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MUSIC: THE MOODY BLUES : Cosmic Rockers Roll In : The band is on the road again and will bring 20 years of songs to the Santa Barbara County Bowl.

Those veteran cosmic rockers, the Moody Blues, have been around for more than 20 years and have sold more than 40 million albums. They could probably play as long as the Grateful Dead, but they probably won’t when they stop by the tree-lined Santa Barbara County Bowl to expand the minds of at least three generations of locals.

In life, as that noted philosopher Tommy Lasorda once noted, “There are three types of people: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened.” The Moody Blues, after watching what happened, write songs that try to explain what should happen. To that end, the band has a vast repertoire that includes tunes such as “Question,” “Ride My See-Saw,” “After You Came,” “Melancholy Man,” and “The Legend Of a Mind.”

The Moody Blues feature four members with more than 20 years in the band--guitarist Justin Hayward, bassist John Lodge, flutist Ray Thomas and drummer Graeme Edge. The original keyboard player, Mike Pindar, was replaced by Patrick Moraz in 1978. Lodge had this to say in a recent phone interview:

How’s the tour going?

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Really fine, thank you. We’ve played the East Coast already and will be touring through Sept. 10. We started in Seattle for the opening of the Goodwill Games. The schedule this time is really difficult--we’ve just recently played nine times in nine days.

How many times has the band toured the United States?

Oh, I couldn’t say really. Our first tour was in 1967.

How did the Moody Blues get started

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Well, Ray Thomas and I were playing in a band in Birmingham called Al Riot & the Rebels--Mike Pindar was in the band as well. We all dressed in Mexican outfits, and no one could quite understand any of that. We did that for about four years. The music scene was very different then--in the mid-'60s--than it is now. Most current bands want to get a contract and get on MTV. Back then, we just wanted to get up on stage and play rock ‘n’ roll. The three of us joined the Moody Blues in 1968.

Whatever became of Mike Pindar?

He lives in Northern California somewhere. Our schedule is very tight, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to see him.

Along with the Kinks and the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues is about the only surviving band from the British invasion of the ‘60s. How has the band survived for so long?

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Well, we are a working band. We are a rock ‘n’ roll band as are the Kinks and the Stones. We just get together and make music and also enjoy playing music; I suppose that’s sort of a simplistic view, but it’s the truth. If you can survive all the business hassles and still retain your equilibrium--that’s what we did.

Is there a basic Moody Blues fan?

The best thing about touring is reaching the audience. There’s a lot of younger people now who all seem to know our music, perhaps the children of those we played for back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We have fans from the ‘60s, the ‘70s, the ‘80s, and now, the ‘90s.

Is there a cosmic, mythical, pseudo-religious answer to it all, according to the Moody Blues?

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No. We don’t have the answer, we just have an awareness of what is going on around us. It seems when we play there’s this huge spiritual awareness, and we just sort of reflected that. We were touring and talking to so many people all over the world, sometimes it got pretty heavy backstage with fans wanting to know the secret of the universe and like that. Heavy stuff.

In 1972 on “The Seventh Sojourn” album, there’s a song called “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).” Is that a song of resignation? Did the band come to some sort of realization that the idealism of the ‘60s had failed?

It was different then, but upon reflection now, the song was actually about us performing on the stage and the audience in front of the stage and how we’re both actually just the same. We both have the dreams and aspirations-- we’re just on different sides of the stage. We’re just the singers in a rock ‘n’ roll band. We don’t have any answers.

A lot of critics dismiss Moody Blues music as pretentious, bombastic and generally naive. What do you say to them?

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Anything you can’t understand, you’re liable to write it off or attack it. People like to put things into neat, little drawers. You can’t do that with our music. This is actually who we are. I think Pink Floyd has a lot in common with us--they just traveled a different road.

So peace, love and understanding is not naive?

No, it never was. It’s very much alive in Moody Blues music today, just as it’s always been.

Did any of the idealism of the ‘60s finally come true?

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Well, as Europeans, the lifting of the Cold War tensions is absolutely phenomenal. That’s why we agreed to play at the Goodwill Games--it was totally nonpolitical. We played with this band from Russia called Gorky Park and had a great time talking with them backstage.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a rock god?

When you’re onstage, it’s great. Just like when you’re 15 years old and pick up your first guitar; it’s still the same for us. The worst thing is probably being away from home for extended periods of time when we’re touring.

You guys have made millions and sold zillions, does the band still have any goals?

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The goal, really, is to be who you are. You can say, “I’ve been there, seen that and done that,” but the goal is just to maintain who you are. I’ve always wanted to do what I’m doing now. That goes for the whole band.

Will the band be playing any new ones?

No new songs this time although we are in the studio working on our next record. On this tour, we will be taking the audience through a brief history of the band. The audience seems to be enjoying it.

How would you describe Moody Blues music?

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We’ve always tried to make our music a combination of melody, harmony and lyric, and, hopefully, a huge back beat. We are a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Why should people go see the Moody Blues?

I hope people come just to enjoy the concert. There’s enjoyment going to a concert, and looking forward to going to a concert. We all have those little problems and hassles, and maybe we can provide that little burst of energy that’ll help get you through.

* WHERE AND WHEN: The Moody Blues will play at the Santa Barbara County Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St., Monday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $18.50, $20.50 and $22.50.

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