Groundbreakers: The Moody Blues – Days Of Future Passed

The Moody Blues? My ponytailed uncle from Des Moines loves that band, lol. Why are we talking about this dadprog hippy shit?” Hey, you. Shut up. The Toilet Ov Hell is featuring said “hippy shit” in our Groundbreakers series because, believe it or not, The Moody Blues’s landmark album Days of Future Passed paved a crucial path for bands as diverse as Emperor, King Crimson, Rhapsody of Fire, Muse, Sigur Rósand even TovH favorites Sarpanitum.

Although these bands vary greatly in brutality and cheese-factor, they have all created “symphonic rock” of some stripe – music that doesn’t just use a stray string patch to sweeten climaxes and intro tracks once in a while, but has traditional orchestral instruments (or a keyboard-based imitation of them) as a fundamental element of its sound. Who planted this seed in the consciousness of rock musicians? You guessed it; the first rock band to utilize orchestral sounds as in their music just as prominently as guitars was The Moody Blues, all the way back in 1967.

The story of how Days Of Future Passed came to be is pretty funny. The Moody Blues began life in 1964 as a forgettable novelty R&B group, but 3 crucial additions in 1966 uplifted them to baller status – guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward, bassist extraordinaire John Lodge, and a high-tech gadget known as the mellotron. The mellotron was an organ-type instrument where the piano keys were connected to literal tape recordings of string instruments. When the piano keys were depressed, the tape would be activated to play the corresponding violin/cello/bass note. It was a highly specialized instrument and The Moody Blues’s own Mike Pinder was an early adopter. With new personnel writing songs and novel technology available, the band switched to a lush, psychedelic rock sound with aesthetic nods to the Western classical tradition via Mike Pinder’s mellotron and vocalist Ray Thomas’s previously underutilized flute skills.

English pop group The Moody Blues, group portrait, 1972, (L-R) Mike Pinder, Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

(L-R) Mike Pinder, Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

This decision came just in time, as great fortune would soon find them by way of terrible misfortune. The early Moody Blues records were a flop (except in Belgium (lolwut)), and thus they owed their record label a good deal of advance money. Someone was able to talk the label into letting the Blues pay off their debt by making them a record that would show off the brand-new technology of stereo recording. Although some affiliated parties dispute the story, the band claims that the label asked them to reinterpret Dvořák’s 9th Symphony, but they decided to just work on a concept record featuring an orchestra instead and talked the label into releasing it anyway.

This label backing meant that they actually had funds to record a real-life working orchestra (the London Festival Orchestra), which is generally well outside of the reach of struggling pop artists. Composer/conductor Peter Knight created interludes between songs and a substantial opening prelude that hinted at melodies to be found throughout the rest of the record. Although the mellotron and flute performances within the rock songs are beautiful and befitting of the intended mood of the record, these melodramatic moments with a full-blown orchestra are what truly give Days its unique charm and provide a pleasingly palate-cleansing contrast for the The Moody Blues’s dreamy, psychedelic rock.

Concept records were a relatively unexplored realm in the mid 60’s, so The Moody Blues were able to pick some of the lowest hanging fruit around for their first attempt at one – Days Of Future Passed is a programmatic piece that follows the moods of a typical modern working day, from dawn to dusk. “Dawn Is A Feeling” is tentatively hopeful. “Another Morning” is cutesy and bustling. “Lunch Break/Peak Hour” races through traffic to reach a surf-rock party. “Tuesday Afternoon” lazes its way through release and denouement. “The Sunset/Twilight Time” opens in a haze and spend its second half as an intense, hallucinatory night ride through claustrophobic streets. Finally, hit single “Nights In White Satin” blankets you in latent sleepy-time lovey-dovey feels until Peter Knight and his orchestra friends deftly tie up the album with a majestic burst.

Of course, this record wasn’t made in a vacuum, and before 1967 there was plenty of precedent of rock artists using orchestral sounds on their songs. Famous examples include Buddy Holly‘s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” and The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby“. The Moody Blues weren’t the first band to put violins and flute on a rock record, but they were definitely the first to push the marriage of these two disparate and equally rich musical worlds so far. That is why Days Of Future Passed is worthy of Groundbreaker status, and why their influence is still felt today among the thousands of modern artists who borrow from the Western art music world to create a grandiose, kingly presence within their songs.

If you’re only going to listen to one track from Days Of Future Passed,
make it 
this one. That second half is hhheeeeaaavvvyyy, man. (3:35)

Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.

Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic
Fear Factory Demanufacture
Voivod – Killing Technology
Today is the DayTemple of the Morning Star
Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    I’m playing “Evening” now, this is not a bad jam.

  • The Beargod

    Nights In White Satin is the best song ever written.
    And the only song I’ve pleasured myself to without actually thinking about anyone.

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      You have lived a horrifying life.

      • The Beargod

        On the contrary, dear W(atson).

  • Guacamole Jim

    Also, the Moody Blues were all about mellotrons, which are incredibly sweet. My mom listened to a ton of Moody Blues, so I grew up with this shit. Mom rock >>>>>>>>>

  • #NowListening Dawn is a feeling. I’m feeling it.

    Thank you for this recommendation, pumpkin baby. I can always trust in you, little cute rascal!

