The Zombies - photo by Michael Sherer
I was quite pleased to be present for The Zombies’ last tour as it came through the most major of all its U.S. stops, my hometown of NYC. And what a venue to experience it, the fabled Town Hall, one of the oldest and charming venues in the city. Opened in 1921 in the Times Square area with a capacity of 1,500, its acoustics and sight lines are excellent, especially from my seat a few rows away from center stage.
Some contextual history for this band is in order. They were founded in 1961 in St. Albins, Hertfordshire, England by Rod Argent, Paul Atkinson and Hugh Grundy, with Colin Blunstone and Paul Arnold joining soon after. All were late teenagers still in school. They were originally called The Mustangs, with Arnold suggesting changing it to the far more unique The Zombies. After scoring some hits, the band unfortunately broke up in December of 1967, months before their second record was released in April, 1968. That record, Odyssey & Oracle, is ranked number 100 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. This final tour is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its recording. It contains one of their best songs, written by Rod Argent, called “Time Of The Season.” It was a big hit, peaking at number 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1969, after building up from its release the year before.
After breaking up the band reunited briefly a few times throughout the decades, but a stable and constant reformation has been in place since 2004. Sounding great with their biggest hits being played, including Time Of The Season, She’s Not There, Tell Her No, I Love You, and Hold Your Head Up, this was a must concert for fans, especially because the band is winding down their career. Hold Your Head Up was by Argent, Rod Argent’s group formed after the breakup The Zombies. It was a substantial hit for them, and at 6:28 in length it was about twice as long as the average Zombies song. Longer, more free form songs were the way of the ‘70’s, which Argent was a part of. Bassist and elder cousin of Rod, Jim Rodford, was a founding member of Argent, and has been The Zombies’ bassist since their 2004 reformation. Jim’s son Steve is their drummer. Tom Toomey is on guitar. Everyone in the group is a very good musician.
There was a video screen behind them with various images and patterns, as well as their band name. The lighting was simple and tasteful. This was a concert that was mainly about the music, which there was plenty of. There was also interesting antidotes told by Argent and Blunstone, with some of the band’s history noted.
After an intermission the band returned to the stage with bassist Chris White playing instead of Jim Rodford. White was the band’s second bassist, having replaced their first, Paul Arnold, who left the band in 1964, very early in their career. He became a physician. White quickly became the band’s other main songwriter with Argent, and wrote seven of the twelve songs on Odyssey & Oracle. He also wrote much of Hold Your Head Up for Argent, along with Rod Argent.
This was a stellar concert from one of Britain’s first wave of bands to “cross the pond” into the U.S. in what’s known as the British Invasion. Well over fifty years on, its sounds and ethos still reverberate world wide.