'60s band The Zombies to perform at Luhrs
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — They were part of the British Invasion, and decades later the international acclaim continues for 1960s rock band The Zombies.
Featuring original members and co-founders Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, The Zombies will take the stage of the H. Ric Luhrs Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. Friday, March 24. The show is part of the “Odessey and Oracle” 50th anniversary tour, which celebrates the album of the same name that includes the hit “Time of the Season,” and has been named as No.100 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Blunstone said the ongoing revival of the album is unexpected, but he doesn’t mind the success.
“‘Odessey and Oracle’ had some good reviews but as a commercial release, it was very unsuccessful. And then it almost ... started to pick up wonderful reviews and many artists started to cite it as an influence. And just a head of steam built up probably as much as anything through word of mouth. Until now, it sells far more now than it ever did when it first came out years ago in the U.K. I think it was on Billboard for one week at (No.) 98,” he said in a regal British accent during a telephone interview from New Jersey, where he and Argent were preparing for the tour’s launch.
“And it sells in truckloads, which is great, it’s fantastic. I mean so much of this, it’s like the whole interest in the band and in ‘Odessey and Oracle.’ For me personally, it wasn’t expected. And so it is a wonderful surprise. And from my point of view, long may it last,” he said.
“Odessey and Oracle” was the final album the band released in the 1960s, following their 1965 debut, which featured the hits “She’s Not There,” and “Tell Her No.”
The Zombies are reborn
After their break-up, both Blunstone and Argent went on to have separate yet successful turns as solo musicians.
“I actually have two careers,” Blunstone said. “And it’s great because it just makes life more interesting and more exciting.”
The two artists reunited in 1999, but not as The Zombies.
“We were mostly playing songs from our solo careers. And then over a period of time we realized that there was a huge interest in The Zombies. And so we started to play more and more Zombies tunes, and so we realized we were playing a Zombies show at that point,” Blunstone said with a chuckle.
Blunstone admitted they were hesitant to resurrect The Zombies.
“We talked it over with the other original members, whether it would be the right thing to do, to bill ourselves as The Zombies. And many promotions were billing us as The Zombies anyway, even if we asked him not to,” he said.
And even though both men are now 71, they continue to travel and perform the music of The Zombies.
“We tour regularly all over the world, playing all the hits and playing a lot of obscure songs that we’ve rediscovered ourselves and many of them, we had to relearn how to play them. We hadn’t played them in over 50 years, so it’s been a great adventure for us, a really wonderful adventure.”
Not content to rest on their laurels, members of The Zombies continue to release fresh material.
“I don’t think Rod or I would be doing this if we weren’t writing or recording new music,” Blunstone said. “It’s really important to us that we do that, and one of the really encouraging things is that we get a really strong reaction and response from the audience when we play these new songs. It’s not as if they’re just waiting for the old hits, you know.”
Zombies old and new
With the success of TV shows about the undead such as “The Walking Dead,” and other paraphernalia, Blunstone said it’s possible that the mainstream interest in zombies might help the group appeal to a new demographic.
“Well it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Perhaps it has,” he said.
Still he was quick to admit he’s not a fan of the zombie craze.
“I have to say that when we thought of the name The Zombies, there was no zombie culture, there were no zombie films, no zombie magazines. I think we chose it because we wanted something that was unusual, and it was very unlikely that there would be another band that would’ve used that name,” he recalled. “If I was going to be really, really honest, I’m not sure I understand what a zombie is now.” He laughed.
Two for one
Blunstone said the ‘Odessey and Oracle’ tour is actually two shows in one.
“Well we’ll play the first half of the show, (as) the present incarnation of The Zombies, and we’ll be featuring our brand-new album. It actually got into the Billboard Top 100, it was a great surprise for us,” he said, noting they also will perform their classics.
The second half of the show will feature the remaining members of The Zombies, including Chris White on bass and vocals, and Hugh Grundy on drums. Blunstone is the lead vocalist, while Argent plays the organ and sings. Original lead guitarist Paul Atkinson died in 2004, following a battle with cancer. This band will play “Odessey and Oracle” in its entirety. Blunstone said the band did a similar tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Zombies, but there are no plans to repeat the tour following their golden anniversary.
“I think this will be the last time that we play it, because both Rod and I and the rest of the present incarnation of the band, we like to think about the future and new albums. We’re not a band that just plays old material. We’re writing and recording new material all of the time,” Blunstone said.
In addition to producing new music and touring, Blunstone said he also is basking in the ongoing success of The Zombies, as well as accolades such as the 2016 induction of “She’s Not There” into the Grammy Hall of Fame. That honor is bestowed on both singles and album recordings that are at least 25 years old and show qualitative or historical significance.
“There’s something quite fantastic about what’s happened with The Zombies in the last few years. When you think that we played our last note in 1967, and for many years I thought that we’d been forgotten and along with many other bands, that’s the way of contemporary music. You know, you have your time, and then very often after that, you’re forgotten,” he said. “But there’s something quite, I think it’s unique in that The Zombies, we didn’t have that many hit records, but they’re records that have stayed in people’s consciousnesses, and in many ways they’re as fresh and as relevant now as when they were recorded.”