Guide to British Music of the 1960s

 

The Zombies

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Colin Blunstone - vocals, Rod Argent - keyboards, Paul Atkinson - guitar, Chris White- bass, Hugh Grundy - drums.

The Zombies were one of the groups that never delivered the chart positions or other success that the sheer quality of their recorded output deserved. In She's Not There and Time of the Season they produced two of the greatest British singles of the 1960s. Argent, Blunstone, Atkinson, Paul Arnold and Grundy had been at school together in St Albans in Hertfordshire and formed the group while still at school. Paul Arnold left while still at school and was replaced on bass by Chris White whose father owned a room that could be used for rehearsals. The Zombies played at colleges and rugby clubs in the Hertfordshire area, travelling to them in an old ice cream van. They exchanged instruments until they settled on the final line-up. Blunstone was originally the guitar player and Argent the singer! They won a talent competition run by the London Evening News in 1963 with the prize of a Decca recording contract but their joint possession of 50 O-levels was the main source of their publicity! Decca was impressed by their original material although the demo recording had been the classic Summertime that was later re-recorded for the debut album. 

The Zombies' first single was the classic She's Not There that showcased the vocal talents of Colin Blunstone and the excellent songwriting of Rod Argent and Chris White. Although this only reached number 12 in the UK charts it went to the top in the US, not bad for a group's first single! However, this was a false dawn and the subsequent singles did not achieve the same level of success. Only Tell Her No made the UK charts and then only number 42. Nevertheless, the Zombies released a string of good singles on the Decca label and an album called Begin Here. The album contained some of the group's own material as well as standard covers such as I Got My Mojo Working and Roadrunner. However, the album also failed to chart. Possibly by 1965 the formula of the earlier 1960s where a group would record an album of cover versions was passť, listeners expected the band to record their own songs. They did have Zombies originals written by Argent and White on Begin Here but possibly not enough or of a high enough quality. By 1965, only the Beatles could get away with an album, of which half were covers. 

While the hits were not forthcoming after the massive number 12 single, the Zombies played numerous live dates including the Tito Burns package tours.

In the US, however, the success of She's Not There had proved to be a kick-start and the Zombies played a series of US concert dates. The track was even covered by Santana during the 1970s. The US dates included playing the Murray the K Christmas shows where they played alongside the Shangri-Las, Nashville Teens, Shirelles, etc. However, later concerts were cancelled. Like many other UK bands they were lined up to appear in a film. Bunny Lake is Missing included three songs, Nothing is Changed, Remember You and Just Out of Reach, two of which were released as a single but this also failed to chart. 

A UK concert tour in 1965 put the band on the same stage as Dusty Springfield, the Searchers, Heinz and Bobby Vee. They later returned to the US to support Herman's Hermits on a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tour. 

They also toured the Far East but they were becoming increasingly frustrated by Decca. In 1967, the band moved from Decca in a search for more musical freedom. While Decca released Goin' Out Of My Head, the first singles on CBS were Friends of Mine and Care of Cell Block 44. These also failed to trouble the compiler of the charts and, still disillusioned, the Zombies decided to call it a day. 

However, this was not the end of the story. They had already recorded the album Odessey & Oracle for CBS at the famous Abbey Road studios and this was released after the group split. Despite the spelling mistake this is a quite exquisite album and a lost treasure. It was given good reviews but, again, it failed to chart. A single taken from the album was released in the US and was a massive hit, making number three. It was also successful in Japan. Time of the Season was quite different to She's Not There and is a powerful track that makes superb use of Colin Blunstone's unique vocal sound and has a trippy, dreamy arrangement that perfectly suited the psychedelic era. However, the group was not there to promote it or to build on its success. The Zombies were encouraged to reform with huge payments promised but they were all rejected. Various groups toured the US claiming to be the Zombies but they were merely imposters. Rod Argent later formed Argent while Colin Blunstone resurfaced in the 1970s with a cover of She's Not There as Neil McArthur before resorting to his real name for Say You Don't Mind, the Denny Laine song. Initially at least, Argent was the Zombies with a slightly different line-up and the final Zombies tracks were really early Argent tracks. This early Argent line-up recorded an album to be released as the Zombies but it did not appear. However, Imagine the Swan was released as a single. 

Following the inclusion of Time of the Season in a Robert De Niro film Awakenings in 1991 the group reformed without Rod Argent and recorded a new studio album New World

The Zombies left a wonderful legacy of songs that were then and remain somewhat underrated. They had a bigger impact in the US than at home and influenced numerous bands. The time gap between She's Not There and Time of the Season may not have helped although the band had been quite prolific over the years. 

Paul Atkinson died of cancer in 2003. White, Argent and Blunstone took part in a tribute concert in Los Angeles alongside Brian Wilson and others.

The surviving members of the Zombies reformed in 2008 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Odessey & Oracle. The band also reformed in 2015 and produced a new album Still Got the Hunger, touring extensively to promote it.

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