I always had a great respect for the band the Moody Blues. I was not a big fan but I did love a lot of their hits including Ride My See Saw and The Story In Your Eyes. It was when I saw them on PBS performing live after all these years that I took notice again. Since then I have starting collection more of their music.
The Moody Blues formed in Birmingham England in 1964 as a rhythm and blues band that developed into progressive rock. Among their innovations was a fusion with classical music, most notably in their legendary 1967 LP Days of Future Passed. From that album came hits like Nights In White Satin and Tuesday Afternoon.
The producer of that ground breaking LP was Hugh Mendl. Mendl has taken his Final Taxi at 88.
Besides music producer Mendl was responsible for signing several well know musical acts to recording label Decca Records where he also was a A&R man and moved into the manager’s spot. His career for Decca was for over 40 years.
Born in London in 1919, Hugh Mendl was educated at Oxford and planned on working in the government. One night in 1939 his life changed after hearing a jazz band on a vinyl record. He made a decision that night to become part of the music recording industry.
Mendl’s grandfather was the chairman of Decca Records and he was able to get his foot in the door at a low level job. He worked his way up the ladder to become a lobbyist for the label. He would travel to radio station and plug the new products.
After serving in the British military in World War II, Mendl returned to Decca and became a talent scout. During this time he discovered an artist named Lonnie Donegan. While in the studio Mendl convinced Donegan to have to play ‘skiffle” music and to make a recording of Leadbelly’s Rock Island Line. The song generated a new excitement in “skiffle” music and a new phase of rock and roll was born.
One band that was born from the skiffle music was a new band from Liverpool called The Beatles. Mendl was very interested in them and presented their music to Decca. The top brass, executive Dick Rowe, turned the Fab Four down. Mendl knew he was right about the band, especially when his rival, George Martin over at the EMI label, took them on. The rest is music history.
Decca started listen to Mendl knowing how much money they had lost by not having The Beatles on their label. He then heard the Rolling Stones at a live concert and knew they could become as big as The Beatles. He brought them to Decca but Dick Rowe took the credit for the find and the signing.
Mendl also discovered other rock acts like, David Bowie, Genesis, Caravan and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, a band that included Eric Clapton.
He started producing LPs for several jazz bands as well as Broadway musicals, including “Hello Dolly.” His most successful will be the Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues. Rock critics cite this as the first symphonic rock album and it remains one of the classic rock albums. If you pick up this record you can read Mendl own words on the liner notes:
“In Days of Future Passed, the Moody Blues have at last done what many others have dreamed of and talked about: they have extended the range of pop music, and found the point where it becomes one with the world of the classics.”
In 1979, as manager of Decca Records, Mendl suffered a heart attack and retired from the industry to set up a small antiques shop.
I have had several friends who have stopped off at the little shop and talk to the nice old English gentleman who ran the store. They had no idea that this was a man who helped change the face of rock music.