The Seed that the Garden Requires

For nearly two thousand years, the story of Jesus Christ has been the subject of retelling, reinterpretation, exploration, and even conspiracy theories. Masters of every realm of learning have scoured the pages of the gospels in search of hidden messages and meanings, explanations for inexplicable phenomena, and connections to their own worlds. This interest has not faded in today’s world. If anything, modern freedoms of speech, in combination with discoveries of ancient documents about Christ, most notably the unearthing of the Gnostic Gospels in 1945, have resulted in an increase in “Biblical” studies and theories about the characters and the creators of the gospels. Since then, several major controversial works of fiction and “nonfiction” have been produced, including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)- based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis (1955), and most recently, Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. Some of these works have been intriguing and carefully crafteed, but some critics claim that many of these theories are nothing but irresponsible swill, contrived by some unscrupulous charlatan trying to make a profit. Despite the condemnations of religious critics, there have been a few artists whose goal is simply to throw a new light on the gospel stories, whether for their own pleasure, or to make an audience think, or simply for the sake of the art.

In an age in which “controversial” ideas are screamed at us by faceless advertising agents from all sides, in which “cool” is defined by a subject’s ability to attract attention, often by being offensive or rebellious, an artist whose goal is to unite his art by a potentially controversial theme and who accomplishes this goal with subtlety is often overlooked. Justin Hayward and John Lodge are two such artists- intentionally. The Moody Blues are a British band known for their dreamy mysticism, orchestrally arranged rock ballads, and lengthy concept albums. In 1975, two of the band’s members, Justin Hayward and John Lodge, released the album Blue Jays, which enjoyed modest success in both England and the United States, and was followed by a short tour of small venues. Despite Blue Jays’ initial appearance as a generic mid-1970’s soft-rock album, there is an underlying theme to it as well. Blue Jays is a concept album so well crafted that its hidden meaning is not necessary for the album to make sense. Every piece on the album could stand alone as a typical rock-ballad song with no need for a deeper meaning; in fact, two of the songs (“Remember Me, My Friend” and “My Brother”) made the top-40 list in England as singles- without controversial hype. Before examining the exploratory and religious concept of Blue Jays, however, it is important to understand why Hayward and Lodge would choose to construct an album in this manner.

There are several reasons for these two men to have hidden their conceptual theme so well. First, and most simply, they had the talent and desire to do so. Hayward and Lodge, along with the other three members of the Moody Blues, had written, arranged, recorded and released no less than seven concept albums in five years immediately preceding Blue Jays- and not a single non-conceptual album- ever.

They had redefined the role of the concept album by writing single-quality, stand-alone songs with a unified theme. These themes ranged widely. Their first album Days of Future Passed is a series of love songs that also describe the hours of the day in very metaphoric and poetic language. Their second album, In Search of the Lost Chord, is a series of explorations of hallucinogens, including an ode to Timothy Leary. On the Threshold of a Dream is a series of dreams; To Our Children’s Children’s Children is about space exploration; A Question of Balance is a morality play regarding pollution and population explosion, and so on. The importance of this regard to the band’s previous albums is this: each successive album’s theme becomes more subtle and cleverly written into each album, more tightly woven into the arrangement; just as important is the fact that the themes themselves become increasingly morally based- more Christian, in fact. Also, the titles of the albums become increasingly cryptically (yet undeniably) linked to the theme of each album, often including double (or even triple) metaphors. For example, the band’s eighth album (following a brief breakup) is titled “Octave.” “Octave” is not only the band’s eighth album, but was released on the eighth anniversary of the band’s debut, and includes eight songs (as well as two poems). It would be logical therefore, to assume that such behavior would follow in a side project album, even when only two members of the band are present. What, then, does the title Blue Jays signify?

Not only had the Moody Blues established themselves as the conceptually romantic balladeers of the British invasion, by 1975, despite their own references to drugs and drug culture, they had established themselves as “wholesome” in comparison to contemporary groups like Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and The Rolling Stones, who had by then opened up the floodgates for “drug music.” Knowing that their fan base was not the radical crowd of their day, Hayward and Lodge would not want to overstate the possibly controversial quasi-religious theme of their side-project album, for fear of losing some of the fan base they had built over five years, especially considering the whomping the conservative media had given Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for Jesus Christ Superstar only two years before.