    • The orchestra sounds so classic <3 It's like walking in England in 1975 in the summer.

  • Sir Tapir the Based™

    I’ve never really liked this album as much as I should have.

    • Guacamole Jim

      Then get on it! #silly

      • Sir Tapir the Based™

        I have listened to it many times and I have it on CD. It’s not a bad album, but I feel like I should like it more than I do.

  • Actiondonkey

    While I could introduce my daughter to this classical work, she’s in school and I’m back to that new Drown In Blood. FFO old school Decide.

  • KJM

    “Tuesday Afternoon” is one of my favorite songs.

  • KJM

    I still have this one on vinyl.

  • JamesGrimm
  • nbm02ss

    I love this album, but this is my favorite Moody Blues track:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U1X3l4QJBE

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Good album.

  • Dean the P.I. Staker
  • BLOODBEARDE

    I got a whole bag of mellotron at the house

    • KJM

      Running low but tomorrow is only a day away. Time to party like Blake Judd soon!

      • BLOODBEARDE

        Hell yeah, i think we got a couple xanny bars left and i got saturday off. Wish we could combine forces one day, kj

        • KJM

          Someday you, me, @morebeer and @feelthedarkness will have the craziest party ever.

          • BLOODBEARDE

            Ends in us all dead

          • KJM

            “It was all fun and games until they started in on the China White…”

          • BLOODBEARDE

            “And that was just the first hour. . .”

      • Óðhinn
  • Oli Fucking Sykes, Son.

    Sigur Ros. God I love that band.
    Great write up Hessian, and some great choons too.
    Buttt…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc6zXSdYXm8

    • that’s a cool video, but man is that music bo-ring.

      • Oli Fucking Sykes, Son.

        This is gonna be another Enter Shikari situation isn’t it.

        • Slit your goats

          Not if people here have taste in music it won’t.

      • Slit your goats

        What?

        • If I wanted to listened to a single droning, boring riff repeated through an entire song I’ll just listen to some doom. At least that has some personality. (Cue rap battle reaction gif)

          • Slit your goats

            WHAT?

          • DOOM SUCKS. That is what Ann is getting at.

            SM

          • The Beargod

            You’re a dead man walking. You and Ann. Who’s practically a woman.

          • It is not my fault it is so-freaking boring. I am just here to help you all realize you are wrong. (errrryday Im rustling)

            SM

          • KJM

            (rustling intensifies)

          • I would rather listen to Sean Hannity than listen to doom. And THAT is saying something!

            SM

          • Slit your goats

            You don’t like doom?

          • BLOODBEARDE

            You dont like Sean Hannity?

          • No. I appreciate his message – but he is just a total tool bag.

          • BLOODBEARDE

            You don’t like tool bags?

          • I am more of a tool box guy. Things are more organized that way.

            SM

          • BLOODBEARDE

            I got both dawg

            Also, check this img from work for lulz

          • KJM

            Dammit, now I’ve got herniated jimmies thanks to you! OUCH.

          • The Beargod

            The fault lies entirely in you, you should have spent more money on your hearing aid after that accident with the gun. I told you, you need to spend money to get quality hearing aid.

          • KJM

            I’m sorry, but you spelled “Power Metal” wrong. Please correct this obvious error.

            KJM

          • Slit your goats

            I’m going to find you, and I’m going to eat you.

      • The Beargod

        This is easily Sigur Ros’ worst album. I like stuff like Agaetis Byrjun and Valtari a lot of this was a really bland album.

    • Slit your goats

      Sigur Ros>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    • Dean the P.I. Staker

      The Moody Blues caused Pearl Harbor and AIDS.

    • KJM

      Killer track.

  • I love this band so much. I’ve been on a real classic rock kick lately. Genesis, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple are all recent listens.

    • Sir Tapir the Based™

      One of those bands really rustles my jimmies.

      • The Beargod

        It’s a good band.
        But srs, have you listened to Lasten Hautausmaa?

        • Sir Tapir the Based™

          They’re kinda meh.

          • The Beargod

            ???? You fool!

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            Meh, I tell you! MEH!

          • The Beargod

            It’s FUCKING GLORIOUS!

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            *It’s FUCKING MEH!
            FTFY

          • The Beargod

            DOWNSTABBED!

          • You two are my favorite. FYI

            SM

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            Not realising that Lasten Hautausmaa is meh, that’s a paddlin’

          • The Beargod

            Thinking that Lasten Hautausmaa is meh, that’s a paddlin’
            *FTFY

      • KJM

        oooooh what a lucky tapir he was…

        • Sir Tapir the Based™

          Joke’s on you, that’s the only song of their’s I like.

          • KJM

            Dang.

    • I love the real classic rock band Dokken.

      SM

      • KJM

        I suddenly feel very old right now.

        • I would kill to have seen them in their “original” line up like you did.

          SM

          • KJM

            Twice. ^_^

      • Dokken is great. I’ll have to go listen to Under Lock and Key soon.

  • OldMetalHead

    I’ve always been a fan. I believe the Moody Blues were the first rock group to perform with a full symphony.

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    I love these guys!

  • Virgil the Ghost Poet

    I like the Moody Blues, nice job Pumpkin Baby.