Colin Blunstone of The Zombies: A Conversation

The Zombies

With only their second album, The Zombies single-handedly managed to typify the sixties. And with their reunion concerts, The Zombies managed to reignite interest in the era, before signaling a more technological age with their forthcoming concert. Streaming live from Abbey Road studios,  the band’s first “World Tour in One Night” Livestream will happen on September 18, 2021. Potential readers can watch the gig (tune in via: https://thezombies.veeps.com/), and Colin Blunstone took the time to talk to CultureSonar about the band’s lasting legacy.

CS: Are you playing a gig at Abbey Road?

Colin Blunstone: We are. I’m thrilled that we are going to be playing in Studio 2, which is where The Beatles recorded. It’s our first gig in about eighteen months. I think we played our last gig in December 2019-that was in Spain.  We’ll be playing for an hour and a half: five new songs, five songs from Odessey and Oracle, and some of the more popular songs like “She’s Not There.” We’re streaming it online.

CS: Did you record Odessey and Oracle at Abbey Road?

CB: Yes. That was in Studio 3, but I remember it vividly.

CS: What was Geoff Emerick like to work with?

CB: Geoff was fantastic. He did the engineering on “Time of The Season”, but I can’t remember if he mixed it. He definitely engineered it. There were two engineers on that album: Geoff Emerick, and Peter Vince. It was very sad with Geoff, because he came to one of our gigs shortly before he died. He came up to us and said, “We must work together again.” And who knows? We quite possibly would have! I read his book, which I think is called Here, There and Everywhere

CS: It is.

CB: Yes, because it goes into The Beatles sessions, which is fantastic, but he also recorded Paul McCartney for many years.

CS: Paul was likely his favorite, as he had the greatest vision of the four.

CB: Maybe. Who knows what John and George could have gone on to do? Ringo’s still a major touring artist, but he wasn’t a strong songwriter. I’m constantly amazed at Paul McCartney’s workload, and the work he has recorded.

CS: Am I permitted to ask what it was like working with Mike Batt as a solo artist?

CB: Course you can! Yes, I’m trying to remember the names of the songs. You’re the first person who has ever asked me about working with Mike! One of the songs has a tiger…

CS: Tiger In The Night.

CB: Yes, that was a lovely song. And the other is…No, that’s an Alan Parsons song. I had a lovely time working with Mike, and I hope he doesn’t take offense. But when you’ve been recording lots of songs for sixty years, you forget the names of some of them!

CS: He told me you were his second choice to sing “Bright Eyes,” after Art Garfunkel.

CB: He told me that too- I took it as a compliment!

CS: You mentioned Alan Parsons-what was he like?

CB: Alan’s a lovely man. He was an engineer at Abbey Road when I first met him. I got to know him more because he lived near me. When he talked about putting together his own solo album, he asked if I would be interested. As it happened, I was living in America for the first album, but I did sing “The Eagle Will Rise Again” which was on his second [sic] album. He was great, as was Eric Woolfson. I sang a few more songs for Alan- I think I’m on the Ammonia Avenue album. That said, I thought I was on one album but found out I wasn’t when I read the listings. I must have been declaring myself wrongly for years! But they had great success: At one point, “Eye In The Sky” was number one in every country in Europe and number three in America.

CS: You mentioned a new album- is there anything you can tell us about it?

CB: We’ve started working on some new songs. Rod Argent has built a new studio, so we have been rehearsing there. But it’s been very slow because of the lockdown. What we’re trying to do is have everyone in the one studio work on the material. These days, it’s possible not to have everyone because of digital transposing, but you don’t have the same energy like you do when everyone is in the same room. And our bass player’s Danish, so it’s been slow [chuckles].

CS: Most bands have one songwriter, but The Zombies had two. Was there competition between Rod Argent and Chris White?

CB: I wasn’t conscious of competition-if there was, it was very friendly. They both wanted to write, so they both contributed to the songwriting. They didn’t write together, although their names were put together after the band split up. Maybe there was a sense of friendly competition between them, but it was very amicable.

CS: “Time of The Season” was recently used in a Ridley Scott film starring Christopher Plummer …

CB: Yes, All The Money In The World it’s called.

CS: It’s used regularly in films; what is it about the track that proved so long lasting?

CB: It’s one of those life mysteries. A lot of people in America associate The Zombies with the sixties. It was probably because of The British Invasion, and the countercultural phenomenon that was created, but The Zombies seem to be in sync with the sixties. Our music seems to typify that era. This year alone, “Time of The Season” was used in Cruella. It was also used in Titane, a French film that won the Cannes Festival this year. And the trailer for Where’d You Go, Bernadette — a film starring Cate Blanchett –used The Zombies music. Our music seems to appeal to everyone. And then there’s “This Will Be Our Year,” which is another track from Odessey and Oracle. That was used on an advert in America for Kohls. Three films, and an American commercial!

Related: “Take An ‘Odessy” With The Zombies”

CS: How do you feel about Odessey and Oracle now?

CB: It’s interesting. When we recorded it, I thought, “How can we do any better?” Unfortunately, it didn’t do very well commercially; I mean, it did hit the Billboard 98. “Time of The Season” was a hit single, but even with a hit, it didn’t sell very well, and it was hard to keep the enthusiasm for it. But over the years it’s gained great popularity. Paul Weller has been very generous with his praise, in that regard, and over in America it was people like Tom Petty and Dave Grohl that brought attention to it. We never really marketed it, but it gained popularity, mostly by word of mouth, and eventually Rolling Stone put it in their top 100 albums. Considering this was not an album that sold very well on release, this was very encouraging.

CS: That reminds me of Love and Forever Changes.

CB: We toured with Love, actually. It was their last tour with their main man [Arthur Lee], so we got to hear many of those songs. He died shortly after. It’s a great shame. They seem much more popular these days than they were then. It seems to be the same for us, so it would be better if we could do the tour now.

-Eoghan Lyng

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2 comments on “Colin Blunstone of The Zombies: A Conversation

  1. Harry Wilson

    Zombie, Zombie, Zombie…

  2. Cathy Griffin

    Thank you for telling us about the streaming concert. I was lucky enough to see it and enjoyed every second. What a treat!

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