Ray Thomas (Moody Blues) Interview: “Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll are a Thing of Memories; I’ve had
-An Exclusive Interview with Moody Blues legend Ray Thomas …
Ironically on a “Tuesday Afternoon”
-Interviewed December 30th 2014
There were many similarities between The Moody Blues & The Beatles. Both had an entire band that could sing harmoniously and at times almost identical alongside one another. Each band member was also able to perform solos flawlessly. Both bands became good friends and even shared the same manager (Brian Epstein) for a spell. The Moody Blues became part of ‘The British Invasion’ and supported The Beatles on their final UK tour in December of 1965. They followed the tour with their first trip to the U.S. appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1967, Moody Blues mates Ray Thomas and Michael Pinder performed on the studio tracks of “I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill” from The Beatles, “Magical Mystery Tour” album. Both bands also mimicked each other’s artistic strengths … originality, prodigious songwriting & musicianship abilities and shared everlasting worldwide popularity.
NEW RELEASE …The Moody Blues 50th Anniversary re-mastered release -‘The Magnificent Moodies’ –Esoteric Recordings (Cherry Red Records) An Official (Deluxe 2 CD) 50th Anniversary Edition of the Moody Blues debut album is now available.
Re-mastered from the first generation master tapes, along with all the singles the band recorded between 1964 and 1966. Notably, this collection includes 29 previously unreleased bonus tracks.
RAY THOMAS is the legendary co-founder, flautist, singer and songwriter for The Moody Blues. Thomas demonstrates an unimaginable musical feat spanning over five decades. It was Birmingham mates Ray Thomas and Michael Pinder who actually formed The Moody Blues in 1964. They recruited guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bassist Clint Warwick. After signing on to Decca Records, they recorded their debut album ‘The Magnificent Moodies’ spawning the hit “Go Now” (#1 UK, #10 U.S.).
In 1966, Clint Warwick left the band. Thomas & Pinder eventually brought in longtime friend John Lodge to replace him on bass and vocals. That same year, guitarist and vocalist Denny Laine quit to form an electric string band and was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Justin Hayward … and the classic-lineup of The Moody Blues was inaugurated.
After diminishing record sales and slumping popularity, the band averted from its R&B beginnings to a prolific symphonic rock format captivated by brilliant lyrical content. According to Ray Thomas, Denny Laine had been experimenting in that direction before his departure from the band.
In 1967, THE MOODY BLUES began their path to rock immensity with the release of their masterpiece concept album entitled, ‘Days of Future Passed’ (1972 #3 U.S. Billboard Top 200 Albums), an idea that was intended to be a stage show. Originally the record company wanted the group to record an oldies rock and roll demo disc made for salesmen who would then use it to sell the state-of-the- art ‘Deramic Sound.’ The demo recording would also include Peter Knight and the London Festival Orchestra performing Dvorák's New World Symphony.
‘Days of Future Passed’ featured Peter Knight and the London Festival Orchestra. The album spawned the classic hits, “Tuesday Afternoon” (#24 U.S. Billboard Chart) and “Nights in White Satin” (#2 U.S. Billboard Chart). Ray Thomas wrote the tracks … “Another Morning” and “Twilight Time” for ‘Days of Future Passed,’ and his pivotal flute performances were inspiring.
Producer Tony Clarke’s influence became significant to the groups success.
The Moody Blues succeeded ‘Days of Future Passed’ with another concept release entitled ‘In Search of the Lost Chord’ (1968). Ray Thomas contributed the tracks “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume,” co-wrote “Visions of Paradise” and wrote and sang his most famous composition with The Moody Blues called “Legend of a Mind,” a psychedelic tribute to American psychologist, writer, and LSD advocate Timothy Leary.
Ray Thomas penned the tracks “Dear Diary” and “Lazy Day” for their follow-up album entitled ‘On the Threshold of a Dream’ (1969). Thomas wrote “Floating” and “Eternity Road” for their fifth album … “To Our Children's Children's Children’ (1969).
Thomas also penned several fan favorites … “And the Tide Rushes in” (1970) from ‘A Question of Balance,’ “Nice to be Here” (1971) from ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ and the classic “For My Lady” (1972) from ‘Seventh Sojourn.’
After completing their world tour … The Moody Blues went on hiatus, and it was during this time that band members entered into solo projects and collaborations.
In 1978, The Moody Blues released ‘Octave’ the final album to include Moody Blues co-founder Michael Pinder. YES keyboardist Patrick Moraz would replace Pinder. Ray Thomas demonstrated his songwriting proficiency once again with the tracks … “Under Moonshine,” and “I’m Your Man” on the ‘Octave’ release.
