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ROCK: Up the BLUES; GO2.

ROCK: Up the BLUES

JOHN LODGE is soaking up the rays in his Barbados holiday home - but the Birmingham twang is still unmistakable as his voice echoes across the ocean to the rain-drenched Midlands of his birth.

The attitude, too, is refreshingly true to his roots from a man who has made umpteen millions as one of the cornerstones of the Moody Blues over the past 30-odd years.

He is still admirably enthusiastic when he discusses the band's latest tour - which brings them home to the NEC tomorrow night - and new album, Strange Times, which hit the British shelves this week.

But he really perks up once the conversation drifts on to the subject of football and, more specifically, the promotion prospects of his beloved Birmingham City.

"I can't believe it," he says, "normally by now it's all over and they're all at the nightclub. But I really think we've got a chance this season - beating Barnsley the other week was a great result!

"I always keep in touch with the Blues. My laptop goes with me wherever I am in the world, the Nationwide Division One side is on my list of internet favourites, and I just click on that all the time to see what's going on."

Lodge and fellow Moodies Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge and Ray Thomas are now firmly established on the top tier of live rock attractions, booking in for residencies at the Royal Albert Hall and selling out stadiums all over America.

But he still savours nostalgic memories of the late 60s, when the band's horizons were rather more limited.

"Once people started to invite you to places, it was fantastic," he recalls. "It could be Wolverhampton, or Walsall or Coventry - we used to play the Centre Ballroom and there were a lot of coffee-shops, one of them called the Moo Can Boo if I remember right.

"Then we went further afield - Worcester, perhaps, then Bristol, Bournemouth and London. And then it was Paris, Europe and beyond.

"It was music that opened all those doors, gave me the opportunity to travel, and ever since I've just stood back and thought 'this is wonderful'. It's just the destinations that have changed - the feeling is still exactly the same."

In those far-off days the Moodies were just another besuited covers band. But a momentous shift in direction in 1966 - famously after a disenchanted punter had burst into their dressing room to deliver a withering verdict on their performance - transformed them into a group with a totally original sound.

"That story is absolutely true," confirms Lodge. "I can still see the dressing room, I can still see those people coming in - and the wonderful thing is, they were absolutely right!

"We were just copying American music and, to be honest, it's very difficult to sound convincing singing Mississippi blues when you come from Birmingham ... I hadn't even been to France at the time.

"We rang up our agent and told him 'we're not doing any of this any more'. We went off to live in Belgium and Paris and wrote the stage show which became Days Of Future Passed. Everything else came from that."

Lodge remains immensely proud of that legendary album, and works like In Search Of The Lost Chord, To Our Children's Children and A Question Of Balance which confirmed their superstar status.

"If we were making Days Of Future Passed today, I don't think we could make it any better," he insists.

"What was wonderful about it was that we recorded it in one week. We were aged between 20 and 23 and, being so young, we knew no barriers. Whatever we wanted to do, we did - it was complete inspiration and energy."

Lodge is equally enthusiastic about Strange Times, the group's first new studio album for eight years.

"It came out at Christmas in America," he explains, "and a lot of the reviews over there said that this is real Moody Blues - it belongs in the category of those first seven albums."

It means that they will have to squeeze at least four new songs into their spoiled-for-choice live repertoire, but Lodge is relishing the prospect.

"They always used to say that you tour to support an album, but I've never agreed with that," he says. "You should tour because you're a musician - when you've written a song there's nothing more exciting than performing it in front of an audience."
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Poole, Alan
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 14, 2000
Words:737
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