Of all the British Invasion bands, none is as melodically sophisticated as the Zombies, the jazz-oriented group that formed in the London suburb of St. Albans in 1961.
The Zombies had no plans to become professional until 1964, when they won a contest whose prize was the opportunity to make a demo record. They decided to use an original composition, “She’s Not There,” written by keyboard player Rod Argent. The song was quiet and subtle, featuring complex jazz chords in a minor key — nothing like most of the pop music coming out of the UK at the time.
Decca Records released “She’s Not There,” as the Zombies’ first single. It reached #2 in the US and #12 in the UK in the fall of 1964. A couple of months later, the group traveled to New York to perform in an all-star pop music show at the Brooklyn Fox theater hosted by disc jockey Murray the K.
The Zombies followed up with “Tell Her No,” another organ-based original song in a minor key. It reached #6 in the States but failed to crack Britain’s Top 40. Four subsequent singles failed to score anywhere. In 1967, the Zombies signed to CBS Records and recorded the album Odessey and Oracle. (The word “odyssey” was misspelled by cover designers.) Because the record’s budget could not cover session musicians, they used a Mellotron, an instrument designed to imitate orchestral sections.
By the time Odessey and Oracle came out in early 1968, the Zombies had broken up. The album received very little attention and sold poorly, though one of its tracks, “Time of the Season,” reached #3 in the US. The band resisted the idea of reuniting, but other groups calling themselves the Zombies — but having no ties to the original band — sprang up in the late Sixties.
Rod Argent formed Argent, which had more of a rock orientation than the Zombies. Singer Colin Blunstone worked at an insurance company before launching a solo career. It wasn’t until 1997 that all five Zombies reunited to perform “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season” at a solo appearance by Blunstone in London.
Where Are They Now?
Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone continue to perform together. In 2004 they recorded a new album, As Far as I Can See. A subsequent album — Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent of The Zombies Live At The Bloomsbury Theatre — received stellar reviews, as did their 2007 U.S. tour. They released a studio album, The Zombies featuring Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent, in 2011.
Guitarist Paul Atkinson died in 2004 in California. Atkinson, who was 58, suffered from liver and kidney disease. He was a record company artists and repertoire executive, as was bass player Chris White, who lives in London and remains a member of the Zombies.
“Tell Her No” Live performance, KEXP, 2013
Release Date |Title |UK Chart | US Chartpositions
Aug 1964 “She’s Not There” #12 #2
Nov 1964 “Leave Me Be” (not issued in US) —
Dec 1964 “Tell Her No” (not issued in UK) #6
Mar 1965 “She’s Coming Home”#58 #21
Jun 1965 “I Want You Back Again” (US only) #95
Aug 1965 “Whenever You’re Ready” — #110
Sep 1965 “Just Out of Reach” — #113
Feb 1966 “Is This the Dream”?— —
Jun 1966 “Indication” — —
Sep 1966 “Gotta Get a Hold of Myself” — —
Nov 1966 “Goin’ Out of My Head”— —
Nov 1967 “Care of Cell 44” — —
Jun 1968 “Butcher’s Tale” (US only) — —
Nov 1968 “Time of the Season” (reissue) — #3
May 1969 “Imagine the Swan — #109