First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)

Building a powerhouse. (9/28a)
How do you follow an Album of the Year winner? (9/28a)
Channeling the stars. (9/27a)
Who would've thunk it nine months ago? (9/27a)
Wild speculation with extra mustard (9/24a)
A chronicle of the inexplicable.
We make yet more predictions, which you are free to ignore.
2022 TOURS
May we all be vaxxed by then.
Power pop, global glam and the return of the loud.
Critics' Choice

By Phil Gallo

Right thinking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters have already checked the box next to The Zombies, nominated alongside The CarsEurythmicsRadioheadMoody BluesThe Meters and 13 others. It’s their second consecutive year on a ballot, their third overall.

The Zombies, formed in 1958 and led by keyboardist Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone, are among the very few acts with an influential landmark album from the 1960s who have not had their name called come induction day. Among their testifying fans are Tom Petty, R.E.M., Beck, Pavement, Spoon, Belle & Sebastian … the list is endless.

Unlike most bands in the hall, not to mention rock history, The Zombies had one their biggest hits after they broke up and moved onto other ventures, some musical, some not. Only in the last dozen years, have the principals been active in laying claim to their legacy.

Much of that legacy is wrapped in that landmark album, Odessey and Oracle. The four living original members of the quintet that signed with Decca in 1964—Argent, Blunstone, bassist-songwriter Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy—celebrated the chamber-psychedelic classic’s 50th anniversary by playing it in full across the U.S. in more than two dozen cities earlier this year. The current edition of the band continues into next year with more touring. .

Argent, the Zombies keyboardist who wrote their hits “Time of the Season,” “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No,” willingly and graciously answered our questions that ping-ponged around six decades of Zombies history. 

HITS: When you went in to record Odessey and Oracle, what did you do differently from the previous dozens of singles you had recorded?

ROD ARGENT: It was in the air that we were going to split up, a purely commercial decision. We got on well with each other, but the guys who weren’t writing weren’t making any money. Chris and I were earning a decent amount of money because we had hits around the world—and honest publishers, which we’re thankful for.

We were every frustrated with the production of our previous singles; we weren’t getting out of the songs what we heard in our heads. We said we have to produce it ourselves so we can get our own ideas onto tape. CBS gave us a small amount of money to record at Abbey Road and we walked in as The Beatles were walking out, having just produced Sgt. Pepper’s. For the first time in a long time, Chris and I each played our songs the way we wanted to hear them—it was a very personal document. Our approach was honest; we weren’t copying anything else that was around.

HITS: How and when did you and Chris decide which songs would make the final cut?

RA: We had to record quite quickly so we prepared everything assiduously beforehand. We would put down a song in three hours and there would be an hour left in the session and if anybody had an idea on something to try on a song, we’d do it.

Like on “Changes.” I told Chris “I can hear a counter melody there” and he’d say, “I like it. Put it on.” We felt like kids in a sweet shop. It was a mix of being totally prepared and having some space for spontaneous ideas we could put down quickly.

HITS: At the point at which you decided to perform Odessey and Oracle live, you and Colin had been working together for about 15 years. What made you want to do the album in full in England in 2007 and then what drove the decision to take it to the U.S. for a 50th anni tour?

RA: Chris came along and, even though he hadn’t played for years, said, “Why don’t we do it?” He said let me practice up and we’ll give it a go.

Colin and I weren’t sure it was going to work. We had to have a piano run-through to see if it would work and the extraordinary thing was Chris was note perfect. Colin and I weren’t properly prepared and struggling to keep up. It was supposed to be one night at Shepherd’s Bush Empire then turned into three nights.

HITS: Musically what was the challenge?

RA:  The challenges were knowing that we had to do all the supplemental parts, the harmonies, the overdubs. We had to rely on Darian Sahanaja from Brian Wilson’s band to know the mellotron parts that I originally played because I was playing piano. We had to makes sure that we had everything working. It worked like a dream.


HITSWhen you and Colin started working together in 2000, you were careful to not say “we’re the Zombies.” That seemed to evolve pretty quickly. What changed?

RA: Absolutely. When we started out [in 2000], I said to Colin, “if we’re going to do anything live I really don’t want to be a nostalgia band.” I didn’t think we should do more than two or three Zombies songs. We came to realize that there were many old, early Zombies songs that we had never played on stage. Certainly, we had never done anything from Odessey and Oracle. We started to get excited about rediscovering some of those things. Because we weren’t doing it to make a buck—we did it because it felt like a blast to play together again—we became more comfortable taking on The Zombies mantra. Then we felt like we were flying The Zombies flag for the other guys, too.

When we started to release albums [As Far as I Can See in 2004; Breathe Out, Breathe In in 2011; Still Got That Hunger in 2015], we were knocked out by how these quite young audiences would accept our new material. It was very important to us to retain that creative energy and write and record and get the buzz of playing new things for the first time. We came to accept the name more because we were getting closer to what The Zombies originally were.

HITS: Considering that you’ve been adding to your discography regularly over the last 13 years, I think casual fans would be shocked when they realize you only made two proper albums in the U.K. in the ‘60s and, secondly, that you were much more popular outside England than at home.

RA: We were only professionally together for three years and we only had one major hit in the U.K., “She’s Not There.” Instead of putting out a follow-up that was something we all loved, the record company put out “Leave Me Be.” We hated the way that record turned out—it’s never been a hit anywhere. So it dies and it meant it started to kill our career. They released “Tell Her No” in America, it was Top 10, but in the U.K. we had a dismal flop.

Another reason was our manager—he didn’t particularly like rock & roll. He was an old star manager and he didn’t manage anything about image for a start. We had one photo session right at the beginning of our career. We had only just left school and the interviewer writing the press release asked us “what have you been doing?” and we said, “we haven’t done anything—we just left school.” So he asks “OK, how many O levels and A levels?” We listed a few, nothing special. They wanted to hang things on that; I can’t imagine a less hip thing to hang your career on.

They took the photos and they were awful, image wise. Compared to someone like [BrianEpsteinAndrew Loog Oldham … The Who had great management, people who understood rock & roll. I feel that was a big reason why, in the U.K., our career was spiked.

HITS: And now they line up for your shows.

RA: When we did the Shepherd’s Bush show, our manager at the time kept coming up to us saying, “you know who’s in the queue? Paul Weller’s waiting in the rain. There are members of Snow PatrolRobert Plant’s here. We had to tell him to stop. And there are a lot of young indie bands that come to see us. One of my favorite new bands that Darian introduced me to it The Lemon Twigs, which I absolutely love. To my amazement, I heard that recently they said onstage “the rock gods, The Zombies” and I thought “that’s unbelievable.” It’s so nice to hear all of that.

Balloting for the Rock Hall class of 2018 continues through 12/5. Fans can vote here.