Monday, April 23, 2012

45s: Audit rock with the Moody Blues

The audit rock exploration continues.

"Your Wildest Dreams," by the Moody Blues (1986)
Written by Justin Hayward

I admit 1986 was a little late for audit rock. And that the Moodies' earlier freak hit, "The Voice," could have filled the role of raking in dollars for the necessary legal team. Maybe that happened and they got to keep their fair share of the money in 1986. But "Your Wildest Dreams" is more completely bland, more obviously a pimp's reach for mainstream cash. Whether you want the money for a team of lawyers or a third concubine, a last desperate grab at the gold ring and the related moment of relevance is vital to the audit rock idea.

A popular video helped sales. Why did a bunch of mustachioed middle-aged men playing double-necked guitars and tambourines for a Natalie Wood lookalike light the MTV generation on fire? I don't know. Maybe it was the black-and-white flashback stuff. Or the out-of-nowhere dance number (also requisite). Of course, it helped that "Your Wildest Dreams" was generic pop, that the band had finally moved away from the exhausting orchestra-based prog and instead embraced electronic doodads of all descriptions. That's tiresome in a different way, but at least at the time it sounded novel.

I have very little to say about the numbing whiteness of "Your Wildest Dreams" except that (1) 1986 often sucked and (2) it was a worse-than-usual few months all around on the Adult Contemporary chart, as "Dreams" dethroned Howard Jones before Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love" committed Moodycide (and for that matter culturecide). Music doesn't get worse than solo Cetera, but Miami Sound Machine and Huey Lewis followed, and compared to that Murderer's Row, the late era Moodies were the Talking Heads.

Yet another British Invasion band, the Moody Blues, like many of their brethren, broke with a cover song, "Go Now," originally done by soulster Bessie Banks. After treading water for a couple of years they embraced Sixties Seriousness with a vengeance. Days of Future Passed, recorded with their good friends the London Festival Orchestra (studio aces often mis-identified as the London Symphony Orchestra by AOR jocks). It was a song cycle, natch. You really couldn't get anywhere in 1967 unless you recorded a song cycle.

The classical instrumentation and pretentiousness fooled a generation that took rock music way too seriously into thinking Future Passed was art. No one makes that claim today, as we all know "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon" have entertained multiple generations of bikers, stoners, and other divers classic rock-loving philistines. Not that those singles didn't have a sound. Both are, well, moody--"Tuesday Afternoon" creeps me out, actually, and not just because of the flute solo.

"White Satin," meanwhile, is a so-called rock epic. Also moody. When I was a kid I thought it was "Knights in White Satin." Now that would be cool, might even place the song in the Tolkien Rock genre with "Misty Mountain Hop." "White Satin" throws down Mellotron--again, you didn't get serious Sixties cred without a Mellotron or at least a Theramin or Moog--to go with giant bass drums and Mike Pinder's spoken word climax, the only verse in rock history to inspire music fans to attempt air poetic recitation.

After "Your Wildest Dreams" the band embraced electronic music in a big way, though I believe one early 90s album offered yet another flute instrumental, this one an entire jam. By then the Moodies were experiencing the inevitable symptoms of Been Around Too Long Syndrome, i.e. extreme personnel turnover, lawsuits by former members, hiatus-dom, and (presumably) double bills with Kansas, or bands like Kansas.

Note: that the band tries to beat down Homer and Ned Flanders on a Simpsons episode redeems all of the above.