The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward goes All The Way

By Gary Graff
December 23, 2016


The Moody Blues aren’t always thought of in terms of guitar, but it’s certainly there. Just check out tracks such as “Ride My See-Saw,” “The Story In Your Eyes,” “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)” and “The Voice” for some playing that’s genuinely ripping. The guy with the guitar, Justin Hayward, is a study in taste, a devotee of the likes of Buddy Holly and Hank Marvin who found his own style slipping twixt lead and rhythm and picking just the right spots for his solos. The Moodys haven’t released a new album since 2003 but remain an active touring concern, while in the studio Hayward has focused on solo work that includes 2013’s sweeping Spirits Of The Western Sky  and the new compilation All The Way — which includes, among other tracks, the track “Blue Guitar” that he recorded with 10cc during the early 70s. Despite Hall of Fame caliber credentials (more on THAT later), Hayward is nevertheless an enthusiastic conversant when it comes to talking about guitar, and music in general…

FGPO: So in compiling All The Way does it feel like your life flashing before your eyes?

Hayward: Well, it was quite an interesting project. It didn’t start with me, but I was glad to be a part of it in the end. It was the [record company’s] idea, and I think the motive was chiefly to try and preserve some of these things that had been deleted. But we discovered quite a lot of interesting things, and the biggest one was the original mix by Eric Stewart of “Blue Guitar” that I thought was lost and gone forever. A roadie of mine found it under a number in a tape storage; actually he sent me the tape and there were three things on it, all written by me and recorded with 10cc and they just had numbers, and the first thing we played was the original stereo mix by Eric of “Blue Guitar.” So that was the most valuable and exciting thing.

FGPO: All The Way celebrates your solo work. How do you balance or separate that from your identity in the Moody Blues?

Hayward: Well, one has allowed me to do the other. I think in truth the Moodys’ recording since the 1980s have for me been solo recordings that have been included on a Moodys album, often myself or Graeme [Edge], say, where I’ve asked him to overlay the drum track on a track that I’ve programmed and he’s the only other guy playing on it. That’s just the way technology has gone; I record so many things at home and then I take them to a little studio in Nice [France] and polish them up a little bit. That’s the way things have gone for the last 20, almost 30 years now.

FGPO: You’re not always mentioned in the pantheon of guitar heroes, but you’re certainly not chopped liver in that department, either. How did you come to guitar in the first place?

Hayward: I came from a family with a very strong faith. Both of my parents were teachers. It was a very different world when I came to the Moodys, actually; I’m from quite a different background to the other four guys. So I would listen to music as a child, from four or five years old, from what’s called the English hymnal and traditional songs of the Anglican church. The melodies and the words and some of the beautiful language really intrigued me. My parents know I was musical and I pressed them for a guitar; they bought me a ukulele, which I learned how to play quite quickly from a book and I still pressed them for a guitar. So when I was 10 they got me a guitar; I could kind of already play it, and then it was just a question of finding enough kids from school who would form a little group.