It’s always fun to have a conversation with Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Denny Laine, he formerly of Wings and The Moody Blues. He’ll be in town this Friday (2/11/23) for one night only at City Winery, sharing his great stories of working with those two great bands.
Denny was kind enough to call in and chat about the show, and about his time with Wings and The Moody Blues. Listen to the conversation here:
A transcript (edited for clarity) is also included below.
Andre Gardner: What a joy it is to be chatting with one of my favorite guests ever, friend of the station, friend of the show, Denny Laine, who is checking in. Denny, thanks for calling, man.
Denny Laine: Hey, how are you?
Andre: Doing just great, man, and we’re sure looking forward to seeing you in just a few days at City Winery, “Denny Laine Of The Moody Blues: Songs And Stories”, February 11th. The doors will open right about 6:00, get a good seat, 7 30, the show starts. Now I was interested, first off Denny, that it says, “of the Moody Blues,” not “of the Moody Blues and Wings.”
Denny: Well, what do you mean?
Andre: I mean, you’re not gonna just tell Moody Blues stories, are you?
Denny: No, no, no, no, is that what they say? No, it’s gonna be the whole bit, yeah.
Andre: You’ve got a lot of stories to share, man. Jeez, you were there!
Denny: It’s just gonna really be stories about how the songs were written and that’s really what it is. So that way I can get in, you know, more songs than stories, let’s put it that way. But, yeah, it’s gonna be fun, though. I did it last month and it went down really well.
Andre: And I gotta tell you, I love watching the video of you thanking everyone for accepting your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award for the Moody Blues. I saw that you thanked Peter Asher, Cousin Brucie, Stevie Van Zandt. Can we get those guys together to get Wings in the Hall of Fame?
Denny: (laughs) I don’t know. You’d better talk to Paul about that. That’s his baby.
Andre: Well, that seems like a glaring oversight as far as I’m concerned, you and that band certainly belong in there, but we’ve talked about your career before, and I don’t know that I’ve mentioned this in the past, but after you left The Moodies, you formed the Electric String Band. And as far as I’m concerned that that was E.L.O. before E L.O., don’t you think?
Denny: Well, a lot of people say that. And Bev Bevan who started E.L.O. with Jeff, he was in my first band or our band was called Denny Laine the Diplomats and he was the drummer. So there you go. There’s a connection somewhere. I don’t know where but there is.
Andre: I do want to delve into some of your Wings time. I’m not gonna talk about the specific songs because I know you want to do that during the concerts, but I do want to ask you, have you thought about in the past, to you, what the most pleasurable Wings album was to make?
Denny: Well, it’s a little bit like babies. You don’t want to pick one out from the others. I mean, everyone has a story and it’s usually a pretty funny story as well as the hard work, you know, a lot of work went into all that, but it wasn’t, it didn’t feel like hard work. I mean, obviously, the one that stands out under pressure, we went and made Band On The Run because the two guys in the band decided not to come at the end of the day, so that obviously stands out, you know? But they all have stories and the way they were put together and, yeah, and it was fun, you know, it was just kind of one after the other. It was just a 24 hour job, man, and that’s what you do, man, is you get on with it, you know?
Andre: I always felt like, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I always felt like you were kind of like, I don’t want to say the arbiter of the band, but you were never involved in all the stuff going on, like, with Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Britton and all that stuff, you’re like, always steady as she goes, kind of the dude who hung in there rolled with the punches and just got it done.
Denny: Yeah but I mean that’s that’s being in a band isn’t it? You know you just kind of go along with whatever comes your way and you get on with it., It’s experience that is but you also have to be that kind of person. You know, you’re ready for anything that comes along and it’s like I say, you know somebody backs out, somebody doesn’t want to go again, you just change and move in another direction. And that’s it, really. I watched all that going on with those different incarnations and so you know you just don’t let it get to you, you just say okay well, next!
Andre: I did have a question about your trip to Lagos and Band On The Run. Obviously the story was that Paul and Linda got jumped one night and they stole all their cassettes. And then he had to remember the songs? He never gave you copies of those cassettes beforehand? So you didn’t have a copy of them, did you?
Denny: I think he’s the only one who had him. But again, you know what the truth is, I don’t even remember the rehearsal. I know we must have done them because he wouldn’t have had the tapes otherwise. But I know that we’re meant to do it as a band for sure. I mean, that’s why when we got there, and we didn’t have anybody, Paul got on the drums and I got on the guitar and we just ran through the songs one after the other to familiarize ourselves with the arrangements and kind of change them a little bit. (It’s a) different approach when you’re doing it that way. It’s more like a home recording.
Andre: Sure. And, my God, there’s so many things going on down there. Were you there the night that Fela Ransome Kuti came in and with a bunch of guys and wanted to, you know, see if you were nicking his music?
