The Zombies Reflect on Carole King and the Rolling Stones
If you care about an important slice of rock and roll history, pick up tickets for the Zombies’ U.S. tour, which runs from September 30 in Dallas to the final stop at The Fillmore in San Francisco on October 27.
“I would imagine that this is quite possibly the last time that we’ll be playing Odessey & Oracle live,” says Colin Blunstone, the lead singer of the legendary British band.
The album stands as one of the greatest in rock history, and, if this is the last time it will be performed, the Zombies are doing it the right way. Blunstone and the group’s co-leader, keyboard extraordinaire Rod Argent, are bringing along two original members – songwriter and bass guitarist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy – to perform with the rest of the current Zombies: bassist Jim Rodford, guitarist Tom Toomey, and drummer Steve Rodford.
“Perhaps because the Zombies disbanded before this album was ever released, there has always been a tremendous amount of interest in hearing this album performed live,” says Blunstone, the golden voice behind several tremendous singles, including “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No.”
In England in 2008, the Zombies played Odessey & Oracle live for the first time and “have now been asked to repeat it in the U.S.,” Blunstone says.
The initial performances of the album were in front of sold-out audiences at London’s historic Shepherd’s Bush Empire March 7-9, 2008. The shows marked the 40th anniversary of the album’s release, and the March 8 show became part of a double album titled Odessey & Oracle (Revisited): The 40th Anniversary Concert.
It took so many years to perform the classic album because the band had a short life span. The Zombies’ debut album was released in 1964, and the band was defunct when “Time of the Season” from 1968’s Odessey & Oracle was released as a single. It became a big hit, but the band did not regroup. Argent moved forward with his self-named group Argent, which would release a huge hit, “Hold Your Head Up,” in 1972, and Blunstone first went into the insurance business before recording solo albums.
Blunstone and Argent reunited for a duo album decades later – in 2003 – and a year later reformed the Zombies. They began releasing records again as the Zombies with the release of a 2005 live concert that became a double album Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London.
Like the Bloomsbury Theatre show – a landmark gig in Zombies history – Blunstone recalls top performances he has seen by other musicians. He particularly recalls a show at Fairfield Halls in Croydon, a town about 10 miles south of central London, on July 16, 1971.
“I think it was a doubleheader featuring Carole King and James Taylor,” Blunstone recalls. “Carole King said that her album Tapestry had just gone to No. 1 in the States. In some ways, it was a beautiful surprise, because I didn’t know what to expect and then spent the whole evening transfixed by superb writing and artistry.”
Blunstone says that was the best show he has seen, but he points to another as the most influential. He was with other members of the Zombies in London, and, on April 14, 1963, they felt the full power of the Rolling Stones. “It was in a small packed club called Studio 51 on Great Newport Street,” Blunstone says.
“They had just released ‘Come On,’ their first single, and were, by far, the most exciting band I had ever seen. Our bass player, Chris White, asked them about their material which, they explained, was from a wide spectrum of R&B classics. This helped influence us in re-naming the band The Zombies R&B and also encouraged us to explore the R&B classics. The ‘R&B’ was eventually dropped when we started writing our own material and recording a year later in 1964.”
The Zombies are finally recording studio albums again, and Blunstone speaks highly of 2011’s Breathe Out, Breathe In and Still Got That Hunger, which is scheduled for release in the USA on Oct. 9.
“Both Breathe Out, Breathe In and Still Got That Hunger feature the most recent and probably best lineup of the band and were recorded as live as possible with everyone playing in the studio at the same time,” Blunstone says. “I also sang the vocals live on Still Got That Hunger, and I think this helps give the performances more energy and excitement. Time alone will decide how important each album is.”
What are Blunstone’s and the Zombies’ legacies in the history of pop music?
“It’s always very rewarding when someone tells you a particular song you sang or wrote meant something special to them or helped them through a difficult time,” Blunstone says. “So, I would like to think that in some small way my musical contributions have made a difference.”