The Zombies Will Never Die

The Zombies at SXSW 2013 (photo credit Lavid Photos)
The Zombies are one of the most tragically underrated bands of the 60's. Fortunately, they are still kicking! Their originality earned them a mixed blessing. Whereas a few of their songs -- most notably "Tell Her No," "Time of the Season," and "She's Not There" -- performed well on the Billboard charts, their material did not typically cater to pop trends, and the original line-up disbanded in 1967; however, 50 years after they recorded their first record, their compositions are still appealing to new audiences and inspiring other musicians and filmmakers (such as Eminem and Quentin Tarantino). Keyboardist / founding member Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone have been performing as The Zombies, consistently, since 2001 and continue to record Argent's inspired works. On the occasion of their visit to Southern California (tomorrow at House of Blues in San Diego and Thursday at Santa Monica Pier), the Weekly caught up with Argent to talk about the unique musical life of The Zombies.

OC Weekly (Scott Feinblatt): Your first hit song, "She's Not There," is not like anything else that was playing at the time. What were some of your inspirations?

Rod Argent: Well, it was just about the second song I ever wrote, and I think the sort of indirect inspirations came from all sorts of places. I was in love with rock 'n roll; I loved what The Beatles had been doing in the UK because they sort of really hit for two years before they made their huge impression in America. So, it was '62 onwards that they really became very big in the UK. But at the same time, I was in love with the Miles Davis band and a lot of jazz at the time. The band that he had with John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, and a little bit later Bill Evans, who I still think is the most wonderful pianist. So that was all going on in the background for me, and I was still listening to classical music, which was my first love when I was growing up. But the actual, direct inspiration came from...I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna write a song for the session (our first recording session)," and I started playing some of my old blues albums. And I played a John Lee Hooker album, and there was a track on it called "No One Told Me." Now, I hasten to add nothing else in the lyrics bore any relevance to "She's Not There," and neither did the melody or anything like that, but I just liked that as an opening phrase. I started to spin a song off those few words. I wanted it to have a very Blues-based melody because I loved all of the R&B things that were going on at the time; I loved Ray Charles, for instance. So, I wanted the melody to be fairly Bluesy; I wanted each verse to build to a conclusion that was sort of exciting, which is why you had the high sort of one note thing with changing chords underneath it, that Colin was singing, and we were all singing harmony. I wanted it to have harmony, and we always really featured that strongly in our band. I wanted the verses to have a broken drum rhythm, so I guess that was the whole thing, really. I never thought of it particularly having any jazz influences, but I guess looking back on it, the fact that there was an improvised piano break in the middle of it -- electric piano break -- was pretty unusual at the time, and did owe something to the jazz I'd been listening to. But, I wasn't thinking, consciously, in those terms at all.

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