Whenever you’re ready to come face to face with the Zombies

The most influential ’60s pop-psychedelic band that you’ve probably only heard fleetingly, learn why the Zombies’ tantalizing discography transcends any time of the season. Here frontman Colin Blunstone ably demonstrates his handball prowess as band mates Rod Argent [keyboards], since deceased guitarist Paul Atkinson, drummer Hugh Grundy, and bassist Chris White stoically guard the goal, originally featured as the cover of “The Zombies,” a 1966 greatest hits compilation distributed in Sweden. Image Credit: Big Beat Records

The most influential ’60s pop-psychedelic band that you’ve probably only heard fleetingly, the Zombies’ tantalizing discography unequivocally transcends any time of the season. Led by two founding members — singer-songwriter Colin Blunstone and keyboardist-songwriter Rod Argent —in the ’60s the Zombies never experienced the accolades befitting their massive talent. That would come much later, particularly in America.

Blunstone possessed an ethereal vocal instrument capable of articulating why he couldn’t declare his undying devotion to a sunny girlfriend on the hypnotic “I Love You.” Conversely, Blunstone could summon a soul shattering cry on the group’s effective rendition of Little Anthony and the Imperials’ “Goin’ Out of My Head.” The song interpreter’s voice is unmistakable and wholly original, and he has experienced a plethora of imitators during the ensuing years. Progressive rockers the Alan Parsons Project shrewdly featured Blunstone on various albums in the 1980s.

Apprenticing in a cathedral choir as a child, Argent served as the wizard behind the curtain — anchoring the foundation of every band performance on a vast array of classically-inspired Hammond B-3 organ solos, penning all their major hits, and supplying Hollies-esque harmonies and occasional lead vocals [“She Loves the Way They Love Her” is one of his finest moments in that department]. Argent later decisively proved his commercial potential when his eponymous band scored a Top Five single with “Hold Your Head Up.” The Who even seized the pianist’s prodigious talent on the ubiquitous “Who Are You.”

Three singles, bolstered by Hugh Grundy’s underrated broken drum patterns and Chris White’s fluid bass lines, reached Billboard’s Top Six in a five-year period — their debut, the spellbinding, slightly eerie “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season.”

The latter became their biggest hit record while the accompanying album, the psychedelically diverse Odessey and Oracle, was an underground critical darling…inexplicably months after the group called it quits. Odessey is ranked No. 100 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. AMC’s Mad Men spotlighted Odessey’s “This Will Be Our Year” in a pivotal scene during the “A Day’s Work” episode.

Diverse artists including Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Beck, Dave Grohl, and Arctic Monkeys have sung the praises of the Zombies. The quintet was finally nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, some 25 years after they became eligible. Nominated twice more, they have yet to enter the hallowed hall.

Subsequently the group validated the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion and Odessey and Oracle with worldwide tours where White and Grundy reunited with their old comrades after 48 years apart as special tour guests. Jim Rodford, who played bass on the group’s unheralded final single sessions in 1968 and later joined the Kinks and his cousin’s self-titled band Argent, suddenly died after falling down a flight of stairs in his St. Albans, England, home on January 20, 2018. The 76-year-old stalwart musician had been a mainstay of the Zombies since Argent and Blunstone reformed the band in 2004 for both studio and live work. Son Steve Rodford still keeps the beat swingin’ on drums. Definitely catch the Zombies’ electrifying road show if they happen to appear in an intimate venue near you.

Before there was such a thing as “The Walking Dead,” presenting the unsettling cover of “Time of the Zombies,” a Zombies greatest hits compilation distributed in the USA seven years after the quintet had broken up when it appeared that second studio album “Odessey and Oracle” had been shelved by CBS. “Time of the Zombies” debuted May 25, 1974, in Billboard, barely scraping into the pop chart at No. 204. Image Credit: FanArt.TV / Sony Music Entertainment
A French single 45 cover of the Zombies’ career-defining record, “Time of the Season” b/w “Friends of Mine,” dropped by CBS Records on October 22, 1968, a year after the band unfortunately parted ways when it seemed that audiences and the record company alike had grown complacent. Left to right are lead singer Colin Blunstone, since deceased guitarist Paul Atkinson, bassist Chris White, drummer Hugh Grundy, and keyboardist Rod Argent. The latter penned the No. 3 POP “Time of the Season,” White authored the B-side, while both produced the record. Blunstone admitted in the extensive liner notes for the 1998 box set “Zombie Heaven” that “‘Odessey & Oracle’ shouldn’t have been the end really, it should have been a new beginning. It’s such a shame. But it seemed there was no interest in the album, and we were tired. Also for the three of us who weren’t writers finances were getting a bit difficult. So I went back to the first place that offered me a job, and it just happened to be insurance. It was a career move, and I wasn’t biding my time; I was out of pop music.” Image Credit: 45Cat user Wilthomer / Sony Music Entertainment
Standing in front of a tongue and groove wall, piano prodigy Rod Argent, time-keeping drummer Hugh Grundy, Rickenbacker-wielding guitarist Paul Atkinson, Gibson EB-3 bass player Chris White, and frontman Colin Blunstone are the founding Zombies lineup in this candid taken circa 1965. The United States of America loved the Zombies. Barnstorming thru the country as part of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars package tours, the late guitar picker relayed in the in-depth liner notes accompanying 1998’s “Zombie Heaven“ box set that “Touring America was incredible, it was amazing. But it was very tough, because we worked every night, with sometimes two shows a night. Then you got back on the bus and crashed at a hotel at some time that afternoon. You’d get up and have dinner, then do the show, and you’d only sleep in a bed once every two nights. The other nights we slept on the bus, and these were not reclining seats. We did 25,000 miles in six weeks on a Greyhound bus, and every seat on the bus was taken. No stretching out. We were just wiped out. I remember being so physically sick at the end of that tour that they had to wire my parents to meet me at the airport and carry me off the plane. I’d lost 20 pounds from exhaustion, bad food and partying too much.” Image Credit: The Rita Ferguson Maehling‎ Collection
On April 24, 2014, Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone and songwriter-keyboardist-singer Rod Argent meet Sylvia Luke Roberts backstage at the Cox Capitol Theatre [renamed the Hargray Capitol Theatre] in Macon, Georgia, hometown of Little Richard and Otis Redding. Sylvia is seen holding an autographed copy of the 1998 “Zombie Heaven” box set, distributed on Big Beat Records, which son Jeremy Roberts convinced her to hold temporarily while he got a keepsake journal inscribed. Image Credit: The Jeremy Luke Roberts Collection
On April 24, 2014, Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone and songwriter-keyboardist-singer Rod Argent meet journalist Jeremy Roberts before their show at the Cox Capitol Theatre [renamed the Hargray Capitol Theatre] in Macon, Georgia, hometown of Little Richard and Otis Redding. Jeremy spent 30 minutes interviewing Blunstone backstage — the conversation remains unpublished. Image Credit: The Jeremy Luke Roberts Collection
Still unsure about catching the Zombies in concert? Then investigate this video of the tantalizing, shoulda-been-a-major-hit, “Whenever You’re Ready.” Recorded on June 24, 1965, the A-side reached a middling No. 110 POP but remains a slice of early British Invasion pop featuring the ethereal vocal stylings of Colin Blunstone. Music + Video Credit: Marquis Enterprises Ltd.

© Jeremy L. Roberts, 2014, 2018. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without express prior permission of the author. Do not copy or paste the article text — instead share the URL or headlines with links. Thank you.