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Music / The Zombies

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The Zombies, circa 1965. From left to right: Hugh Grundy, Paul Atkinson, Chris White, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone.

The Zombies are an English rock band, formed in St. Albans in 1961. Like many of their contemporaries, they started out playing American rhythm and blues (as exemplified with their debut album Begin Here) but rapidly developed their own Baroque Pop sound, characterized by principal songwriter Rod Argent's keyboard and organ solos and lead singer Colin Blunstone's breathy vocals. This culminated in their most highly regarded work, Odessey and Oracle, in 1968. Although they had a handful of hits in both their home country and the United States, they never received the attention or commercial success of their contemporaries. Indeed, the lack of commercial success meant that by the time Odessey and Oracle was released, they had broken up. Ironically, a single taken from the album, "Time of the Season", would go on to become one of their biggest hits despite the absence of a band to promote it.

The Zombies briefly reunited in 1990 (without Atkinson or Argent, and with Sebastian Santa Maria), and recorded the album New World. Another brief reunion (this time of all 5 founding members. Meanwhile, Santa Maria died in 1996 from adrenoleukodystrophy) occurred in 1997, and it would be the last time they all reunited. Paul Atkinson died in 2004 from liver and kidney disease.

Argent and Blunstone reunited in 2001, and resurrected "The Zombies" name in 2004. That year they released As Far As I Can See..., which was poorly received. This reformed Zombies with Argent, Blunstone and others continue to tour to this day and have released the strongly received album Breathe Out, Breathe In in 2011.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Keith Airey - guitar, vocals (2001-2010)
  • Rod Argent - piano, organ, keyboard, mellotron, backing and lead vocals, harmonica (1961-1968, 1997, 2001-present)
  • Paul Arnold - bass (1961-1962)
  • Paul Atkinson - guitar, vocals (1961-1968, 1997, died 2004)
  • Colin Blunstone - lead vocals (1961-1968, 1990-1991, 1997, 2001-present)
  • Hugh Grundy - drums, vocals (1961-1968, 1990-1991, 1997, 2008)
  • Sebastian Santa Maria - organ, keyboard, guitar (1990-1991, died 1996)
  • Jim Rodford - bass, vocals (2001-2018, died 2018)
  • Steve Rodford - drums (2001-Present)
  • Tom Tooney - guitar, vocals (2010-present)
  • Chris White - bass, backing and lead vocals (1962-1968, 1990-1991, 1997, 2008)

Studio and Live Discography:

  • 1965 - The Zombies note 
  • 1965 - The Zombies note 
  • 1965 - Begin Here
  • 1968 - Odessey and Oracle
  • 1990 - New World
  • 2003 - Live at the BBC
  • 2004 - As Far As I Can See...
  • 2005 - Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London
  • 2008 - Odessey and Oracle: 40th Anniversary Live Concert
  • 2011 - Breathe Out, Breathe In
  • 2012 - Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios
  • 2013 - Live in the UK
  • 2015 - Still Got That Hunger

It's the time of the season for troping:

  • Band of Relatives: Reunion-era bassist Jim Rodford was Rod Argent's cousin, while drummer Steve Rodford was Jim's son.
  • Baroque Pop: One of the defining bands.
  • Break-Up Song: "Maybe After He's Gone", "Brief Candles" (which is about someone else's break-up).
  • Cherubic Choir: Argent had been a choirboy in St. Albans as a child.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: You wouldn't think that a band with a name like this could have a catalogue so full of honest-to-God love songs, would you?
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The reunion concerts and reissue of Odessey and Oracle meant that they finally received the recognition they deserved... Forty years too late. The album now frequently appears in "greatest album" lists.
  • I Am the Band: Thoroughly averted. Although Blunstone’s distinctive vocals helped to give them their distinctive sound, the band was very much an ensemble and all five members were given equal treatment on record sleeves and promotional materials. The band is also known for its harmonies, and lead vocals were frequently shared.
  • In Name Only: Did you know that ZZ Top's Dusty Hill and Frank Beard were once members of the Zombies? No, not the British band featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, but the so-called "Texas Zombies", a band managed by a company that purportedly acquired the rights to the real Zombies' songs. They also managed a Michigan version of the Zombies, and both bands toured the U.S. in 1969 to build on the success of "Time of the Season", which was recorded in 1967 but became a belated U.S. hit for the real Zombies after they disbanded.
  • In the Style of: "I Remember When I Loved Her" (similar to The Beatles' "And I Love Her"), "She Does Everything for Me" (similar to The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black"), "Beechwood Park" (similar to Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale"), and "Hung Up on a Dream" (similar to The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations")
  • List Song: "Friends of Mine."
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Care of Cell 44," an upbeat song whose lyrics are a love letter to a female ex-con.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Care of Cell 44," "Changes," and "Butcher's Tale (Western Front, 1914)."
  • Nostalgia Filter: "Hung Up on a Dream" is nostalgic for the Summer of Love.
    • Which had occurred mere months before.
  • Pop-Star Composer: They contributed songs to the film Bunny Lake is Missing, in which they briefly appear on a television set.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin / Tyop on the Cover: The spelling mistake in the title of Odessey and Oracle. The band did at the time try to claim it was an intentional play on the word "odes" but no: The guy who designed the cover just didn't know how to spell. note 
  • Silly Love Songs: Plenty.
  • Spin-Off: The band Argent can be considered as such — it continued Rod Argent's tradition of fancy keyboard work and paired him with another talented, high-pitched lead vocalist (Russ Ballard), albeit in a heavier rock vein. And while Zombies bassist Chris White was not part of the lineup, he was a primary songwriter for the new band.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Chris White sings lead vocals on "Butcher's Tale (Western Front, 1914)" and "Imagine the Swan," as well as co-lead vocals on "Brief Candles." Rod Argent sings lead vocals on "I Want Her, She Wants Me," as well as co-lead vocals on "Brief Candles."
  • War Is Hell: "Butcher's Tale (Western Front, 1914)"