The Zombies - Photography by ALEX LAKE insta @twoshortdays WWW.TWOSHORTDAYS.COMTHE ZOMBIES

By: Lori Smerilson Carson  |  Photos: Alex Lake

It was sixty years ago that the world was introduced to the start of some amazing rock and roll songs that were indeed, part of the British invasion. The Zombies released their hit single “She’s Not There” in 1964 which climbed the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, selling over one million copies and reaching Gold RIAA status. Then in 2016, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Since their self-titled debut album in 1965, they have continued to release extraordinary, catchy rock music and in 2019, they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Most recently, they released their latest album different game in 2023. Currently, they are taking their new music, as well as their legendary hits on tour, and Florida Fans will be able to see their shows at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on April 11th, and at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on April 12th. They will also perform On The Blue Cruise out of Miami on April 5th– April 10th.

Catching up with Keyboardist/Vocalist/Songwriter Rod Argent just prior to the tour, he revealed some details about their new music, some of their past hits, and what fans can look forward to with The ZOMBIES new show that Argent and fellow band members, Lead Vocalist Colin Blunstone, Guitarist Tom Toomey, Bassist Søren Koch, and Drummer/Percussionist Steve Rodford, will be performing.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the Florida shows in Fort Lauderdale, Clearwater and the cruise as well?

Rod Argent: Well, I can tell you. One of the things that’s always been really important to us, is that we still do it for the right reasons. I mean, we’re not doing it to try and make a buck although, I’m not against that in any way or form, but we do it really because it’s what’s always driven us, and that’s never been any different. So, we will do stuff from our new album. Probably four songs I would imagine, that had the most terrific reviews, both in the U.K. and the U.S. In the U.K., the first time in ages, we had full page reviews with pictures and everything in The Times, The Guardian, The Independent. All the major qualities. We had a terrific reaction really, and to our shows that we were promoting it with. So, we’ll do probably four songs from that, but also, all the other things that you would imagine like “Time Of The Season” and “She’s Not There” which we still enjoy as much as ever, playing. We still have a ball doing that. Some stuff from early Zombies cart. Early Zombies albums. In fact, we’re even thinking at the moment, and we haven’t rehearsed it yet, so don’t know, of starting just for fun really, going right back to the very first EP we ever did. Very first recordings we ever made, and doing a little section of maybe three or four songs to open the show, just with a small net base really.  That could be really good fun. I mean, one of these songs was virtually the first song I ever wrote, and we haven’t played it onstage since we did it in the beat competition which was the competition that we won which led to our first recording contract in 1963 (he laughed). So, its extraordinarily old, but that would be really good fun, and strangely enough, it still gets loads of streams now, even from all that time ago. So, you’ll get some of that. You’ll get some deep cuts, and you’ll get for instance, a song called “I want You Back Again”, which we’d forgotten about completely until we found the Tom Petty cover of it on a vinyl album, not that long before he died actually, and we thought wow, we never played this. It sounds great! We never played it onstage. You’ll get some Odessey and Oracle, and you’ll also get one of my solo songs that I did with Argent. The band I was in that followed THE ZOMBIES. We’ll do “Hold Your Head Up”. We do a really sort of energetic version of that. So, that sort of mix of stuff really.

SFL Music: That’s definitely something for fans to look forward to. You mentioned the new album different game which was recorded with live tracks, like before the seventies?

Argent: Yeah. What actually happened, was that we’d been touring a lot in the States leading up to the time when we were inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. The band was sounding so good, that I said, you know what? When we get back, I’ve already written two songs, we should do a recording in the way we used to have to do it many, many years ago because there was no alternative. So, it means everyone being in the same room at the same time. Not having click tracks, not using SAR Tools and stuff, so that everyone slightly bounces off each other. You find that you adjust minutely what you’re playing, to what you’re hearing on the spur of the moment. We did that with Colin doing a live guide vocal basically. That was the idea. We thought that we would play all the solos, but we’ll then revisit and we can redo the solos, redo the lead voice. Most of the time, we didn’t revisit anything. It was such fun. There was so much energy doing that, and of course it means that we could do virtually anything onstage that we did in the recording process. It also meant, that rather than spending a week on a track which could easily happen, we were doing it typically in about, the main track was recorded in maybe six hours. Four, five, six hours. Then the following day, we would revisit, but as I said, we often didn’t redo the lead vocals because they sounded so good in that energetic live format. We barely revisited any solos either. We used the ones that we recorded on the master track. We did a bit of overdubbing on the second day. Maybe with harmonies, just touching up some harmonies, etc. Mainly, it was very much as we always used to record in the old days, and it was so energizing. It was fantastic. We had a ball doing it.

The Zombies by ALEX LAKE INSTA @TWOSHORTDAYSSFL Music: You can hear that on “Rediscover” which opens with acapella harmonies, and the harmonies on “Different Game”, the title track. What would you say inspired those? Was there a theme with the album?