So, given the talents, musical and lyrical style, and history of these men, in addition to the climate of the press and the Moody Blues fan base, it can be seen why Hayward and Lodge would choose to bury an unorthodox theme deep within the carefully worded phrases of an album, hidden, but still there for discovery. The key to unlocking the theme of Blue Jays lies in the first three lines of the last song on the album, “When You Wake Up”:

“Now as we speed a little faster through the stars,
to this New World of ours,
with the seed that The Garden requires...”

These three lines, especially the phrases “The Garden,” and “New World,” each bring biblical passages to mind. “The Garden” could be either the garden of Eden, or the garden of Gethsemane, but in either case, the death and resurrection of Jesus could be seen as the “seed” required by the garden. In Ezekiel 28:12, Eden is called the “garden of God.” If Eden is the garden of God, surely at least the writer of John would argue that Jesus is the seed. In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus also describes the kingdom of heaven as being like a mustard seed, which is tiny, but when planted becomes the largest plant in the garden.

These three lines in fact reference heaven three times. “Through the stars,” “New World,” and “The Garden,” individually do not necessarily suggest a reference to paradise, but taken all together, the meaning is clear. The rest of the song can thus be read as referencing various passages and ideas from the Bible.

If Hayward and Lodge have followed their pattern of unifying the theme of an album and linking the title of the album to the theme of the songs therein, one can then assume that Blue Jays could be an exploration of subjects which could be referred to as “Blue Jays.” Having inferred that the album relates somehow to the Bible, more specifically the new testament, the next step is to discern what aspects of the gospels Hayward and Lodge are exploring. It is here that the title of the album becomes important. Blue Jays is a passion, in which all but two songs are sung from the points of view of Jesus and Judas (who would indeed be the “Blue J’s” of the gospels). One song, “I Dreamed Last Night,” can only be rectified with the theme of the rest of the album in light of when it was written in regards to the other songs on the album, and the other, “Blue Guitar,” was written later by Hayward, and only included on the CD rerelease. It was not included on the record released in 1975, and placed at the end of the album .

In the same way that these three lines are the key to the hidden meaning in “When You Wake Up,” the song itself is the key to the rest of the album. It is important here to remember that Hayward and Lodge had from their first album created only concept albums. It is thus logical to assume that if one song on Blue Jays has a biblical connotation, that the entire album will follow suit.

After establishing that one song on Blue Jays has a key to a biblical concept, lyrical keys in the album’s other songs become apparent. There is a problem, however. Although the songs make allusions to biblical ideas, they do not necessarily relate to actual occurrences in the text of the Bible. The authors, therefore, must be either trying to assert a new viewpoint in regards to the gospel stories, or simply making an exploration of one of the many “loose ends” in the gospel texts. To ascertain what exactly Hayward and Lodge are searching for, the lyrics of the songs must be examined.

The first step in this search is to read the lyrics of the album with the mentality that they somehow relate to the Bible. With that in mind, the intended point(s) of view within each song must be determined, as well as the subject to whom the song is directed. Hayward and Lodge do assist the reader in this regard: the subject matter and points of view in the songs are in an order that corresponds directly with the story of the passion, if the reader is willing to accept that Judas had a much larger role than the Bible accredits to him.

In the Bible, Judas is only mentioned once without reference to his betrayal of Jesus- to say that he stole from the common purse of the Apostles. Logically, however, he must have had a larger role in the journeys of Jesus and his followers: he was one of the original twelve chosen by Jesus, and he actually chides Jesus when a woman anoints Jesus’s feet and hair with expensive oils. These two facts show us that Judas must have had a fairly close relationship with Jesus, in addition to the teacher/student-traitor relationship described in the Bible.

