(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
One might expect that a band that was formed FIFTY YEARS ago this year might have some significant connexions with others, and one would be correct. That is a long time ago, and The Zombies were early, British, and quite good. They were not as prolific as many other bands, and almost became victims of their own success in a manner of speaking.
Interestingly, The Zombies were always more popular in the United States than they were in the United Kingdom. I have no explanation for that other than the hypothesis that when they were getting “hot”, other bands like The Who, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles were getting even hotter in the UK.
Please come with me to review the career of this very, very underrated British Invasion band. As a preview to Pique the Geek for Sunday evening at 9:00 PM Eastern, the topic for the evening will be a new installment to my off and on series about firearms, this time about the propellants black powder and the modern smokeless powders, with a nod to Pryodex(r), a more modern substitute for black powder.
The Zombies were a five person band, adding credence to Doc’s Theory of Bands, in that five member bands are extremely difficult to maintain. Except for the Stones and Led Zeppelin, this has often been the case.
Formed in 1961(!) in Saint Albans, UK (about 20 or so miles north of London) The Zombies were a local band which played for Rugby football parties. Those of you who know about Rugby also know that folks who play it are, in most cases, certifibialy insane! LOL! Ask me in the comments about the University of Arkansas Rugby club.
The initial lineup included:
Colin Edward Michael Blunstone (aka Colin Blunstone), born 19450624, and still with us. He was the lead vocalist, and it was his voice that was so haunting on most of the songs released by The Zombies.
He also was involved with The Alan Parsons Project years later, and also has toured with Manfred Mann (of whom I am not really so wild), and still tours off and on with Rod Argent, to be discussed immediately.
Rodney Terence Argent (aka Rod Argent) , born 19450614 (note the closeness in age betwixt him and Blunstone) is also still with us. Argent started out as the singer, but he was so much better on keyboards that Blunstone took over the singing function and Argent concentrated on keyboards. He also was probably the most important writer for the band, and all of the hits that we commonly remember were written by him.
After the band broke up, he formed his own, self named band, Argent, and had a monster hit, at least in the United States, called Hold your Head Up. I actually was never really fond of that song, but it sure was better than a lot of the stuff at the time, like Hitchin’ a Ride by the one hit wonder Vanity Fair. (UGH!) He did a lot a studio session work, and even though he does not appear on the video, played, along with Peter Townshend, lots of the piano and synthesizer on The Who’s hit song, Who are You, and other songs on the album of the same title. He has done extensive session work, much of it undocumented, and even toured with Ringo Starr’s All Star Band!
Paul Ashley Warren Atkinson (aka Paul Atkinson) was The Zombies lead guitarist. Born 19460319, unfortunately he is no longer with us, having expired 20040401 of multiple organ failure. Because of Argent’s huge keyboard presence, Atkinson was not that well known, as The Zombies are mostly remembered as a vocal and keyboard band. But he later became a producer, and used his contacts within the music industry to develop several big acts.
His developments include, amongst others, the megahit band for which I have little admiration, ABBA, and also the forgettable, in my opinion, Judas Priest. In my view, he did more to hurt good music than to help it by producing what I believe to be inferior bands, but I suspect strongly that there will be many defenders of those bands by the readership. That is fine! There is little accounting for taste, and if anyone likes ABBA, good on them.
Christopher Taylor White (aka Chris White), born 19430307, and still with us, was the bass player and, along with Argent, the main songwriter for The Zombies. Like the three previously mentioned, he also did some singing. After The Zombies he worked with both Blunstone and Argent in various capacities, writing and producing. He, Blunstone, and Argent still occasionally perform as The Zombies.
As a talent scout for a major record label, his is probably most fondly remembered for developing the megahit band, Dire Straits. That was quite a good band, and Mark Knopfler is an excellent hand on the guitar.
Finally, there is Hugh Grundy, the drummer, and I could not for my life find his entire name, born 19450306, and still with us. He was just perfect for his role there, and very little information is available about him. If any of you have more information about his later activities, please add them in the comments.
