David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 362: The Moody Blues (Nights In White Satin)

June 23, 2024

One of my oldest friends has openly joked for years that he for a time thought The Moody Blues' classic "Nights In White Satin" was called "Knights In White Satin," an admission that could only be mocked in the way that teenage friends do so, even when they are well past their teenage years. The truth of the matter, though, is that anyone 10 years old probably thought that, whether when it was rarely played in the 1967, or played much more frequently in 1972, which applies to the hooligans you could call me and my friends. Honestly, upon my first hearing of the song, I may have thought the same thing. I just wouldn't have admitted it.

The fact is, that opening line, "nights in white satin/never reaching the end" makes more sense as Knights, because even a ten-year old knows that nights end, that the sun comes up every morning. Certainly no 10-year old, at least in those days before the internet, understands the implications of never-ending nights in satin sheets (whether alone or not). So, from the outset, the song seems to suggest devoted knights dedicated to their mission, even if their mission never ends. That might fit with the little we knew and understood of Ivanhoe or the knights of the round table. Even the next line, "letters I've written/never meaning to send," makes more sense when you think of the Knight on his perpetual quest and missing his loved ones back home so much. Ultimately, we may not have known much about the logistics of "romancing," but we certainly understood the implications of romance, and proclaiming loudly from our noble steed somewhere on the other side of the world, "cause I love you/yes, I love you."

Musically, to any tone-deaf kid, all that orchestra (jeez, the song is representative for a genre called "symphonic rock") is far from modern, a distant cousin to anything playing through the night of his transistor radio, competing with "American Pie," "Anticipation," "Lean On Me," and "Baby, Don't You Get Hooked On Me." It wasn't exactly an era of hard rock on the radio, but the arrangement of "Nights In White Satin" seemed more of the past than anything current (there's a damn flute solo, a delicate one, not an insane-sounding one like what came from Ian Anderson!).

And, of course, there's the spoken outro, rarely played on AM radio, and entitled "Late Lament," as if anyone cared. Mumbo jumbo about "gathering gloom" and "cold-hearted orbs" and "illusions." If that doesn't sound like something straight from Sir Walter Scott, then what does?

In addition, this fascination with knights and days of yore and alternate fantasy worlds were all over rock and pop music at the time.  Why wouldn't this Moody Blues' song be in alignment with the kind of pseudo-historical schlock we were getting with Procol Harem in "A Whiter Shade of Pale" or "Conquistador"? Why couldn't it exist in the same universe where Uriah Heep was releasing Demons and Wizards? Why couldn't "Knights In White Satin" be further evidence for why Jethro Tull was extolling "Living In The Past"?

So I embrace my friend's belief that the song was "Knights In The White Satin." Who cares if we completely ignored the "white satin" as part of the image? I think a very tasteful sleeve cover could be designed with two knights bearing white satin tasses, or on the breastplate, or along the greaves. Imagination is a powerful thing, remember? And the lyrics could be tweaked to be fully turned over to the new image:

Knights in White Satin/

Never reaching the end/

Letters I've written/

Never meaning to send/

Burgess I'd always missed/

On this trip before/

Just what the tithe is/

I can't say anymore/

Cause I love you/

Yes, I love you/

Oh, how I loved you/

Gazing at people/

Some helm in helm/

Just what I've gone through/

They can't understand/

Some try to lure me/

To jousts I can't defend/

Just what's the knight's fee/

You die with in the end/

And I love you/

Yes, I love you/

Oh, how I love you/

And so forth and so forth. Given my predilection to write parody songs through much of the 1970s, I am surprised I haven't done this one before. And I am glad I am almost done with this series. No one wants me to dig any of those things up.

The Moody Blues. "Nights In White Satin." Days Of Future Passed. Deram, 1967. Link here.

Day 361: Gary Louris "Dead Man's Burden"

Day 363: Electric Light Orchestra "Mr. Blue Sky"

See complete list here.