Blue Jays has ten songs (not including “Blue Guitar”). The first four songs (“This Morning,” “Remember Me, My Friend,” “My Brother,” and “You”) can be read as a lengthy conversation between Jesus and Judas, possibly (though not at all necessarily) even a fabricated dinner conversation during the last supper. The fifth song (Nights, Winters, Years) is a retelling of Jesus’s prayer to God to “take the cup away” in the Garden of Gethsemane. The sixth song (Saved By the Music) is a wildly reinterpreted view of the betrayal by Judas at Gethsemane. The seventh song (“I Dreamed Last Night) is the only song that strays from the Judas/Jesus viewpoint into the most logical third party for such a work- Pilate’s. The eighth and ninth songs of Blue Jays describe Jesus’s feelings of abandonment on the cross, which in the ninth song are echoed by Judas’s feelings as he goes out to hang himself. The final song, the key song, “When You Wake Up” almost removes itself from point-of-view entirely and describes the resurrection.

The first four songs of the album form an almost seamless narrative. The first song contains lines spoken by both Jesus (JC) and Judas (JI), the second is entirely JC, the third entirely JI, and the fourth almost entirely JC, with JI only singing the chorus and part of one verse. These first four songs echo very closely the relationship between Judas and Jesus suggested in The Last Temptation of Christ and Jesus Christ Superstar- that of close friends whose differing ideologies are tearing their friendship apart. The album’s opening lines suggest a back-and-forth dialogue which will be noted. The music adds to this feeling of dialogue, in that the speaker cues are identical in almost every case to musical cues (Jesus is the verse, Judas the chorus, and the bridge is split in the first case). With dialogue notation, and after removing the three last sections (which simply repeat previous sections), the first song looks like this:

JC: As the dawn is breaking on your future, my child, is there none of your love alive?

JI: If every door you open closes on me, I don’t know if I can survive.

JC: Long is the road that takes you from home. Sleepless are the hours, and lonely is the night for the poor tormented soul who is searching for the light.

JI: This morning I opened my eyes. I knew from the silence that something was wrong. Turning, I realized I wanted to cry when I knew I was alone.

JC: But where will you go, and who will be your guide? And which way will you turn? The waters are so wide, coz I never told you. Now you’ll never really know.

JI: I need you so.

JC: Now the sun is rising on your freedom, my child, is there none of your love alive?

JI: If every door you open closes on me, I don’t know if I can survive, knowing part of your love was lies.

There is no single key to distinguishing who is speaking in each song on Blue Jays. Sometimes the clue is entirely contextual, sometimes the music helps discern a switch from one speaker to the next. Some songs, though, only include one speaker. One such song is the next one, “Remember Me, My Friend.” In the context of a Jesus/Judas conversation, this song is clearly oriented from Jesus’s point of view, as it contains the giveaway phrase, “I am, I am.” This is one of the album’s most definite references to biblical text, specifically the name of God (and therefore Jesus as well), according to Exodus 3:14. Placed in a prose format, it looks like this:

JC: You don't need to ask me if I'll be your friend. I am. I am. You don't need to ask me if I'm sure my friend. I am your friend. You must remember me- I'm the one who saw through the world's disguise, took away its cloak and I made it hide from me. Remember me? Walking on this earth finding you- What can I say? You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind. If you need a reason to begin again, I am. You will find an answer at your journey's end. I am waiting there my friend, You must remember me. I'm the one who knew you when. I'm the one you call your friend. Feel free- remember me. Walking on this earth finding you What can I say? You don't need to find the words to say what's on your mind.

The next song is a response from Judas. Clearly he is frustrated by having been dragged around endlessly from town to town by Jesus, and is confused by the cryptic speech of his friend, but he wants to understand the message Jesus is bringing. Similarly formatted, it reads:

JI: My brother, If you could cast a little light on someone, It's not too soon. You took me halfway round the world- I'm running out of time and reasons. My true friend, If you could tell me what it is that keeps you from coming down- You left me way up in the clouds- The higher you fly The less I see you. So far 'Cross a wild and windy sea So far That our voices are divided by an ocean. My brother, If you could take a little time to slow down, It's more your style. It takes a lifetime to decide- I'm running out of time and reasons.