Thomas penned “Painted Smile” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker” for the bands tenth album “Long Distance Voyager” (1981), “I Am” for ‘The Present’ (1983), “Celtic Sonant” for ‘Keys of the Kingdom’ (1991), and “My Little Lovely” for ‘Strange Times’ (1999).
‘Strange Times’ would be the final album featuring Ray Thomas as a member of The Moody Blues.
The Moody Blues continue to tour worldwide with Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge.
RAY THOMAS continues to be musically active …but at his own pace. Ray collaborates with a wide-range of international musicians while adding his magical flute onto various tracks in the studio. Recently, Thomas collaborated with longtime friend and bandmate John Lodge in the studio for an upcoming solo project. Ray Thomas is also currently working on a new solo album.
I had the recent pleasure of chatting with Ray Thomas… the legendary singer, songwriter and flautist from The Moody Blues about …the band’s latest release ‘THE MAGNIFICENT MOODIES’- REMASTERED …The early days of The Moody Blues … Brian Epstein … Working with John Lodge again … Michael Pinder … A new Ray Thomas solo release … ‘Day’s of Future Passed’… “Legend of a Mind”…And much-much more!
Here’s my interview with Singer, Songwriter, Flautist, and co-founder of The Moody Blues …
RAY THOMAS (It was a Tuesday afternoon and the day after Ray’s birthday)
Ray Shasho: Happy Birthday Ray!
Ray Thomas: Well thank you and your name is Ray too?
Ray Shasho: I am and so is my son’s name.
Ray Thomas: “Well there you go, my grandma used to call me “Little Ray of Sunshine.”
Ray Shasho: 2014 was sort of the year of The Moody Blues for me; I’ve chatted with Michael Pinder, Patrick Moraz and now Ray Thomas. I understand you and Michael are still very close friends.
Ray Thomas: “Oh yea, we still talk every week. He’s getting a bit forgetful now, but we’ve known each other most of our lives. It was his birthday two days before mine. We’re very similar and they call us the twins. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Graeme Edge (Moody Blues drummer) lives about 20 minutes from my home here in Sarasota … Do you still chat with anyone else in the band?
Ray Thomas: “I haven’t seen or heard from Graeme in years and haven’t heard from Justine (Hayward) since I retired …you’re soon forgotten.”
“I worked with John (Lodge) a couple of weeks before Christmas on an album he’s making and I was in the studio with him. I’ve known John since he was fourteen years of age and I was fifteen. He doesn’t like people to know that we’re so close in age so John lies. (All laughing) He wrote a song for his grandson, he’s called John Henry after a railroad man in the states. Ray began to sing … “John Henry was a railroad man; He worked from six 'till five.” So anyway, John came around and said I’ve written this song and I’d like you to put flute on it. I went into the studio and brought my bass flute and C flute. John hadn’t worked in that studio with a producer before; I had, so I introduced them.”
“But it was just like we were in there yesterday. John was sitting there on a stool with his guitar on his lap and I got in there and set my flutes up and we played the track. I told John that I had an idea to put bass flute on it and then play the C flute over the top of the bass flute. John picked around on his guitar and said I think that’s going to work! So I said, well I’ll tell you the best thing we can do … Let’s fucking do it! (All laughing) And so we did. But it was just like we worked together like we used to. After he put some strings on it John followed me back home and asked me what I thought of it. I said it’s your song, but if I was you I’d go for it, it could sell the album (10,000 Light Years Ago) for you. And so that’s what we’ve done. John and I had a wonderful day although it was pissing down rain and the weather was crap. John is doing a lot of recording in Florida. I think he wants me to do another flute job on another song. Anyway, we took a few photographs together and when we left it was raining and the studio was at the bottom of the producer’s garden, so John was holding this big ole umbrella because I don’t get around too fast on my legs, and he was also holding my hand. I had my stick and John’s holding the umbrella for the both of us. I said if someone had taken a photograph from the back it would have made a wonderful shot. (All laughing) So we’re holding hands as we walked away from the studio. (All laughing)”
“John came out with the most stupid thing when he got home. His wife and daughter were there and they were waiting to see how we got along together. So John rushed in there and said … it sounds just like us … it sounds just like us! I said you silly sod of course it does, it’s still us. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: The Moody Blues have a new release out … an official (Deluxe 2-CD) 50th Anniversary edition of The Moody Blues debut album – ‘The Magnificent Moodies’-including 43 -bonus tracks and 29 -previously unreleased.
