By Jeremy Miles
Maybe, just maybe the world has a stubborn, difficult, stick-in the-mud music teacher to thank for some of the most dramatic and enduring rock music ever recorded.
For when the teenage John Lodge got flung out of music class for not knowing the date of Beethoven’s birth he says it made him all the more determined to pursue his burgeoning love of rock ‘n’ roll.
He even tried to strike a compromise. Lodge, who would go on to become the Moody Blues bass player, had a proposition for the teacher: “I said that if he could teach me how to play A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, then I’d find out when Beethoven was born.”
The grumpy teacher was having none of it though and Lodge found himself doing extra woodwork, a subject he was spectacularly bad at.
Despite being a sixty something millionaire rock star, he still reels at the stupidity of his former schoolmaster.
“I thought it was a fair deal. I really wanted to know how A Whole Lot of Shakin’ worked. It sounds silly now but it was crucial to me. I wanted to know how and why rock n roll worked I wanted to know about the 12 bars, when a guitar solo should come in…”
As for the woodwork, it was a disaster. “You know I was the one who, if they wanted us to make a stool, could never get the four legs the same length. I made an ashtray once and nearly chiseled my finger off.”
Happily, though Lodge admits he could have done with a few more formal music lessons, no lasting damage was done and there’s a 45 year career and record sales in the millions to prove it.
This summer found the Moody Blues - Lodge and long-time bandmates Justin Hayward and Graeme Edge - reflecting on their extraordinary career. First there was a previously unreleased recording of their classic set at the legendary 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.
Discovered by film-maker Murray Lerner, the concert is also out in DVD form. It’s brought memories flooding back for Lodge,
The Isle of Wight was an exciting time. I think it was the biggest concert audience in Britain ever. It was huge - hundreds of thousands of people. I remember standing on stage and looking out and it was immense.
“And what a line-up! Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Poco, Buffalo Springfield, Joan Baez... It was phenomenal. You just couldn’t do it these days.
Now the Moody Blues are hitting the road for a nationwide tour which brings them to the Bournemouth International Centre on October 13. It’s a gig that Lodge says he’s particularly looking forward to.
“I always like it in Bournemouth. I think it’s to do with coming from Birmingham From the very earliest days we always loved going to venues at the seaside. It seemed a bit of an adventure and, to be honest, it still is.”
The three members of the band remain good freinds even though much of the time they lead a far-flung existence: “Justin’s in Monaco, Graeme’s in Florida and I’m based in Surrey,” says Lodge.
“It can be difficult if they suddenly want to do a photo-session but, with the internet, business is no problem at all. We have an office in Los Angeles, an office here in Cobham - the Threshold Record Shop is still the centre of the Moody Blues activities – and an agent in London.
“Everything seem to work pretty well. That’s the joy of technology. I remember touring in the sixties and early seventies and it was horrendous. Communications were so bad. Even in America in the late 1960s you had to book a call if you wanted to ring England.
“Now all you need is your computer and your iPhone or whatever, and you’ve got everything there.”
Musing over the rigors of the past he points out “Even after our first big albums Days of Future Past and In Search of the Lost Chord were successful we were still travelling together in an old transit van. We had it fitted it out with airplane seats. That was our concession to luxury. It was so much more comfortable than sitting on the equipment.
“Touring was a total adventure in those days, playing places you’d only ever seen on a map. Discovering people with different ways and different accents. It’s easy to forget how incredibly diverse this country used to be.
“We had an incredible time, including coming down to Bournemouth which meant we could stop at Stonehenge on the way, a place that always fascinated me.”
Lodge says that his original ambition for life after school was to become a car designer although he admits that he probably wouldn’t have been very good at it.
“ I’ve loved cars for as long as I can remember and always rather fancied designing them. Then I found rock ‘n’ roll so I thought the best thing to do was to make a few pounds and try and buy a car. He did to. Lodge’s original pride joy he says was a beaten up old Austin A30. It cost a fiver. “Perfect!” he says.