I was going to take a break from this series and write about the 1969 TeeVee show Turn-On. It aired only one episode, and some stations cut the feed during the show, and some Mountain and Pacific Time Zone stations never aired it at all. If anyone knows where there are links to content, please let me know. I am one of the few people to have seen the entire first (and only) episode ever to be aired.
Last time we finished up about The Moody Blues third album, In Search of the Lost Chord. I really thought that this was a fine piece of music. Their next album, released on 19690425 on Deram Records, it charted at #1 in the UK and at #20 in the US. This record was really the one that locked their commercial (and artistic) success.
Whilst not as complex and the previous album (the five played only 12 instruments rather than the more than 30, although Hayward played both 6 and 12 string guitar, so the total really should be 13), it is very charming. Whilst not a single song stands out as extraordinary, as a whole it is a marvelous piece. Have you heard?
If In Search of the Lost Chord was an album with the theme of LSD as its basis, On the Threshold of a Dream is a work based on Cannabis.
It starts with the Edge poem, read (mostly?) by Pinder called “In the Beginning”. Most all of the sound effects are by Mellotron. I am becoming more convinced that there is nothing eight seconds or shorter than a Mellotron can not do! Here is the studio cut. Notice that it fades into the next song. Early albums by The Moody Blues always did that, after Tony Clarke became the producer, even though there are well delineated spaces betwixt tracks. Unlike most other bands, the separation groove carried information.
This is followed by the Hayward song “Lovely to See You”, which in many ways the epitome of their sound. I really like it.
By the way, I have decided not to post any live material for a while because I found a lot of stuff from the 1970 Leeds concert. I shall post an entire piece about that later.
The next song is the very psychedelic (remember, Cannabis has many psychedelic properties) Ray Thomas piece, “Dear Diary”. Very introspective, very understated, and very deep. Catch the very last part of the song where he is reciting the diary, “…Someone exploded an H bomb today, but it wasn’t anybody that I knew.” If that is not psychedelic logic, I am sadly mistaken. The use of the Leslie speaker for the vocals is a very nice touch to give it that other worldly feel.
John Lodge’s “Send Me no Wine” is next. At first it almost sounds like a throwaway song, but it is much more than that. The line, “(For) once in my life, I need no conversation. All of my time I’ll spend in fascination. Give me my love, with you in my life. If only everybody found the answer in love.” is wonderful! The more that I listen to them, the more romantic I become. Hayward’s 12-string work is great.
The next song was also a Lodge number, but as far as I can tell Pinder sang it. The lyrics are not as touching as the previous song, but it shows the rock and roll musical ability well. Here is “To Share our Love”.
The final cut on the first side is Mike Pinder’s “So Deep within You”. I chose the link rather than the embed because this one has the lyrics. This song is full of double entente so you really need to see the lyrics to understand it. This really is a fine song.
The second side begins with Hayward’s extraordinarily beautiful “Never Comes the Day”. The advice for anyone in a relationship is spot on, as well: “Give just a little bit more, take a little bit less from each other tonight.” If more couples would heed that concept, people would be happier.
Ray Thomas’s “Lazy Day” is the second track on the record. At first blush it sounds like a happy little tune about the joys of a day off, but if you listen very carefully it is not. It is actually a lament about the dull routine of life. Listen very carefully to the backing vocals hither and thither and you will see what I mean.
“Are You Sitting Comfortably”, by Hayward and Thomas, follows. This song is on its surface about Camelot, but I believe that it is a not so subtle reference to drinking Cannabis tea. It begins, “Take another sip, my love…”. The tempo is much too relaxed to be LSD induced, but fits well with Cannabis. The visions are consistent with Cannabis intoxication, though. Even the title is consistent.
The Graeme Edge poem (recited by Pinder) “The Dream”, is next. It has references to death and rebirth, not an unusual theme for The Moody Blues. Once again, a Mellotron can do just about anything!
The last three songs on the album are all by Pinder and are best taken as a unit. You can hear the rosin dripping from Pinder’s cello bow! The percussion in “Have You Heard? Part 1” sounds like someone inhaling smoke, in keeping with the Cannabis theme.
“The Voyage” is one of the more iconic songs from The Moody Blues and is just a remarkable piece of musicianship.
In “Have You Heard? Part 2” the line “…scatter good seed on the field…” continues the Cannabis theme. The use of the phrase “…turned on to the same word.” further strengthens this trend.
By the way, there was only one single released from this album, “Never Comes the Day” with the “B” side “So Deep within You”. Ironically, it failed to chart in the UK and only reached #91 is the US. That is really not that difficult to understand, though. The Moody Blues had too large a message for a single to express, so with few exceptions people would listen to the entire album preferentially to singles. I know that many years ago the former Mrs. Translator and I would spend hours listening to them and “sipping tea” before Eldest Son was conceived.
After writing these past few pieces I am once again in awe of the talent that this band had. The writing is wonderful, the performance perfect, and the versatility is nothing short of amazing. I really wonder why I had stopped listening to them for so long. Although I still favor The Who, I will admit that The Moody Blues were, in many ways, equal to or better in their musical abilities. Really it is not a fair comparison since the styles of the two bands were so different.
I can not imagine either band successfully playing material from the other. They just had, for lack of a better term, different DNA. Both are wonderful bands, but perhaps a food comparison would be appropriate. I love very rare prime rib, and I also love a really good meat loaf. However, I never think of one as a substitute for the other.
I am very interested in opinions of readers about my observations, and welcome your observations as well. Please comment at length and often. You are certainly welcome to add other material if you see fit.
As for the recovery of my wrist, I am very, very pleased at the progress that it is making now. It is far from 100%, but the recovery is accelerating. Remember for weeks the improvement was very incremental, but now I am getting tangible functional recovery every day. This time last week I was still using my left hand for my mouse, and now I use my right hand exclusively. My typing skills with my right hand are improving although I still use my index finger more than I would like. If the improvement continues to accelerate, I shall be out of the splint this time next week.
I did have a bit of a challenge this week. I was going to the grocery store when I lost the power steering in my vehicle. I looked at the dash, and sure enough, the alternator light was alit. I instantly knew that I had lost the serpentine belt that drives EVERYTHING on modern vehicles, so went directly to Auto Zone for a replacement. The counter person was extremely helpful and saw that my hand was not as it should be, so he helped me to but on the new one. Whilst we were doing that, he noticed that the idler pulley had bad bearings. He removed it and sure enough the formerly spherical ball bearings were grotesque ovals. We got a replacement pulley and he installed that, too. Now, I was not standing idly by, and did as much as I could, but without him helping I would probably not have been able to replace the parts. It ended up costing about $40, but if not for him I would have to had it towed to a repair shop and would likely have been out in excess of $200. I did not get his name, and would not give it if I had for fear of getting him in trouble, but I really appreciate the kindness and help that he provided to me.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith