The Zombies just keep on going on worldwide
By Ralph Gowling
For a group that disbanded in the 60s in frustration at lack of any major commercial success, The Zombies are amazed by the phenomenal demand for them to play at concerts around the world.
UK fans have a chance to see The Zombies in action when they star with The Yardbirds, The Animals, Spencer Davis and Maggie Bell on the Ultimate Rhythm and Blues 50th Anniversary Tour starting in January.
Vocal maestro Colin Blunstone and keyboard virtuoso, songwriter and fellow founder member Rod Argent give the group serious credibility in terms of links with the original 60s group and are hailed on the Golden Oldies circuit as two of its most formidable musicians.
“It’s very, very exciting for us and it’s also doubly exciting for us because it is so unexpected,” Colin told me in an interview with The beat.
“Originally Rod Argent and I got together to play six concerts in 1999. It was very definitely going to be just six concerts but we enjoyed it so much and it seemed so natural that we just kept going.
“It has gradually built up over the years, I guess by word of mouth, and we do now perform all over the world – the Far East, Europe, Scandinavia and particularly in America.
“We’re doing it constantly and as I’ve said it is very unexpected at this time in our careers to be working like this, but we’re just having a fantastic time.
“We’ve got a great band – Rod and myself, Jim Rodford on bass, who was a founder member of Argent and was also 18 years with The Kinks. Then on drums we’ve got Jim’s son Steve, a wonderful player, and on guitar we’ve got Tom Toomey who has recorded with me for probably about 20 years now. Again he is a great player – a great electric player but also a great acoustic player which really suits The Zombies style.
“We’ve literally just come back from our third and final tour of America this year, but we’ve already got one booked for next year! When the Ultimate Rhythm and Blues tour finishes, we’re going straight back to America!”
The huge demand for The Zombies is a tribute, albeit belated, to a group who seem to have finally achieved the public recognition they so deserved in the 1960s.
Then, sadly, the only chart successes in the UK for The Zombies were ‘She’s Not There’ (No.12 in 1964) and ‘Tell Her No’ (No.42 in 1965). The group scored bigger in the United States with the two songs.
Despite much critical acclaim at the time, The Zombies were disillusioned by the lack of major UK chart action and disbanded in 1967. They were so disheartened that they decided not to get back together even when ‘Time Of The Season’ belatedly cracked the US charts in 1969 and soared to No.1.
Colin and Rod, the two major players in the group, went their separate ways and enjoyed varying degrees of success before a chance get-together at a fundraising concert made them realise how time had transformed
The Zombies into an iconic band with a large following. Colin says he is intrigued by the huge demand for band in the US.
“I guess some of it comes from the fact that ‘Time Of The Season’ was a huge hit in America, whereas it was never ever a hit in this country.
“It was a No.1 in practically every country except for here in the UK, and then the album that ‘Time Of The Season’ came from, ‘Odyssey And Oracle’, has become a very well-known album.
“I never know which words to use but it has often been described as an iconic album. Rolling Stone named it as one of the top 100 albums of all time, and many people have cited it as an influence in their careers.
Paul Weller was probably the first but The Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty and many others have also named it.
“I think there is some mystique in the fact that ‘Time Of The Season’ was a huge hit but the band did not reform. We were all involved in other projects and we decided we had completed our musical cycle with The Zombies. We’d done what we set out to do and felt it was time to move on.
“It seems to intrigue people that despite this huge worldwide hit we weren’t tempted to get back together again.
“Even when Rod and I got back together we didn’t perform as The Zombies and, if I remember rightly, we didn’t play many Zombies tunes.
“It was only when we started that we realised there was this amazing interest in the band and gradually we’ve added more and more Zombies songs.
“It’s been fun to rediscover some really obscure tracks that we recorded way back in those early days.
“It has also been great to record new material since we got back together again and we’ve recorded three studio albums and we’ve started recording a new one for release next year.
“This has been a wonderful experience because I sometimes think I’ve been in this business since 1964 and yet this is the most exciting period just because the success that we’ve had has been so unexpected.
“It’s all been achieved without any chart success. It has just been a word of mouth thing and here we are now playing all around the world and in some quite large venues, especially in America.
“Long may it last – I’m having a wonderful time!”