The conversation ends with Jesus giving Judas a fairly scathing chastisement, and Judas apparently leaving in anger. Since Jesus has already told Judas that he is the “I am,” and that Judas has clearly not understood, it makes sense for him to open his diatribe with “You don’t even know my name.” Reorganized, the song reads this way:

JC: You don't even know my name. Time was when you would take the love you've given all away, take a part of me. You don't even walk my road. Can't find where you turned. Looked away and you were gone. Now we're on our own. Old man is this why we're alone?

JI: I, I believe what is lost forever Has brought the change in me.

JC: You don't even know my world.

JI: I've tried hard to see. If I'd found the world you're looking for, There'd be a change in me.

JC: You don't even know my name. Time was when you would take the love you've given all away, take a part of me.

JI: You've gone and changed the world I see. I, I believe What is lost forever has brought the change in me.

The next song represents a change in mood and musical sound, and therefore setting and context. It is a balladic, melodious retelling of Jesus’s desperate prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. It is directed to God, and although Jesus knows that “all he needs to do” is sacrifice himself for the salvation of the world, he is afraid to do so. As the lyrics never repeat, no lines have been removed from this section:

JC: Pain, sorrow, tears, Long, lonely years With love Having passed me by, I could live a lie for you, But truth is the road I choose, Knowing all I need to do Is give to you. Down, down down Where your dreams are found- They're sleeping inside of us all Nights, winters, years, Pain, sorrow, tears of mine Cannot hold me now. I'm a fool to fall for you, But here In the morning light, Tell me how can love be wrong And feel so right?

The next song is a very divergent retelling of Judas’s betrayal at Gethsemane. It suggests that Judas, not Jesus, is the one that is terrified of what is to come. It is as if Jesus has already resolved himself to his fate, but that Judas, not having understood Jesus’s message to the apostles, is afraid that his actions have doomed not only his friend, but Judas himself. Even as Jesus is being led away to Pilate, he tries to comfort Judas.

JC: When you're swallowing all your pride Do you need somewhere, a place to hide?

JI: A smile from your face where the light comes shining through all its strength, it came from you. It's lost now all that age before I knew you. Is it that forever is hard to find? You made me recognize what I'd been leaving far behind. Is it closing in on you like it was on me?

JC: This time I'm saved by the music saved by the song we can sing. This time I'm saved by the music saved by the song that you bring. When you're following all life's lies And find its meaning the truth still hides, don't cover your face. Let the warmth come flowing through. Welcome dawn, new morning dew. This time I'm saved by the music, saved by the song we can sing. This time I'm saved by the music Saved by the song that you bring. When you're swallowing all life's lies...

The next song is the most unique on the album, both musically and contextually. It is the most straightforward rock song on the album, using the orchestra for texture more than melody, and it is therefore appropriate that this is the song that diverges from the Jesus/Judas formula. In “I Dreamed Last Night,” Jesus has been brought before Pilate, who is trying to work out what to do with the amazing man. In the Bible, Pilate’s wife is said to have dreamed about Jesus the night before his trial, and that she warns Pilate not to have anything to do with the man’s punishment (Matthew 27:19). When faced with such events as resurrection, however, it seems a comparatively small stretch of the imagination to guess that the dreamer may have actually been Pilate himself, not only afraid to bring Jesus to trial, but afraid to admit to the true reason for his fears.

The inclusion of Pilate’s point of view into the album doesn’t fit the formula of the rest of the songs, however. It is only by discovering that “I Dreamed Last Night” was the first of these songs to be written that one can make sense of the song’s place in the story. This song was in fact written in excess of two years before the rest of the songs on this album, when the Moody Blues were on tour in Europe. It is possible, therefore, that this song was the catalyst that inspired the rest of the songs. If the exact theme of the album was not honed until several more of the songs were written, the schism between this song and the rest could have grown wider and more defined. If this is true, it is also possible that Hayward (who wrote the song) was unwilling to alter his lyrics to better fit the theme of the album. There are a few lines in the song which make more sense from the perspective of Jesus, but the whole song could conceivably be sung from Pilate’s (P) point of view:

P: Oh I dreamed last night I was hearing, hearing your voice. And the things that you said, well they left me, left me no choice. And you told me we had the power, And you told me this was the hour.

