The Zombies are an English rock band, formed in 1962 in St Albans and led by Rod Argent (piano, organ and vocals) and Colin Blunstone (vocals). The group scored British and American hits in 1964 with "She's Not There". In the US, two further singles, "Tell Her No" and, in 1969, "Time of the Season", were also successful.
Their 1968 album, Odessey and Oracle, comprising twelve songs by the group's principal songwriters, Argent and Chris White, is ranked number 100 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The group formed in 1962 in St Albans, Hertfordshire, England, and gained their initial reputation playing the Old Verulamians Rugby Club in that city. The band was formed while the members were at school. Some sources state that Argent, Atkinson and Grundy were at St Albans School, while Blunstone and White were students at St Albans Boys' Grammar School (since renamed Verulam School). Argent was a boy chorister in St Albans Cathedral Choir.
Their choice of names was out of desperation, and the Zombies won out over Chatterley and the Gamekeepers, according to Blunstone and White. After winning a beat-group competition sponsored by the London Evening News, they signed to Decca and recorded their first hit, "She's Not There" (Argent's second song, written specifically for this session). It was released in mid-1964 and peaked at number 12 in the UK, their only UK Top 40 hit. This minor-key, jazz-tinged number, distinguished by its musicianship and Blunstone's breathy vocal, was unlike anything heard in British rock at the time. It was first aired in the United States in early August 1964 on New York City rock station WINS by Stan Z. Burns, who debuted the song on his daily noontime "Hot Spot". The tune began to catch on in early fall and eventually climbed to No.2 in early December.
Like many other British Invasion groups, the Zombies were sent to the United States to tour behind their new hit single. Among their early U.S. gigs were Murray the K's Christmas shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre, where the band played seven performances a day. On January 12, 1965 the band made their first in-person appearance on U.S. television, on the first episode of NBC's Hullabaloo. They played "She's Not There" (and their latest single "Tell Her No") to a screaming hysterical audience full of teenage girls.
After the follow-up single to "She's Not There", "Leave Me Be", was stiffed in the UK (and not issued as a single in the US, although it was on the B side of "Tell Her No"), Rod Argent's "Tell Her No" became another big seller in the United States in 1965, peaking at No.6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March. However, "Tell Her No" failed to make the Top 40 in the UK. Subsequent recordings such as "She's Coming Home", "Whenever You're Ready", "Is This the Dream", "Indication" and "Gotta Get a Hold of Myself" failed to achieve the success of the previous two singles (although the Zombies had continued success in Scandinavia and the Philippines). A song by The Zombies released only as a B-side (to "Whenever You're Ready") in the US and the UK in 1965, "I Love You" subsequently became a sizable hit for the group People! in the United States in 1968.
The Zombies's first UK LP, Begin Here (1965) was an equal mix of original songs and R&B covers. While continuing recording in 1965–66 and trying to achieve chart success, they recorded enough material for a follow-up album, but the lack of chart success kept most of those tracks from being issued.
In 1967, the Zombies signed to CBS Records for whom they recorded the album Odessey and Oracle (The word odyssey was misspelled by cover designers). Because the band's budget could not cover session musicians, they used a Mellotron, a device designed to imitate orchestral sections.
By the time Odessey and Oracle was released in April 1968, the group had disbanded (in December 1967). The album sold poorly and was given a US release only because musician Al Kooper, then signed to Columbia Records, convinced his label of the album's merits. One of its tracks, "Time of the Season", written by Argent, was released as a single and eventually (1969) became a nationwide hit (Billboard Hot 100 peak position: No.3).
In 1968, Rod Argent and Chris White began working on material for a possible new band when they were approached by CBS to do another Zombies album. Several new tracks were cut with a line-up of Argent, Hugh Grundy, Jim Rodford (bass) and Rick Birkett (guitar), and were combined with some old Decca out-takes and demos. Unfortunately the album, scheduled for release in 1969, was cancelled and only a couple of the songs, "Imagine the Swan" (one of the newly recorded songs) and "If It Don't Work Out" (a demo of a song that Dusty Springfield recorded and released in 1965) were put out as singles instead. (Some of this material was released on several compilation albums during the 70s and 80s, and the album, titled R.I.P., was finally released in Japan in 2008).
After the Zombies disbanded, Rod Argent formed a band called Argent in 1969, with Chris White as a non-performing songwriter. Atkinson worked in A&R at Columbia Records and Grundy joined him there after a brief spell in auto sales. Colin Blunstone started a solo career after a brief period outside the music business, including working in the burglary claims section of an insurance company. Both Argent and White provided him with new songs. He also did studio vocals for The Alan Parsons Project.
