Sad news that Moody Blues drummer and founding member Graeme Edge had passed away from cancer on November 11, 2021 age 80 at his home in Florida. Graeme was the longest serving member of this famous Birmingham band formed in 1964 who shot to fame when their hit record 'Go Now' topped the charts in both the UK and abroad.
Born in Staffordshire on March 30, 1941 and growing up in Small Heath, Birmingham, Graeme Edge played drums in the rock 'n' roll group Gerry Levene and The Avengers who along with other bands like Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders, and Carl Wayne and The Vikings were well-known in local dance halls during the early 1960s. The Avengers recorded a single for Decca Records titled 'Doctor Feelgood' in 1964 and Graeme along with his group appeared on TV for the first time on the pop music show "Thank Your Lucky Stars".
Graeme Edge then became a founding member of The Moody Blues along with Denny Laine, Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder and Clint Warwick. His jazz influenced and powerful drumming style was to become an integral part of the group's sound. The photo here shows the line-up from left to right; Denny, Clint, Ray, Graeme, and Mike. Denny and Clint left the band in 1966 to be replaced by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. The Moody Blues need no introduction here as one of the most famous and successful Brumbeat groups.
The Moody Blues went on to massive and worldwide success started by their ground-breaking LP titled "Days of Future Passed" issued in 1967 that contained the classic record 'Nights In White Satin'. Graeme Edge wrote the poems 'Morning Glory' and 'Late Lament' that provides the memorable climax to the album.
Graeme Edge recalled; "I'd written both those pieces of verse because the 'Morning' section appeared rather empty when we first heard it. The latter part of the poem seemed a perfect end to the record. I'd originally written the words as lyrics for someone else to put some music to, but poetry has a rhythmic structure that makes it difficult to turn into a song, so producer Tony Clarke suggested recording it as a spoken word piece."
The success of Days of Future Passed began a run of international hit albums for the band that sold in the millions. Graeme Edge contributed lyrics to other classic Moody Blues songs including; 'Departure', 'The Word', 'In The Beginning', 'The Dream', 'Higher And Higher', 'The Balance', 'You And Me', and '22,000 Days', amongst others. The Moodies were one of the few 1960s era bands to make a big comeback during the 1980s with cutting-edge videos and sell-out concert tours while gaining many new fans.
Graeme Edge was also the first drummer to play "electronic drums" on their 1971 album "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour". He said; "I'd got in touch with the professor of electronics at Sussex University, Brian Groves. We worked up an electronic drum kit, a marvellous idea. It's old hat now but we were the first to do it. There were pieces of rubber with silver paper on the back with a silver coil that moved up and down inside a magnet that produced a signal, so it was touch sensitive. I had five snares across the top and then ten tom-toms and then a whole octave of bass drums underneath my feet and then four lots of 16 sequencers, two on each side. This was pre-chip days, back then you did it all with transistors. So it had something like 500 transistors. The electronic drums inside looked something like spaghetti. When it worked it was superb, but it was before its day because it was so sensitive."
Graeme Edge was the only Moody Blues member to have performed in every one of their concerts from when the band first formed in 1964 as "The M&B Five" (named after Birmingham's Michells and Butlers brewing company). Graeme was perhaps the most outspoken member of the group. At the band's belated 2018 induction into the famous 'Rock & Roll Hall of Fame' he said; "I want to thank everyone in the world that's ever helped me - you know who you are. Thank you. And all the people in the world that haven't helped me, screw you!"
I was fortunate enough to see the Moody Blues perform in concert a few times. At a point in one show, Graeme Edge stepped from behind his drums and walked to the front of stage where he announced he'd recently turned 70 years old. The audience roared with applause after which Graeme then proceeded to dance an energetic "jig" from one side of the stage to the other with the band backing him to yet more applause and a standing ovation!
Justin Hayward; "Graeme, and his parents, were very kind to me when I first joined the group, and for the first two years, he and I either lived together, or next door to each other - and despite us having almost nothing in common, we had fun and laughs all the way, as well as making what was probably the best music of our lives.
In the late 1960's we became the group that Graeme always wanted it to be, and he was called upon to be a poet as well as a drummer. He delivered that beautifully and brilliantly, while creating an atmosphere and setting that the music would never have achieved without his words. Graeme's sound and personality is present in everything we did together and thankfully that will live on.
When Graeme told me he was retiring I knew that without him it couldn't be the Moody Blues anymore. And that's what happened. It's true to say that he kept the group together throughout all the years, because he loved it. Graeme was one of the great characters of the music business and there will never be his like again."
John Lodge; "When the White Eagle of the North is flying overhead". To me he was the White Eagle of the North with his beautiful poetry, his friendship, his love of life and his unique style of drumming that was the engine room of the Moody Blues. We used to see Graeme play, Ray Thomas and I, when we were 15 or 16. He had a gig on Saturday afternoon in the best venue in Birmingham called The West End Ballroom I believe. I saw Graeme playing drums and I thought, Yeah, one day we'll be in a band. Four years later we were in the same band together and it was incredible. I will miss you Graeme."
Denny Laine; "I first saw Graeme, or 'Gray' as we all called him, playing drums in a local Birmingham band and was impressed. That got him into the Moodies. I watched their success grow into superstardom, for which I felt a quiet sense of pride as I became a fan from the outside looking in. Graeme didn't suffer fools gladly and that was part of his lovable and outspoken character. So glad to have seen him again at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony where he once again had a few choice words that made us all laugh. We will all miss you as we revisit the legacy you left us with through your talent and dedication. God speed and keep you old friend."
Also, a message from Graeme's sons Sam and Matt; "Our father's transition was peaceful and met with his signature poetic attitude of life. "Don't be sad, I'm on to my next great adventure". Many people have reached out asking if there will be a memorial service. Dad had a long-standing desire to be blasted into space. In 1969 he thought he would be doing so alive, but that was never possible, so this wish changed to doing so with his ashes. It will take some time for us to arrange this, but when we do perhaps we can all watch the launch and raise a glass. In the meantime what dad would have wanted would be for people to get together and have a party, drink, listen to loud music and love each other."
"Cold hearted orb that rules the night
That takes the colours from our sight
Red is gray and yellow white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion?"
From 'Late Lament' by Graeme Edge.