I know that I write a lot about the passing of famous musicians. Many of them you may have never heard of or certainly do not care about. But I always feel like their passing is the occasion to reflect on what they contributed to the world of music or art or literature to me, personally.
One of my favorite bands growing up was The Moody Blues. They weren't the exquisite musicians compared to bands like Yes or King Crimson or most anybody you care to name in the Jazz world. But their music was sometimes philosophical, always meditative, often whimsical.
Graeme Edge was their drummer. In fact, he was one of the founding members of the band. He was a fine drummer, a light hearted and fun loving character, but he turned out to be quite a remarkable poet. Truth be told, I think it was his poetic interludes in their various albums that attracted me to the band in the first place.
When he died last week, he was the only remaining original member of the band and had played his last concert with them in September of 2019. That year, age and illness began to take its toll and he retired from performing. With his retirement, the two remaining members—Justin Hayward and John Lodge—decided that the Moody Blues could not continue. They are now touring separately.
Graeme was born in Rocester, England on March 30, 1941. He had performed with various startup bands in the early 1960s but, in 1964, he became a founding member of The Moody Blues. He provided a solid foundation for the original R&B and Rock flavored band, fronted by Denny Laine, playing on all their Decca singles, including the UK chart topping "Go Now" (January 1965), and other 1965 hit songs; "I Don't Want To Go On Without You", "Everyday", and "From The Bottom of My Heart (I Love You)", which were additionally released in that same year.
After the departure of Denny Laine (who would eventually wind up with Paul McCartney & Wings) and bassist Clint Warwick. Graeme was integral in the recruitment of Justin Hayward and John Lodge in 1966. While the band continued to play the R&B style material, a tirade from a fan led to some soul-searching. Graeme said, “'That guy was right...we were rubbish!” This retrospection led the band to decide to abandon the Blues style covers and begin writing and recording their own songs, exclusively.
Graeme initially was a poet for the band contributing Morning Glory and Late Lament to the Days of Future Passed album in 1967 (although the poem was narrated by Mike Pinder). If you’ve ever heard the extended version of Nights in White Satin, you have heard Graeme’s poem.
Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day's useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one.
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son.
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion.
Edge himself opened In Search of the Lost Chord (1968) with his brief poem Departure although Pinder again narrated his The Word poem later on that set. Further poems provided by Edge included In The Beginning (co-narrated by Justin Hayward, Graeme Edge, and Mike Pinder in turn), and The Dream (spoken by Mike Pinder) for On The Threshold of A Dream (1969).
Later in 1969, as The Moody Blues launched their own label Threshold Records, Edge began contributing songs, his Higher And Higher (a spoken lyric over music with a dramatic rocket blast off opening) commenced the album To Our Children's Children's Children, which also featured his instrumental composition Beyond.
Edge 'whispered' the lyrics to his song Don't You Feel Small over the band’s sung vocals on A Question of Balance (1970) on which he also contributed a co-written with Ray Thomas closing poem/song The Balance. This was the poem that always got me somehow. When I got to see them perform in 1982, I was thrilled to see them perform that song. The lights were low and a single spotlight was on Graeme as he sat at his drum kit. His arms were folded across his drums sticks and he began to recite, so sweetly,
After he had journeyed,
And his feet were sore,
And he was tired,
He came upon an orange grove
And he rested.
And he lay in the cool,
And while he rested,
He took to himself an orange
And tasted it,
And it was good.
And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked,
And he saw the tree above him,
And the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light,
And the balance.
And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.
The thing is, when I first heard that song, my friend Jimmy and I were eating oranges at that very moment. We paused, after we heard that line about tasting the orange, and just looked at each other. To this day, hearing recordings of Graeme reciting that poem that he and Ray Thomas wrote, gives me a thrill.
Next came the band’s album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour in 1971, on which his song, After You Came, featured the four lead vocalists—Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder, Justin Hayward, and John Lodge—all together and taking brief solo lead lines in turn.
