Zombies are popular. There’s “The Walking Dead”, “iZombie”, and any number of B-movies. My favorite Zombies (sounds like another TV show) are the ones that were part of the “British Invasion”.
“She’s Not There” was a big hit for The Zombies that peaked at #2 (in Billboard) in November of ’64. The recording featured a great bass line by Chris White, an exciting Keyboard solo by Rod Argent, and a cool distinctive vocal from Colin Blunstone. These guys were gonna be big!
In fact, their second single “Tell Her No” was another top ten hit (#6) just three months later. And then…they were dead.
They had toured the U.S., and were more popular here than in England, but in 1965 and 1966 there were no more hits. In a last ditch effort in 1967, they recorded an album for CBS Records in England. Most of Odessey & Oracle was recorded at Abbey Road studios on the same 4-track recorder as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. They even used the same synthesizer Paul McCartney played for “Strawberry Fields Forever”. Their recording budget was spent, so Rod Argent and Chris White (who had earned the most money as the songwriters) ended up paying for a stereo mix themselves. At the end of 1967, and before the album was released, The Zombies broke up. When the album was finally out in England in April of 1968, it wasn’t a hit. Rest in Peace Zombies.
But as you know, you can’t keep a good Zombie down. The Zombies came back to life when Al Kooper, a musician, producer, and songwriter with Columbia Records, discovered the album in a stack of records their English company, CBS, had given him. Kooper loved the album, and convinced Columbia to release it in the U.S. on their Date label. Here’s how the American record looked (on the left), and the British cover:
Date wisely chose “Time Of The Season” for the single. Released in late 1968, the song peaked at #3 in early 1969. Better late than never.
I liked The Zombies, so I picked up Odessey & Oracle in 1969. It’s basically a pop/rock album with a psychedelic and baroque feel. It should have been released in 1967 when it was recorded, because it fits that time perfectly. The songs, the arrangements, and sound are first rate. It never was a top selling album, but it has obtained cult status, and was ranked by Rolling Stone as the 100th best album in their Top 500. When you think of how many albums have been released, that ranking is amazing!
Among the highlights are “A Rose For Emily”, “Maybe After He’s Gone”, “Beechwood Park”, “This Will Be Our Year”, and of course “Time Of The Season”. Trivia #1: Since “Time Of The Season” was not a hit in England, American Idol Judge Simon Cowell said he had never heard that song when contestant Blake Lewis sang it on the show. Trivia #2: The misspelling of odyssey in the title was a mistake by the cover artist, not intentional as the band originally claimed.
Singer Colin Blunstone went on to a low-key solo career. His smokey singing style is his signature sound, and he put it to good effect on his albums One Year, Ennismore (1972, my favorite), and others. He also did some lead vocals for the Alan Parsons Project, including “Old And Wise” from the Eye In The Sky album.
Keyboardist and songwriter Rod Argent went on to form the group “Argent” which had the #5 hit “Hold Your Head Up”. He’s also done solo work, keyboard sessions, composed TV themes, and produced other artists. He even toured with Ringo Starr’s All Star Band in 1999.
My 4 CD Box Set. They only released 2 albums!
The Zombies walked the earth again…with an album in 1991, a reunion in 2004, and 3 albums since then. Also, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone perform live as The Zombies when it’s the time of the season for touring.
Update: The Zombies are in the 2019 class of The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The band was inducted by Bangle Susanna Hoffs, who said it was their year…”took a long time to come” (recalling lyrics from The Zombie song “This Will Be Our Year”. It was 50 years to the day from when “Time Of The Season” hit #1 on the Cashbox singles chart. The band members were thrilled to be voted into the Hall Of Fame!