185. ‘Go Now!’, by The Moody Blues

Hot on the heels of Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames’ snazzy ‘Yeh Yeh’, an equally quirky record pops up for a week at the top of the UK charts.

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Go Now!, by The Moody Blues (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 28th January – 4th February 1965

We’ve already sa-id… I like records that just get on with it – no drawn out intro, no nothing – and this is one such disc. Goodbye… Voice, then piano. A thumpingly, clumpingly unsubtle piano. I mean this with no disrespect, but the piano here sounds like it’s being played by an elephant. I’d bet they overlaid several tracks one on top of the other to get the rich, heavy sound. I love it. Since you gotta go, Oh you better go now…!

It’s a song about a break up. The singer doesn’t want to break up, but if it has to be done then he’d rather his S.O. just got on with it. Cos darlin, darlin’, Can’t you see I want you stay, yeah-ah-yeah-ah… The singer – Denny Laine – has a voice every bit as soulful as Georgie Fame before him, and he holds nothing back. The way he sings/spits out lines like I don’t want you to tell me just what you intend to do now…, for example, is great, and deceptively hard to recreate.

The production too is thick and soulful, with hints of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and the baroque minor keys that were about to become a big thing in sixties pop. (It’s actually a cover of an American R&B hit from earlier in the decade.) It’s also a very rough-and-ready recording – not perfect – with lots of crackly patches, as if the tape were struggling to contain the volume and the power of this band. I love the piano solo, one that rolls and cascades – a cross between a ship being tossed on stormy seas and Dante’s descent into hell. The ending is also a lot of fun, with a huge finish – the whole band appearing to shout out the title of the song before a very quick, slightly wonky fade.

‘Go Now!’ is another grown-up pop record – make that two in a row – and one that perfectly encapsulates the way pop music is now fragmenting and moving away from the Beat sound that has dominated for most of the past two years. New year, new sound etc. etc. It’s also a record that I’ve loved for many years – The Moody Blues being a staple of long family car journeys as a child. But, here’s the ironic bit… I really, really can’t stand any of The Moody Blues’ other songs…

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You see, after this – their one and only chart-topper – they started getting all experimental. Denny Laine left the band and a bloke called Justin Hayward came in, they ditched the pop/R&B and they went… (shudder)… progressive. Now, I love rock music. To me ‘rock’ is the foundation upon which all great music is made. Stick ‘garage’, or ‘hard’, or ‘glam’, or ‘electronic’, or ‘punk’, or ‘surf’, or even ‘yacht’, in front of ‘rock’, and I’m usually in. ‘Prog-rock’, though? I run a mile. Jethro Tull, Marillion, Pink Floyd, Yes!… No, no, no! Lock me in and call it ‘Room 101’. You can be experimental, and forward-thinking, as avant-garde as you like… but ‘Prog’? The minute you call yourself prog then your head’s gone too far up your arse. And The Moody Blues are the worst culprits for me because A) They started it and B) I had to sit through their ‘Best Of’ on many a long car journey, aged eleven.

It would start off well enough. Track 1 was ‘Go Now!’. Three minutes of pop bliss. But then there were nineteen other songs to sit through before it was over – none of which sounded anything like ‘Go Now!’. And prog-rock songs are never, ever as short as they should be… ‘Give me ABBA’, I would cry, ‘The Eagles or The Stones. Even Fleetwood Mac if you must. Anything but this.’ But my dad would stand firm, and we’d listen to the bitter end… I have especially painful memories of ‘Nights in White Satin’… And ‘Tuesday Afternoon‘…

Having studied The Moody Blues history ahead of this post, it seems that the blame can be laid squarely at this Justin Hayward fellow’s feet. Once he was in and Laine was out (Laine later joined Wings), ‘Go Now!’ seems to have been written out of the band’s history. They rarely performed it live, and it didn’t appear on any of their ‘Greatest Hits’ until the mid-1990s. (Which was precisely when my dad bought said CD for the car… Just think – there might easily have been no good songs on that album…)

