It hasn’t exactly been 10,000 light years since the Moody Blues’ John Lodge put out a solo album. It just seems that way.
It’s actually been 38 years — a considerably shorter amount of time, albeit an eternity in rock’n’roll years. But Lodge says the title track off the forthcoming 10,000 Light Years Ago, which Billboard is premiering exclusively below, gave the album a thematic hook he explores throughout its eight songs. Listen to it now.
“The album is really about how the future is always in reach but the past is gone forever,” Lodge explains to Billboard. “I thought, ‘I wonder what that means?’ and I suddenly said, ‘Yeah, 10,000 light years ago; it’s so far in the past it could be now if we caught up with it.’ That’s where the idea came from for the album — there we are, standing closer to the universe.”
Sounds trippy, right? “Yeah, I think it’s probably a reflection of The Moody Blues in the ’60s,” Lodge acknowledges. “We were on the threshold of something, looking back. If you look back on it, it’s probably where we are today from what we did in the past. So to me, ‘10,000 Light Years Ago’ is sort of my version of ‘Threshold of a Dream’ because whatever was going on 10,000 light years ago, you can’t touch it at all. It’s gone. Or is it here now, under Steven Hawking’s time warp theory?”
Lodge says The Moody Blues’ schedule — particularly touring and, in recent years, compiling archival packages — has kept him from solo recordings since 1977’s Natural Avenue. He started writing in earnest for 10,000 Light Years Ago (due out May 5) about two years ago. “It just came to the point where I really had to get back in the studio and record the songs I’d been writing,” Lodge says. “The timing was just right for me.” And as he waxed nostalgic on “Those Days in Birmingham” and rocked out on “Crazy,” Lodge also had a distinct vision of how he wanted to make the album.
“I was trying to get back to the sort of grassroots, really, and make it as a band,” explains Lodge, who used guitarist Chris Spedding extensively on the album. “The last 15 years or so it’s become pretty regimented with computers and everything else. I really wanted to get back to, ‘How can I record an album that feels like a group album but still use modern technology in a modern way to perform the songs the way we did with Days of Future Past, In Search of the Lost Chord and all those records?’ where we used to just sit around the table and play the songs we had to each other and everyone could contribute their ideas to the song. I wanted to do that again.”
Lodge particularly returns to his own days of future passed on the track “Simply Magic,” which reunites him with former Moody mates Mike Pinder on keyboards and Ray Thomas on flutes, vocals and spoken word. “Yeah, that was brilliant,” Lodge recalls. “I wrote the song for my grandson, and it was my reflection about children and the hope for the future and everything else, and I put a guide flute on there from a sample. Ray lives around the corner from me and we’ve been friends, as I say on the album, since time began. So I rang him and said, ‘I’ve got this song. I would really love if you would come and play on it for me.’ So he recorded the flute parts and then Ray said, ‘Mike would love to play on this, because I’ve been speaking to him.’ It was great ’cause Ray and I had a band called El Rito & the Rebels before the Moody Blues, and at one point Mike was in that band as well. So it was really nice, and for me it all sat into the 10,000 Light Years Ago (concept) because we all were playing together so many years ago and here we are doing it again. And it all felt right and sounds completely right to me.”
Lodge says he’d “very much like” to do some solo shows in support of the album, but The Moody Blues are keeping him busy on the road. The group begins its tour in support of the new box set Timeless Flight — The Polydor Years on April 22 in Seattle, with U.K. dates slated for June. “The Moody Blues are a touring act now,” Lodge says, with plans already in motion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Days of Future Passed album in 2017. “I’d like to do a new Moodys album, of course, but it’s finding the right time and the right way of doing it. My new album, I really enjoyed doing it this way, when everybody could be creative in their own way. That’s very important, I think. That’s very much the way the Moodys always made albums, and I’d think that’s the way we’d want to approach it again.”