Go on an 'Odessey' with The Zombies

In March 2007, it was the time of the season for The Zombies, who re-formed in the U.K. to perform their classic second album Odessey and Oracle live nearly 40 years after its release in 1968.
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In March 2007, it was the time of the season for The Zombies, who re-formed in the U.K. to perform their classic second album Odessey and Oracle live nearly 40 years after its release in 1968.

“I have worked with Rod Argent in a touring band for the last eight years,” says former frontman Colin Blunstone, “so Rod and I play a lot together. But, we got original Zombies drummer Hugh Grundy and Chris White, the bass player, on board. We all got together, went through the album to see how we all felt about playing together and it sounded great, really fresh and confident. We did that even before we agreed to do these shows.”

Although original guitarist Paul Atkinson sadly passed away in 2004, all three U.K. dates sold out. Hopefully, the band will play in America later in 2008 as interest in the Zombies has also never been higher, with an old and new generation re-discovering the music of this vibrant creative ‘60s group.

The Zombies formed at school in St. Albans, just outside London in 1961 trading names like the Mustangs and the Sundowners back and forth. Their final moniker was given to the band by original bass player Paul Arnold.

“He came up with the idea of the Zombies, and the rest of us liked it,” says Blunstone. “You must remember, back then there were not all these zombie films that there are now! I thought it was a bit left-field, but as there were no other bands called the Zombies, it got the vote.”

In addition to Blunstone on vocals, the lineup consisted of Argent (piano), Atkinson (guitar), Grundy (drums) and Arnold’s replacement, Chris White (bass). The Zombies began gigging and building up a local reputation and like many bands, their repertoire was made up of crowd-pleasing cover versions ranging from the Beatles to unusual choices like the Four Preps’ “Big Man.”

They took their most significant step in 1963 when the band clubbed together to buy an electric piano for Argent, which meant this his inventive keyboard parts previously played on the piano could be heard better. This literally transformed the Zombies sound.

After winning a local talent show in 1964, the Zombies secured a record contract in the U.K. with Decca which led to the release of their first single, “She’s Not There.” Blunstone recalls that it was almost by accident that the song was written at all.

“When our producer at Decca arranged the studio time, we had planned to do the Gershwin classic ‘Summertime.’ But, as we had two weeks before going in, he said, “Why don’t you write something?” Rod went away and wrote ‘She’s Not There.’”

Released as their debut 7-inch in July 1964, the effect of “She’s Not There” was life changing, as it was not only favorably reviewed on “Juke Box Jury” by George Harrison but became a massive hit in the U.K. The Zombies became a professional band and went on the road as part of a nationwide package tour with The Searchers, Dionne Warwick and The Isley Brothers.

“It was so exciting, such a thrill for us,” recalls Blunstone. “We watched them every night and traveled with them and got to know them really well. It was amazing as three or four months before that we were just a local band.”

By Christmas 1964, The Zombies were an international band as, when released in the States, “She’s Not There” reached #2 on the Billboard charts. The band was flown across the ocean to promote the single.

“We were in New York for the Christmas of 64/65 as we had