Ray Thomas: “That’s an awful long time; it’s half a century for God’s sakes. I’ve done several different interviews for magazines and radio stations and people have been asking me questions and some of them I just can’t answer because it’s been so long ago.”
Ray Shasho: There’s a track on ‘The Magnificent Moodies’ that hasn’t been released before. Your wife Lee said I should mention it because it’s an excellent song.
Ray Thomas: “She might be talking about the Tim Hardin song called “How Can We Hang On to a Dream.” It’s a beautiful song and I’m thinking about covering it because I’m making a solo album next year. It might be the last one because I’m getting on a bit now. I can’t really perform anymore; I’ve got this balance problem and it’s called Cerebellar Ataxia and it’s like a short circuit in the brain. If I lose my balance, by the time my brain tells me that I’ve lost my balance; I could be on the floor. The signal has to travel a longer route to the place where it says you’re going to fall over. So it’s really very debilitating. It’s incurable so I just live with it. I walk around with my stick and I don’t drink anymore which helps.”
Ray Shasho: Ray, have you written any songs for the new solo album yet?
Ray Thomas: “I’ve got two finished. I did a duet with my cousin Ryland Teifi, and he had this idea to write a song about his great-grandfather who is my grandfather. He lives in Ireland with his wife and three daughters. He’s married to one of the Clancy families. So he had this idea to write a song, and in Welsh they call grandfather Dada. So I was sending him over lyrics and he was sending me ideas back and forth, and eventually he came over. The timing of the session couldn’t have been better for me because I was diagnosed with prostate cancer; it’s all in remission now, I’m responding well to the treatment. He came over; we sat in my kitchen, shared all our ideas and put it all together. The day I had to go into the hospital to have all these bloody tests were the day of the session. Of course these tests were bloody important to me so I had to go. I had them all done in one day. I told Ryland and he went into the studio and lay down the piano and guitar tracks. I went into the studio the following day and we just laid it all down, and it’s turned out absolutely lovely!”
“I didn’t realize until we had this song pretty much finished, and he being a lot younger than me … he couldn’t remember Dada. He was only a little toddler when Dada died. All the grandfathers were Welshmen. You know what they say … We’re British by birth but Welsh by the grace of God. So after we laid the track down, we played it to members of the family and they all started crying over it. Well I thought that was a good sign. (All laughing)
My grandfather was a Welsh miner and went on from there to become a carpenter and a wood carver, and he did a lot of work in older chapels and churches in Wales. He worked on the church where I got married in. He went on from carving pews, alters, and whatnot, to carving oak throne-like chairs and Chair the Bard for Eisteddfod (Welsh festival of literature, music and performance) The Bard is a Welshman that has the best understanding as a poet of the Welsh language. I’ve got one of the chairs here, I was able to buy one off one of the winners, it’s almost impossible but I managed it. The song goes from his early days of working in the coal mines to right through to carving the chair for the Bard Throne. The words are very personal to us, so that’s going on the album.”
Ray Shasho: Where will you be recording the new solo album?
Ray Thomas: “There’s a guy called Greg Walsh and he’s worked with Tina Turner and loads of people, he has a couple of Grammy nominations … and he has a studio that looks like a log cabin. Inside, it’s a state-of-the-art studio, but not very big. I like working there because it’s nice and comfortable and hooks up to the house so I can make a nice cup of tea. During the last session he said to me, I’m just nipping up to the house to fuck the wife, and I said, so you won’t be gone long then. (All laughing) And he’s a lovely-lovely man, so I’ll record it there.”
Ray Shasho: One of my favorite Ray Thomas solo albums was your debut release ‘From Mighty Oaks’ (1975) in which you collaborated with Nicky James … just a great album!
Ray Thomas: “Thank you. My old mate Nicky James who really wrote both albums with me and he died. That was a bit of a blow. He came upstage one night and got this violent headache and felt dizzy. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and it had gone so far it was inoperable. It was fortunate in a sense that he didn’t last long with it. But once they diagnosed it, it was just too late to do anything. It was a real shame. There’s this track that’s on one of Nicky’s albums called “Troubadour” and I adored this song for years. I think I’m going to cover that too. Nicky had such a wonderful voice and I was a little bit hesitant, because I was worried about giving the song justice. I thought, well, it’s going to be my version of it, so we’ll give it a crack. Finbar Furey is coming over to play his Irish pipes for me; I’ve worked with Finbar before on a track that’s on my box set and it’s called “The Trouble with Memories.” Finbar is the Prince of Irish Pipes.”