OK, there is the brief history and obviously I have left out many, many things. Let us just listen to some of their excellent music. I endeavor to present the more obscure things, especially live performances. But since The Zombies are sort of obscure now, I shall also include some of their studio things as well.
Going back to my statement in the introduction, I stated that they were successful almost in spite of themselves. That is because they disbanded (on good terms) just before their biggest hit was released! Go figure! I shall explain as we go. This was likely the most successful band that was never successful!
Their early videos are pretty grainy, and it looks to me like all of them were lipsynched. However, the music is pretty good. Their first hit was She’s not There, in 1964. Here are a couple of recordings. For those of you who are musical instrument specialists, please either correct me or confirm to me that the piano sounds very much like a Fender-Rhodes electric one. I think that it is, but with the thallium ear that I have, I could be very incorrect.
To use the vernacular at the time, dig those clothes and hairdoos! This made it to #12 in the UK, and #2 here in the US.
Here is another example, from 2007. Blunstone and Argent at the controls.
They still had it!
Their next hit was the very good Tell Her No!, only charting at #42 in the UK, but #6 on Billboard here in the US. It is a doomed plea from one man to another to reject the affection of the first man’s lover because he still loves her. There is some teenage angst there, but also something deeper. The song sounds a little dated, but is still quite well done.
Here is the original studio version, cleaned up a bit. Remember that most songs at the time were only about two or three minutes long, at most. Peter Townshend revolted against that and created the very long Top 40 song.
Here are Blunstone and Argent, along with others, in 2008, over 40 years after the first release, and Colin still has the exact same inflections. I strongly suspect that he did not smoke cigarettes very much, otherwise his voice would be much more coarse, like Daltry’s became.
These hits were all in 1963 and 1964. They had a series of minor ones afterwards, but nothing huge. Then they created one of the most important and memorable songs in the Rock and Roll Pantheon, Time of the Season. Unfortunately for them, it charted AFTER they disbanded, all of them figuring that The Zombies would never be a money maker for any of them. Boy, were they wrong!
I went to the bank to make a modest deposit yesterday, and the young make teller recognized me. We often chat about coins and some such, and I asked him if knew about The Zombies. He might be 30 years of age, at most. He indicated that he had never heard of them. I jotted down this website and my handle on the back of a deposit slip and asked him to read (and listen) to this piece when it comes up later today. I wagered that even though he did not know the name of the band, that he had heard this song, probably their opus. I shall check with him Monday to see if he read, and if he remembers.
That memory stimulates a challenge to all of you that do not have a user name. LOG ON, and choose one! It is good for the sites to which I contribute since the more traffic that they have, the better their chances of making money, it is good for me to have potential readers who just might hit the “Recommend” or “Tip” button, and it is good for you because you can say what you have on your mind, and ask questions, to folks who value your thoughts. It is easy, it is free, and you are under no obligation to do anything but read, or listen. Please get a user ID for all of the sites that are in the final line of this post.
Here is their signature record.
If that is not one of the best songs ever recorded, then I am an idiot. Well, I may be anyway, but that is one the best songs in this genre EVER.
Here is another version.
Yes, that is Colin singing and Rod on the keyboards. This is pretty recent.
That was their last hit, but this would be incomplete if I did not include Goin’ out of my Head, written by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein. I count at least 50 covers of it, and The Zombies did a very early one. Even Frank Sinatra covered it!
Here is Rod Argent’s one big hit, Hold your Head Up, from around 1972. Remember, he was not the lead singer for The Zombies, but was on this song. It was OK, and I sort of like it because of the wonderful Hammond organ.
Finally, since all of my readers know that The Who are the penultimate band, here is Who are You?, with Argent doing most of the keyboarding. I hope that you like it!
Well, this just about does it for this installment. Please enjoy some early British Invasion and give your thoughts in comments. If you have access to other work of theirs that you think is unusual, embed those too.
Featured at TheStarsHollowGazette.com. Crossposted at Antemedius.com, Dailykos.com, and Fireflydreaming.com