*8.10-PEAK HOUR (Moody Blues)

Moody Blues


I see it all through my window it seems:
Never failing like millions of bees.
Our life is run.
No time will be won.
All they need to do.
What can be done?

        Peak hour (3x)

Minds are subject to what should be done.
Problem solved, time cannot be won.
One hour a day,
One hour at night
Sees crowds of people
Home in full flight.

        [Refrain (3x)]


                It makes me want to run out and tell them
                They've got time.
                Take a step back out and look in.
                I found out I've got time.


[Repeat 2nd verse]


Days of Future PassedThe album Days of Future Passed was part of the 1967 Christmas crop of psychedelia in the U.K., and marked the first real concept album accomplished in rock music, in which a theme is deliberately followed throughout, instead of (as with Sgt. Pepper or Satanic Majesties Request or The Who Sell Out) simply establishing a general mood. The theme is simply a “day in the life” of an everyman, a set of a little over a half dozen songs knitted together with orchestral arrangements (the London Festival Orchestra directed by Peter Knight) and mellotron played by Mike Pindar. The orchestral arrangements are a bit schmaltzy, and I believe this had something to do with its slow reception in the United States, where it was released, as I recall, the following Spring. The album was packaged in America as if it were a classical record, and indeed was received as pretentious at first, only slowly reaching an audience. Its biggest hit in 1968 was Tuesday Afternoon, which reached only #24 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. However, the Moody Blues’ career progressed from this point (having abruptly broken with their R&B past, which had brought the Moody Blues an early 1965 American Top 10 hit Go Now but nothing else). Days of Future Passed gained in reputation as the Moody Blues enjoyed greater popularity in later records, and in 1972 the album again found enough popularity to enter the Top 3 on Billboard. Not only that, but in Novmeber 1972, another single from the album, Nights in White Satin (a song that been released on radio, but failed to chart in the U.S in 1967) rose to the #2 position on the American charts.

George Starostin, in his blog Only Solitaire, wrote about Days of Future Passed: “The Moody Blues are often dubbed prog-rockers and put into the same bag with groups like Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, etc. Now I really don't know that much about the exact genre terminology, but it seems to me this is no less than a fatal mistake. The Moodies were made of an entirely different dough than all of these mature proggers …First of all, their music never even approached the level of complexity that was absolutely necessary for being called prog. Their instrumentation, even though it did heavily rely on keyboards and/or orchestral arrangements, was deeply rooted in happy British pop of the early Sixties, with groups like the Hollies providing inspiration for most of the Moodies' songwriters, while Yes and company usually ventured into a much deeper past - medieval music and stuff like that. Second: the famous 'conceptuality' of the group (practically every album they made, at least in their 'golden years', had a central theme) was generally understandable - sometimes too naive, sometimes thoughtful and intelligent, but always clear and explainable to the average listener, unlike the twisted, mystical, and often purely nonsensical 'concepts' of prog-rockers. So were the lyrics: sometimes unbearingly banal and derivative, sometimes quite fascinating - but always straightforward and, once again, easily understandable. Both of these factors certainly contributed to the Moodies' sell-out status in the late Sixties/early Seventies, but both of these factors also contributed to their (also very popular) image of lame artsy guys with lots of pretension and bombast but little real talent, an image mainly fostered by Rolling Stone [magazine at the time]." The term progressive rock wasn’t yet around, but Days of Future Passed signals the beginning of a development away from psychedelia and into the integration of classical music forms into rock and roll, certainly one of prog rock’s distinguishing traits. Progressive rock would move far beyond the simulation of classical sounding developments on par with the Hollywood Strings, and feature accomplished virtuosos of musical instruments. Psychedelia’s relation to classical orchestration up to this point, even at its best (in the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, for example) never seemed to rise beyond a gesture toward classical themes and often ended up sounding like movie music, probably because very few of the psychedelic artists appeared to have been classically trained musicians.

Peak Hour is a depiction of what Americans would call “rush hour” traffic, a subject that had already reached American Top 40 radio through the Soul Survivor’s Expressway to Your Heart in Fall 1967. The relation to time expressed by the lyric would later be developed by Chicago in their Top 40 hit Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, released in April 1969. The attitude of Peak Hour is that there is no need to be so bound to the clock. Also in the lyric is the concept of “doing”…in this case, that doing (or being busy) will not save time. Other recent contemplations on “doing” were in All You Need is Love and The Inner Light, both by the Beatles.

Much of Peak Hour sounds like rock and roll except for the second break, which after an accelerating drumbeat releases a blistering guitar solo followed by a wavering mellotron. The organ work at the end of the song is indeed reminiscent of the Moody Blues’ first hit Go Now. There’s very little psychedelic about the song except the lyrical skepticism toward time, the mellotron, and that it falls within the context of a concept album.