Ray Shasho: My favorite tracks on ‘From Mighty Oaks’ are …“Hey Mama Life” and “Adam and I.”
Ray Thomas: “I’m going fishing with Adam in May; he’s now 41 years of age. He was a little toddler as you see on the cover. I enjoyed writing that. Basically we have done what the lyrics said because we go off fishing together for a week in France. I used to take him fishing and now he takes me.”
Ray Shasho: Is Adam a musician or songwriter?
Ray Thomas: “No, somebody once asked Adam that question in my company and he said, are you kidding, he’s too hard of act to follow. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I’d like to chat about The Moody Blues and I’ll begin with the early days … What was it like working with Brian Epstein?
Ray Thomas: “He was our manager for awhile. Brian was gay, but it was in the days where that was not legal. He had a good organization and we knew The Beatles very well. Brian took us under his wing, and this was after “Go Now.” But the thing with Brian, he was in love with a Spanish bullfighter and was always in Spain with his boyfriend. When Brian wasn’t in the office at NEMS, then nobody could really make big decisions, Brian was the decision maker, so consequently NEMS started to not to be so good.”
Ray Shasho: I remember those dubious rumors about John Lennon and Brian Epstein taking weekend getaways together and suggesting that they were a lot more than just friends.
Ray Thomas: “I never saw any of that, I don’t believe it. John had a very cutting wit and very cruel with his comments. He used to go … “You great big puff, piss off!” And Brian used to adore him. Maybe he liked it a bit rough like that … I don’t know.”
Ray Shasho: So continue to talk about your relationship with Brian and NEMS.
Ray Thomas: “We had an offer through NEMS to go and play in France and this French promoter wanted to book us. He said since “Go Now,” they haven’t had a hit in France and the money wasn’t that good. He’d pay our expenses but would also get people thinking about The Moody Blues again over there. So we agreed to do it. When we got to Charles de Gaulle airport, it was packed with photographers and reporters. We had been #1 with “Bye Bye Bird” and didn’t know that the French record company had released it. This guy got this #1 act for peanuts to play all over France … so he was laughing his socks off.”
“We we’re pissed off and so when we got back we went and saw Brian and told him that he was the head of a crap organization, and he threw us out of his house. He called a meeting for the following day with all his heads of department, publicity, agency … and we sat there with all the heads of department and Brian was there. We always got along with Brian and he was a real gentleman. Brian banged on the table and went around asking all his dept. heads what they’ve done about all this. They all stared at the floor and said nothing. Then he banged on the table again with his fist and said it appears that the boys are right, I’m the head of a crap organization. Then Brian said to us, what do you want? We said can we have our contract back? So he said go and get their contract and he ripped it up in front of us and said, there you go and good luck. He could have kept us under contract and that would have been crap. So we said thank you very much Brian and left. Then Denny (Laine) left and Mike (Pinder) and I got a new band together with Justin (Hayward) and John (Lodge). I worked with John in a semi-pro band in Birmingham years before.”
Ray Shasho: Was that El Riot & the Rebels?
Ray Thomas: “El Riot …what a bloody name. (All laughing) When I was a kid I had so much gall when I think about it. John was a bass player in the Rebels. I was sitting in a club in London a couple of days later and I was talking to Eric Burdon of The Animals. Eric had been advertising in one of the trade magazines for a guitarist/singer. He was putting the new Animals together at the same time. He said since I put an ad in the paper I found the guy I want. Eric said, all I put in my ad was …Top recording band seek guitarist/singer, they won’t know what band it is from the ad anyway. If you want to come around to the office tomorrow you can have all the replies, and that’s how we found Justin …a little bit of fate.”
Ray Shasho: Speaking of fate …I always thought it was quite amazing when The Moody Blues were able to successfully crossover from an early R&B sound to a progressive rock orchestral aspect.
Ray Thomas: “It was sort of going that way when Denny was with us and writing songs. After he left, he formed a string quartet to back him. Bringing Justin in had a much softer approach vocally, and then Michael working with the Mellotron, which was great with the flute …and it just went into that direction.”
“Days of Future Passed was really weird because Decca had just developed ‘Deramic Sound’ which was wall to wall sound or what we call ping-pong stereo. Like if you listen to Sgt. Pepper’s, you’ve either got the sound coming out of the left end or right end speaker, but if you listen to ‘Deramic Sound’ you can place it between the speakers, so you get wall to wall stereo. So they wanted a demonstration disc made for all the salesmen to try and sell ‘Deramic Sound’ and we could never get any studio time. We were developing Days of Future Passed as a stage show. They wanted us to play tunes like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Rock Around the Clock” and stuff like that, and wanted Peter Knight and the London Festival Orchestra to play Dvorák's New World Symphony. We said that’s going to sound bloody awful … one minute they’re listening to “Blue Suede Shoes” and then the next minute to the symphony and us playing someone else.”
