“What’s your name? Whose your daddy?”
Following the extraordinary rise of The Beatles, it wasn’t long before British bands were coming out of the woodwork, doing their best to imitate the Fab Four. And, at first glance, one might put The Zombies in that category, but to do so would be unfair. Sure, they had a similar look, lush harmonies, and catchy songs – but the sound was completely their own, in part due to the fine keyboard playing of Rod Argent. And their music is still praised and appreciated to this day.
The Zombies were initially a group of young English lads, still in high school, who performed locally. When they won a talent contest in 1964, put on by the London Evening News, the prize was a trip to a studio to record a demo for Decca Records. They chose an Argent song to record called “She’s Not There.” With spot-on harmonies, jazzy undertones, and Colin Blunstone’s breathy, seductive lead vocal, the song was unlike anything that preceded it. In England, it topped out at #12 on the charts. America was a different story, where it rose to #2 and sold over a million records. Not a bad debut for a band, which, until the record was made, never really took their aspirations all that seriously.
By the end of the year, the group, consisting of Argent on keyboards, Blunstone on vocals, Paul Atkinson on guitar, Chris White on guitar and Hugh Grundy on drums, traveled to New York to appear on a Murrey the K Christmas special. As the new year rolled around, they scored another major hit with the Argent song “Tell Her No.” With its repetitious chorus chant of “Tell her no, no, no,” trademark harmonies, and another stellar lead vocal performance, the song rose into the Top-10. A number of singles followed, including “Indication,” “I Want You Back,” and “Remember When I Loved Her” but none managed to achieve the elusive hit status like the band’s previous offerings. In hindsight, however, these tracks have been lauded as important and innovative representations of the British Invasion.
Surprisingly, the band decided to disband in 1967, but not before they recorded one last album. The result, Odessey and Oracle, was a stellar collection of music, considered today to be one of the best albums of the era. And, even more surprisingly, almost a year after they threw in the towel, they scored another million-selling single from the album. Called “Time of the Season,” the captivating song, filled with nimble organ solos, whispered verses, and lush harmonies, managed to peak in the #3 slot on the US charts.
Despite the success, Rod Argent went on to pursue a new project aptly named Argent. With a decidedly heavier, guitar-based sound, they scored their own big hit with “Hold Your Head Up” which went to #5 on the US charts. Colin Blunstone ventured out on his own successful career and also provided vocals on a number of recordings by the Alan Parsons Project. The band “reunited” in 2001, sans Argent and Atkinson, to record the album New World as The Zombies, but it wasn’t until 1997 that the entire original lineup got back together to perform for a show at London’s Jazz Café. Various members have been touring ever since, generally to stellar reviews.
Sure, bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who are the ones most remembered as part of the British Invasion. But the oft-neglected Zombies were a talented and formidable band as well, providing some remarkably innovative material that will always be fondly remembered.
If you are a fan of The Zombies, we’d love to hear your recollections of this beloved band in our comments section.