On Stage: Denny Laine reflects on life with Moodys, Wings before City Winery gig

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Denny Laine

Back in the 1960s, every once in a while a single would come out that was so different and so good – so unlike anything else that had come down the pike – that it stopped listeners in their tracks.

It didn’t happen that often but, when it did, it was a memorable event.

Some examples are “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, “Sherry” by the Four Seasons, “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group, and “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” by Procol Harum.

Another 1960s song in that elite class was a song that was a massive hit by a band from Birmingham, England – “Go Now” by the Moody Blues.

In 1964, five Brummies formed the Moody Blues — keyboardist Mike Pinder, multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas, vocalist/guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick. The group came to prominence playing rhythm and blues music.

It was their second single, “Go Now” (released later that year), that launched their career, being promoted on TV with one of the first purpose-made promotional films in the pop era.

The single became a hit in Britain (where it remains their only Number 1 single) and in the United States, where it reached No. 10.

Two years later, they made some changes in musicians, got orchestral in style and featured a line-up of Pinder, Thomas, Edge, guitarist Justin Hayward, and bassist John Lodge. Gone was Laine, the singer whose vocal work lifted “Go Now” far above the ordinary.

Laine was also the singer whose impassioned moaning on the follow-up single, “From the Bottom of My Heart,” (https://youtu.be/oxGYjnbVjdE) lifted that song to a higher sonic level (and the Top 25 in the U.K. charts). The Moodies didn’t crack the Top 25 again until “Nights in White Satin” hit Number 19 in 1967 with Hayward handling the lead vocals. That song climbed the charts again in 1972 and reached Number 9.

“‘Nights in White Satin’ is based on ‘From the Bottom of My Heart,’” said Laine, during a phone interview this week prior to heading into a television interview for ABC. “That song does stand out in that way – especially the ending.”

Life in the music world didn’t end for Laine after his departure from the Moody Blues. He is a musician, singer, and songwriter known as a founder of two major British rock bands — The Moody Blues, with whom he played from 1964-1966, and Paul McCartney and Wings, with whom he played from 1971-1981.

“Paul and I were pretty good friends,” said Laine. “When the Moodies came to London, we all became friendly and I got to know Paul quite well. We’d go to shows together to see bands play – Dylan, the Byrds, people like that.”

Laine’s pre-Wings and post-Wings eras found him playing in a wide array of bands including Balls with the Move’s Trevor Burton, Ginger Baker’s Air Force with the recently deceased drummer from Cream and World Class Rockers with Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf  and Joey Molland of Badfinger.

Now, Laine, a two-time Grammy®Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame® inductee, is touring with his Moody Wing Band. The rocking quintet will visit the area on December 8 for a show at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia/).

Laine and The Moody Wing Band have been touring across America performing the iconic albums, “The Magnificent Moodies” and “Band on The Run” in their entirety, along with other songs from his storied career.

“We’re playing a lot of Wings stuff, including ‘Band on the Run,’” said Laine. “We’re also doing a lot of songs from early Moodies and various other songs people know. It’s not really hard putting a set list together. It’s good having a lot to pull from.”

After Laine departed the Moody Blues, he formed The Electric String Band, writing the hit “Say You Don’t Mind,” (which was a Top 15 hit in 1972 when recorded by The Zombies’ lead singer Colin Blunstone) and opened shows for Jimi Hendrix in London. He has also worked with various members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, ELO, The Zombies, The Hollies and many more.

As the only member of Wings, besides Paul and Linda McCartney, to be with the group for its entire run, Laine enjoyed tremendous success throughout the 1970’s.  The group became one of the biggest bands of the decade. The “Band on the Run” album sold six million copies, reaching #1 in the U.S three different times and was the top selling British album of 1974. The title track was #1 in the UK for seven weeks, and in 1975 won a Grammy® Award.