Argent: It wasn’t really a theme as such. A lot of people thought with Odessey and Oracle, that it was a concept album. It wasn’t really. It was just done to the background of the times, and with this one, what actually happened, we recorded the first two tracks. It felt so good we said, ok. Fantastic! Let’s carry on. Then COVID hit with a vengeance, and for about two and a half years, it stopped us carrying on with that plan because our base player for instance, comes from Denmark, and there was no way he could come over and be in the same room at the same time. That was really important to us with this project. So, they gave me the time to write the rest of the material, and it meant that about two years later when everyone did get together again, we just carried on and it was great! So, we had the best of all worlds really. It was a really, really enjoyable process. Within that process, we had to at some point, we started to do some touring again. On one of the small tours that we did, was a co-headline with the Brian Wilson band. We’d worked with him before, and that was great fun. It really was, but quite often, your dressing rooms are quite close to each other. So, there was one night in particular when all the Brian Wilson band were out in the corridor, and Brian was there as well, and they started just singing acapella. It was something they were working on, and it sounded so great. The next day we had off, and I was in my hotel room, and I got a bit of manuscript paper and I thought, do you know what? Just for fun, I’m going to write a little acapella thing. Just eight bars, and we can see how that works when I take it to the guys tomorrow, they could try it out. To my amazement, it sounded really lovely. It became, the beginning eight bars of “Rediscover”. I had already written the song “Rediscover”, but the eight bars at the beginning, the acapella thing, came really indirectly from hearing The Beach Boys working out next door. It was nothing about what The Beach Boys were doing that made us particularly cover anything musical in that. It was just a concept. So, little things like that just came up on the spur of the moment, and it made everything so sort of prompt and fresh. So, that was part of the process too.

SFL Music: On “I Want To Fly” you have violins played by Laura Stanford and Ellie Stanford, Amy Stanford on the viola and Jess Cox on the cello. How did that all come about? What inspired that song?

Argent: If you go way back to 1970, after the Zombies in their first incarnation, out at that time, Chris White, the bass player and myself, produced an album for Colin Blunstone because we were still huge friends. It was Chris’s idea, this particular thing, to get a string quartet. It’s a very unusual background with strings, but in the end, it was hugely enjoyable. The guy that Chris found through a family connection, one of his family were in the music business and they said, “the guy you should get is this terrific guy. He writes classical music, he writes symphonies and everything, but he also does a lot of themes for television and background music. So, he’s got some quite famous stuff. You should try him out.” So, we did, and we did a very avant-garde version of “Misty Roses”, a Tim Hardin song, and I absolutely loved it. So, that initial idea was Chris’s, but it was my idea to make it really avant-garde. We were gonna do the whole album that way, but in the end, we did maybe half the album like that. Chris Gunning was, the arrangements he did and the orchestrations on that one year album which was Colin’s album, and to match it with something of Colin with strings, that was really, really lovely. It’s had some huge reactions over the years. There was a Denny Laine song, a rock and roll song, “Say You Don’t Mind” which we always used to finish our set on when we were in the very early days. We said, why don’t we do a version of that, but just purely with strings. We did, and it became a huge hit in the U.K. and in Europe.  I know it never did very much as a single in the U.S., but it was a huge hit. A huge success, and we really wanted to see if Chris would revisit that just for one track. I had written a song on a previous album called “I Want To Fly” and I’d done the arrangement actually, but I said, why don’t I play it to Chris to see if he’s interested in doing an arrangement. I refused to play him my arrangement. I just played him the song, and wrote out the lyrics and the chords and everything. Played him the song, and he loved it, and he went away and did it. So, it was really just a throwback. A sort of loving throwback to that 1970 album that we loved so much from Colin. We loved the way it worked. And actual fact, Chris Gunning then died quite recently. Last night, my wife and I went to a concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and they had brought lots of stuff that Chris has done. He’s written thirteen symphonies. He’s written many, many famous themes and background music for programs and series over here, and they played all these things. They got Colin to sing one thing from the one year album. Then they asked if they could play “I Want To Fly”, and they did it with a seventeen piece string section, whereas, it’s only basically a string quartet plus bass on our album, but it’s the same arrangement. So, it was a lovely lookback to that. That was how that came about.

SFL Music: What would you say inspires THE ZOMBIES music that you write and have written over the years?

Argent: Its always the same thing. If it’s me, you know, I’m trying to write a song, and I hit on something which really starts to give me pleasure, I’ll work on it. If I can get to the point where in some sense it speaks to me, playing, which I always think it’s quite a magical thing anyway for anyone who writes. There is something that comes from you don’t know where, and it certainly lifts it above just the mundane for you when you’re doing it, and it gives you so much pleasure. Then if you could move yourself to any degree at all for a little bit, there’s a chance that you might be able to touch somebody else. So, what I always do, if I get an idea that I like, I’ll work on it and finish it, and then I’ll get Colin over and we work on it together. Then we see if we can get through that next stage and that Colin really likes it, and we start to get excited ourselves. If we do, we’ll play it for the band and we’ll finish it, but it’s always for those reasons because for pleasure it gives you to fulfil that initial idea. It’s like nothing else actually, and it’s such a gift to be able to earn your living that way. It really is. It’s something that I’m really so thankful that in some way or other, I’ve been able to do that throughout my whole life. It’s such a pleasure that has actaually happened.