For their 1972 Seventh Sojourn album, Edge co-wrote You And Me with Justin Hayward who took lead vocal. In 2013, Graeme said of Seventh Sojourn: "I didn't listen to that album, because I was going through a divorce at the same time and so it was very, very painful for me. Once it was finished, I didn't play it for years and years and years. Never played it. Not that I play our stuff very much anyway but I never ever played that one. And I hadn't really heard it apart from the singles from it, until much later when it came out first time on CD and I had to listen to it digitalized, just to sort of say 'Yeah, that's fine by me.' And I thought, 'Well actually, that's not too bad an album!' That's the closest I'll ever be to hearing a Moody Blues album for the first time."
After The Moody Blues' world tour ended in 1974, the band members took a break with all the members of the band releasing solo albums or duet albums (as in the case of John and Justin, calling themselves the Blue Jays). They were all really quite good. At least, to me.
Graeme formed his studio-based The Graeme Edge Band (featuring guitarist/vocalist Adrian Gurvitz) who first issued a non-album single We Like To Do It in July 1974. The Graeme Edge Band then released two albums in the mid-1970s. The first was Kick Off Your Muddy Boots in September 1975. It featured Adrian Gurvitz and Paul Gurvitz, plus a guest appearance co-drumming with Graeme by Ginger Baker (of Cream, Blind Faith, and Ginger Baker’s Air Force) with backing vocals by fellow Moodies member Ray Thomas. This first album reached No. 107 in the USA on the Billboard chart. Their second album was 'Paradise Ballroom' in 1977, charting in the USA reaching No. 164 on the Billboard chart. It was also featured Adrian and Paul Gurvitz.
After The Moody Blues' reunion in 1978, Graeme provided the strong I'll Be Level With You (sung by the group, led by Justin Hayward) for the album Octave. When it came time to sign the touring contracts, co-founder and keyboardist Mike Pinder just couldn’t sign. He couldn’t face the crowds, the media, everything, and he bowed out of the band—the first band member to quit since 1966.
The band hired (ex-Refugee and ex-Yes) keyboardist Patrick Moraz to take Pinder’s spot.
For Long Distance Voyager in 1981, Graeme contributed the song 22,000 Days—the length of an average human lifespan in days–sung by Ray Thomas, John Lodge, and Justin Hayward. Graeme’s heartfelt Going Nowhere (sung by Ray Thomas) was his lone composition on The Present album in 1983, and he teamed with Moodies keyboardist Patrick Moraz for The Spirit (sung by the group's vocalists in harmony) on The Other Side of Life album in 1986.
Edge was not featured as a songwriter or poet on either Sur La Mer (1988) or Keys of the Kingdom (1991), and was not drummer on every track on the latter album. However, he did contribute the thought-provoking closing poem/song Nothing Changes which was initially narrated by himself, then sung by The Moody Blues (Justin Hayward featured) on the Strange Times album issued in 1999.
Beginning in 1991, Gordon Marshall was co-drummer for the Moodies concerts. Rock and Roll drumming is tough on wrists and Graeme was no exception. Still, Graeme’s drumming style was instantly recognizable and most distinctive.
His divorce had taken a heavy toll on him, emotionally. He finally fell in love again but said that his girlfriend Susan would not marry him because she did not want to be named Sue Edge (sewage). He was a big fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. An article about him said he has "plenty of time for overseeing some rental properties, doing charity work, playing lots of golf and watching Deep Space Nine at his Sarasota home on Florida's Gulf Coast."
To date, the Moody Blues have sold more than 70 million album, In 2018, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The song Nights in White Satin has been covered more than 140 times.
Graeme died on Thursday, November 11, 2021. He was 80 years old.
Just a small example of what Graeme and the Moody Blues mean to our household, Nicole had no idea what I was writing just now. She walked in and started playing the Moody Blues.
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