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The Moody Blues recorded the album with The London Festival Orchestra, which never actually existed - it was the name given to the musicians put together to make the Days of Future Passed album. The orchestral parts were performed separately and edited between and around the Moody Blues parts, so the orchestra did not actually accompany the group. The original idea was for the group and orchestra to record a Rock version of Dvorak's "New World Symphony," which their record company would use to demonstrate enhanced stereo sound technology.
This was written by Justin Hayward, who joined the band the previous year after Denny Laine left the group. He got the idea for the song after someone gave him a set of white satin sheets, and wrote it in his bed-sit at Bayswater. Haywood told the Daily Express Saturday magazine May 3, 2008: "I wrote our most famous song, 'Nights in White Satin' when I was 19. It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another. A lot of that came out in the song."
Before joining The Moody Blues, a teenaged Justin Hayward signed a deal with Lonnie Donegan's publishing company, which ended up giving Donegan the lion's share of the royalties for this and other songs Hayward wrote at the time. Donegan was star in the '50s, famous for his Skiffle sound that influenced The Beatles and The Who. In the '60s, he became more involved in the business side of the industry and formed his publishing company Tyler Music.
Days of Future Passed
is a concept album based around different times of day. For example, "Dawn Is A Feeling
" and "Tuesday Afternoon
." This song was last on the album because it represented nighttime.
Justin Hayward was inspired by Moody Blues keyboard player Mike Pinder's composition "Dawn Is A Feeling." Since Pinder had done "The Morning" for the concept album, Hayward tried to do "The Night." (thanks to Terry Parsons, who interviewed Hayward in 2006 for CHMR FM
This song introduced a new sound for the band. When they formed, they were more of a Blues band, and had a hit in 1965 with a cover of Bessie Banks' "Go Now
." With the songs on Days of Future Passed
, they distinguished themselves with original songs in a more psychedelic/orchestral sound.
"Nights in White Satin" was originally released in 1967, charting at #19 in the UK, but topping out at #103 in America, where 6-minute songs were a tough sell at the time. In 1972, after songs like "Hey Jude
" and "Layla
" paved the way for long, dramatic tunes (and The Moody Blues became more popular), the song was re-released in the US and became a hit, going to #2 and sending sales of the reissued album skyward.
In the UK, the song made two more chart appearances, going to #9 in 1972 and #14 in 1979.
The poem at the end was recorded separately. It is called Late Lament and was written by their drummer, Graeme Edge. The poem was read by keyboard player Mike Pinder. Edge wrote another poem that appeared early on the album called Morning Glory.
The Dickies 1979 Punk version reached #39; the Moody Blues used to use The Dickies version sometimes when doing a sound check.
The week of December 2, 1972, this song plunged from #17 to completely out of the Hot 100, setting a record for the biggest drop out of that chart in a single week. Drastic chart disappearances became more common in the '10s, and the Glee Cast version of "Toxic
" made the fall from the #16 spot in 2010.
Talking about the experiences that inspired the lyrics to this song, Justin Hayward said: "About an audience in Glastonbury, a flat in Bayswater and the ecstasy of an hour of love."
Among the many artists to record this song are Procol Harum, Eric Burdon, Percy Faith, Nancy Sinatra and Il Divo. When we spoke with Justin Hayward in 2013
, he told us that the best cover he heard of this song was by the Soul singer Bettye LaVette. "She covered 'Nights,' and somebody sent it to me as an MP3, a link," he explained. "I was sitting in bed with my laptop waking up to my emails, and I clicked on this link and I burst into tears. My wife came in and she said, 'What the hell's the matter with you?' And I said, 'You've got to listen to this.' She didn't cry. But I heard the lyric for the first time. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of covers of 'Nights in White Satin,' but that was the first time I heard it for real."
The Moody Blues enjoyed a long and illustrious career that took them well into the 2010's, and included thousands of performances, most of which featured this song. How does Justin Hayward handle the repetition? "I never lose the emotion of songs like that," he told us. "I'm lucky enough not to have lost the emotion or the motivation, because it's a wonderful thing to be able to share. And the audience provides the emotion around that. Because you do it in sound check and it's fine, but when there's an audience there, it completely transforms the experience."
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