The Story Behind “Nights In White Satin”

By | June 27, 2022

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English musician Justin Hayward of rock band The Moody Blues smoking a cigarette while sitting on a couch, UK, 7th November 1968. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Moody Blues got their start in 1964 and released their debut album, The Magnificent Moodies in 1965. One side of the album contained R&B covers, while the other was comprised of Laine-Pinder original songs. After this first album, the band began to disintegrate, and this was when Justin Hayward joined them. They also started to realize that their style was not really working, and they began to incorporate more psychedelic influences, which would evolve into Days of Future Passed, a concept album about a day in the life of a common man.

The Inspiration For The Song

One night, prior to their second album, when Hayward was 19 or 20, his girlfriend dumped him. Earlier during the night that he wrote “Nights in White Satin,” he had been at a gig while touring in Belgium. Because he knew that the Moody Blues were expecting him to write something for the next day’s rehearsal, upon returning from the gig, he wrote a few verses as dawn approached. As he wrote, he wanted to find a metaphor for his emotional turmoil. At the time, he didn’t own a lot, but he did have white satin sheets which had been given to him by a previous girlfriend. Apparently, these sheets were romantic looking but were not practical, particularly for a man with a lot of beard growth. According to Hayward, the song was about one love ending and another starting, and the title had a double meaning as well, with a reference to medieval knights.

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Source: (Wikipedia).

The Band Was Only Enthusiastic After Hearing The Mellotron

The day after he wrote the song, he brought it to rehearsal, and his bandmates were not overly enthusiastic about it. Mike Pinder asked him to play it again and then played the refrain on Mellotron. After that, the band members were better able to envision it. Producer Tony Clarke and arranger/conductor Peter Knight helped to shape it into the epic it became as the centerpiece of Days of Future Passed, the Moody Blues’ second album. The song (and the album) marked a departure from their original sound as an R&B group, as they began to transition into prog-rock. Additionally, it was noteworthy for the use of the Mellotron which could be used to simulate a full orchestra. On Days of Future Passed, they credit the London Festival Orchestra, which didn’t actually exist but was instead a group of session musicians and the Mellotron.

It Had To Be Edited Before Becoming A Single

The original song was seven and a half minutes long, as it finished with Graeme Edge’s “Late Lament,” recited by keyboardist Mike Pinder. Because of its length, it had to be edited down for release as a single. To edit it, they removed “Late Lament and the orchestral section, which reduced it to 3:06, although a later single clocked in a bit longer. On the album, “Late Lament” also appears on the first song, “The Day Begins.”