60s British pop legends The Zombies, led by vocalist Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent play Cardiff’s Tramshed on June 12.
The band’s live performances, take fans on a journey through time, from their early hits, She’s Not There and Tell Her No through their 1968 masterpiece Odyssey & Oracle via post-Zombies solo favourites right through to today with Still Got That Hunger.
In the second part of our interview with Colin Blunstone, Andy Howells chats with the vocalist about The Zombies split and subsequent reformation.
The Zombies made a huge impact in America scoring hits with She’s Not There and Tell Her No among others. Was there some frustration for you all as you didn’t achieve as much success back in the UK?
Perhaps there was. Especially when you are teenagers you do want to have success in your own country. In one respect, I think we were a bit naïve there, because when the band finished in the summer of 1967, we felt we weren’t successful. Its only afterwards when we looked back that we realised we always had a hit record somewhere, but we didn’t really have much success in the UK.
I think if we’d have been older and had a bit more sophisticated input from management we’d have realised that our careers were still very much alive.
You all remained friends when the band split?
We had stayed in contact. It was remarkably amicable really. The end of the band was fairly inevitable and we tried to make it as un-traumatic as possible. Speaking from a personal point of view I had no idea what I was going to do afterwards.
So how did you carry on with your recording career?
A producer called Mike Hurst who produced the early Cat Stevens records just phoned me. I think he was interested because Time of the Season (a single from Odyssey & Oracle that charted in the US following the bands split) had become a hit in the States. He said “Would you be interested in recording again?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back into the recording industry because it had been a bit traumatic with the band finishing.
In the end, in the evenings I went into the Olympic studios in Barnes and literally put vocals on tracks and Mike came up with the idea of rerecording She’s Not There and using another name. I’m not really sure why but I had three singles out under the name of Neil McArthur and the first was a rerecord of She’s Not There. It just about crept into the Top 30 in the UK and I was back in the music business again.
A few months later I was coming back from a party with Chris White (The Zombies bass player) and he said “Why don’t you come and record with Rod and I?” And it was almost like been with The Zombies again. Instead of using the name Zombies, we used my name. We recorded an album called One Year and in many ways that’s where I consider my solo career began as there was quite a big hit on it called “Say You Don’t Mind”
So, with a successful solo career, what led you to reforming The Zombies in the late 90s with Rod?
It’s a fact that we were working together on and off all the way through until we put the band back together again. I started playing live again in 1997. Don Airey, the keyboard player from Deep Purple rang and said “You should be out there again” I’d managed to let that slip and just be a recording artist.
Don put a wonderful band together for me. That band stayed together for some time then one by one they drifted off on to their projects. In the end I rang Rod in 1999 as I’d got 6 dates that were coming up. He said “Okay I’ll play keyboards for six dates but I don’t want to go back on the road permanently, but we both enjoyed it so much those six dates have grown into 19 years. Its amazing the original band was only together for six or seven years
You clearly still enjoy performing live!
I don’t think anybody would go out on the road with the kind of diary that we have if they didn’t enjoy it because its physically quite demanding. We’ve already done two tours of America this year and I’ve also done a solo tour.
Usually, I ask artists of great longevity what their personal career highlight is, but from the sounds of it you are still having them!
This is the highlight!, Because we finished in 1967 and felt we were unsuccessful, when Rod and I came together again, we weren’t expecting the interest in The Zombies repertoire, we discovered on a worldwide level there was a huge interest in The Zombies.
It took us quite by surprise. We’ve managed through playing solidly over the years to heighten the profile of The Zombies to a level we never dreamed of when we first started, as we are playing major venues around the world.
How about new recordings? Do you have plans to make a new album any time soon?
The only problem is we’ve got so many touring dates this year, it’s difficult to get into the studio, but I would hope that we will start recording something towards the end of the year.
You’re playing Cardiff’s Tramshed venue. Do you enjoy visiting Wales?
I love coming to Wales as I’ve got lots of friends there so am really looking forward to it!
The Zombies play Cardiff’s Tramshed on June 12. Tickets available from http://www.thezombiesmusic.com/tour-dates