Denny: I wasn’t there for that, to be honest. I don’t remember it anyway, it might have been there, but I don’t know. I don’t remember that conversation going on. I know about it, but he wasn’t that worried about it. I don’t know what he was trying to do. Maybe get in on the act. We weren’t stealing his music. We just liked African music. And you know Fela was one of those guys who wanted to be involved with everything that’s going on. He was a big friend of Ginger Baker’s of course, and we’ve been working with Ginger, he had his studio in that town too. So it was all that, but it was really all good fun. And Fela was great. It was just a good laugh and we went out and hung out with him and his Africa ‘70 people and went to clubs and it was great, you know. It was good fun, but maybe he was trying to get in on the act.
Andre: I remember Paul describing that night just as being magical, watching Fela and the group on stage, just amazing music. God, I can’t imagine … Denny Laine is my special guest, and what a joy it is to have him on. He’s coming to town at City Winery on February 11th, and its billed as “Denny Laine Of The Moody Blues” with songs and stories, but he’ll be telling all the stories whether it’s Moody Blues, Denny Laine and The Diplomats, Wings, Balls, he’s got stories about him all and he’ll be sharing them at City Winery. 6:00 is when the doors open, 7:30 is when the show begins, Denny, I want to fast forward a couple of years to London Town, where you were looking for another exotic location. You decided to be aboard a yacht, the Fair Carol down in the Virgin Islands. Was anybody seasick there having trouble adjusting to the water?
Denny: (Laughs) I don’t think so, but you know, I mean it was that fun. We actually did record going from one bay to another bay and it was like choppy weather, you know, the boat was bouncing around all over the place, and with the studio boat we’re on there and we’re trying to play and we’ve been thrown from one side of the boat to the other. I thought it was ridiculous. And I said, we can’t do this because I’m a boating person, Paul goes, “no, come on you’re all right.” We had a lot of fun doing that album. It was a lot of fun.
Andre: Can you shed any light on whether there are plans to get deluxe editions of London Town and Back To The Egg, because we’re just dying to get some some stuff from there, Denny.
Denny: You know what, I have no idea. But knowing Paul, there will be something, you know, he keeps it all a bit close to his chest, all that info. But knowing him, he’s probably got all that in mind to do, you know?
Andre: Sure. I did see on social media, he sent you a lovely copy of that beautiful singles box, That’s gorgeous.
Denny: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. Well, you know, I’ve been talking to him on and off. He talked me into getting my Covid jabs and all that stuff.
Andre: (laughs) Oh, did he?
Denny: Yeah. Well, you had to work and I mean, the thing is, you know, he was off the road for whatever, you know, all that time. And it was that we weren’t used to being like that, we were used to being on the road all the time and now being stuck in one place and not doing it. Actually, what it does for us all is it makes us sit down and write and, you know, prepare ourselves and do something else other than being on the road, but being on the road is what it’s all about really.
Andre: We can’t wait to see you Denny, for sure. Denny Laine, is my special guest and you know, he was co-writing one of the biggest selling songs in the history of Britain, Mull Of Kintyre, that gorgeous song, but you also co-wrote another gorgeous song that hits close to my heart and I’m sure your heart too, and that’s Rainclouds, the beautiful song with Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains.
Denny: Really. I know. I mean, I love those guys, you know, with all those people, this is the great thing about writing songs and turning them into, you know, productions with different people, they’re all people we liked. I mean, we love the Chieftains, that kind of music, and to get them involved and stuff like that, it’s just fantastic, you know? You meet so many great people along the way, I mean, well we’ll going to it later maybe, but you know, the last thing we did was with Carl Perkins and Stevie Wonder and Ringo and all those people, you know, but it was great fun doing that stuff, so if you’ve written something and the same with Mull Of Kintyre, to bring in the Campbelltown pipe band, I mean that was amazing experience and, you know what I’m saying, you don’t know you’re gonna do it until you do it, and then all of a sudden you learn something else and that’s another load of people, you know? It’s great.
Andre: Oh, this is so great chatting with you Denny, you know, talking your ear off about Wings, but I do have one more Moody Blues question I want to ask. Was that a budgetary reason why the first album was recorded in mono? Or was that they just wanted the power of mono on there?
Denny: I think that’s all there was in those days, isn’t it?
Andre: ’64-’65, I mean, EMI had three track, but I just, I just found it interesting, they didn’t at least do a twin track and and kept it in mono, although Go Now, of course is so powerful in mono that you can’t hear it any other way, it’s so beautiful.
Denny: That’s what I’m saying, you know, I still like mono myself because you can hear everything all in one place, you know, when you got one instrument on one side and another one on the other side. I mean, I don’t know about that, but the thing is, they’ve all gone back to mono now anyway, full circle!
Andre: Denny, you’re a great guy, it’s so great to have you on here and chatting all about your stories and songs, you’ve got many more to share and you’re gonna do it at City Winery on February 11. Doors open at 6:00, show starts at 7:30. This man was there, he wrote some of the most beautiful songs of our day, and we cannot wait to see you do them live, my friend. Thank you for taking the time to call in and chat today.
Denny: All right, thank you, Andre. Take care and I’ll see you then!
Denny Laine performs at City Winery, 990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, Saturday February 11, 2023. 6:00/doors, 7:30/show. Tickets are $20-$35 and can be purchased here.