‘We had to really rethink some things': Justin Hayward and Patrick Moraz on the Moody Blues’ influential ‘Gemini Dream’

“Gemini Dream,” released on May 19, 1981, certainly wasn’t the Moody Blues’ biggest hit. Heck, it wasn’t even the highest-charting song from Long Distance Voyager. That would be second single “The Voice,” which topped Billboard’s mainstream rock charts.

Still, it marked a turning point, both for the Moody Blues and for a slew of legacy proggers who — like the Moodies — were trying to make their way into the uncertain 1980s. Powered along by these forward-thinking synthesizer lines from Patrick Moraz (who had just joined after the departure of original keyboardist Mike Pinder), “Gemini Dream” possessed a fizzy new-wave sensibility that proved incredibly influential.

“We had to really rethink some things,” Moodies leader Justin Hayward tells me, in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “Patrick Moraz, who had just joined us a few months before, his contribution was very good on that. His sounds were very much well-planted in the 1980s. I think there was a desire by those of us who were left in the band after the Octave album to try and do something special. It meant a huge amount to us that Long Distance Voyager did so well.”

Moraz, a member of the Moody Blues from 1978-90 who was then coming off a stint with Yes, arrived with a can-do attitude — and, he tells us, an array of new toys like nothing that Moody Blues had ever seen.

“My motto has always been: ‘Have keyboards, will travel,” Moraz says, laughing. “But it had been about a year to a year and half since I left Yes when I got that call asking me if I wanted to join the Moodies, at least for a couple of tours. Having done that, and having also been able to keep the instruments I had — as we moved from Mellotron to a new array of keyboards — before touring with the Moodies and recording Long Distance Voyager, I was able to record my synthesizer sounds with all of that technology. These were the most modern instruments of the time, and the sounds which I brought could be considered ahead of their time, within the context of the Moody Blues.”

Unfortunately, by the time 1983’s subsequent The Present arrived, a number of the Moodies’ brethren had picked up the gauntlet — and utterly outpaced them. The supergroup Asia (featuring ex-members of Yes, King Crimson and Emerson Lake and Palmer) would emerge with their own prog-pop smash debut within a year of the arrival of “Gemini Dream.” Within two, Yes had retooled for a run to the top of the charts with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

All of that, it must be said, started right here — even if “Gemini Dream,” written by Hayward and the Moodies’ John Lodge, ultimately missed the Billboard Top 10 in the summer of 1981. Their follow up album, however, used the same ideas, the same producer, the same general feel. And all of a sudden, it felt dated.

“I’m still a little sad that we couldn’t carry that formula on,” Hayward tells us. “We tried to do the same thing with the next album, and it didn’t really work. There were some good songs on The Present, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s when I met Tony Visconti that our fortunes started to look up again.”

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.