“We approached Tony Clarke who was going to produce this thing and Peter Knight. We said we’ve got an idea, and they were very-very brave because Tony Clarke had lost his job, at the time he was a Decca producer. He was told what to bloody record and that’s what he did. Peter Knight said, that sounds great and so he stuck his neck out and didn’t do what they wanted him to do. So every day we went into the studio and recorded a track and then sent it over to Peter Knight and he wrote the bridges (overtures) and the end of Days of Future Past. We didn’t actually work with the orchestra”.
On the last day of the session the orchestra came in and laid down all the bits and pieces and then we joined them all up. And every Tuesday Decca used to have a meeting with all their producers and they used to take their wares to Edward Lewis and the heads of the department, and would play them and decide if they were going to release it or not and also decided what money they were going to spend on it. So they put Days of Future Passed on. After they finished, everyone said …well what the hell is it and what are we going to do with it? It’s either one thing or the other. Fortunately there was a guy there called Walt McGuire who was the head of London Records, which was Decca America. He said if we don’t release it in the UK then give it to me, I’m going to release it in the states, it’s brilliant! So they said, well, we spent money on it in the studio, because studio money was sacred, they wouldn’t give us any studio time so we just grabbed it and made Days of Future Past in nine days. Also in those nine days we recorded “Legend of a Mind” which was the inspiration for ‘In Search of the Lost Chord’… and the rest is sort of history.”
Ray Shasho: You’ve written so many great Moody Blues classics… and speaking of “Legend of a Mind” what gave you the idea to write a song about Timothy Leary?
Ray Thomas: “I’d read about him, I hadn’t met him at that point. But “Legend of a Mind” is very tongue-in- cheek because I saw the astral plane as like a psychedelically painted biplane which the hippies hired for a trip around the San Francisco Bay. Tim Leary was all involved in the Tibetan Book of the Dead and I had been reading that. So I just wrote Timothy Leary’s dead and then said no, no, no, he’s just outside his body looking in. I was just taking a piss really. (All laughing) Just having a laugh at all the hippies and what they believed in and everything in the states. I never ever took any drugs with him and never saw him take any drugs either. When he died everybody wanted to speak with me. This bloody woman from the New York Times found me, and I was on the road at the time in the states. She said, yes, but what drugs were you doing? I said I never saw any drugs at anytime I met Tim. I told her I never took any drugs with him. She persistently tried to get dirt and shit out of me, so I said fuck you and slammed the phone down. I had just lost a friend. There wasn’t any dirt about Tim, he was a lovely man, and he was just a mysterious Irishmen.”
“When he came to see us, we were playing at the Greek Theatre and Tim turned up, which he used to do on occasion if he was in the area, he’d come watch us play. We played a concert at a college much earlier on and I spotted Tim and he came up onstage for “Legend of a Mind” and played tambourine. That brought the bloody house down.”
“So anyway, Tim came to the Greek Theatre and came backstage and complemented us about the show. Then he asked me to go outside with him for a minute. He said there’s something I want to tell you. After we walked outside he said, I’m going to tell you something, but if you repeated it, I’ll deny saying it. I said okay Tim what is it? He said that bloody song made me more famous than I did. (All laughing) I never told anybody what he said until after he was gone.”
Ray Shasho: “For My Lady” & “And The Tide Rushes In” are beautifully written songs which you also perform, what was the inspiration behind those incredible tracks?
Ray Thomas: “And The Tide Rushes In” was recorded after a big argument with my ex-wife. And I say … “You keep looking for someone to tell your troubles to, I'll sit down and lend an ear yet I hear nothing new.” Just complaining, then the tide rushes in and washes my castle away. And “For My Lady” …that was really just after my divorce. Basically I’m saying I’d give my life for a gentle lady. I was on my own for about twenty odd years before I met Lee. When people have spoken to Lee they say how did you meet and she says… Can you say groupie? She followed me all over the place and I just got to know her on the road. We just became close. It wasn’t in the days of sexual groupies; it was just women who came to every bloody gig. She loves me to bits and I love her to bits. I wish I had met her years before, but that’s life isn’t it.”
Ray Shasho: How long have you and Lee been married?
