Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Formed in 1961 in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England, they were schoolmates Rod Argent on keyboards, lead vocalist Colin Blunstone, guitarist Paul Atkinson, bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy. As a result of winning a battle-of-the-bands type contest sponsored by The London Daily News, they were signed to Decca Records and recorded their first single, a minor keyed jazz-tinged song, that along with an electric piano solo and Blunstone's breathy vocals, sounded like no British rock song ever heard up to this point. It would prove to be their only U.K. top 40 hit, peaking at #12, and due to radio exposure started by New York station WINS disc jockey Stan Burns, climbed to #2 on the Billboard charts by December of 1964. The song was titled "She's Not There".
Things could have turned out quite differently for the group if they had their way. It turned out that the band wanted to release another song as their first single rather than "She's Not There". Indicative of The Zombies' deep jazz influences, they wanted to release their version of George Gershwin's "Summertime". It was only at the insistence of producer Ken Jones that "She's Not There" became their recorded debut. This goes to show that an extra pair of ears can come in handy, and in this case, saved the life of this band. "Summertime", while of course one of the greatest songs ever written, this performance unlike say, the bombastic version done by RnB singer Billy Stewart, had none of the qualities of a hit pop song. You be the judge.
The band's second single, "Leave Me Be", was a nice enough tune but had little impact on the charts. The band's label, Decca Records, known to be rather tight-fisted even with their bigger acts, rushed The Zombies through the recording of their third single, "Tell Her No" with the intention of letting them go shortly after its release. Though the single was only a minor hit in the U.K., the all-important American market drove the song into the Top 10. Decca was forced to not only keep the boys on, but to send them on a tour of the United States A.S.A.P.
Decca had a large roster of British Beat acts to package the Zombies with, and as a result the band got to experience huge halls and stadiums, screaming audiences, radio promotions and all that British Invasion-y type hysteria all due to the surprise success of "Tell Her No".
In 1967, the band signed to Columbia Records where they recorded the album Odessey And Oracle (the misspelling of the word "odyssey" was a mistake made by the album cover designers). By the time it was released the band had actually broken up. The album sold poorly in the U.K. and it was due to the advocacy of respected American musician Al Kooper, himself a Columbia artist who recognized the album's merits and convinced the company to release it in the U.S. One track, the Rod Argent composition "Time Of The Season" was released and became a nationwide hit, peaking at #3 on Billboard's Top 100. Columbia wanted the band to re-unite for a tour, but the band declined as by this time Chris White was into a career as a free-lance song writer, Colin Blunstone was working as a solo artist and Rod Argent had commitments with his own band Argent.
Blunstone and Argent ( the man, not the band ) re-formed The Zombies at various times after 1997 and still tour sporadically under that name.