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INTERVIEW: Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer John Lodge Of The Moody Blues On His First Guitar, Rockabilly, Musical Inspirations, And More

T.J. Clemente

John Lodge is performing at the Suffolk Theater. (Photo: M Salt)

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Lodge was kind enough to share some thoughts about both his present tour that lands at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead on Saturday, March 7, 2020 and of some of his fondest memories about his career with the legendary rock band, The Moody Blues.

He is a most casual, humble gentleman who has a unique disarming quality of conversation that made this interview a smooth informative talk with a legend. The Moody Blues has had huge successes is sales and concerts over the last 50 years and is still relevant.

Lodge, now 75-years-old, started off by volunteering "That it's always worthy getting on the road and talking to you guys about how much fun the shows are going to be. I still enjoy going out and playing the music."

When I asked him about musical influences in his immediate family when he young he admitted, "No, there was no one at all, and that was really strange. Although, my grandparents had a piano that was way out of tune and had a lot keys missing and was not playable! In fact, there was no one at all and I don't know where my musical heritage really came from."

He added, "It was the pure rock and roll that took me by surprise." He confessed he never knew the name of his first guitar because, "I bought it from a neighbor of mine's son who bought in Germany and I paid like $10 for it. I don't think it had a name, but I do know it was made in Germany somewhere. But my first real electric guitar was called a Rosetti, no one has ever heard of those, and the reason I bought it was that it was really inexpensive, but it had a switch that had me play like Buddy Holly because it had a humming sound that was part like Buddy Holly's [Fender] Stratocaster and if you flicked the switch it became louder and that's why I bought that guitar."

Since Lodge played bass for The Moody Blues, I asked if that was a bass guitar. He replied, "No, amazingly enough there were no bass guitars where I lived in England back then, I never even knew they existed. The very first artist I ever saw playing an electric bass was with an American band called The Tremeloes. I thought it was a white Stratocaster until I realized it only had four strings. That was the first time I saw an electric bass and the first bass guitar to come to England back then was called a Tuxedo Bass, a solid body bass, was really inexpensive as well, then a few other manufactures started making basses that started to arrive. However, I always wanted that six string Stratocaster guitar and then one day my local music store had in the window a sign saying directly from the U.S.A. Fender Precision Bass and that was it. I bought that guitar when I was sixteen and I just recorded my new album with that same sunburst bass guitar 50 years later. I recorded every Moody Blues song with it and as I said, I just recorded my new album with it!"

Lodge continued, "It's an absolutely beautiful bass, I bought it in 1960 and I loved that it was made in America with the finest craftsmen and the finest materials because it still plays beautifully. Back then there were very few TV shows and the only way you could see the artist and what they were playing were in movies like the musical comedy, The Girl Can't Help It, with Little Richard and Fats Domino along with Jayne Mansfield. It was important for us British musicians to see where this rockabilly came from with that different beat."

When Lodge was asked what was his favorite night as a musician, his reply was instant. "Had to be Madison Square Garden. We did two concerts in the one-day. I still believe we are the only artist ever to do that (excluding the Bangladesh Relief Concert) and I remember standing on stage looking at Madison Square Garden, which was then the heart of Rock and Roll, and looking around and just thinking, Wow, Madison Square Garden, Wow! It was very magical for me. That tops it," he responded.

Then Lodge recalled, "We did like 300 concerts with a live orchestra all around the world, around the time of the Days of Future Passed album." Then he added, "We had to use the name London Festival Orchestra because of copyright issues with the name London Philharmonic or whatever. We actually had a second drummer on stage. His name was Gordon Marshall and he kept a driving beat so both we [the band] and the orchestra played in perfect time. We did not use the orchestra as the icing on the cake, but we made the written arrangements to blend our playing with theirs.

Who did Lodge enjoy meeting most through his celebrity over the years? "Jerry Lee Lewis, working with Jerry on stage, Chuck Berry playing with him on stage, playing with Bo Diddley on stage, and performing with these guys as my peers after they had been my icons was really special. I would say to myself look that's Chuck Berry standing in front of me playing! I had Jerry Lee Lewis saying come up to the mic here, that was all very exciting. To be honest, the music industry is quite small actually, and in our first tours I really loved the band, Canned Heat, and two of our first tours were with Canned Heat."

When asked about non-musical guests he was thrilled to meet Lodge responded, "Last year at the Hollywood Bowl who turns up but Quentin Tarantino."

Lodge finished by saying, "I like to put small tours together, I don't like one up concerts. I enjoy staying with the guys, and if we have a couple of days off, I try to make it that we are in the same place together because the band is a personal thing. I am very fortunate the band that I have love The Moody Blues and my music and they are committed to it and because they commit to my music I commit to theirs. We have a nice time, we have a great time. It's a nice social thing we talk about music, we talk about families and this all increases the harmony and to me that's really important.

In concluding, I asked Lodge what is the location of his favorite stretch of touring over the years. He said, "When we played Red Rocks [Colorado], when we recorded with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. That link of that tour was really fantastic. When we first played there in the 1970's, when it first opened, it was crazy because everyone was then allowed to climb up there, but in recent years it has become very organized and no one is allowed to climb way up there anymore with P/C and everything else. But, standing on the Red Rocks stage, I could feel that magical Indian medicine ground. We had one night where the moon just came up and went between the two tall defining rocks, that was magic!

Lastly, Lodge said, "From the beginning of my career I have tried to stand by the music, the lyrics, etc. and as I look back I can do that with no problem at all."

Doors open at the Suffolk Theater at 6:30 p.m. and John Lodge will take the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $65.

Suffolk Theater is located at 118 East Main Street in Riverhead. For more information, call 631-727-4343 or visit www.suffolktheater.com.

Added: February 28, 2020, 9:07 am
Appeared In: the arts >> performing arts