Zombies are taking to the road in May.

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May 2013 Zombies are taking to the road in May.

THE legendary Zombies are taking to the road in May.

The band, having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is busier than ever, these days, and are in ever-increasing

demand.

“The 50th anniversary shows were absolutely great,” said founder-member and keyboard player Rod Argent. “It was a very intense year as we toured just about everywhere, and this year is proving to be even more so.”

The band, which features original members Rod, and singer Colin Blunstone, with bassist Jim Rodford (ex-Kinks and Argent – and Rod’s cousin), guitarist Tom Toomey, and Jim’s son, Steve Rodford on drums, has just returned from America where things went exceptionally well.

“It was the first of three tours we’re doing of the States this year. We got a fantastic reception and great reviews – even in the South where we have had thin audiences in the past, but we’re packing them in now. I don’t know why this is,” he added, bemused.

The band was formed in St Albans in 1962 and had a hit with She’s Not There, only the third song Rod composed, and later covered by Santana.

Zombies-band-uk-beatMore success eluded them until the release – in America – of the album Odessey and Oracle (yes, it is supposed to be spelt that way).

The album spawned the single Time of the Season, and the album has since become one of the most feted albums ever. But the success that should have been theirs was passed up because the band had split up.

Rod formed Argent and Colin had a very successful solo career. They got back together 12 years ago and have been touring ever since. Apart from a brief reunion tour by the band, Argent, last year, Rod said he is concentrating on The Zombies these days.

“I just haven’t enough creative energy for two bands,” he admitted. “So The Zombies has to be the focus, but it takes up a lot of energy and time.”

A new live album is to be released around the time of the tour.

“‘Live in the UK’ has just 10 tracks: it was a strict stipulation by the American distributors.”

But it serves as a reminder of how accomplished these musicians are. Colins’ vocals – a trademark of the band, are as clear as ever – and the solos allow the band some creative freedom on stage.

“There’s a lot of improvisation in the set, which means we can play what we feel,” Rod said.

“The longer solos are always different every night, an exception being the solo during Breathe Out, Breathe In. We play that as written, as it’s so short.”

The set list for the UK tour promises to be exciting for the band as well as the audience.

“That’s right,” enthused the youthful keyboard maestro. “Obviously there are tracks we have to play and, of course, we’ll do a selection from Odessey and Oracle, as well as Argent’s Hold Your Head Up and some of Colin’s solo stuff.

Motown legend Jimmy Ruffin says Blunstone’s cover of his What Becomes of the Brokenhearted is his favourite version.

“We recently came across Tom Petty’s version of our I Want You Back Again which we haven’t played, so we may include that this year; and also some very old ones like You Really Got a Hold On Me and Going Out of my Head.”

After the tour, you’d think that Rod and his merry men might take a break – but no.

“On June 8, we are playing in Amsterdam, then on the 11th we are off for another four-week tour of the States, during which we’ll be headlining the Summerfest open-air music festival in Central Park. After that, we’ll have a break before going back to America again.”

Seeing The Zombies on stage, it is obvious they enjoy what they do.

“We wouldn’t do it otherwise.” Rod said.

The Zombies will be appearing around the UK starting in Southend on May 1 and finishing at London Docklands on June 1.

Appearing at:

Southend, Palace Theatre, May 1.

Swindon, Wyvern Theatre, May 2.

Martin Hutchinson