By SCOTT HARRELL
Special to the Herald
March 23, 2008
Looking at the wide spectrum of current big-name pop artists, it's
tough to guess which, if any, of them will still be around 20 or 30
or even 40 years from now.
There are groups that consistently deliver critically lauded
material, like Radiohead and Wilco, that might still be selling music
and filling halls a few decades down the road. These are niche
outfits, however, acts whose singles don't top the charts and receive
endless radio airplay, and whose names aren't well-known among
pedestrian listeners, particularly the younger consumers that make up
pop culture's primary target market. The music industry is in flux,
with the Internet fostering a movement toward one-shot, one-song
instant digital gratification - not to mention inserting fans into
every potentially embarrassing moment of every pop star's life - and
the resulting sounds and trends are conspicuously of-the-moment.
It all begs the question: Can a new artist even hope to sustain a
"That's so hard to say," muses Graeme Edge, drummer and vocalist for
one of British rock music's most enduring outfits, The Moody Blues
and a Bradenton resident. "I haven't seen anything as yet that looks
like it's not going to burn out. There are so many more problems
these days. You raise your head above the parapet and become a star,
and everybody's after you on the Net, and with telescopic lenses,
they wanna catch you picking your nose. Nothing's sacred anymore."
The affable Edge, a Suncoast resident who's lived in the Bradenton
area for the better part of 20 years, will turn 67 the day after his
band's concert at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall this Saturday, so
knows a little something about longevity. Since reaching No. 1 on the
British charts with their second single "Go Now" in 1964, The Moody
Blues have weathered the waxing and waning of countless musical fads,
remaining icons of the psychedelic era and classic rock in general.
The band's signature tune, "Nights in White Satin," is still a staple
of the airwaves 40 years after its release, and its lush, subtly
complex style can be detected to this day in genres from acoustic
singer-songwriter folk to arty prog-rock and underground pop.
Granted, The Moody Blues last had a new hit in 1986 with "In Your
Wildest Dreams," but hitting the charts 20 years into an already
heralded career is no mean feat, and the group's staying power is
amply evidenced by the adulation with which reissues of its first
seven albums were received just a decade ago.
No artist knows exactly the combination of elements that lead to such
staying power. The Moody Blues' path to immortality is less traveled
than most, though, for a variety of reasons. While many artists hit
upon a specific sound early and continue to mine it for similarly
styled material for the rest of their careers, The Moody Blues
experimented almost continuously with various textures, tempos and
arrangements, surviving the end of the late-'60s psychedelic craze by
evolving beyond it.
"It wasn't a conscious decision," Edge says. "We were just led by
what interested us. Like any child, when a new toy came out, we
wanted to play with it."
That tendency stretched past the music itself, into the realm of the
constantly changing technology and media used to create, produce and
present music. The Moody Blues were one of the first acts to actively
experiment with stereo recording, and widely incorporate use of the
Mellotron, an instrument that uses an organ-like keyboard to trigger
loops of taped sound, and must have seemed incredibly futuristic
nearly half a century ago. More recently, the group had an
opportunity to flirt with a new avenue of exposure by providing music
for the 2001 IMAX film "Journey into Amazing Caves."
"We've always accepted (new technology) as it's come along, but we've
never actually been the instigators" says Edge. "IMAX was a thrill,
when it came to us. We've always enjoyed it, it's always interesting
to work in a new medium."
Perhaps the key to a lifelong career in pop music is to always follow
your own instincts. Then again, perhaps not - the annals of modern
entertainment are full of wildly creative individuals who achieved
little success, or none at all, by turning their backs on the signs
of the times. For Edge the real satisfaction comes from just enjoying
the music he's played, and is playing.
"Playing live is something I'd still be doing even if I wasn't
getting paid," he says. "I love an audience, and I love playing music."
If you go
What: The Moody Blues
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Tickets: $59, $69 and $75
Pre-show party: Head to the show early for Burgers & Beer by the Bay,
beginning at 6 p.m. There will be $3 hamburgers and $3 beer on the