How the Moody Blues Mounted Another Comeback With ‘The Other Side of Life’
The Other Side of Life concluded the Moody Blues' transformation from symphonic-rock pioneers to synth-pop hitmakers in the '80s – complete with a narrative, heavy-rotation music video. That helped "Your Wildest Dreams" into the Top 10, even as the Moody Blues attracted a whole new generation of fans.
Like many groups who hit it big in the MTV era, however, they disappeared just as quickly from the charts. Worse still, this time it was for good.
In truth, The Other Side of Life was the culmination of a process toward a next-generation chart breakthrough that began some five years earlier. "Gemini Dream," the first Moody Blues single to feature former Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz, had ushered in a sleeker, more modern combination of prog and new wave – one that Moraz's former band would soon adopt, as well.
"His sounds were very much well planted in the '80s," singer Justin Hayward said in 2014. That made the Moodies relevant again, as Long Distance Voyager then yielded a second consecutive Top 20 hit with "The Voice" in 1981.
The music became significantly more mechanized, however, in the wake of a disappointing chart finish for the 1983 follow up The Present. Credit the arrival of producer Tony Visconti after two albums with Pip Williams at the helm. "We tried to do the same thing with the next album, and it didn’t really work," Hayward added. "There were some good songs on The Present, but it wasn’t until the mid-'80s when I met Tony Visconti that our fortunes started to look up again."
Watch the Moody Blues Perform 'The Other Side of Life'
Unfortunately, Hayward didn't come up with anything nearly the catchy as "Your Wildest Dreams" elsewhere on The Other Side of Life, which arrived on April 9, 1986. His title track, though it nearly reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock charts, is surrounded by a noir-ish darkness.
Meanwhile, John Lodge was stuck in something of a rut. "It May Be a Fire" sounds like a lesser leftover from his Blue Jays collaboration with Hayward from 1975, while "Rock 'n' Roll Over You" is basically a retread of "Gemini Dream." Then there's "Running Out of Love," co-written by Hayward and Lodge, which traces back even further – all the way to the Moody Blues' early R&B roots. Ray Thomas, the band's long-time flautist and vocalist, was also in a composing lull.
In keeping with the times, the Moody Blues dressed things up with videos. They took a direct role in creating story-packed clips for "The Other Side of Life" and "Your Wildest Dreams," the latter of which centered on a lost-love theme that continued over into the shoot for "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" – their hit from 1988's Sur La Mer. (Janet Spencer-Turner starred in both videos.)
"Toward the end of the ’80s, the MTV era was really taking off," Hayward later said. "So, there was a small window when, in videos like 'Your Wildest Dreams' and 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere,' the band had complete control. After that, we lost that control again, and it got screwed up. [Laughs.] That’s the way these things go."
Indeed, The Other Side of Life may have earned the Moody Blues their first Top 10 U.S. album since Long Distance Voyager, but there would be no more. "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" would also mark the band's final appearance in the Top 40.
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