The Zombies Biography

Rod Argent (Rodney Terence Argent, 14 June 1945, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England; piano), Colin Blunstone (b. 24 June 1945, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England; vocals), Paul Atkinson (b. 19 March 1946, Cuffley, Hertfordshire, England, d. 1 April 2004, Santa Monica, California, USA; guitar), Paul Arnold (bass) and Hugh Grundy (b. 6 March 1945, Winchester, Hampshire, England; drums) formed the Zombies in 1961, although Chris White (b. Christopher Taylor White, 7 March 1943, Barnet, Hertfordshire, England) replaced Arnold within weeks of their inception. This St. Albans-based quintet won the local Herts Beat competition, the prize for which was a recording contract with Decca Records. The Zombies’ debut single, ‘She’s Not There’, rose to number 12 in the UK in autumn 1964, but proved more popular still in America, where it reached number 2. Blunstone’s breathy voice and Argent’s imaginative keyboard arrangement provided the song’s distinctive features and the band’s crafted, adventurous style was then maintained over a series of excellent singles. Sadly, this diligence was not reflected in success, and although ‘Tell Her No’ was another US Top 10 entrant, it fared much less well at home while later releases, including ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ and ‘Is This The Dream’ unaccountably missed out altogether.

The Zombies, not unnaturally, grew frustrated and broke up in 1967 on completion of Odessey & Oracle (the misspelling in the title was a record company mistake). The promise of those previous releases culminated in this magnificent collection which adroitly combined innovation, melody and crafted harmonies. Its closing track, ‘Time Of The Season’, became a massive US hit (number 3) after being picked up by American radio, but despite several overtures, the original line-up steadfastly refused to reunite. Argent and Grundy were subsequently joined by ex-Mike Cotton bass player Jim Rodford (b. 7 July 1941, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England) and Rick Birkett (guitar) and this reshaped ensemble was responsible for the Zombies’ final single, ‘Imagine The Swan’. Despite the label credit, this release was ostensibly the first recording by the keyboard player’s new venture, Argent. Colin Blunstone, meanwhile, embarked on a stop-start solo career.

The Zombies reconvened to record New World in 1991, which on issue received moderate reviews. The line-up featured Blunstone, Grundy, White and multi-instrumentalist Sebastian Santa-Maria, with Argent and Atkinson only listed as ‘special guests’. An ambitious and expertly produced CD box set was released in 1997 by Ace Records, with alternate takes and unissued material. At the launch party in London the original five members played together for the first time in over 25 years. Four years later Argent and Blunstone reconvened to record the duo album, Out Of The Shadows.

In 2004, Argent announced that he and Blunstone would now be using the Zombies name. Shortly after this announcement it was reported that original guitarist Paul Atkinson had died. When the original group had disbanded Atkinson moved into A&R, and was an important figure in the signing of both Abba and Judas Priest. He continued to work in the music industry after relocating to Los Angeles, California, in the 80s. The new Zombies’ album As Far As I Can See... proved to be a remarkably fresh-sounding album of quality material. The years of Argent and Blunstone working together gave the collection a rich aroma. Blunstone’s voice and Argent’s beautiful piano and organ work were exquisitely recorded, and there were some breathtaking orchestral arrangements. The biggest surprise however, was the strength of the songs and the conviction of the performances. The Zombies on the album, in addition to Argent and Blunstone, comprised Jim Rodford (bass), Keith Airey (guitar) and Steve Rodford (drums).

The original line-up of the band, with Airey replacing Atkinson, performed Odessey & Oracle at a series of dates in 2008. Almost 40 years after it was first released, the album is now regarded as a classic. The Zombies’ entire back catalogue is overdue for serious reappraisal, in particular the songwriting talents of Argent and White. They were one of the supreme groups of the beat era.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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