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Rise of the Zombies

Legendary soul/R&B/pop group the Zombies headline the House of Blues Aug. 20



    In 1968, CBS Records released the psychedelic pop album entitled "Odessey and Oracle" by a British soul/R&B outfit named the Zombies. The sensational lead single off the record, "Time of the Season," took off stateside, peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and eventually became an international hit for the group by 1969.

    Not bad for a band that had broken up two years prior.
    "I think there was a feeling within the band that nobody wanted to look back," the Zombies frontman Colin Blunstone recently told us by phone. "And while it was totally unexpected, there were never any conversations at all about re-forming the band. Everybody thought [the band] had had its time and it was time to move on."
    The quintet (who headline the House of Blues on Aug. 20 and include original members Blunstone and principle songwriter, Rod Argent) built a massive following in the U.S. with their soulful, minor-key ruminations on love and loss such as "Tell Her No," "Whenever You're Ready" and "She's Coming Home" -- but never really took off in their homeland apart from their sole UK Top 40 charting single, "She's Not There."
    "Who knows why it happened? There are other British bands that have been huge here, and have never really established anything in the States," Blunstone recalled. "I tend to just be grateful and celebrate successes now. I realize there are deep and incredible mysteries about the music business that I'll never understand. I don't look for the answers that I used to look for, years ago -- I just enjoy it, really. But we were huge hits in the far East, especially the Philippines, and that took us completely by surprise."
    Indeed, the Beatles weren't the only pop band screamed off airport tarmacs and greeted by legions of adoring fans, as Blunstone witnessed firsthand.
    "In 1967, we went to Manila and when we got off the plane, there were thousands of people at the airport, and we thought, 'There must be someone famous on the plane,' you know? There were TV cameras there and everything. Then these people started putting garlands around our neck and filming us and we go, 'It's us!'" [laughs]
    Audiences responded then, and they certainly respond now. Their records are more popular than ever: In 2012, "Rolling Stone Magazine" placed "Odessey and Oracle" at number 100 in its "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list, and countless contemporary bands and musicians have cited the Zombies as a main influence. When asked if the band would've stood a chance starting out in today's musical landscape, the velvety voiced frontman was charmingly optimistic.
    "I get asked that a lot and the quick answer is 'I don't know.' Would Babe Ruth have been a successful baseball player if he were around today? Yes, but he might be fitter, stronger, faster -- just because everyone else is. Generally speaking, that's true with musicians and artists. They might have to take slightly different avenues or develop in a different way, but I think there's a good chance they would be successful if they were trying to make it in the music industry now. And that includes the Zombies -- I think we would have a good chance but we would be slightly different."
    Even though the band has played sporadically since 1991, there's a certain sense of renewal with this tour. In a refreshing change of pace from cash-grab band reunions, it seems as though Blunstone is just as excited to hear the band playing music as we are.
    "We got together again because we like performing with one another and recording with one another. We didn't realize there was a worldwide interest in the Zombies until we started playing live; there were times that I thought we had been forgotten, honestly. It's just incredible and really exciting that it's not the case at all. People seem to be really enjoying it. To be performing as the Zombies -- it's unbelievable."
    The Zombies headline the House of Blues Wednesday, Aug. 20, with Mrs. Magician and Cheers Elephant opening. Tickets are available online here.

    Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.