The Zombies Facebook The Zombies -- a British band that broke up before the…
- Posted on Oct 20th 2011 5:00PM by Dave Steinfeld
After splitting that year and some intermittent reunions, the Zombies are having a busy 2011. They released the new album, 'Breathe Out, Breathe In,' and just completed a successful 50th-anniversary tour with Blunstone and Argent serving as the only remaining original members. At a time when many bands from their era have either packed it in or are just going through the motions, the revitalized Zombies are racking up stellar reviews and standing ovations. Spinner recently caught up with Blunstone and Argent to discuss the band's formative years, their greatest hits and how things have changed over five decades.
Did you guys ever think that you'd still be playing music after 50 years?
Colin Blunstone: We certainly never thought we would playing after 50 years. I think Rod always knew that he wanted to have a career in music. But I think many people in the early '60s thought that a career in music was two or three years -- if you were lucky. I wasn't being negative, that's just what I thought it was.
Rod Argent: The funny thing is, Colin said to me about five years ago, "I've come to the realization that this is probably going to be my job." [laughs] That was only about five years ago!
Blunstone: I know! I've always been looking for my proper job. But it feels wonderful to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the band. Of course, so many memories and so much hard work has gone into it. But also, it's been fantastic fun.
Tell us about the first time you met.
Blunstone: I remember our first rehearsal in St. Albans in 1961. It was Rod's idea to put a band together and he knew four of the people in the band; he didn't know me. I went to a different school and a friend of Rod's asked me to come along. I remember that meeting. I used to play a lot of sport and I had a broken nose and two black eyes and I had strapping right across my face! So they were all a little bit wary of me. Actually, I looked like a zombie! [Laughter]
Many people cite the Beatles as the band that got them interested in music. Did you consider yourself their peers?
Argent: Yeah. I mean, creatively, we did.
Blunstone: Our musical direction had already been established. We were a keyboard-based band who also were very interested in vocal harmonies. So by the time we heard the Beatles -- although we thought they were wonderful -- we'd already established our musical direction.
We've read that you knew 'Odessey and Oracle' was going to be your last studio album. Is that true?
Argent: My memory is that Chris [White, bassist] and I had an inkling that things were winding to a close. Because we were so unhappy with the production of [many of our] singles, we said, "We have to get our own ideas on record." Chris and I desperately wanted to produce an album ourselves. We kept making demos that we thought were great and then the final produced singles would leave us incredibly disappointed.
Blunstone: I [tell] the audience, "We're incredibly grateful that 'Odessey and Oracle' has found an audience after all this time. But please don't wait 15 or 20 years to start appreciating what we're doing now 'cause there's a strong chance we won't be here!"
What inspired 'Care of Cell 44'?
Argent: It was just a story-song. It wasn't based on anything real. I just thought it would be a really nice twist. It's a love song but [the message is] "I can't wait for you to get back from prison!" I just wrote a little story-song around it.
Blunstone: I always felt that was the most commercial track on the album. Personally, I prefer it to 'Time of the Season.' This may be one of the reasons I didn't become an A&R man [laughs]. 'Time of the Season' went on to sell two or three million copies and 'Care of Cell 44' really didn't sell many copies at all.
How about 'Tell Her No'?
Argent: I'd been really enjoying Burt Bacharach. I loved the way that he was using major seventh and major ninth chords. And I thought, "I want to write a song that has [that] feeling." I mean, it doesn't sound anything like a Bacharach song but it has some of those chords. It's quite jazzy.
Flashing forward to 'Breathe Out, Breathe In,' you do a remake of Argent's'"Christmas for the Free' on this album.
Argent: Well, there are three songs on [the new album] that people say are remakes, which is not true. 'Christmas for the Free' is a remake, that's the one that is. That's an Argent song that I always felt that I would love to hear Colin sing. That was purely the reason for doing that.
Tell us a little about what the other three original members [are up to]. We know Paul Atkinson passed away in 2004, but wasn't he an A&R guy for awhile?
Blunstone: Yes, he was a very successful A&R guy. He signed ABBA to CBS in Europe and they did a couple of tracks for CBS in America. He signed Mister Mister [and] Bruce Hornsby. Towards the end of Paul's life, about three weeks before he died, we all got together and put on a concert at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. The Zombies came over and Paul got up and played with us, and Brian Wilson came on stage as well. It was a magical night.
Chris White is still writing and producing, he's still active in the music business. When the band finished, he decided he didn't want to play as a live musician anymore. He just wanted to write and be a producer.
And Hugh [Grundy, drummer] is actually retired now. He kept playing but mostly locally. I think he's just built a house in Spain.
To wrap up, how has the 50th Anniversary tour been so far? You're in the home stretch.
Argent: One of the great things about us getting back together in 2000 [is that] the band has just got better and better. It really is a blast to be onstage every night, feeling the energy of the guys. They're all great players. I think this is the best tour we've ever done.
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