The biggest commercial and critical success of Laine’s career happened in 1977 with the hit, “Mull of Kintyre,” which he co-wrote with McCartney. The song reached #1 in the UK’s Guinness® Charts of British Hits Singles that year and became the U.K.’s highest-selling single ever at that time as well as the first U.K. single to pass two million sales.

After leaving Wings, Laine signed with Scratch records and released a new album, “Anyone Can Fly,” in 1982. He also worked on McCartney’s albums “Tug of War” and “Pipes of Peace” and co-wrote one more song with McCartney – “Rainclouds,” which was issued as the B-side of “Ebony and Ivory.”

“After Wings broke up, I went to Spain to get away from it all,” said Laine. “In the early 90s, I was working on a project – a musical. I made a lot of solo albums by myself. They were like songwriter albums.

“Then, I came to America with World Class Rockers and I’ve stayed in America ever since. I’m now based in southwest Florida.”

With a few exceptions — like The Who, who just this week released a new album – there aren’t a lot of albums with new compositions by British rockers from the 1960s.

“I haven’t been in the studio at all lately,” said Laine. “I just started again to write some songs – but nothing commercial.”

With all the great Wings and Moody Blues material in his repertoire, Laine doesn’t need new songs to draw fans. All he needs is his voice and those great songs joined together again.

Video link for Denny Laine – https://youtu.be/iUgJqfsziD0.

The show at City Winery will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $42.

On December 7, there will be a show at the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) featuring a modern-day artist who would be right at home in the 1960s – the late 1960s when protest songs with counter culture themes inspired political and social awareness.

Chadwick Stokes

His name is Chadwick Stokes and he is currently touring in support of his self-titled record with his band The Pintos — an album that tackles personal and political territory in ways that feel intimate and urgent. Released worldwide on November 15 via Thirty Tigers, “Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos” brings the complications of history into conversation with the turbulent (yet from Stokes’ perspective) hopeful present.

“There are songs like ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘Chaska’ that are about gender equality,” said Stokes, during a phone interview Thursday afternoon from New Jersey as he was waiting for his tour van to be repaired.

“Another song is about genocide of Native Americans. There are also a few songs on the album that are personal and stand on their own – songs about relationships or about being the father of three kids.”

Chad (Chadwick) Stokes Urmston is a musician from New England and a human rights activist. He is the front man for the Boston-area bands Dispatch and State Radio and has also released solo music under the name Chadwick Stokes.

“My middle name is Stokes, so it was easier to use that name for my solo work,” said Stokes.

The writing in Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos deals with intense struggles — personal, ethical, political, or cultural — that have always galvanized Stokes as a listener and artist. Prior to the album’s release, Stokes put out the first two tracks — “Joan of Arc” and “Chaska.”

Written about the famed teenager from her first vision to her execution for wearing men’s clothing, “Joan of Arc” is a timely feminist anthem that focuses on hope and empowerment. “Chaska” is a story of mistaken identity wrapped up in the largest mass execution on United States’ soil. 

Other poignant tracks on the album include “What’s It Going to Take,” “Love and War,” and “Blanket on the Moon” which discuss relevant issues such as the gun violence epidemic, PTSD, and America’s current immigration policies.

According to Stokes, “We’re living in a crazy time, a very upsetting time. If we’re not protesting, there’s a problem.”

Obviously, the current POTUS is a source of inspiration for a lot of protest by rational American citizens.

“With Donald Trump, at first I was in shock,” said Stokes. “I couldn’t write anything. Now, it’s hard to stop writing about anything else.”

Fueled by a lot of hot topics, Stokes made his new album earlier this year.

“I recorded the album at Zippah Studios in Brighton, Massachusetts,” said Stokes. “It’s a great old studio in an old wooden building in the middle of the city. It’s very awesome. It’s still got that magic.

“I hadn’t done a solo album in five years, so the songs had been building up since then. I was touring solo a lot, so I got the chance to road test a lot of the songs and get them pretty well-cooked.”

Video link for Chadwick Stokes – https://youtu.be/oT3GmBeAhqM.

The show at the Foundry will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.

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