The band's original line-up declined to regroup for concerts, so various concocted groups tried to capitalise on the success and falsely toured under the band's name. One such group toured in 1988, going so far as to trademark the group's name (since the band had let the mark lapse) and recruit a bassist named Ronald Hugh Grundy, claiming that original drummer Hugh Grundy had switched instruments.
In 1990 Blunstone, Grundy and White briefly reunited as The Zombies with keyboardist/guitarist Sebastian Santa Maria and recorded the album New World (1991). Argent, Atkinson and a host of guest guitarists also made appearances on this album.
A 1997 120-track compilation of the original band's work, Zombie Heaven, was released on UK Ace/Big beat. The compilation contains all the band's Decca/Parrot recordings (in mono), the entire Odessey And Oracle LP (in stereo), the material that would have made up the unissued R.I.P. LP, several unissued recordings and a disc of recordings made for the BBC. On 25 November 1997, all five Zombies reunited at the Jazz Cafe in London's Camden Town as part of a solo show by Blunstone to perform "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season" to promote the release of Zombie Heaven.
Blunstone and Argent reunited for an album (Out Of The Darkness) and tour together in 2001 under the Blunstone & Argent moniker and continued playing live shows together into 2004 when they began going out under the name "The Zombies" again. The new line-up included Rod's cousin Jim Rodford (formerly of the Kinks and Argent), his son Steve Rodford on drums and Keith Airey (brother of Don Airey) on guitar.
In 2002, Ace/Big Beat released the 48-track The Decca Stereo Anthology, which, for the first time, mixed all of the Decca/Parrot recordings into true stereo.
An album of new material released in 2004, As Far as I Can See..., received poor-to-scathing reviews from both Pitchfork and Allmusic.
Guitarist Paul Atkinson died in Santa Monica, California, on 1 April 2004. Having retired as a performer, he was an A&R man for many years.
In 2005 Blunstone and Argent released a DVD and 2-CD album (Live At The Bloomsbury Theatre) and continued touring with The Zombies.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Odessey & Oracle, the four surviving original members of The Zombies participated in a three-night series of concerts at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire Theatre between 7 and 9 March 2008. Blunstone and Argent's respective websites had advertised that the 8 March concert was recorded for a CD and/or DVD release later in 2008, and the CD was officially posted by Amazon.com to be pre-sold for a release of 1 July 2008. Both CD and DVD were officially released in the UK and several countries around the world.
In 2010 Tom Toomey replaced Keith Airey on guitar, and in 2011 "The Zombies featuring Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent" released their new studio album Breathe Out, Breathe In. Reviews were generally strong, and included 4 star reviews from publications including Record Collector, Q, Uncut, the Daily Mirror and The Independent.
The band tour the US and Canada every year now, as they also do in The Netherlands and the UK. 2011's tour schedule included Japan, France, Germany, Greece and Israel.
- Original members are in bold.
- Begin Here (UK) (1965) / The Zombies (U.S.) (1965) US #39
- Odessey and Oracle (1968) US #95
- New World (1991)
- As Far As I Can See... (2004)
- Breathe Out, Breathe In (2011)
- Live at the BBC (2003)
- Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London (2005) (also on DVD)
- Odessey and Oracle: 40th Anniversary Live Concert (2008) (also on DVD)
- The World of the Zombies (1970)
- The Beginning (1973) (Vol 9 of "The Beginning" series on Decca, a selection from "The Early Days" and The Zombies)
- Time of the Zombies (1974) (Contains hit singles, "Odessey & Oracle" and tracks from their unreleased LP) #204 U.S.
- The Zombies:The Collection (1988) Castle Communications
- Zombie Heaven (1997) (4CD compilation with rarities and live recordings)
- Absolutely the Best (1999)
- Decca Stereo Anthology (2002)
- The Singles: A's and B's (2005)
- The Ultimate Zombies (2007)
- Into the Afterlife (2007) (compilation of post Odessey and Oracle recordings)
- Zombies & Beyond (2008) UK #43
- Bunny Lake Is Missing - An Original Soundtrack Recording (1965) (contributed tracks)
- Guinness Rockopedia - ISBN 0-85112-072-5
- The Great Rock Discography - 5th Edition - ISBN 1-84195-017-3
- The Book of Golden Discs - 2nd Edition - ISBN 0-214-20512-6
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