Sunday, 13 March 2011

Did your therapist tell you to write letters....and not send them?

Hip to Be Square

“Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues 1967 (re-released in 1972) 

Do you have a broken heart? Does it hurt? Well you can listen to this song and it will be all better. O.K.?
Well maybe not, but Justin Hayward emotes an amazing (and long) gush to his lady-love in this epic lament that we all love to hear. If the seven minute plus version is not enough for you there is also a ‘Late Lament’ poem on the ‘Days of Future Past’ album.

I remember hearing this at the ‘Shag’ in Junior High School. I remember coming down the long stairwell by the main hall for some reason and this song echoed through the painted brick hallway as I descended the ‘tready grip’ stairs in the dim light. It made me feel alone and almost forlorn - but strangely that was not necessarily a bad feeling. What the hell was going on here? 

You may ask say, "Do tell, what the heck is a ‘Shag”? It was our version of a dance. If you explained the name to some of the teachers who were there at the time, now, they would probably blush. In retrospect, what a stupid name to call an adolescent dance! Nonetheless, I went to every one - did not want to miss the music. Sometimes we even had live bands – that were great! (At least I thought they were at the time – although the gym was kind of echoey)

One time in gym class on the eve of a Shag, Ricky D., punched in the buttons on the jukebox that sat on the stage in wait of the festivities. “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night blared out of the speakers. In those days believe it or not there were people that were technologically challenged and our gym teacher, much to our delight did not know how to shut it down. We all laughed and bopped around. Needless to say, Ricky D was a hero that day – after he did his 20 chin-ups!

Of course the Shag was not like dances now. You did not dance by yourself. If you had enough guts to ask a girl to dance you had to figure out what you were going to do when you actually got to the dance floor. We all kind of adopted this side-to-side step thing and maybe if you were really rockin’ you would bend your hips a bit. Slow dances consisted of essentially just hugging a girl and twirling around to the beat. Hey whatever works! You had to be savvy here – it helped to be able to ‘name-that-tune’ in 2 or 3 notes because if you didn’t, someone else would ask 'that' girl when your favorite song came on (whether it be 'LIttle Willy" by the Sweet, 'Highway Star' by Deep Purple or 'China Grove' by the Doobie Brothers). You also had to be careful on those songs where they change it up – you know you are doing a slow dance at the beginning of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and it all of a sudden turns into a fast dance and you have to go back to your side-to-side thing – avoiding this situation was important as we were all awkward as hell – O.K. maybe it was just me!

Anyway.......The Moody Blues were of course British. In the same vein as ‘Procol Harem’, what would be called progressive rock. They liked big productions. One big production that is notable around the same time is Procol Harems “A Whiter Shade of Pale” done with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Bands like ‘Yes’, ‘Emerson Lake and Palmer’, and even the American ‘Chicago’ would follow the whole big production thing. Even later, Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestral (ELP) were much influence by the big sound of the Moodies.

The Moodies put out a copious amount of  albums and have sold some 70 million records. I also like “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Ride My Seesaw” - they are worth checking out.

Be mellow!

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