Ray Thomas: “Six years. We went down to Wales and got married in a place called Mwnt. That’s where my great grandfather made a lot of the woodworking there and my great uncle George and my grandfather made the pews in there. It’s got no electricity or anything; I think its 16th century.”
Ray Shasho: Ray, can you speak Welsh?
Ray Thomas: No, I can understand little bits of it but I was raised in Birmingham. My dad could speak Welsh, and all my family speaks Welsh, but not me. But it’s a very ancient language. In this little church where Lee and I got married, it’s so old; they’ve got a little window because the Lepers were not allowed to come in. So they could watch the service from outside through this tiny little window. They found the church bell in a farmer’s field after they repaired the roof, then reinstalled it but it never sounded quite right. When we finished the service and Lee and I were going to walk out, the Vicar (A priest in the Church of England who is in charge of a church and the religious needs of people in a particular area) stood there and said, there it goes … he’d fixed the bell and it resonated throughout the valley for miles and miles … and he wouldn’t stop bloody winging it! (All laughing) There were only seven of us for the ceremony at the church that day. We told the Vicar and the Bishop to keep it quiet because if the fans found out it be a bloody circus, and which they did anyway, but it all worked out really well.”
Ray Shasho: You’re a brilliant flautist.
Ray Thomas: “I never took a lesson in my life and just taught myself. I’ve got a few bad habits that I can’t rid myself of after all this time. Like on the fingering and how you hold the flute, I don’t do it correctly. But when we did all the tours with the orchestras I’d meet all the flute players and they’d come backstage and tell me that I inspired them to play the flute, and these were brilliant classical musicians. This one girl said to me, what I want to ask you, she said, how do you make your flute scream? I said it’s the way you blow it obviously, but you’ve got to be in a rock and roll band to do it. I had to play over the power of electric guitars and mellotrons.
Ray Shasho: “When I think of flautist in the world of rock, you and Ian Anderson always come to mind as the best.
Ray Thomas: “I was playing before him; I was one of the first rock and roll flute players. Have you heard the Moody Bluegrass? (A Nashville tribute to The Moody Blues) When they did their first volume, I was absolutely knocked out! I’ve heard some different music played to our songs and some of it is bloody awful. We’ve had rap versions of “Night in White Satin” for God’s sake. So when I heard all the pickers from Nashville on it I got in touch with the guy from Moody Bluegrass and said to him how much I really loved it. I sent him a little silver flute in a tiny little case and I put on the case … ‘The only thing missing’ … because they don’t have flutes. So when they did volume two, he got in touch with me, and he said, we’re going to do “Dear Diary” will you put the flutes on? So they sent me a track over and I went into the studio and put the flutes on it. Then he said to me, well, you might be the first rock and roll flute player … but now you’re the first bluegrass flute player … which knocked me out!
Ray Shasho: I asked Michael Pinder if there were any regrets on leaving The Moody Blues. Mike said, “No, I don’t because I was really quite happy with what Ray and I achieved. We had what we wanted… we conquered it.”
Ray Thomas: “Yea, that’s true really. Now that we’re getting older he gets all sentimental, he said we really did it didn’t we, and I said bloody right we did. Two lads from Birmingham…and I said we really shook it up, and he said damn right we did. He’s right there, but I’m glad I carried on for as long as I could.”
Ray Shasho:The Moody Blues popularity and longevity has intensified throughout the years. There have been a few different variations of the classic lineup, kind of like what Crosby, Still, Nash & Young has done over the years. Then of course after Michael left, Patrick Moraz was added on keyboards and stayed with the band for twelve years.
And now there are only three members still performing. How much longer do you think they’ll keep it going?
Ray Thomas: “I don’t know mate, as I said, I haven’t spoken to them, only John. But for as long as possible I hope because they’re selling catalogue. I’m getting paid for sitting on my ass. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Ray, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
“Well I’ve already done it with The Beatles, Mike and I performed on “The Fool on the Hill” and “I Am The Walrus.” We went down to the studio and it was my idea to put all the harmonicas on “Fool on the Hill.” So I’ve done it with The Beatles. I’ve sung with Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, and I’ve played on the same stage with all the great ones …Queen, Genesis … you name it really. So I don’t really know that’s an odd one … Crosby, Stills and Nash might be nice.”
“James Brown influenced the band from early on. Actually there’s a funny story, he was on the road same as us and we didn’t know he was staying at the same hotel. We were getting ready to leave and there were two limos for us and one for him. So I jumped into the first limo and I’m sitting there and James Brown got in. I was sitting in the wrong car. (All laughing) He looked at me like …who the hell are you? I said shit James I’m in the wrong car sorry.”
