draws me in every time.
B.B. King and Eric Clapton – Riding with the King
I love going to the Delta in America. All of that area, through Helena and Memphis and Tupelo, with Elvis [being born there]. When I was in Memphis once, I remember going to this rib shack. And they had all this wonderful music playing, Robert Johnson and other great blues artists. Then they played a track from this album, Riding With The King, which had just come out. To me, bringing those two musicians together in that rib shack was just brilliant.
I play that album a lot. We grew up with Clapton. Our first tour in America was with Clapton. The Moody Blues played our first concert, believe it or not, in Paris with Cream.
B.B. King and Eric Clapton, just playing against one another on this album, it’s just a great album. To me, it brings together the blues from the Delta and English blues.
John Lodge – Live From Birmingham
It was released today, so I have to mention it! [laughs]
The reason it’s a go-to album is that I’ve had to listen to it so much just to make sure the mix is right, and the mastering is right, and the pressing is right. [laughs again]
I’m so pleased with the guys in the band. They played so well. It was only one show. We didn’t go back into the studio [to do overdubs] at all. Everyone just gave their all with this record.
We were talking about Nina Simone, [and] trying to find the melody and emotion in the voice. And that’s what you got to do on stage: You’ve got to get that melody in the instruments. It’s not about how loud they play. It’s about that melodic sound that draws you in and captures you.
Bassist John Lodge of The Moody Blues will appear at The Queen on Sunday, Nov. 5. For tickets, go to TheQueenWilmington.com. To order copies of Lodge’s recent releases—and for more tour information—go to JohnLodge.com.