Moody Blues – Nights In White Satin

I have played this song in a club with a 4 piece band and it actually very well received. You don’t have to have the full orchestra for it to sound good…it’s that good of song. Our bass player actually recited the poem to applause. Even after peeling off the layers of music, the song stood.

Justin Hayward wrote this song after he joined the band after Denny Laine had left. It is said that he got the idea for the song after someone gave him a set of white satin sheets, and wrote it in his bed-sit at Bayswater.

The poem at the end was recorded separately. It is called Late Lament and was written by their drummer, Graeme Edge. The poem was read by keyboard player Mike Pinder. Edge wrote another poem that appeared early on the album called Morning Glory.

This song ushered in a new sound for this band who were formally more of a blues band. “Nights in White Satin” was originally released in 1967, charting at #19 in the UK, but topping out at #103 in America, where six-minute songs were a tough sell. In 1972, after songs like “Hey Jude ” and “Layla” paved the way for long, dramatic tunes (and The Moody Blues became more popular), the song was re-released in the US and became a hit, peaking at #2 in the Billboard 100 and #1 in Canada.

Justin Hayward: “I wrote our most famous song, ‘Nights in White Satin’ when I was 19. It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another. A lot of that came out in the song.”

From Songfacts

The Moody Blues recorded the album with The London Festival Orchestra, which never actually existed – it was the name given to the musicians put together to make the Days of Future Passed album. The orchestral parts were performed separately and edited between and around the Moody Blues parts, so the orchestra did not actually accompany the group. The original idea was for the group and orchestra to record a rock version of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” which their record company would use to demonstrate enhanced stereo sound technology.

Before joining The Moody Blues, a teenaged Justin Hayward signed a deal with Lonnie Donegan’s publishing company, which ended up giving Donegan the lion’s share of the royalties for this and other songs Hayward wrote at the time. Donegan was star in the ’50s, famous for his skiffle sound that influenced The Beatles and The Who. In the ’60s, he became more involved in the business side of the industry and formed his publishing company Tyler Music.

Days of Future Passed is a concept album based around different times of day. For example, “Dawn Is A Feeling” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” This song was last on the album because it represents nighttime.

Justin Hayward was inspired by Moody Blues keyboard player Mike Pinder’s composition “Dawn Is A Feeling.” Since Pinder had done “The Morning” for the concept album, Hayward tried to do “The Night.”

Fans have come up with many interpretations of this song, which is just fine with Justin Hayward, who fells that the receiver gives life to the transmission. “It’s the listeners who bring the magic and the interpretations to these songs,” he said in his 2016 Songfacts interview.

This song introduced a new sound for the band. When they formed, they were more of a blues band, and had a hit in 1965 with a cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now.” With the songs on Days of Future Passed, they distinguished themselves with original songs in a more psychedelic/orchestral sound.

In the UK, the song made two more chart appearances, going to #9 in 1972 and #14 in 1979.

The Dickies 1979 Punk version reached #39; the Moody Blues used to use The Dickies version sometimes when doing a sound check.

The week of December 2, 1972, this song plunged from #17 to completely out of the Hot 100, setting a record for the biggest drop out of that chart in a single week. Drastic chart disappearances became more common in the ’10s, and the Glee Cast version of “Toxic” made the fall from the #16 spot in 2010.

Talking about the experiences that inspired the lyrics to this song, Justin Hayward said: “About an audience in Glastonbury, a flat in Bayswater and the ecstasy of an hour of love.”

Among the many artists to record this song are Procol Harum, Eric Burdon, Percy Faith, Nancy Sinatra and Il Divo. When we spoke with Justin Hayward in 2013, he told us that the best cover he heard of this song was by the soul singer Bettye LaVette. “She covered ‘Nights,’ and somebody sent it to me as an MP3, a link,” he explained. “I was sitting in bed with my laptop waking up to my emails, and I clicked on this link and I burst into tears. My wife came in and she said, ‘What the hell’s the matter with you?’ And I said, ‘You’ve got to listen to this.’ She didn’t cry. But I heard the lyric for the first time. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of covers of ‘Nights in White Satin,’ but that was the first time I heard it for real.”

The Moody Blues enjoyed a long and illustrious career that took them well into the 2010’s, and included thousands of performances, most of which featured this song. How does Justin Hayward handle the repetition? “I never lose the emotion of songs like that,” he told us. “I’m lucky enough not to have lost the emotion or the motivation, because it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share. And the audience provides the emotion around that. Because you do it in sound check and it’s fine, but when there’s an audience there, it completely transforms the experience.”