Ray Shasho: Ray, do you know when your new album will be released?
Ray Thomas: “No, the thing is, I’m not going to put myself under pressure like I used to. When I write a song, I don’t like it hanging around because I start picking at it, trying to change it, and inevitably you fuck it up. So as I write one, I’ll go down to the local studio and record it as a whim. I haven’t got a deadline; I’m getting too old for all that pressure. I’ll just do it when I can. So let’s say sometime in 2015. Sex, drugs and rock and roll are a thing of memories; I’ve had more than my fair share so I’ve got no regrets.”
“I’ve done a lot of work with different bands in the studio including an Italian prog-rock band called ‘Syndone’, and did a track on their album. Weeks after the session, a great big box arrived at my front door and it was full of pasta from Naples, all types of shapes and sizes, and that’s how they paid me, it was brilliant! I’ve also done three or four tracks for Mike Pinder’s sons, and just finished another one for them. I also worked with a Ukrainian band called ‘Melting Cloud’ from the Ukraine, and their music is really weird. I did one with harmonica and one with flute and did two tracks for them. Their producer worked a lot in Russia and had these two young guys come over. When they found out they knew me they asked me to play on their album. When I arrived you would have thought God had turned up. But I got a lot of enjoyment from doing it, I don’t mind working for other people. If I don’t do that or going fishing, I’m just sitting around on my ass. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: The music business today could sure use your help Ray … it’s bloody awful!
Ray Thomas: “I don’t like to put any artist down because I know how difficult it can be.
But having said that …there really is some crap out there! Where are the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’, ‘Days of Future Past’, or the Crosby, Stills and Nash band’s? I feel so sorry for these young boy bands, they put a bit of money behind them and they have a couple of hit records and it’s a throwaway society, to throwaway bands before they really got on their feet and know what they’re doing, there’s no apprenticeship these days. We used to play in the pubs, clubs, and some hard working men’s clubs in the north of England. They didn’t really throw bottles at you but they told you to fuck off! (All laughing) Get them off; let’s have the bingo and all this shit! We got off the stage and got back into the van and almost in tears. It just spurs you to want to do better.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve heard you’ve had some interesting fans over the years?
Ray Thomas: “We’ve had some real weirdoes. I’ve had a woman live in my garden for three weeks and I didn’t even know she was there. The doorbell rung one night and I was expecting a friend of mine, When I opened the door she leaped past me into the house and was covered with shit because she’d been living under my shrubs. She lay on the floor in the sign of the cross, sobbing in tears and looked like a nun would. She wanted me to father her child who was going to be the new messiah. She was sobbing because she wasn’t a virgin anymore. But it frightened the shit out of me!”
“I had another guy come into the dressing room and dropped to his knees in front of me. He wanted me to lay my hands on him because by doing that he was going to leave his body and Krishna was going to enter his body. He had been working out for years to get his body in tip top shape … and it was. It was frightening!”
“There was a guy in San Antonio that we didn’t know about, but he sat in the town square a year before we were coming to town. He sat there with a sign saying … In 365 days they will be here! Then 364 days and so on… and it became a fixture with the press and the television. So they picked up on it and used to go and interview him and asked … Who is going to be here in 200 days now? He said The Moody Blues, the Rock Gods from up higher are coming. For us it was great publicity. We didn’t know about him. We arrived at the hotel on the day, and I was sharing a room with Pete Jackson who works with Clapton now as his tour manager, he was our tour manager and we were sharing a room to keep the expenses down in those days. There’s a knock on the door and I thought it was a bellhop with our bags. So I opened the door and this vision went pass me, his skin was almost black, he wore a little sheepskin jerkin on, hipster jeans and sandals. He left past me ranting and raving, he was like the war man from Borneo. Pete Jackson phoned security and they threw him out. The following day after the gig he was back in his place with ‘Number one, I was wrong, they’re shit!’ (All laughing) So we’ve had some strange experience.”
Ray Shasho: Ray, have you witnessed some of the UFO’s that Mike has seen?
Ray Thomas: “I think Mike has seen a few more than me. (All laughing) Michael is really into all that shit. Who am I to disbelieve him, if anyone is going to see a whole fleet of UFO’s over his head … it’s Mike. (All laughing) I rang Mike up for his birthday and said you’re older than me you old bastard! Two days later he rings’s me up and says; now you’re the same age as me you old bastard! He came out with a good one, he said, well I’m two days older than you, so if I die I want you to go out and have a fucking great time for two days. He thinks I’m going to die two days after him because he’s two days older. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Ray, thank you so much for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible Moody Blues music you’ve given us and solo efforts you continue to bring.
