“The thing about music is the communication, and I hope that my music and the Moody Blues music communicates to people. And hopefully—even just a little bit—if it makes someone’s life better, fabulous.”
John Lodge on songwriting
I wanted to have you expound on something that I read. You said you were taken by the left-hand on the piano and were intrigued by the bass lines you’d heard, and that what was drew you to the bass. Is that correct?
Lodge: That’s absolutely correct. When I was in school, when I was 13 or 14, at lunchtime, I used to go to a café and instead of having a proper meal, I’d spend my lunch money and I’d have a cup of coffee and perhaps a piece of toast or something, but I dropped the coins right into the slot of a Rock-Ola Juke Box. And it played 45s and it was all the latest records from America.
When I was listening to these records, I was trying to think what actually inspired me. What actually turned my emotion? What actually, I don’t know, set my life on fire in a way? What was that? And I realized the song was really important, incredibly important. But I wasn’t a songwriter so that was not what I was interested in.
I realized it was this 12-inch speaker in the jukebox belting out the left-hand side of the pianos, or a bass guitar. Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, do-do-do-do-do-do. I mean it’s amazing. And I realized it was this bottom end of the—the left-hand side of the piano or the bass parts that were actually driving these songs. I thought, ‘Just a minute. I know, this is it. That’s what I like.’
I don’t really want to learn the lyrics of the song, you know, asking whatever words were heard or whatever I think they’re singing. But the one thing that really got to me was the energy of that left-hand side of the piano and the bass.
Don’t forget there are no bass players in England at that time, so I took my acoustic—guitar which I was playing with at the time—and I started to learn all the left-hand side of the pianos, the Fats Dominos, the Little Richards, the Jerry Lee Lewis. I started to listen to that left-hand side of what drove it.
And then I remember an instrumental record coming out by Johnny Kidd and the Hurricanes and the song was called “Crossfire,” and it was the simplest bass line in the world, and I realized the whole song was about this bass line. It didn’t matter what the song was about or the tune. For me, the energy and what the song was about was that bass.
So that’s where I just learned and learned and learned and then we put our first little band together. I just started playing the bottom four strings of my guitar and someone else played rhythm.
It sounds like John Lodge was born to play bass.
Yeah, I just love it. Even now when I pick my bass up in 1959, ’60, I bought my Precision bass, Sunburst. I think it was the first one in Birmingham, and I hadn’t seen one before and that’s what I record on today. I’ve been recording with it this last week actually. As soon as I put that bass on my knee, it seems to want to play on its own. It’s amazing.
“I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)”
Music and Lyrics: John Lodge
Producer: Tony Clarke
First released in 1972 as the final track on the album “Seventh Sojourn,” “I’m Just a Singer” reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of their highest-charting hits in the country. It was the final sequel released before the Moody Blues’ five-year hiatus.
One of my personal favorites has always been “I’m Just A Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band).”
Well, probably about 1972, whenever it was, roughly ’72…there were so many people in the world deciding that rock musicians had the answers to life, and they were bestowing on us things we had no idea [about].
I remember coming home off a tour once and there were people outside of my house and I asked them what was going on. They said, ‘You’re going to be flying a spaceship that’s going to save the world.’ And I said, ‘Let me tell you something. I don’t actually like flying, never mind piloting a spaceship.’
And they said, ‘No, but that’s because you don’t know yet.’ And I suddenly thought, ‘Just a minute, this is getting out of hand; I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band. That’s all I am.’ And I thought ‘How can I write a song that is not just purely “I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band,” but it also should be things I’ve seen in the world that’s brought me to that position.’
At the time there were riots going on all over the world, so I just put that in the song. Also, if you remember, it was the time of the Vietnam War and there was this photograph that was all over the place about a little girl running along the street when there’s fire everywhere, and I wanted to put that in the song as well. It was all about that. It was like with all this in the world going on; I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band.
We all do rock and roll, you know, you got your charter jet flying in and out. You’ve got buses. You got trucks. You’ve got everything else but at the end of the day you still go home, and you get into a bed and you’re like everyone else. If we could all just get into the music, we could all just be singers in a rock and roll band and perhaps the world would be a better place.