Nights In White Satin

Nights in white satin
Never reaching the end
Letters I’ve written
Never meaning to send

Beauty I’d always missed
With these eyes before
Just what the truth is
I can’t say any more

‘Cause I love you
Yes I love you
Oh how I love you

Gazing at people, some hand in hand
Just what I’m going through they can’t understand
Some try to tell me, thoughts they cannot defend
Just what you want to be, you will be in the end

And I love you
Yes I love you
Oh how I love you
Oh how I love you

Nights in white satin
Never reaching the end
Letters I’ve written
Never meaning to send

Beauty I’ve always missed
With these eyes before
Just what the truth is
I can’t say any more

‘Cause I love you
Yes I love you
Oh how I love you
Oh how I love you
‘Cause I love you
Yes I love you
Oh how I love you
Oh how I love you

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

30 thoughts on “Moody Blues – Nights In White Satin”

  1. I adore this record, an all-time great. Justin has done some amazing stuff, in the band and out of it – I had no idea he was 19 when he wrote it! I went to see the Moody Blues on their last tour before Ray Thomas died, and they were still rocking it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The song is thought to be a tale of a yearning love from afar, telling a story of unrequited love endured by Hayward, as he was caught between ecstasy and despair, ruing the end of one love affair while embarking on another. Nights in White Satin speaks of never reaching an end, because the guy singing this song is still thinking about one of his former loves, while he is laying awake in bed. Unsent letters are a result of not being able to put his thoughts in order and express what he is actually feeling, although he keeps trying, he realizes that this past relationship is over. While thinking about this woman he comes to grasp with this previously unseen beauty that somehow he missed when they were together. His world is upside down and he does not know what the truth is anymore, because he still feels love for this girl. He sees other couples, but they cannot understand what he is going through. They try to tell him things, but he does not think that they are rational. He thinks that if he wants to be something, that is what he will be in the end.

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  3. a brilliant tune that transcends musical genres. It was a big hit when I was a little kid and just beginning to listen to music on my own transistor radio , and it stood out back then because it was so different than everything else that was a big hit then.

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  4. The first time I heard this song is a fun memory. I was a grade schooler in the late ’60s, riding in the back seat of the car and so mad at my mom that I was sobbing or sulking in despair (about something silly I’m sure). Mom was driving, and that song came on the radio, and I heard the words like ‘thoughts they cannot defend’, and I thought, “Wow, this person really understands what I go through.” haha! So what the song means/meant to me, is way different from what inspired the writer to write it. 😀 I love the song to this day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s one of those that is impossible to get tired of. I have memories of playing it and the shocked look on people’s faces that we would do this.

      Well that is a distinctive memory! You will never forget it…but it related.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I would like to hear mine also. No…I’m good on writing how I feel about the song but when I’ve tried to explain certain songs….this one in particular can be taken in different ways. That is why you don’t see me post as many Dylan songs… I would like to start giving it a try though.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is one of my top 10 all-time favorite songs, and my #2 favorite of the 1970s after ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (which as I’ve previously told you is my all-time favorite song). I remember being absolutely blown away the first time I heard this on the radio one morning while driving to work. The song still gives me chills every time I hear it. I had two years earlier bought the 45 single of their 1970 song ‘Question’, but somehow never heard this song before then, though I remember having heard ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ when it was a hit in 1967 or 68. I immediately bought “Days of Future Passed”, and still have my vinyl copy nearly 50 years later.

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    1. It’s one of those songs that is like an egg…perfect. Only a few come to mind. A Day In The Life, Yesterday, and a few more. I’m glad you still have the vinyl copy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Max, I just listened to the entire album in one shot, something I had not done in a few years. This is so brilliant!

        You can call it a concept album, which it definitely is. You can call some of it psychedelic pop. Some folks have called it progressive rock. You can it whatever you want. At its core, it really is a classical symphony with interwoven pop music and poetry.

        I love how in the first track, the main theme of Nights in White Satin is previewed – just like some classical symphonies do. I also really dig Justin Hayward’s singing.

        I would argue it’s one of those albums you should hear in its entirety to get the most of out of it. If you have some 41 minutes to spare and haven’t done or done so recently, I’d highly recommend it!

        I would also suggest using headphones. There’s so much beauty in this music.

        OK, I’ll stop raving now! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL rave on Christian. It is brilliant…it’s been a while since I heard it but I do love it. They had a great sound going on and it kept it interesting. What a hard album to top for them.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have always loved this song and that hasn’t waned in the slightest.

    What is the instrument that makes the sound similar to a train whistle/whine in the back ground? I recognize the flute, the strings and the clarinet-looking thing… Is it the organ doing that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think so…but it’s probably a mellotron…with tapes of prerecorded instruments and you played it in different keys. The Beatles used it a lot…on Strawberry Fields.

      Like

      1. Yes…you play it like a keyboard…it is a keyboard and it will play flutes in the key you play or whatever. The intro to Strawberry Fields is played on a Mellotron

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This song and most of the rest of the album, along with most of Childrens’ Childrens’ are my fave Moody Blues output. I hadn’t realised Justin Hayward was only 19 then! But now what feels like ‘just 19’ then it would have been three years older than me!! (Isn’t time weird?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is…and I’ve had Justin to drop by here before and like a few things…it was an honor…he seems like a really nice guy.
      It was a masterpiece of an album for sure.

      Like

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