THE LATEST VOLUME of MOJO ’60s, MOJO’s decade-specific sister magazine, features a brand new catch-up with ’60s cult heroes The Zombies.
The venerable group, still led by original undead Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, are set to tour the US later this month, and are also due to play their classic Odessey And Oracle album in its entirety at the prestigious London Palladium on September 29.
“I’m mystified that people are still discovering the record,” says Blunstone, speaking to Lois Wilson in MOJO ’60s Volume 9. “I can only explain the renewed interest through word of mouth. Musicians like Paul Weller and Dave Grohl often say how much they like the album and that has led to its reassessment and helped introduce it to new generations.”
Odessey And Oracle occupies an exceptional place in the rock canon. Widely proclaimed a work of genius comparable with The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, it is also, simultaneously somehow, a well-kept secret. In many respects, this dichotomy is symptomatic of the position in which the band found themselves back in early 1968 just prior to the album’s release.
Formed in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in the early ’60s, The Zombies arrived in the disguise of a typical beat group of the time. Their debut single, She’s Not There (released in August 1964), provided them with a Top 20 UK hit and peaked at Number 2 in the US, the track characterised by Colin Blunstone’s winsome vocal and composer Rod Argent’s electric piano. In terms of commercial pop success, they never bettered it.
However, by 1967 The Zombies’ sound had grown more sophisticated and they’d signed to CBS, beginning work on a more ambitious second album. Their budget was modest – a mere £1000, with sessions beginning in June and using downtime at Abbey Road and Olympic Studios. However, by the time Odessey And Oracle emerged in April ’68, the five-piece of Blunstone, Argent, Paul Atkinson (guitar), Chris White (bass) and Hugh Grundy (drums) had effectively split. The failure of two singles prior to the album’s release – Friends Of Mine (October ’67) and Care Of Cell 44 (released November ’67) – contributed to their disillusionment with the industry, exacerbating internal tensions over the band’s musical direction.
Since then Odessey’s reputation has grown amongst connoisseurs and, to a degree, mainstream audiences. The album was afforded further exposure when, from the late ’90s onwards, key track Time Of The Season was used in a string of TV commercials to sell goods as diverse as women’s hygiene products, soft drinks and cider.
In addition to their appearance in MOJO ’60s, the group and their masterpiece album are documented in a brand new book entitled The Odessey: The Zombies In Words And Images which is published by Reel Art Press/BMG Books. The band’s touring plans can be found at their website www.thezombiesmusic.com.
MOJO ’60s Volume 9, featuring The Zombies, Keith Moon, The Doors, Dusty Springfield, The Temptations, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Zappa and Beefheart posters, and more, is in UK shops now.