JC: But you don't know how- If I could show you now.

P: Well I dreamed last night you were calling, calling my name. You were locked inside of your secrets calling my name. And you told me lost was the key, and you told me how you long to be free.

JC: But you don't know how, oh let me show you now like a bird on a far distant mountain, Like a ship on an uncharted sea, you are lost in the arms that have found you. Don't be afraid. Love's plans are made. oh, don't be afraid.
P: If there's a time And a place to begin love it must be now. Let it go. Set it free. Oh, I dreamed last night I was hearing, Hearing your voice. Why did you say those things that have left me, left me no choice? When you told me we had the power, why did you tell me now was the hour?

JC: But you don't know how. Oh, let me show you now.

The next two songs work as a continuous narrative in much the way that the first four do. They describe the emotional journey to Golgotha and Jesus’s doubts on the cross. The first of the two, “Who Are You Now,” illustrates Jesus’s feelings of abandonment, beginning and ending with the line “Who are you now?” The second, “Maybe” adds Judas to the plot. Judas has become totally lost to the world and is going out to hang himself. His cries of resignation echo Jesus’s own pain. The songs are separated here with a series of asterisks (* * *).

JC: Who are you now? First love of mine, if you could see you'd reach out for me. In hallways, and in secret doorways were love's hiding places, with nowhere to go. Goodbye to the fields and byways. I remember saying ‘I don't want to leave.’ 'Cause you were all there was to know about me. Somewhere on this crazy island a familiar stranger sleeps so far away. Wonder in the eyes of children and the smile of fortune helps the memory fade. 'Cause they are all there is to know about me. Who are you now?

* * * *

JC: Maybe, Maybe I'm wrong to go on thinking, to sing my song. Maybe this world's falling down. Call up the trumpeters and knock the walls down.

JI: Someone who needs, someone who feels, someone who sees can’t find you.

JC: Slowly, slowly we walk. No harm in crying, no sense in talk. Slowly the ice melts away. Call on the choir to sing, and turn no-one away.

JI: Someone who needs, someone who feels, someone who sees can’t find you.

JC: Maybe, maybe I'm wrong. The river holds its breath. The sea will keep its calm. Slowly, slowly we turn. A look at where we've been. The juggler has to learn.

JI: Someone who needs, someone who feels, someone who sees can’t find you.

The final song reads almost as a requiem for the album, although it could certainly be from Jesus’s point of view, perhaps to the fallen soul of Judas:

JC: Now as we speed a little faster through the stars, to this new world of ours, with the seed that the garden requires, and as we drift a little further from the shore, like the sea evermore I'm the ivy that clings round your door. When you wake up you will find that you're not where you left yourself. Now as we drift a little further down the stream was it all what it seemed? Was it true? Was it real? Or just a dream? When you wake up you will find that you're not where you left yourself.
The album fades out with an almost “choir of angels” sound, repeating a melody with building harmonies, whose only lyric is “Ahh.” The listener is left with a complex but beautiful gradual build that then fades to nothing (unless the listener is listening to the CD, in which case he or she will be jarringly assailed by another song).

One could listen to the album a hundred times and still never have the notion that the album carries with it a hidden message, and there would never be a need for that message. Allowing their exploration of the gospels to remain hidden beneath the surface of their orchestral textures and thick harmonies does not subtract in any way from Hayward and Lodge’s masterpiece, it simply adds to an already masterfully worked album. In defiance to the shock-value traditions of other “heretical” artists, Hayward and Lodge created a piece open to and worthy of further exploration, wonder, and discovery. Blue Jays is, quite intentionally, the great undiscovered heretical work of rock and roll.

This is a paper I wrote for my ENGL 202 (Biblical and Classical Literature) class at the University of Delaware. It is due tonight (02-03-05).
Source material:
Blue Jays album notes (lyrics and some info on the band)
and my father, whose idea this originally was.

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