My interview with Colin Blunstone of the Zombies as published by LA Record:
By the time the Zombies’ 1968 song ‘Time of the Season’ became a staggeringly huge radio hit, the band had already broken up. In March, surviving founding members Colin Blunstone (vocals), Rod Argent (keys), Chris White (bass) and Hugh Grundy (drums) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the their only proper LP, “Odessey and Oracle” — now regarded by critics and music fans alike as one of the best albums of all time — with a double-disc live recording. Blunstone speaks now with Linda Rapka.
The Zombies just released the double-CD “Odessey and Oracle: 40th Anniversary Live Concert.” How’d the idea of performing the entire album come about?
We realized it was forty years since the album was released, and it just seemed a good idea to celebrate the anniversary. We did three nights and all sold out, so we thought it also might be a good idea to record it. We DVD’d it as well. The CD has just come out in the UK. The DVD will be a bit later.
What’s it like to have respected peers and droves of fans sell out three nights of live performances for an album initially regarded as a failure?
It’s intriguing, isn’t it? First of all, it’s just very exiting. Whenever an album gets that kind of a response — even when you have to wait quite a long time! — it’s exciting; it makes you feel like your work has some worth. In some ways it’s intensified because it’s taken such a long time. It kind of validates what we were doing, like, ‘Yeah, we were on to something!’ At the time I really felt it was a strong album. I think that’s probably part of the reason the band finished — we’d only released one or two singles, but they went nowhere, and that was that. The band did finish before the album was even released. That does seem a bit premature. Maybe we should have waited a bit longer.
What do you think would have happened had the band not split?
Going on from a scene of ‘what if,’ it does intrigue me sometimes because I felt that at that time Rod and Chris were at the height of their songwriting capabilities. I would have been intrigued to have seen what we could have done next. But it doesn’t make any sense to think like that really. I think it makes much more sense to concentrate on what’s going on at the moment.
Is it true that up until just recently you were unaware ‘Odyssey’ was spelled wrong on the album?
I knew it was spelled wrong, but I thought it was spelled wrong on purpose. The cover was printed by an artist called Terry Quirk. We had a release date and the printing presses were ready to go with the artwork when suddenly he realized he’d spelled it wrong. Obviously, it wasn’t done on the computer in the ‘60s; it was a painting. Rod Argent and Chris White decided to concoct a story about how it was done on purpose, a play on the word ‘ode.’ They decided they would even tell the other members of the band this so it would sound more authentic. So I believed it until two or three years ago when I was doing a radio interview with Rod and he said it was a mistake and they tried to cover it up. I thought, ‘I don’t believe you’ve kept that secret for about 37 years!’ I thought it was really funny. Terry Quirk’s a wonderful artist, but he’s not a very good speller.
In the sixties “Odessey and Oracle” went virtually unrecognized until an entire year after its release, when ‘Time of the Season’ became a massive radio hit in the States—after the band had already broken up. After this success, why didn’t the band regroup?
Everybody had decided that it was time to move on and try new projects. Once we had split Rod and Chris were really committed to their new band Argent, and although the Zombies did have that huge hit ‘Time of the Season’ and we were offered a lot of money to come to the States and tour, it was never even a conversation. We were all involved in new projects. Everyone thought the time had passed.
There’s talk that the Zombies may do some live performances of “Odessey” here.
All I can say is that discussions are ongoing. There’s also talk of us doing a few more nights in the U.K. as well next year. It’s just because it was so successful and there’s a demand. To start with, we were only thinking of doing one night, and it spread to three. It’s not something that we really ever thought about touring in the full sense, but we’ve been offered a very big venue in London and four other dates around the country, and I would imagine that if we did it in the U.S., it would only five or six concerts at the most.
You once said your dream band would be made up of all bass players. Who would be in this ultimate bass lover’s band?
I don’t remember saying that! But I’m a huge fan of Sting so I’d expect to pick him if he wouldn’t mind being in my band.