R.I.P Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues 1941-2024

Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues Playing the Mellotron Chords of Heaven 1941-2024.

Mike PinderMike Pinder 1941-2024

Last week we lost another artist from the psychedelic and progressive rock era of music, Mike Pinder on April 24. Born in 1941, he played in a couple of R&B bands before cofounding The Moody Blues with Roy Thomas and Graeme Edge in 1964, right at the center of the British Invasion. They had a massive hit with “Go Now”, a song driven almost entirely by Pinder’s piano and sung by Denny Laine, who shortly left the group to go on to an odds and ends career until becoming a member of Paul McCartney’s Wings. The remaining members invited John Lodge and Justin Hayward into the group, creating the classic line-up. But this time, Pinder brought the mellotron. Before the Moodies, he spent a year and a half working at Streetly electronics, the British manufacturer of the Mellotron. This was a keyboard that played pre-recorded tapes of orchestral instruments as well as sound effects. Each key would be a different note of a string or string section, trumpet, etc. This became a signature sound of the Moody Blues on songs like “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin.” And it would be picked up quickly by Yes, Genesis and Barclay James Harvest and later,  and any number of progressive rock and space music bands.

Moody Blues in Search of the Lost Chord CoverYou can’t imagine what it was like hear this music on AM radio in 1968. It was like nothing on the Top Forty. It was pre-progressive rock but had the blueprint of that genre. The sound seemed to come from another, more mysterious and wonderful world. And from the singles you went to albums like Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord and A Question of Balance and your mind was blown.  At the center of it was Pinder’s keyboards and notably, the mellotron. In fact, it was Pinder’s use of the mellotron that inspired King Crimson to make it a central feature of their landmark debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King in 1969.

Pinder turned John Lennon onto the mellotron and he used it immediately in The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The Rolling Stones would quickly follow them with “2000 Light Years from Home.”  Pinder wrote or co-wrote several of the Moodies songs and arranged them as well. One of his most notable tracks is “The Best Way to Travel.” It’s one of several LSD influenced songs the Moody Blues would record including “Legend of a Mind” about acid guru Timothy Leary.

Pinder stayed with The Moody Blues up through their 9th album, Octave, released in 1978. He then went off to other work and some solo albums that never gained traction. But the sound he created with the Moody Blues was music changing and underrated. On today’s Echoes, Wednesday May 1 2024, we’ll hear a suite of Moody Blues music, all featuring mellotron as well as some great piano playing. Remember Mike Pinder with us.

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