In the late 1960s, a rental car carrying two members of the Moody Blues and one member of Canned Heat singing “Going Up the Country” — a Canned Heat song that famously romanticized small town living—pulled into the parking lot at the Madonna Inn.
“When I think of us in that car, turning off that road and into that hotel, I can only think of that song,” Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward said.
While the Madonna Inn (or San Luis Obispo, for that matter) hasn’t changed that much since Hayward checked in, the music business has changed considerably. Yet, the Moody Blues — who return to San Luis Obispo on Wednesday — have remained relevant, as proven by their song “Nights in White Satin,” which recently reached the UK charts again after it was performed on Simon Cowell’s show “The X Factor.”
The Moodies officially formed in 1964. But a new configuration of the group scored its first hit with its 1967 album “Days of Future Passed,” a day-in-the-life concept record with orchestral strings and a psychedelic mood.
Among the first rock bands to use both stereo and orchestral arrangements, the Moodies’ other hits would include “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Question” and “Legend of the Mind,” about LSD guru Timothy Leary. In the 1980s, they scored a big comeback with “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.”
Hayward recently spoke to us by phone from a hotel in Oklahoma City.
From our point of view it was a kind of tongue-in-cheek song. But he always said that people around the world knew him more from that song than they did from his own stuff.
I went through that phase for about a year. The first time we did it, we did it as a group, with myself, Ray, Mike and Graeme (Edge). We all went into Richmond Park and we had the most amazing trip. It was just absolutely wonderful. And the next time I did it with my girlfriend, and it was just wonderful. And then one day I did it with Graeme and went to some awful club and the whole thing went terribly wrong, so that was the last time I did it.
I remember always having a notepad near the bed— or wherever I was — after I’d taken a couple of trips and writing miraculous philosophical stuff down. Of course, when you look at it the next day, it’s complete nonsense. Or it’s just that maybe I hadn’t remembered the connections that I was using at the time in my mind.
But we were lucky in that Decca wanted to make rock ’n’ roll records in real stereo. They had an ulterior motive, which was to sell their stereo systems, which nobody had at that time, people using mainly mono.
I don’t mind being an aging rocker. I would mind if nobody ever came to see us.
Music means so much in my life. And I’m always rather peeved if I go to see a band and they don’t do songs that I really love them for.