Liner Notes from the 1999 Zombies compilation CD,
Absolutely The Best

by Ed Johnson-Ott

The Zombies "Absolutely The Best"
Fuel 2000 Records FLD-1039
Liner Notes

The '60s British Invasion brought a tidal wave of bands to America and the Zombies were one of the best. Within their hook-filled pop songs, the group worked an unusual magic, using minor key counterpoints and inventive arrangements years ahead of their time, accented by Rod Argent's jazzy keyboards and the extraordinarily expressive voice of Colin Blunstone. Rod and bassist Chris White wrote most of the tunes (although Colin developed into quite a songwriter as well) and contributed vocals, while guitarist Paul Atkinson and drummer Hugh Grundy completed the musical equation.

"It was like living through a wonderful dream," Rod Argent told me, reflecting on the day when the group's first single, "She's Not There," hit the top of the US charts. "I remember phoning home and my Mom said 'You've just been on the 9 o'clock news here. You're the first band after the Beatles to reach number one with a self-written composition.' To be 19 and have the world at your feet, playing what you're really enthusiastic about, it was just remarkable. We were number one in America, the home of rock and roll, the home of Elvis, of rhythm and blues... "

Their next single, "Tell Her No," also shot to the Top Ten, while the lush and dramatic "She's Coming Home" made the top 50. The Zombies played to wildly enthusiastic crowds all over the planet, and toured America repeatedly. One trip landed them in Memphis, where, on a whim, they dropped by Elvis' house. There was little security in those innocent days and the band strolled through the gates of Graceland and knocked on the front door. Presley's uncle answered and told the boys that Elvis was away making a film, then gave them a tour of the mansion while saying, "Elvis loves you guys and he'll be really sorry to have missed you." Rod dismissed the statement as merely a fine example of Southern hospitality, only to learn that Presley's jukebox was loaded with Zombies' singles.

Despite their huge worldwide fan base and a string of dazzling singles, the hits stopped happening. The band struck a deal with a new label and, even though both John Lennon and the Hollies expressed interest in producing them, decided to produce the next album themselves.

In the legendary Abbey Road studio where the Beatles recorded "Sgt. Pepper," the Zombies' "Odessey and Oracle" was born. The album with the oddly spelled title was their finest work yet; a baroque jewel overflowing with rich, complex melodies, angelic harmonies and lyrics displaying a new emotional maturity. Critics raved about the album, while the public paid no attention whatsoever and the band decided to call it quits.

Rod and Chris formed the band Argent, with Rod leading and Chris producing the group, while the other ex-Zombies pursued new careers. And then a funny thing happened. A radio station in the Midwest began playing "Time of the Season" and listeners loved it. The single became the group's biggest hit, selling over a million in the U.S. and reaching the top of the charts in many other countries.

Despite enormous pressure, the Zombies refused to re-form and cash in on their posthumous smash. Rod explained that while the group had enjoyed a terrific run, the moment had passed. Their enthusiasm was with new projects and the notion of getting back together just for money felt wrong. "It was a special time that, once over, could not be recaptured," he said. "I just wanted to leave it in its undiluted

form Besides, having a hit out of nowhere was wonderful; we could just enjoy it without having the responsibility of trying to think of a follow-up."

Instead of becoming a rock and roll footnote, the Zombies' reputation grew larger with the passing years. "Odessey and Oracle," along with the Beatles' "Revolver" and the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," is often referred to as one of the '60s three finest albums. 1999 finds all five Zombies healthy and happy, thank you very much, while their hits remain prominent via radio, TV and film. Besides listening to their music, you can explore various websites devoted to the band (http://zom.thefondfarewells.com) is a good starting point) and read their full story in Greg Russo's book, "Time of the Season: The Zombies Collector's Guide." So consider this disc a starting point in your exploration of The Zombies, a group that may have disbanded, but, thank goodness, will never ever die.

Ed Johnson-Ott
NUVO Newsweekly
June 1999

1. She's Not There (Rod Argent) Marquis Music Co. Ltd. NOTES:
Charted at number 1 in Cashbox and 2 in Billboard.
2. Leave Me Be (Chris White) Marquis Music Co. Ltd. NOTES: Fan
favorite - very heavily covered by other bands.
3. Tell Her No (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES: Number 6
in both Cashbox and Billboard.
4. The Way I Feel Inside (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES:
Opens with a beautiful a cappella turn by Colin. Listen close for the
sound of footsteps and a tossed coin, an unusual flourish for the
group.
5. She's Coming Home (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES:
Recorded March 2, 1965. Number 48 in Cashbox, 58 in Billboard. Should
have reached number 1.
6. Nothing's Changed (Chris White) Marquis Music Co. Ltd. NOTES: One
of Chris White's finest, from the soundtrack of the film "Bunny Lake
is Missing."
7. I Want You Back Again (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES:
Number 92 in Cashbox, 95 in Billboard.
8. Whenever You're Ready (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES:
Number 110 in Billboard.
9. If It Don't Work Out (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. (NOTES:
Recorded on the same 1965 day as "I Love You," but released in 1969
with vocal and string overdubs. Covered by Dusty Springfield.
10. I Love You (Chris White) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES: An
obscure band called the People covered this in 1968 and made the U.S.
Top 20.
11. Is This The Dream (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES:
Ballsy, Motown-flavored song that, inexplicably, failed to chart.
12. Remember You (Chris White) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES: Another
nice track from "Bunny Lake is Missing."
13. Just Out Of Reach (Colin Blunstone) Marquis Music Co. Ltd.
NOTES: No. 113 in Billboard.
14. Gotta Get A Hold Of Myself (Clint Ballard Jr., Angela Riela)
Memory Lane Music Ltd. NOTES: One of the band's best covers -
released as a single in the U.K. only.
15. Time of the Season (Rod Argent) Verulam Music Co. Ltd. NOTES: No.
1 in Cashbox, 3 in Billboard.
16. Imagine the Swan (Rod Argent, Chris White) Verulam Music Co. Ltd.
NOTES: No. 77 in Cashbox, 109 in Billboard. In the wake of the
massive success of "Time of the Season," the record label pressed
hard for new material, despite the fact that the group had disbanded
months earlier. With Colin, Paul and Hugh gone, Rod and Chris
recorded a few numbers along with members of the yet-to-be-named band,
Argent. "Imagine the Swan" came from those sessions.