SFL Music: Would you attribute that to your success? Like you said, you’ve been inducted into the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and have been successful throughout the years. What would you attribute to the longevity that THE ZOMBIES have had?

Argent: Yeah, I would because in a way, we’ve always done it for real. We’ve never done anything to say, how can I make the most commercial thing now? We’ve never done that, and it’s had the result right from the beginning. The record companies have never thought that what we’ve done has been commercial. Even with “She’s Not There” and “Time Of The Season” which are, I mean, “Time Of The Season” for many years, one of the top thirty ever selling English singles, you know, records. Yet, the record companies have always liked them, but I’ve always said, yeah, but it’s not commercial. Then when they finally put them out, because they’re not fashioned to sound like the last big year. Because you’re doing it for real, you stand a chance many years down the line of being able to relate to a current generation. One of the things that really knocks me out, is the fact that when we play most gigs, obviously there are people who have followed us all the way through. There are people of many different ages, but it’s hugely always a fairly strong young component in the audience as well. People from fifteen and sixteen years old upwards, and many people in their early twenties, mid-twenties, and we find that in the U.K. too. So, that is something which is so rejuvenating. The fact that these guys can like a lot of other music that’s out there, and at the same time, they still respond to ours. That was unlooked for, and it’s really very satisfying and rejuvenating, actually.

SFL Music: What would you recommend to a new band?

Argent: I’d say that thing. I’d say, always do what you’re doing for the right reasons because when you start out in music, always, or almost always, you do it for the joy of doing it and the excitement of doing it. And really, if you reach that wonderful state where you actually get paid for it, then just remember that. If you end up earning a living from it, which is only the top few percent, you have to be lucky with timing, with everything for that to happen. If you can get to that stage, just count your blessings and always do it for real, is what I would say. I mean, I loved music so much right from an early age, that I often wake up and think, I’d be paying to do this and yet, people are paying me to do it, and that’s such a bonus.

SFL Music: Great advice! What got you into music originally? What influenced you to become a musician?

Argent: Music for me was always the real world really. It was where I’ve always felt most at home. I was an only child, so I didn’t have brothers or sisters, and I felt most complete and most in touch with things when I was involved with music. My parents both loved music. Different sorts of music. My dad had his own semi-pro dance band that he led from the age of seventeen to the age of eighty-three. My mum loved classical music, but it was a very sort of popular classical music, and that was all I heard at that time. Then through me dad, I heard things like Duke Ellington, which I adored right from the beginning. Through mum, I was exposed to one of two things that made me really start to love some classical music. Then she got me involved with a great choir. It was just very lucky. It was a cathedral choir, and it had a fantastic choir master and master of the music. He was a brilliant organist and he became one of the best organists in the world. He was only twenty-six when I tried out for this particular choir, and got in. It really opened my eyes to a whole different world of music. I loved that, but I still didn’t really like popular music at the time because it was pretty anodyne leading up to the mid-fifties. Then one day, I happened to hear Elvis (Presley) singing “Hound Dog” and it blew my world apart. I, like many other guys that ended up in bands in the U.K., it was as John Lennon said, “before Elvis, there was nothing.” Those early two or three years when he first started making records, were just such a revolution and it led me into so much music. I loved the rawest rock and roll I could find. Little Richard, Jerry Lee (Lewis) and then very quickly into areas with Ray Charles singing. Ray Charles blew me away completely. I always thought that Elvis was my intro to black music by proxy because I had never been exposed to any blues or rhythm and blues until I discovered that Big Mama Thornton did the original “Hound Dog”.  I heard that, and it blew me away completely.  Then you know, found my way to listen to Ray Charles. I always remember I bought an album in 1958 or ’59 which was Ray Charles in person. He recorded it in Atlanta, Georgia and the DJ who recorded it, did it with one mic. It still sounds brilliant, the album. I think it was a wonderful time to be young actually, at that time, and then with jazz as well. At the same time, as I was knocked out with Elvis and knocked out listening to some classical music, The Miles Davis band, this post bebop band, was just really fabulous. It was just a great time to be exposed to all the music that was coming through at that time, and I loved all of it. I didn’t see any difference really in the sense that I got just as much out of listening to Miles, as I did listening to Elvis, but not one more than the other. I love rock and roll and I loved the jazz that was around at the time. Still my favorite genre, jazz, and I love classical music. So, it was just being emersed in all this wonderful stuff.

SFL Music: You can hear that in the music and with the strong vocal like on “Got To Move On” with your keyboard solo. It definitely stands out in your music and that’s very cool.

Argent: Oh, thank you.

SFL Music: You’re welcome. Are there going to be any new videos or anything else fans can look forward to?

Argent: I know there isn’t anything being planned right at this moment. We’ll just have to wait and see.

SFL Music: That’s something to definitely to keep an eye open for. Was there anything else you wanted people to know about the tour or your latest album different game?  Anything else for fans to know about?

Argent: I do think the current format of the band is really exceptional, and I think Colin is singing as well as ever. I still love playing, and everyone listens to each other and gets off on the live performances. So, fingers crossed for a good tour (he laughed).

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