Justin Hayward: “I wrote it when I was immature, it’s a naïve song,” he explains. “And that’s nice. But I never heard it until about two years ago, I was in bed and somebody sent me a version by Bettye LaVette. And I played it on my computer, and I burst into tears. My wife came in and said, “What on Earth’s the matter?” I heard the lyrics for the first time. That’s bizarre, isn’t it? It’s not that I’d been going through the motions. Every time I’d sung it, it had been heartfelt. But she took every line and made it something about herself that was transparent and clear. She explained it to me, somehow.”
Hayward: We had a huge slice of luck when Decca asked us to do a demonstration record for the Deramic Stereo System, so their consumer division could sell stereos. That’s what Days Of Future Passed was, really. We had a debt to Decca, and they asked us to do a version of Dvorák’s “New World Symphony”. Peter Knight, who was supposed to be doing the orchestral stuff, came down to see us at the 100 Club, and it was his idea to change it around to a concept album about a day and night. We did “Nights”first.
Hayward: Tony Clarke was a boffin producer who could see the whole thing cinematically. He’d describe it in this Stanley Kubrick way – “And then we fade across the setting sun, and sparks come out!” He was straight, four of us were pretty stoned – not John.
Thomas: John, Justin, Mike, and myself got round the mic. We only had four tracks, so we put four voices on one track, and four on another. When Tony mixed the two together, he said, “You’ve got to come and have a listen to this.” When he played it back to us, it freaked us out that we could make such a big sound. We thought, ‘Christ, that sounds bloody good.’
Varnals: We tried it on other songs later, to give them a similar approach to “Nights In White Satin”, but the voices never worked like that again.
Edge: They said this is going to be a hit, and we’ll pull it off as a single, so go and cut it down to three minutes, and we said, “No, it’s four minutes, 20 seconds.” That became the reason it was a hit in America. It was big on FM radio in Seattle first. We found out years later that the DJ picked the longest record so he could go out the back and smoke his bong! The second time he did it, the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree.
We had a problem as we were writing the songs. We had “Dawn Is a Feeling” and “Peak Hour,” but there was a big gap until “Nights.” Being musicians, we didn’t have a lot of experience after dawn and before midday! So I was trying to write a song that spanned that [period], called “Morning Glory,” with lyrics between morning and evening. Then I went to the guys and said, “Can you do anything with this?” I spoke the lyric out to them and they looked at me and said, “There are just too many words. There’s no way you can sing this!” Then Tony Clarke said, “Oh, make it a poem!”