RIP Mike Pinder – The Moody Blues (1941-2024)

27th April 2024 · 1970s, 1972, 2020s, 2024, Music

There was a time when the demise of a Moody Blue might have made headlines; at least in the music press. This week the death of keyboard player Mike Pinder – the last of the original members – passed almost unnoticed. But not by me.

Not only did Pinder almost single-handedly put the Mellotron on the music map but he was a key figure in his former R&B band’s decision to record a concept album with a symphony orchestra – the first group to do that.

He also wrote a couple of hit singles for The Four Tops – So Deep Within You and A Simple Game, which won him an Ivor Novello award despite starting life as a Moodies B-side.

In the 60 years since they formed in Birmingham, the Moodies have rather faded to the margins of pop history, despite their importance with that 1967 concept album, Days Of Future Passed – the one that spawned the epic single Nights In White Satin.

The story behind it bears retelling: “Decca Records wanted to do an album of Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ using a rock group,” Pinder once recounted. “So we got in the studio under that pretence and we literally locked all the doors and came up with Days of Future Passed.”

As a youth Pinder had worked at Streetly Electronics in Birmingham, where the Mellotron – an early sampler that synthesised string sounds – was invented and manufactured. He later introduced it to his friend John Lennon, so you could say that without him The Beatles might never have come up with Strawberry Fields Forever.

I don’t remember being a big fan of the Moodies myself but Nights In White Satin was inescapable and for some reason their 1972 album Seventh Sojourn was one of the first I ever bought.

I must have played it to death, as you did when you bought an LP in those days – especially when the only other ones in my collection were Motown Chartbusters Volume 6 and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Of course I haven’t listened to it in decades but as I look through the song titles those tunes come flooding back to me. This is one of the two by Mike Pinder, showcasing his signature Mellotron and a new instrument of a similar nature called the Chamberlin.

The song is addressed to Timothy Leary, who had befriended the band after the release of their song Legend of a Mind and was imprisoned on a marijuana charge at the time. In an interview, Pinder said of him: “”He’s a tremendous humanitarian with a tremendous capacity to bring people together. He’s magnetic and he attracts negative energy as well as positive.”

RIP Mike Pinder (1941-2024)