Return of the... Zombies

PUBLISHED: 17:44 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

WITH a sound falling somewhere between the jazzier end of psychedelia and the pristine harmony-drenched pop of The Beach Boys and The Beatles,

WITH a sound falling somewhere between the jazzier end of psychedelia and the pristine harmony-drenched pop of The Beach Boys and The Beatles, The Zombies were at the forefront of the so-called British invasion of America in the 1960s, writes Jason Goodyer.

The band's combination of Colin Blunstone's distinctive breathy vocal and the snaking, jazz inflected organ lines and plaintive melodies of principal songwriter Rod Argent gave them a sound all of their own. And while they only released three albums and a handful of singles before going their separate ways, their sound has served as an influence on a significant number of musicians throughout the years.

After splitting up in 1967, the band members remained involved in the music business in one way or another. Rod Argent went on to form hard rock band Argent, along with bass guitarist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy. Blunstone had a few hits as a solo artist and guitarist Paul Atkinson became an A and R man. A chance meeting between Argent and Blunstone in 2000 led them to get the band back together for a reunion tour. Now they are back on the road again on a UK-wide tour, headlining alongside fellow 60s Brit legends The Yardbirds.

"I met Colin in 2000 at a charity show for John Dankworth," Rod reveals. "He got up at the spur of the moment and sang 'Time of the Season' and 'She's Not There' and it was absolutely as if we had been working together two weeks before, so we said: 'Why don't we do half a dozen gigs?' And those gigs turned into seven years of touring around the world. I think one of the reasons is that it's such a great band with so much energy on stage, it's such a bonus to be able to go out there and play again."

The tour will be the first time The Zombies have been out on the road since their triumphant performances at London's Shepherds Bush Empire, where they played their classic album Odessey and Oracle in its entirety, and Argent explained that the idea came about once again from a chance meeting.

Rod continues: "A few months ago Chris White - the original bass player - came along to see us and said: 'Do you realise that it's 40 years since the album came out, and because we broke up the minute we had finished making it, it's never been performed live.'

"We talked about it and thought we'd go for it. It had been 40 years since we had played together so we didn't know if it would work or not, but it did, it worked great."

The band originally formed as school friends in the early 60s in the wealthy London suburb of St Albans and quickly secured a deal with Decca on the strength of Argent's composition, the now legendary 'She's Not There'.

The song was chosen as their debut release and entered the UK charts at 12 but proved to be a bigger hit in America where it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

"We were just out of school really," Argent explains, "I was 18 when I wrote 'She's Not There', it was the second song that I ever wrote.

"The thing was, because we were 18 we expected it to happen. I just had no idea of the millions of things that can go wrong. I thought: 'The Beatles have just gone to number one in America, we can do that.' And when we did it I thought: 'Yeah, that's what's supposed to happen.' We were so lucky as well because the timing was so fantastically right. The Beatles had just cracked open the gates in America and opened them so that we could follow behind.

"Also, Colin's voice just suited the song so brilliantly and we had a great engineer working with us. Everything just fell into place."

Since getting back together the band have been working on some new material and hope to be debuting some new songs on the tour.

"We've got an album coming out released by Universal called 'The Zombies and Beyond', and that gives a pretty good idea of what we like to do on stage. We will be doing a lot of old Zombies stuff, but it's so much a family that everybody to do with the Zombies has been involved with Argent and I have also produced Colin's solo stuff as well.

"We will be doing 'Hold Your Head Up' and 'God Gave Rock and Roll to You' from Argent, 'Say You Don't Mind' and 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted' which were both big hits for Colin and we will be doing one or two things that are so new that we haven't recorded them yet."

* The Zombies are appearing at the Fairfield Hall on Thursday, May 29 at 8pm. Call the box office for tickets on 020 8688 9291.

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