Yes, let’s end this post on a positive note. Nineteen of the twenty tracks on The Moody Blues ‘Greatest Hits’ album may well be terrible songs. But the one good song on that album also happens to be their only #1 single. We won’t hear from them again on this countdown! We can just pretend that they were one-hit wonders! Pretend that the glorious ‘Go Now!’ was the only piece of music that the band ever offered to the world. Isn’t that a comforting thought…

13 thoughts on “185. ‘Go Now!’, by The Moody Blues

  1. badfinger20

    I agree with you on prog bands…I don’t like them and they seem to want to show off their musical ability rather than concentrate on the song…but saying that…for some reason, I never thought of the Moodies like that…I do like their 70s and 80s output. They did have a sense of melody that some of those bands didn’t have…I love this song of course…it sounds like Denny’s voice is distorted because they recorded it so hot but I love the sound of this record.

    1. Yeah, I love the way it crackles with energy and the power of his voice, and the piano… I dunno – I clearly have unresolved childhood issues over The Moody Blues ; ) Or maybe just the long car journeys. Perhaps it’s time to give them another go, after all these years…

      1. badfinger20

        Great story btw. I never could get into Yes, Uriah Heap and bands like that…but I respect their musicianship.
        The stuff I like by the Moody Blues is Story in Your Eyes, Ride my See Saw etc. But hey…they may not click with you….plus flashbacks from the car journeys!

  2. I think you are being unfair to progressive rock bands, but I believe it’s possibly because you weren’t personally there at the time and you can’t go back now and hope to understand why the movement happened. However, you have been studying quite deeply, music from 1952 to 1965 and you will appreciate that soon after this, a lot of people wanted more (much more) from their musical experiences than three minute pop songs about boys and girls. Had you been a teenager in 1970 or earlier, you would get it. I am guessing and I may be wrong that if you’re researching UK no.1 singles, you are delighted that you don’t have to review anything by Slipknot or Rammstein, or for that matter nothing by Woody Guthrie or Jackie Gleason or Enoch Light or a hundred other successful chart artists with real talent that don’t go in for number one singles.

    1. I possibly am being unfair, and was exaggerating my dislike of The Moody Blues for comic effect. I haven’t listened to much prog rock in my lifetime… I bought ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ as a teen, as you do, and was really disappointed. Couldn’t see what the fuss was about. At heart I do tend towards pop music – music with hooks and choruses and riffs and so on – and quite often prog artists deliberately don’t have these elements in their music. I’m not against experimenting, or pushing the envelope. The Beatles – obvious example, I know – went further than most pop acts had ever gone in terms of their experimenting with different styles and instruments, but they rarely forgot to include a proper verse and chorus in along with all the ‘new’ stuff. Bowie too. Even Radiohead (though I admit I really struggle with Radiohead…) And I can’t go along with the idea that ‘real talent’ and ‘number one singles’ aren’t compatible. Yes, there have been many, terrible, throwaway chart-toppers, but that’s a very snooty, ‘prog rock’ POV… You mention Slipknot and Rammstein, and I think metal acts are a good point of comparison with prog. Metal rarely loses its sense of fun, and is often quite knowing, whereas prog often, it seems, takes itself too seriously. And I have to mention that I do like Rammstein (Slipknot not so much), especially their most recent album (probably because it’s a bit poppier :))

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  4. I came round to Progrock eventually, but I sympathise enduring your parents car journey – sat in the back makes you feel nauseous at the best of times, that must have extended the misery 🙂 Prog is far too self-indulgent by it’s nature, but there are real gems in there, not least the majestic Nights In White Satin, the chuntering Ride My See Saw and there’s always the non-prog blander 80’s Moodys’ ditties. Justin sang on War Of The Worlds’ Forever Autumn and Eve Of The War and his excesses are forgiven. I finally saw them in concert t’other year and they weren’t too self-indulgent at all, they just mostly rocked it up. They came around in the end…. 🙂

    1. It’s funny – some of the tapes/CDs that were in rotation in the family car were either bands that I love to this day (Eagles, Stones, ABBA) or can’t stand (Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac…) There doesn’t seem to be any middle-ground. Maybe it’s all subliminal… somehow ABBA always soundtracked the start of a summer holiday whereas The Moody’s soundtracked God-awful days spent travelling to and from IKEA. Either way, it’s probably time to get over it…

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