Words by Tom Frodsham
Many people know The Zombies for their breakout 1960’s hit ‘She’s Not There’. But you might not be aware that they’ve actually got a pretty impressive back catalogue of psychedelic rock that’s seen them collect well known admirers such as Dave Grohl and oddly enough Eminem.
Last week they were at Manchester’s Club Academy playing to a room packed with silver haired die hard fans and the odd student. The group were introduced on stage as ‘2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees, and 2016 Grammy Hall of Fame Inductees’, not bad for a group of 70 year olds eh?
The groups lead singer Colin Blunstone, decked out in what looked like Topman’s finest leather jacket, had no trouble whatsoever belting out opening track ‘I Love You’. The band promised us a musical journey through their 50 year career as they continued the show with the tracks ‘Woman’ and ‘I Want You Back Again’. Well it was actually the Tom Petty version, of their track, so a cover of a cover of their own song which is always a nice twist.
Throughout the night, original members Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent split the show with stories and tidbits about the songs and their career. They’ve got a new album out ‘Still Got That Hunger’ and following a 6 week USA promo tour (where they’ve got a loyal fan base) Billboard got in touch to tell them the album was in the Top 200 album chart, the first time they’ve been in it for nearly 50 years!
They gave us what I thought of as a good old-fashioned rock n roll show all night. It was a nice touch to split the show up a bit with a 5 song section with tracks from their legendary album ‘Odessey and Oracle’. The album itself is a hidden treasure. Released in 1968 the album was a bit of a flop when it was released but has gone onto gain critical acclaim as it’s matured and has found devoted celebrity fans. It’s even in the Rolling Stones Top 500 albums of all time, impressively at #100. In the set were highlights ‘Care of Cell 44’, and ‘Time Of The Season’. The latter being something of a mega hit worldwide, but not at all in their homeland.
The albums songs are definitely in the realm of late 60’s psychedelia at it’s best with long keyboard instrumentals supplied by Argent. If you ever want a taste of the album’s distinct sound you should check out ‘Time Of The Season’, ‘A Rose For Emily’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’ to give you a flavour of the album. Argent told us how Dave Grohl recently named ‘Care of Cell 44’ as the song that changed his life and made him want to make music. The song itself has been covered by the Foo Fighters and other artists like OK Go and Elliot Smith. It’s quite a remarkable legacy from an album that didn’t even chart upon initial release.
Colin was proud of how their music had reached many audiences in different ways through the years. Their second hit in the USA ‘Tell Her No’ was used in a toothpaste commercial, Eminem sampled ‘Time Of The Season’ on his track ‘Rhyme or Reason’ (“so now we’re on the royalty cheque” Colin is delighted to tell us) and their signature hit ‘She’s Not There’ has been covered and sampled many times, including the Kill Bill Vol. 1 soundtrack, a Chanel No.5 advert, a reimagining on Glee and possibly the most widely known cover version by Santana.
They saved ‘She’s Not There’ for the penultimate track of the set; it sounded as powerful and catchy as the original version from 1964. Blunstone can still hit the high notes effortlessly and like total pros the band didn’t tire or lose the energy all night. I was really impressed with their momentum as there wasn’t even an encore for the last track. Why would they need to? These guys have been doing this for years, they don’t need a 2 minute break to rest their feet. Last track ‘ God Gave Rock And Roll To You’ was one helluva belter that finished the night’s show proving that sometimes you really can get better with age.