Las Vegas Sun

March 24, 2017

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MUSIC:

Beat goes on for Moody Blues’ original drummer

IF YOU GO

Who: Moody Blues

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Star of the Desert Arena, Primm

Tickets: $49.95 to $76.95; 382-4388 or 382-1212

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Beyond the Sun

Graeme Edge, drummer for the Moody Blues, turns 68 today.

Edge is the last original member of the original Moody Blues, which included Ray Thomas, Michael Pinder, Denny Laine and Clint Warwick. That lineup debuted in May 1964 and had a No. 1 with “Go Now.” But the band’s golden era — when it produced the classically influenced pop of “Nights in White Satin” and “Story in Your Eyes” — didn’t begin until bassist John Lodge and guitarist Justin Hayward joined in 1966.

Those three remain the heart of the Moodies, who perform Wednesday at the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm.

Edge recently sat in his living room on Florida’s Gulf Coast, watching “Star Trek” tapes and waiting for the next call from a reporter who wants to ask him about the latest tour and album.

“I’ve been here for 20 years, going on. I like the sun for my old bones,” he says. “I don’t sail boats anymore. I have a little power boat now — sailing got to be too much work. Going out on a sailboat for an afternoon seemed like an exercise in futility to me, just sailing up and down in the bay and coming back. A power boat is better for that because you get to the bar quicker.”

When he isn’t performing, writing music or speeding to the bar in his motor boat, Edge is working on a book.

“I’m halfway through my sort of autobiography,” he says. “It’s called ‘The Best Seat in the House,’ and the cover will have a photo of me from behind, taken at Madison Square Garden with the rest of the band in front of me and the people sitting out there.”

But Edge finds writing tedious.

“It’s much harder going than I thought it was going to be,” he says. “I thought I was better at it. The other thing is, all publishers want me to do a bit of dirt, and the only person I’m going to dig any dirt on is me. I’m going to not touch anybody else. There are plenty of amusing anecdotes and things like that, but I’m not going to do any kiss-and-tell stuff. That’s what they push for. They just want scandal. I might finish it as an exercise just to finish it, see if anybody wants it, but I don’t see them beating my door down.

“But for the most part I want it to be a funny book because it has been a really weird ride.”

Edge was born in Rocester in the English heartland, halfway between Birmingham and Manchester. He was immersed in classical music as a child — his mother was a concert pianist, his father a tenor. But he recalls sitting on the floor in front of a fireplace listening to the radio when he heard the first piece of music that spoke to him.

“Bill Haley and the Comets playing ‘Ten Little Indians,’ ” Edge says.

He was influenced by rock ’n’ roll coming from the United States in the ’50s. He was a big fan of Freddie Bell and the Bellboys — a high-energy group responsible for “Giddy Up a Ding Dong” and featuring Las Vegas icon Bell, who died Feb. 10, 2008. Edge also liked rockabilly pioneers Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps and their hit “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”

“I loved all of that,” Edge says. “Then of course we got to Elvis Presley. But then Elvis went into the army and suddenly everyone is singing ‘Like a rubber ball I’ll come back to you’ and wearing black suits like the Rat Pack.

“In England we went, ‘Hold on a minute. You say this is rock ’n’ roll?’ We were ready to tear up the cinema seats.”

That’s when rock began to flourish in England, he says.

“We had 20 years of country and western and bluegrass and blues and all of that led up to rock ’n’ roll,” he says. “We were exposed for four or five years to the very best of all the different genres and we loved to play it.

“Then we repackaged it and sold it back to you.”

The Moody Blues were part of that British Invasion of the ’60s.

Even though his parents were musicians, they demanded Edge go to college. But once he got a degree, he joined a traditional jazz or Dixieland band.

“That was it for me. I quit work straight away and became a musician,” he says. “You know what the definition of a musician is? Someone who’d rather starve than work ...

“I was living hand to mouth, but never starving. I paid my dues, but I didn’t pay a lot.”

The Moody Blues started off as an R&B-influenced rock band before combining orchestral arrangements with progressive art-rock. Last summer they rereleased their first seven albums, containing the band’s chart-topping singles of the ’60s and ’70s. “Nights in White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),” “Isn’t Life Strange” and many others have left their indelible mark on rock ’n’ roll.

“We’ve always put the music before anything else,” Edge says, “and that’s why I think we’ve been able to endure for so long.”

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