The Zombies, British Invasion contemporaries of the Beatles who blended rock and roll with rhythm and blues, and then also transitioned to more complex, psychedelic songs around 1967, have caught fire with a critically acclaimed new album and coast-to-coast tour, according to fan Maggie Clarke, who saw them perform on their tour that finished at the Fillmore in San Francisco Oct. 27. The group featured all four of the surviving 1960s-era Zombies. The show included a complete note-for-note performance of the legendary “Odessey and Oracle” album that included the U.S. top 10 hit “Time of the Season.” Also featured were songs from their new album “Still Got That Hunger,” and other Zombies gems.
Though the Beatles and the Zombies never met in the 1960s, the Zombies walked into Abbey Road studios to record “Odessey and Oracle” days after the Beatles walked out after having recorded “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Clarke says John Lennon had left his mellotron, and Ringo had left a number of exotic percussion instruments on the floor, all of which the Zombies quickly appropriated and used liberally throughout the album. In addition to the excellent, state-of-the-art recording facilities that had just been upgraded by the Beatles for their album, the Zombies also used the same engineers as the Beatles, including Geoff Emerick.
In the last 10 years, there have been a couple of notable connections between the Zombies and the remaining Beatles. Ringo Starr welcomed Zombies keyboardist and composer Rod Argent to his All-Starr Band tour in 2006, where he performed Zombies and Argent songs. And more recently, Clarke says that as the Zombies’ new album, “Still Got That Hunger” was just two days away from going into production to have copies ready for the October tour, it was almost derailed by Sony Music, but saved by Paul McCartney.
One of Argent’s new songs, “Maybe Tomorrow,” included the line, “I believe in yesterday” and a melodic similarity to the Beatles song. Sony said the album could not go to production with it that way, and the only thing left to do was to write to McCartney’s personal manager to plead for an exception. As Argent relates, introducing the song in concert, how cheeky it was for them to ask that Paul override Sony policy and do it “in two days”! But in two days the Zombies got the message from Paul. He approved and allowed the album to go forward.
The album, featuring nine songs by Argent and one by Blunstone, and lead guitar by Tom Toomey, Jim Rodford (Kinks, Argent) on bass, and Steve Rodford on drums, has been getting good reviews. And Clarke has her own special memory from the tour. She sang “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season” with the Zombies at their sound check at the Park Theatre in Cranston, Rhode Island on Oct. 10, 2015 because she supported the band with a contribution to their PledgeMusic project, which helped fund their new album. You can see the video on this page.
The Zombies are on a roll. They’ll be headlining at the upcoming Abbey Road on the River show May 26 through May 30 in Louisville, Kentucky.