Ray Thomas: “Thank you Ray, I enjoyed it.”
Purchase: The Moody Blues 50th Anniversary re-mastered release-‘The Magnificent Moodies’ –Esoteric Recordings (Cherry Red Records)… Official (Deluxe 2 CD) 50th Anniversary Edition of the Moody Blues debut album re-mastered from the first generation master tapes, along with all the singles the band recorded between 1964 and 1966. Notably this collection includes 29 previously unreleased bonus tracks …
Track listing … DISC ONE THE MAGNIFICENT MOODIES: REMASTERED 1 I’LL GO CRAZY 2. SOMETHING YOU GOT 3. GO NOW 4.CAN’T NOBODY LOVE YOU 5. I DON’T MIND 6. I’VE GOT A DREAM 7. LET ME GO 8. STOP 9. THANK YOU BABY 10. IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO 11.TRUE STORY12. BYE BYE BIRD BONUS TRACKS 13.LOSE YOUR MONEY (BUT DON’T LOSE YOUR MIND) 14.STEAL YOUR HEART AWAY 15. GO NOW! (FIRST VERSION) (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED) 16. IT’S EASY CHILD 17. I DON’T WANT TO GO ON WITHOUT YOU 18.TIME IS ON MY SIDE 19. FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART (I LOVE YOU) 20. AND MY BABY’S GONE 21. EVERYDAY 22.YOU DON’T (ALL THE TIME) 23.BOULEVARD DE MADELEINE 24. THIS IS MY HOUSE (BUT NOBODY CALLS) 25. PEOPLE GOTTA GO 26.LIFE’S NOT LIFE 27. HE CAN WIN DISC TWO PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED SESSIONS 1964 – 1966 THE JULY 1964 OLYMPIC STUDIOS SESSIONS: 1. GO NOW! (SECOND VERSION) 2. LOSE YOUR MONEY (BUT DON’T LOSE YOUR MIND) (EARLY VERSION) 3. STEAL YOUR HEART AWAY (FIRST VERSION) 4. I’LL GO CRAZY (FIRST VERSION) 5. YOU BETTER MOVE ON 6. CAN’T NOBODY LOVE YOU (FIRST VERSION) 7. 23RD PSALM
THE 1965 BBC RADIO SESSIONS: 8. GO NOW 9. I DON’T WANT TO GO ON WITHOUT YOU 10. I’LL GO CRAZY "SATURDAY CLUB” SESSION - BBC LIGHT PROGRAMME RECORDED 12TH APRIL 1965 11. FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART (I LOVE YOU) 12. JUMP BACK "SATURDAY CLUB” SESSION - BBC LIGHT PROGRAMME RECORDED 3RD MAY 1965 13. I’VE GOT A DREAM 14. AND MY BABY’S GONE "SATURDAY CLUB” SESSION - BBC LIGHT PROGRAMME RECORDED 1ST JUNE 1965 15. IT’S EASY CHILD 16. STOP 17. EVERYDAY "SATURDAY CLUB” SESSION - BBC LIGHT PROGRAMME RECORDED 21ST SEPTEMBER 1965 18. YOU DON’T (ALL THE TIME) 19. I WANT YOU TO KNOW "SATURDAY CLUB” SESSION - BBC LIGHT PROGRAMME RECORDED 9TH NOVEMBER 1965 THE 1966 DENNY CORDELL SESSIONS 20. SAD SONG 21.THIS IS MY HOUSE BUT NOBODY CALLS (FIRST VERSION) 22. HOW CAN WE HANG ON TO A DREAM (FIRST VERSION) 23. HOW CAN WE HANG ON TO A DREAM (REMAKE) 24.JAGO & JILLY 25. WE’RE BROKEN 26. I REALLY HAVEN’T GOT THE TIME (SEPTEMBER 1966 VERSION) 27. RED WINE 28.THIS IS MY HOUSE BUT NOBODY CALLS (STEREO MIX)
Special thanks to the ‘incredible’ Billy James of Glass Onyon PR
COMING UP NEXT…An interview with lead vocalist and songwriter NIKKI LUNDEN and guitarist LORA ‘G’ ESPINOZA from an incredible new band entitled ‘Lunden Reign’…Also upcoming folk/rock/singer/songwriter/guitarist JONATHAN EDWARDS (“Sunshine,” “Shanty”) and Legendary Pop Crooner ENGELBERT HUMPERDINK ("Release Me")
Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at email@example.com
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