Graeme Edge left the planet two and a half weeks ago.
Even a diehard fan of The Music might not recognize his name. But if you were a devotee of the music of the Moody Blues, you knew who he was. And, at times, you dreaded his art — not so much the time he kept as drummer for that great blues/progressive/psychedelic/symphonic rock band from the United Kingdom, but the sometimes-cringe-inducing poetry he inflicted.
Which is weird, because Edge — who shuffled off this mortal coil Nov. 11, at 80 years of age — was a founding member of the Moody Blues. (The alleged origin of their name was that, in their earliest days, they were offered a sponsorship from a beer maker whose corporate initials were MB, who expected their sponsorship would result in a similar name for the band; the name Moody Blues honored that, but outlasted the corporate investment.)
The original Moodies were, like many of the U.K. bands developing in the mid-1960s, influenced by American blues. I remember well hearing their first U.S. hit, “Go Now” — produced by the great American team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller — liking it, but not expecting that the artists behind it would go, well, you know, to the moon and other places beyond.
But that’s where the Moodies soon went. “Go Now” charted in the U.S. Top 10 in early 1965, but two years later, they released Days of Future Passed. Those not familiar with the album itself will nevertheless remember the signature single from the LP, “Knights in White Satin” — one of those FM classic rock chestnuts that gets played to death.
The album version of “Knights” featured a spoken-word section, which includes the unforgettable-but-not-so-memorable lines: “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.” That, and “Morning Glory” earlier on the LP, were Edge’s debut as the Moodies’ poet-in-residence.
A year after that, MB released In Search of the Lost Chord. That LP, perhaps the real breakthrough work for the band, opens with a 13-line Edge poem that concludes with this: “To lie in the meadow and hear the grass sing/To have all these things in our memories hoard/And to use them/To help us/To find…”
The Lost Chord, of course. But that set a brief pattern of Moody albums that — when the buyer put the needle to the vinyl — started with Edge poesy. On the Threshold of a Dream opened with Edge’s “In the Beginning” — which ends with: “There you go man, keep as cool as you can./Face piles/And piles/Of trials/With smiles./It riles them to believe/That you perceive/The web they weave/And keep on thinking free.”
And that album ends with “The Dream,” and these Edge-penned words of wisdom: “Love will come at leisure/Love of love, love of life and giving without measure/Gives in return a wondrous yearn for promise almost seen/Live hand in hand and together we’ll stand/On the threshold of a dream.”
The first cut of To Out Children’s Children’s Children, inspired by 1969’s Apollo moon landing, “Higher and Higher,” includes the not-so-memorable lines, “Vast vision must improve our sight/Perhaps at last we’ll see an end to our home’s endless blight/And the beginning of the free/Climb to tranquility, finding its real worth/Conceiving the heavens, flourishing on Earth.”
The listener, after the start of A Question of Balance, may think he or she has escaped the poetry. “Question,” the opening cut of that LP — an effort by the Moodies to craft a sound more amenable to live performance — is almost-hummable, straightforward rock.
But you’re not going to escape without spoken rhyme; the last cut, “The Balance,” is mostly an Edge poem with a minimal instrumental background and no singing until the closing chorus. The poetry part ends with this” “And he understood, he understood himself/Upon this he saw that when he was of anger or knew hurt or felt fear/It was because he was not understanding/And he learned compassion/And with his eye of compassion/He saw his enemies like unto himself/And he learned love/Then he was answered.” Well, it was still the ’60s, almost, and we were trying to get in touch with ourselves …
That was pretty much it for the Edge poetry on Moody Blues albums, until, and except for, a cut on the band’s 1999 album Strange Times. But by that time, the band had had a four-year hiatus from recording and touring, saw some changes in personnel and had gotten away from the concept albums that had been more amenable to spoken poetry.
Edge did pen some actual songs for the Moodies early on and later, but he had few non-shared writing credits besides the poems — less than 10, and one of those was an instrumental. He did write some of the songs recorded by The Graeme Edge Band, his studio-only project, which existed during the Moodies’ 1974-78 hiatus.
The poetry is one reason I don’t listen much to my MB albums, other than Question. (His early poems also were one of the things that probably prompted a contemporaneous reviewer of Days of Future Passed to describe it as “a ponderous mound of thought-jello” — although later critics have cut it more slack.) Which is too bad, because if I can fight my way past the “ten billion butterfly sneezes” (from “Higher and Higher”), there are gems like “Out and In” and “I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred.” Ditto for In Search and On the Threshold.
All that said, Edge was a founding member of, and major contributor to, a band that made some of the memorable music of the 1960s and ’70s. He was said to have a distinctive drumming style, and is credited — some might say blamed — for helping develop the first electronic drum kit. May he rest in peace.