Although Days of Future Passed is the second official album by The Moody Blues, it was the first to lay out the prog-rock template which would define the band’s sound for the next decade. It was also the first album to feature singer/songwriter Justin Hayward and guitarist/bassist John Lodge, two central figures who shaped the band’s direction during their heyday. Originating in Birmingham, England, the band began as an R&B based pop band during the first “British invasion” of 1964, scoring two hits that year with “Steal Your Heart Away” and “Go Now”, which gave their 1965 debut album its title. By 1966, the band wanted to change direction and, after some personnel changes, began working out the material that would ultimately end up on Days of Future Passed.
However, the result of this album was not how it was originally planned. The band’s label, Decca Records wanted to to showcase its enhanced stereo-sound technology which they called “Deramic Sound”. The label commissioned a hybrid orchestral/rock version of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” with the Moody Blues chosen as the “rock” band because A&R manager Hugh Mendl was a huge fan. But when producer Tony Clarke had heard the new original material that the band had been working on, he took it upon himself to replace the Dvorek material and instead had the London Festival Orchestra, led by conductor/arranger Peter Knight, adapt sections from the Moody Blues’ originals.
The result was a totally unique release (even for 1967), which the record company nearly rejected because they didn’t know how to market it. Audience response was quite favorable and the album became both one of the most influential psychedelic rock albums ever and a vessel for some of the Moody Blues’ most timeless radio hits. The album was also one of the first true “concept” albums (predating The Who’s Tommy by two years) with the concept being the “day” being an allegory for phases of life itself. In fact, the concept was so important to the essence of this album, that the song order was one of the very few to be preserved on 8-track tape versions.
Days of Future Passed by The Moody Blues
|Released: November 11, 1967 (Decca/Deram)
Produced by: Tony Clarke
Recorded: Decca Studios, London, October – November 1967
|The Day Begins / Morning Glory
Dawn Is a Feeling
Lunch Break / Peak Hour
|Forever Afternoon (Tuesday Afternoon)
(Evening) Time to Get Away
The Sunset / Twilight Time
Nights In White Satin / Late Lament
|Justin Hayward – Guitars, Lead Vocals
John Lodge – Bass, Guitars, Vocals
Mike Pinder – Keys, Piano, Vocals
Ray Thomas – Flute, Horns, Keys
Graeme Edge – Drums, Vocals
Peter Knight – Orchestral Conductor
Days of Future Passed is a bit “bottom heavy” with the finest material late on the first and throughout the original second side. “The Day Begins” fittingly starts the album with a dramatic, movie-like swell which quickly morphs into a long orchestral overture. About four minutes in, the song features a poem written by drummer Graeme Edge, but recited by keyboardist Mike Pinder, something that would be reprised with another poem towards the end of the album. Pinder’s “Dawn Is a Feeling” is the first proper “song” on the album. It is a moderate piano ballad with some musical theatrics before dissolving into into a long orchestral ending, something common to most songs on the album.
Multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas wrote “Another Morning”, a European-style dance song, led by Thomas’ flute riff. It has a much edgy-er sixties pop arrangement than any of the previous songs with a complex vocals during the choruses. The final track on the first side is called “Lunch Break”, with an orchestral intro that suddenly bursts into the full rock arrangement of Lodge’s “Peak Hour”, which seems to derive much of its influence from The Who.
The heart of the album begins with a classic composition, entitled “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)” on the album, but later released as a single titled simply “Tuesday Afternoon”. It is the best overall track on the album, with a perfect combination of folk and sixties psychedelia. The then “cutting edge” instrument of the mellotron, played by Pinder, mixes perfectly with the acoustic and bass guitars and the absolutely brilliant vocals and melody by Hayward, show his earliest potential as a top-notch composer.
Lodge’s “(Evening) Time to Get Away” is a bit darker and more melodramatic but still one of the greats on the album as it builds towards more upbeat sections without ever losing its overall feel. The evening theme continues with Pinder’s “The Sunset”, a cool mix of orchestral effects with a rock based melody and lead vocal and some middle-eastern rhythms. Thomas’ “Twilight Time” follows with a full piano rocking background and some overdone effects and distant vocals as well as some abrupt orchestral dissolve and a quick ending. This is likely due to the remixing of the album which took place in 1978 after it was discovered that the original master tapes had begun to deteriorate. For this reason, the original 1967 stereo mix has never seen a CD release with all modern versions of the album derived from the later remix.
The album reaches a dramatic climax with “Nights in White Satin”, another timeless composition by Hayward. As the first single from this album, the song was a huge international hit despite its long-running length. After the chart success of other long songs such as “Hey Jude” and “Layla”, “Knights In White Satin” was re-released in 1972 and it charted even higher, reaching #2 on Billboard chart and #1 on several other charts, with even a Spanish-language version, “Noches de Seda”, topping charts in some countries. The song was written by Hayward at age 19 and dissolves into the Edge’s spoken-word poem “Late Lament” to finish the album.
Days of Future Passed was a hodge-podge of orchestral and rock arrangements of compositions by several young musicians, along with some spoken word poetry and newer electronic effects (such as the inclusion of the mellotron during key parts of key songs). Somehow it all works without conflict and this bold and ambitious original effort set the Moody Blues up to produce several more original classics in subsequent years.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1967 albums.