When the angelic-looking leader of concept rock outfit The Moody Blues Justin Hayward bumped into Noel Gallagher at the recent Ivor Novello awards, things could have taken an awkward turn.
But Gallagher is a reformed figure and a music fan. The pair talked guitars and showed each other mutual respect.
Softly spoken Hayward does a mean Mancunian patter as he relays an extract.
“I f***ing love you, man!
“Night’s yeah, great. But that f***ing Question – brilliant.”
Gallagher picked up Outstanding Song Collection at the industry bash.
Hayward won the PRS For Music Award For Outstanding Achievement.
Yet, he says, “The biggest thrill for me was meeting Noel Gallagher. He was great.”
The Wiltshire-born singer and songwriter has led The Moody Blues since 1966. He penned Nights In White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon from the symphonic rock milestone, Days Of Future Passed.
He oversaw the run of seven classic albums in five years from 1967 to 1972, which still define the band, and clocked up a large portion of the 70 million sales they’ve had in 55 years in the industry.
On Gallagher’s favourite, Question, from 1970’s A Question Of Balance, he railed against the Vietnam War.
Hayward identifies with Gallagher because he’s always been a fan of his music and because “he’s discriminating, he trusts his own judgement and he goes his own way”.
The way the Mancunian turned Oasis round when Liam had had it with the band, and then fronted the group before creating new group High Flying Birds, showed he was steely.
“It was a juxtaposition of people at the Ivor Novello Awards,” continues Hayward. “I was in fantastic company with Randy Newman, Noel and Marc Almond. We were separate as lone writers who had been able to do what we wanted without any influence from A&R people and producers really.”
Hayward admits he never let anyone mess with his work.
“I have always been annoyingly bossy about my own songs and how they are done. I’m lucky to be in a group as brilliant as The Moodys, who will put up with it and go along with it.”
Hayward noted the legions of songwriting teams winning awards at the Ivors – Emeli Sandé and her team who won for Next To Me being a good example.
“It was a juxtaposition of two sides of the songwriting business: when you have four individuals who just mull it over in the dark, worrying about it, then groups of people, say a producer, A&R guys, programmers, that do all the other stuff and it all goes together to make a song.”
You could argue the changes tell us something about the industry since The Moody Blues first decided to make an orchestral song cycle about a typical working day to promote Decca’s new Deramic Stereo Sound (DSS) format. That was in 1967, after they’d spent two years working as an R&B band.
Yet Hayward says it is more about groups of songwriters or bands choosing to keep their original work as they envisioned it rather than crediting producers or engineers or anyone who would want to take a credit for adding something to the song.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon and the whole idea of music being a product is interesting, but I think young people can discriminate.
“They are not gullible and they can tell the difference between the real acts who go out and create a real atmosphere in a room and put it into their records and the stuff that is sold to them as a product.”
They are aware of it, he adds, and buy into both. “I do too. I love those. I bought Cher’s Believe and there were seven writers on it.”
The Moody’s first album was supposed to be a product if ever there was one. Decca Records commissioned the band to make a stereo demonstration record with a classical orchestra of Decca musicians to promote its new audio equipment.
“That was a slice of luck them even asking us. The concept Decca came up with turned out to be mostly beneficial for us, because Decca then said to us, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing boys but people seem to love it. Just do what you want.’ So we never had any A&R guy telling us what to do.”
More luck came thanks to FM radio in America suiting The Moodys’ ambient sound.
The band – who soon turned to LSD – married pyschedelia with prog-rock and designed their own big double-sided album sleeves, which fans liked for sorting out the seeds in their dope.
“The label were even that savvy that they said, ‘If you think it’s right just go and do it’. We were also lucky to be in that era when record companies had these great studios.
“Would The Beatles have been the same if they had not had Abbey Road available whenever they wanted to go down to bash something out of a sitar?
“I’m not sure that it would if they’d have had to organise themselves in a different place.
“We had Broadhurst Gardens and the run of Decca studios for those first seven albums.”
In February, Hayward released his first solo album for 15 years.
Spirits Of The Western Sky sounds as if he’s young and in and out of love again, with tracks such as Cold Outside Of Your Heart and What You Resist Persists.
“I choose my acquaintances and friendships much more carefully now. I am falling in love with people all over the place – and I don’t mean in a promiscuous way. I mean relationships are precious and there are people I want to be with, and there is a fine line between friendship and love, and then there are things in my past. That record is personal and some people will recognise themselves in it.”
It was part-recorded in Nashville and there are strands to a recent album of Moody Blues covers in bluegrass style, Moody Bluegrass – A Nashville Tribute To The Moody Blues, which featured Alison Krauss, Harley Allen and Tim O’Brien.
“I had a couple of songs that sounded right and in Nashville there are fabulous musicians just waiting for a writer to come along.
“And of course I’m wrestling with programming and doing every guitar part, whereas they just set up and do three takes and say, ‘Do you like it?’ Then it’s yes or no and we all go home.”