Graeme Edge: He's just the poet in a rock 'n' roll band
The heartbeat of the symphonic rock that exemplifies The Moody Blues is drummer Graeme Edge, the Moodies' poetry man, keeping time for the group some 48 years.
At 8 p.m. Nov. 23 at the State Theatre for the Arts, Easton, The Moody Blues begin the second leg of their "The Voyage Continues - Highway 45 Tour," commemorating the 45th anniversary of the release of their iconic "Days of Future Passed" album.
Edge, who was in the Moodies even before the group's more visible front men and primary songwriters, Justin Hayward and John Lodge, joined in 1966, became a published poet this year.
"The Written Works of Graeme Edge," a limited edition book of poems and back stories, is expected to be available on "The Voyage Continues" fall-winter tour, which kicks off at Easton's State Theatre.
When told during a Nov. 13 phone interview that Easton is "thisclose" to Bethlehem, Edge recounted a story from a tour all those years ago.
"We're in Pittsburgh. And we're going to Bethlehem. The bus driver's name was Joe. And the hostess's name was Mary. So, Joseph and Mary were taking us to Bethlehem," Edge chuckles in amusement of the memory.
Edge says his book is "everything that I've done that's ever published. And there's an anecdote, a little story, some background for the poetry." He pauses. "I wish I'd thought of that story about Bethlehem [for the book]."
"Days Of Future Passed," released Nov. 11, 1967, stayed on the Billboard charts for more than two years, and featured the singles, "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights In White Satin," the latter charting at No. 1 three separate times and this year appearing on the soundtrack of the movie, "Dark Shadows," starring Johnny Depp.
The group's hits include "Ride My See Saw," "The Story In Your Eyes," "Lovely to See You," "Isn't Life Strange," "Question," "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)," "Your Wildest Dreams" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere."
Edge contributed the opening and closing poems on "Days of Future Passed": "Morning Glory" and "Late Lament," read by Mike Pinder, keyboardist credited with bringing the mellotron, an early form of synthesizer, to the Moodies' orchestral sound. Pinder retired in 1979 and flautist Ray Thomas retired in 2002 from the Moodies.
Edge read his own poem, "Departure," to open "In Search of The Lost Chord" (1968), and Pinder narrated Edge's "The Word" later on the album.
For "On The Threshold of A Dream" (1969), Edge's "In The Beginning" was narrated by himself, Hayward and Pinder, and "The Dream" was read by Pinder.
Edge is credited with contributing to the Moodies' concept and sound, urging the band to eschew rhythm and blues covers in favor of original songs.
"It really wasn't me pushing along by any direction," Edge says modestly. "When we were led by Denny Laine [later of Wings], we did covers." With three or four acts on a concert bill, Edge recalls, "We just tried really hard to play 'Smokestack Lightning,' but it really didn't come out that well.
"But there comes a time when you have to write your own material. When they [Justin Hayward and John Lodge] came along, Justin, especially, he was a ballad and rock singer. He didn't lean toward the blues."
"Go Now," the Moodies' pre Hayward and Lodge single which in 1964 had gone to the toppermost of the poppermost in the United Kingdom and charted at No. 10 in the United States, is credited with influencing progressive rock, and for having one of the first promotional films, a music video, released to accompany it.
Edge says the Moodies quickly departed from the singles format.
"We decided very early on that making singles we didn't really enjoy that. Although we had separate songs, we decided that we would try to put the whole thing on an album a day in the life. We had lots of discussions. Part and parcel of that I was able to use poems." The result was "Days of Future Passed."
Of his passion for poetry, Edge says, "I have to say it was probably born in me. When I was about 10-years-old, we had to do a composition in English class and I wrote it all in rhyme.
"And the teacher was saying, 'That's kind of interesting.' I just wrote it straight across the page. He took me under his wing and he got me poems - T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas. I've had a life-long love ever since."
In 1993, the Moodies were presented with an audio cassette of "Days Of Future Passed" and "Seventh Sojourn," which astronaut, Commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson, had carried with him on his four space shuttle missions. The cassette travelled more than 10 million miles, circled the earth more than 420 times, spent 26.5 days in space, and travelled 26 times the speed of sound.
"When Hoot Gibson presented us with that ... Those guys [NASA astronauts] I hold them in awe," says Edge, a fan of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," amazement apparent in his voice. "The nerve of those guys. It left us with a feeling in the 1960s and '70s that we can do anything. And then to have those guys [astronauts] then tell you that you were their heroes ... unexpected."
Edge, who lives in Florida, made a round-the-world voyage on his yacht Delia. Would he like to sail again? "I would love to. But I'm 72. I have a powerboat."
How do you recommend people get the most out of their "22,000 Days" a song referring to an average human's life expectancy that Edge wrote for "Long Distance Voyager" (1981) here on the planet?
"Somebody told me 22,000 days actually only gets you to 62 years," Edge quips, adding quickly, "Hopefully, living your life through your kids," then offers: "Don't offend anybody and don't be offended too easily."
So, what is it that make the Moodies' music so memorable, then and now?
"I think mostly what it is, is it was always done with honesty and with ambition," Edge says. "We always would try to play to the head and to the heart. If it didn't feel right when you were laying on your back and listening and looking to the stars, then it wasn't the Moody Blues."
And, for Graeme Edge, every fan at Moodies' concerts deserves good favor.
"That's the only thing that gets you out there, playing to the audience. I kind of use the audience as energy. You watch them and watch them enjoying it ... and see them exchanging looks. That's what I love. We don't get paid for the two hours we're onstage. We get paid for the other 22 hours."
This interview is dedicated to the memory of Bethlehem native Linda L. "Daria" Danish, who took me to see my firstMoody Blues concert, Feb. 4, 1974, at the Cow Palace, San Francisco.