Denny Laine and the Moody Blues, “Go Now” (1965): One Track Mind

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An artifact of a lost time, the charttopping “Go Now” represents both an R&B road untraveled by the Moody Blues and a lasting testament to the legend that Denny Laine somehow never became. His trembling sense of heartbreak resonates across the decades, getting right up to — and almost over — the edge of heartbroken madness before, somehow, pulling back.

Composed by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett, “Go Now” arrived essentially unchanged as first recorded in January of 1964 by Bessie Banks. What’s remarkable, in listening to both, is how Laine moves from simply mimicking Banks’ devastated cry toward his own emotional revelations over the course of these verses. Then, there are the Moodies. Working for the first and only time in the lineup of Laine, Graeme Edge, Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas and Clint Warwick, they ground the song — as heard on a new 50th anniversary of the Magnificent Moodies debut — with an economical power that allows Laine to completely inhabit the lyric.

Then this expanded Cherry Red Records reissue moves deeper into this song’s stunning emotional landscape, via a second studio take and a version recorded live at the BBC. The former finds Denny Laine beginning a touch too fast, illustrating how the Moody Blues worked to extend the exquisite agony already present in “Go Now.” Here, the backing vocals leap out, with far less echo, and the results are — somehow — rawer still, more visceral, besting even his terrific rendition a decade later as part of Wings Over America.

The BBC session from December of 1965, roughly five months after the arrival of The Magnificent Moodies on store shelves, almost deletes that element of the song almost entirely. Denny Laine stands in stark relief. He ends up baring every part of his soul, singing without a series of studio tricks that only sound more obvious as they’re stripped away through the course of this fascinating series of takes. Lean and striking in its attention to quiet detail, elements like Pinder’s saloon-keeper’s piano are heard as if brand new.

Nobody shines more brightly, however, than the lost superstar that was Denny Laine — who’d later revive “Go Now” in live shows as a member of Wings with Paul McCartney. This anniversary edition of The Magnificent Moodies makes his case all over again, across a remastered original release and a total of 29 previously unheard bonus tracks — including, in a find almost as intriguing, nine 1966 songs for a never-completed second album from this line up of the Moody Blues.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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