In retrospect, it’s kind of a miracle that the Zombies didn’t fade into obscurity after their 1960s heyday.
They were one of the seminal groups of the British Invasion, they were responsible for two of the era’s defining singles – “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” – and they played shows with everyone from the Beach Boys to the Shangri-Las.
“It was a really exciting time for us,” the Zombies’ lead singer Colin Blunstone recalled during a recent phone interview. “When we recorded ‘She’s Not There,’ I was 18, and I went from being in a local band to traveling around the world. It’s what every young musician dreams of.”
But after three years of incessant touring and recording an ambitious album called “Odessey and Oracle” that was released to public indifference, the band called it quits in 1968.
“It became exhausting,” Blunstone said. “We were one of those bands that played live all the time, and the record companies would demand a new single every 6 or 7 weeks. That’s very challenging when you’re traveling at the same time.”
The band’s breakup was amicable, Blunstone said, and shortly thereafter he was working an office job to make ends meet.
Then a funny thing happened. A whole year after the Zombies had parted ways, the closing track from “Odessey and Oracle,” a jazzy head-trip called “Time of the Season,” became an unexpected smash in the U.S. The song was so popular, in fact, that it wasn’t uncommon for no-name bands to book shows pretending to be the elusive Zombies in hopes of making a quick buck.
“I was starting to get a lot of phone calls about ‘Time of the Season’ taking off in the States,” Blunstone said, and it inspired him to go back into the studio. “After work, I’d spend the evening singing tracks, at first just for fun,” he said.
Produced by former Zombies members keyboardist Rod Argent and bassist Chris White, several of Blunstone’s solo songs became hit singles in the U.K. “I found I was a recording artist again, almost by chance,” Blunstone said.
It would be a number of years before the Zombies would officially re-form, albeit in a different incarnation. Since 2001, Blunstone and Argent have toured as the Zombies, playing the band’s classic hits as well as highlights from their respective solo careers.
“It’s like a musical journey, really,” Blunstone said. “We’ll play songs from our very first recordings, and we’ll put in some brand new songs as well. They all interlock very well. Often we’re really thrilled that we get as good a reaction to new songs as we do the Zombies classics.”
For a band whose original lineup only lasted a few years, the Zombies have had a pretty remarkable shelf life, and “Odessey and Oracle,” that record nobody bought back in 1968, was listed by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 greatest albums ever. Blunstone and Argent put out a new studio album called “Breathe Out, Breathe In” in 2011, and they’re currently on their third American tour since re-forming.
“It’s been really interesting to see this project grow,” Blunstone said. “It’s really been one of the most exciting parts of my career.”
If you go
What: The Zombies, featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent
When: Today at 9 p.m.
Where: Riverfront Park, Clocktower Stage
Cost: Free, as part of Pig Out in the Park
Also at Pig Out’s Clocktower Stage: ’90s rockers the Spin Doctors (“Two Princes,” “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”) perform at 9 p.m. Sunday, and Southern rockers A Thousand Horses play at 9 p.m. Saturday. For a full schedule, visit spokanepigout.com.
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