Art and Lawyers: The Case of The Moody Blues

Moody Blues Box Set

Growing up listening to The Moody Blues, I had no clue about what the business side of being in a band entailed. I just thought people got together because they liked music, wrote some songs, played some gigs, and made records. Sure, they were paid for their labors, but it all seemed like when you’re in a band, you’re a group of people tied by the emotional bond of the music.

Well…

We know that’s not the case. Music is a business (and an industry), and whatever artistic endeavors take place in the creation of song sometimes take a backseat to the making of sweet, sweet cash. Back in the ’80s, Cyndi Lauper sang a song called “Money Changes Everything” that touched on this conundrum in the second verse:

They shake your hand and they smile
And they buy you a drink
They say we’ll be your friends
We’ll stick with you till the end
Ah but everybody’s only
Looking out for themselves
And you say well who can you trust
I’ll tell you it’s just
Nobody else’s money

Money changes everything
Money changes everything

I bring in The Moody Blues because I didn’t know there was a lawsuit between Patrick Moraz and The Moody Blues back in 1991. I didn’t have Court TV, the Internet wasn’t a thing yet, and I was just starting graduate school, so my days were pretty much taken up with my studies. Welp, 20+ years pass and I’m on YouTube seeing what’s what, when one of the “suggested” videos is the Court TV coverage of Moraz’s lawsuit against his former bandmates. After a few minutes of watching a video dub of Court TV’s coverage of the trial, I got sucked in. Not only because I’m a Moody Blues fan, but also it was interesting to see a band that’s not known for any kind of drama, be at the center it in an American court.

Moraz Court TV

Now, Moraz was in court because of the reason why most people go to court:  they believe they were wronged in some way.  In Patrick Moraz’s case, said The Moody Blues breached an oral agreement they had that made him a lifetime member of the band.  After recording and touring with the band for a several years, Moraz said he “discovered there was some kind of plot to ease me out [of the band].”  That “plot” occurred during the making of the album “Keys of the Kingdom” in 1990-1991 when Moraz was fired from The Moody Blues just before the band went on tour (he was listed on the album credits for “Keys of the Kingdom” as just providing keyboards for three songs under the heading “Additional personnel”

Speaking through their lawyer, The Moody Blues said the Moraz was never a lifetime member of the band, and he was just hired as a sideman/contract player for albums and tours they wanted him to be part of.  And when they didn’t hire Moraz to tour in support of “Keys of the Kingdom,” he sued for breach of contract.  The band’s lawyer, Don Engel, said on Court TV that when Moraz left England for the U.S. in 1988 — and started writing film scores and working with other artists — he effectively left The Moody Blues.  Moraz didn’t see it that way. He wanted $3.7 million dollars for breach of contract and royalties owed to him as a full member of the band  — so off to court he went with his lawyer to see what they could get.

As a backstory, Moraz was hired in 1978 to replace departing member of the band Mike Pinder — who didn’t want to tour and wasn’t getting along with drummer, Graeme Edge. Moraz recorded and toured with the band from 78-91 and was seen as an important part of their revival as a chart-topping band. From The Moody Blues’ comeback album, “Long Distance Voyager,” to “Sur le Mer” in 1988, the band enjoyed a rebirth of popularity — and with it made a great deal of cash.  After the group got together to record “Keys of the Kingdom” in 1990, Moraz complained in Keyboard Magazine a year later about his role in the group:


“I’ve stayed with the Moodies for many reasons”, Patrick muses. “They have
good songs. They’re a good band live. We’ve had some fun. But nowadays, they
seem to be stagnant. They don’t offer any musical challenge whatsoever to me.”

“For example, in 13 years with them, I’ve written, like, half a song with the
drummer. That’s been my allowance. And it takes many months to come from
gestation to finished product with the Moodies.”

“When I played that little Minimoog part on “In My World” — the fourth number on Long Distance Voyager — I did it in one take; it took everyone else about 6
weeks to record their parts.”

“If the public loves them, fine. But my interest calls for something else,
for a different dimension I don’t find in the Moody Blues. As an artist, I’ve
got to say this publicly. Maybe they won’t like me anymore for it, but I
don’t care. I’m not afraid to say things in black and white. This is the
truth.”

I’m guessing when you say your band is stagnant — and you don’t care if they’ll dislike you for saying so — you’ve probably just completed all the requirements for Master’s Degree in How To Lose Friends And Alienate People.  If Moraz felt there was a plot afoot to “ease” him out of the band, there probably was — considering he was slagging them publicly in print.

With court cases like Moraz v The Moody Blues (and I learned this from Court TV), the standard for the jury to decide the case is which side has a preponderance of evidence that sounds convincing. How do you convince a jury that despite denials by Graeme Edge, John Lodge, Justin Hayward, Ray Thomas, and the band’s lawyer, that Moraz did have oral contract as a lifetime member of the band?  You ask questions like:   If Moraz wasn’t a full member of the band, then why did his name and image appear on the album credits, magazine articles, and tour books as part of The Moody Blues?  If he were just a sideman, wouldn’t album credits and be listed separate from the full-time band members?  And what about publicity shots?  If he was just a contract player, why is he featured with the other members of the group?  Don’t these things connote full and complete membership in a band?

The-Moody-Blues-Long-Distance-Voyager-1997-Front-Cover-64547

Moody Blues

If you want to wade through the 10+ hours of Court TV programming, you’ll see the members of The Moody Blues on the stand conveniently forgetting conversations, having poorly thought out answers, and generally fumbling the ball as they struggled to make it clear to the jury that Moraz was just a sideman.  Now, it didn’t help Moraz’s case that his lawyer, Neville Johnson, asked meandering questions and wasted a lot of time with really irrelevant rhetoric.   As I watched the trial, and Johnson’s annoying habit of pivoting to long tangents of information that  did more to confuse the issue than clarify it, I thought Moraz was going to lose his case.  But he won…well, sort of.

The millions Moraz was hoping for only turned out to be less than $100,000. Now, I read on a discussion board about the trial that Moraz was offered $400,000 to settle out of court, but he wanted to go to trail.  A risky thing since you don’t know which way a jury is going to rule.  So while he won on some of the merits, he lost out on the money.  A lawyer takes 1/3 of what the jury awards, so Moraz went through the emotional strife of a trial for $60,000 and some change.

Not quite the payday he was hoping for, I’m sure.

The Moody Blues No Moraz

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