rock music videos of the sixties – 1964: the moody blues’ “go now” as the first modern rock video

Estimated reading time is 3 minutes.

THERE ARE LOADS OF STUFF on the Internet about the Moody Blues, the super-successful, much beloved group fabgear pop-rock that critics just can’t seem to stop hating! Yet there is almost nothing on the origins of the group’s first music video for their Go Now single of 1964. A piece of film that may be the first such video ever made!

The Moody Blues had a nineteen gig residency at the Marquee Club during September 1964. Apparently, during that stay, they recorded both sides of their single at the club’s newly put-together recording studio. After the session, manager Wharton threw up a black backdrop and shot the Moodys on 35 mm film miming their recording of Go Now!

Go Now! is an exceptional (given the circumstances) black and white video with the original five recording members mouthing the vocals. They are dressed in black and shot against the black backdrop, mostly from the chest up with a soft light focused on their faces.

 

UK sheet music for the Moody Blues' "Go Now" (1964).

Sheet music for the UK for the song Go Now! Note how sleek and mod the Moodys were in 1964.

Go Now! as a rhythm & blues hit

The song Go Now! was written by Larry Banks in 1963. It was first recorded as a demo by the his wife, Bessie Banks. The demo found its way to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who recorded her properly in a studio and released it in on their own Tiger Records imprint in January 1964. It reached #40 on the Cash Box R&B chart. Bessie Banks later commented:

“Go Now! was released in January 1964 and right away it was chosen Pick Hit of the Week on WINS. That means your record is played for seven days. Four days went by, I was so thrilled. On day five, when I heard the first line, I thought it was me, but all of a sudden, I realized it wasn’t.

At the end of the song it was announced [that it was] the Moody Blues! I was too out-done. This was the time of the English Invasion and the end of Bessie Banks’ career, so I thought America’s DJs had stopped promoting American artists.” (Wikipedia)

Somehow, this fairly obscure record caught the attention of Denny Laine, who told the rest of his band that they should record the song. The Moody Blues single was released on November 13, 1964, and Go Now! reached #1 on some UK weekly charts in late January ’65.

It entered the American charts in mid-February, peaking at #6 on Cash Box but only reaching #10 on Billboard. Due to its success, Leiber and Stoller reissued Mrs Banks’s version, this time on their Blue Cat Records. This time, it didn’t even make the Top 40.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h42kzEA9l8Q

The look of the video owes more than a nod to Robert Freeman’s already famous photograph on the WITH THE BEATLES album. Several scenes focus solely on Mike Pinder’s hands on the piano keyboard.

The first rock music video?

The promotional video for the Moody Blues single is assumed to have been released simultaneously with the single. This easily makes it the first rock music video that I could find—and makes Wharton both the producer and director of the first rock music video! (He was also probably the creative spirit behind the video,)

Avid Record Collector’s Rating: ★★★

I was generous with the three stars, one of which probably goes to the film simply for being the first ‘modern’ rock music video and being so tastefully elegant in style and execution.

It is interesting to note that the visual style of Go Now! appears to have influenced Queen’s important video to their first hit Bohemian Rhapsody. That video opens with the four members miming the vocals in black, shot from the chest up, looking like the Moodys in Go Now!

 

 

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