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wondering what is The Middle?

by | Nov 26, 2021 | The Middle, The Moody Blues, wonder

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The Moody Blues create music you cannot approach casually. Yes, they have amazing – well everything – but it forces me to really think — hard — wonder about things. Even the title of the albums put you in a different place – like today’s – To Our Children’s Children’s, Children. Those don’t exist for me – yet – but I can see them from here as a Grandfather of 4. It changes your stance on many things – imagining what you are leaving for the kids that are now 4 to 1… that they will leave to their children. I was talking with a good friend the other day about where things are in the world, what have we contributed to where it is now, and how can we change it – for the better? And it reminded me of a discussion we had in our church’s Men’s Group about the purpose of our lives…

Another key member of the Moody’s is Ray Thomas whose flute solo in Nights of White Satin introduced a whole new sound to rock. He was encouraged to play the harmonica by his father, and loved singing harmony in youth choirs across Birmingham. He was in early bands with Lodge, Pinder, and Edge, in different pairings, ultimately founding the Moody’s with Pinder. After the original bass player and singer left, he helped recruit Lodge to replace him, and with the addition of Hayward, the core elements of The Moody Blues were in place. Watching Justin write songs, Ray started his own compositions and became a cornerstone of the writing of many songs – nearly 30 with multiple collaborators, including today’s with Justin.

This album was lushly produced, with multiple overdubs of instruments, and built on their reputation for well constructed and recorded masterpieces. Influenced by the Apollo 11 landing, it included a rocket launch as the initial song on the album. While it talked about exploration, it also was the most personal and introspective, almost dark, of Moody’s albums. It continued success on the charts, and slowly they gathered a following even in the US, where they had sold out Madison Square Garden for 2 shows, back to back, on the same day – earning them the Golden Ticket award for the most seats sold. Ray and Justin went out between shows, and were walking the city, and mused that they really didn’t think that had “made it” yet – even when they saw their names up on the billboard. They bought tickets from scalpers outside the venue, and handed them to strangers – and wondered if the lucky recipients would look up during the show … and think – hey, wait… Sadly Ray’s health declined through the last 10 years of his life and kept him from performing, but he lived long enough to know the Moody’s would be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just AFTER his death at the beginning of 2018.

As I crested the hill west of Tyler in 1976 heading west to SMU, I knew that I was off on my journey. Throughout those experiences, I was guided by the voices of my grandparents who were an active and vital part of my upbringing. All of them raised their children through the Depression, and I don’t really know much about their parents — the ones that the album title would apply to…other than a story about my Great Grandfather hitting his father over the head with a shovel and running away from home — in Chicago — just before the Spanish Flu outbreak which saved his life… and for sure sounds like me. I do know that they were at best The Middle Class, and yet none of them or us ever thought we were lacking anything. They embraced The Middle and it was looked down on to conform to the norms of either side.

Much is written these days about The Middle, and I think that most people think they are in it. It is the other people that aren’t… and only if “they”… leaving us all pointing at everyone ELSE who needs to change. One thing my grandparents taught me was the value of hard work. It is not enough to wonder about the garden, or the farm, or the people around you, or your Lodge, or your church… It is the doing that matters. Ray was encouraged by his Grandfather, who he observed playing the flute as a young boy, and he took it up… and changed the world of music. The picture is of my grandfather on the far left, me next, then my son, and then my grandaughter. Think of your own place in that line of your family – and how important The Middle can be to translating important “notes” through to those you care the most about. Whatever you are wondering about now, use this soundtrack for your journey inward. The whole album is worth a relisten, but this masterpiece by Ray and Justin is sufficient… think about how much longer you will continue… Watching and Waiting.

Watching and waiting
For a friend to play with
Why have I been alone so long
Mole he is burrowing his way to the sunlight
He knows there’s some there so strong
‘Cause here there’s lot of room for doing
The thing you’ve always been denied
Look and gather all you want to
There’s no one here to stop you trying
Soon you will see me
‘Cause I’ll be all around you
But where I come from I can’t tell
But don’t be alarmed by my fields and my forests
They’re here for only you to share
‘Cause here there’s lot of room for doing
The things you’ve always been denied
So look and gather all you want to
There’s no one here to stop you trying
Watching and waiting
For someone to understand me
I hope it won’t be very long

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