I had the honour of interviewing Colin Blunstone from The Zombies. He spoke about their upcoming gig at the London Palladium and the truth behind the spelling of Odessy in their hit album Odessy and Oracle.
You’re playing at the London Palladium in September, are you excited?
Very excited. I think it’s wonderful to be playing in one of the prestigious theatres in the country. It’s very exciting when we put the original line up, sadly Paul Atkinson died in 2004. It’s exciting when we get back together, we played in Spain a week ago – played in Barcelona – This could well be the last time we play Odessy and Oracle in the UK. It’s always a special occasion. It’s quite emotional and full of memories
It’s emotional. We recorded in 1967 – 50 years since it was recorded – 67 then that triggers other memories of ones youth. There are some quite sad songs and some joyous songs as well. I do find it an emotional roller coaster playing an album which is celebrating its 50th anniversary with close friends. It is definitely going to be an emotional charged evening. There will be lots of family and friends there celebrating this iconic moment in The Zombies history.
What has changed in the music industry?
Everything has changed and changing incredibly fast, day by day in some instances. I think what has changed the most is people can have a lifetime career in the music industry. In 1964 when we became professional musicians, it was generally accepted you would have a 2/3 year career but that isn’t the case now, you can have a full career in the music industry.
I think people realise now it’s more international industry used to be UK focussed. But even as The Zombies we play abroad more than the UK. We are touring in the states all the time. The technology side is just totally different to what it was. The changes are just incredible. Now it’s limitless what you can do with digital recording but it can confuse the issue as there are so many choices on how to record now it makes it more difficult. There are hundreds of options you didn’t have in 1964.
If The Zombies were starting out today do you think they would have the same commercial success as they did?
Difficult to know. I don’t think anybody knows but I think we would have stood a good chance. We had two prolific writers in the band who wrote timeless classic songs, which was one of the main strengths of the band. I think we would have stood a chance at being successful now.
Some of your biggest hits are still heard and used today, that must be quite an achievement for you.
It’s very exciting and it’s taken me quite by surprise thinking back to 1964. Music 50 years back from 1964 was not playing then but now She’s Not There is playing all the time. And Time of the Season is by far our biggest hit. It is played all around the world but it was never a hit in the UK.
That is something you have to learn. Record successes change very much by territory and country. A hit song in the UK might not be a hit in other countries. But there is something about The Zombies songs.
Chanel used She’s Not There for a worldwide advert. Last Christmas Starbucks used one for the American TV campaign. Our songs are constantly being used in TV and adverts. Eminem sampled Time of the Season on his latest album. Our songs are continually being used in a contemporary war which gives us a contemporary edge. We are not a nostalgia band. We are still recording new songs and albums now. Our last album in 2015 was on the Billboard top 100
We are not a nostalgia band. We are still recording new songs and albums now. Our last album in 2015 was on the Billboard top 100 list. People might not be aware of the contemporary edge the band has.
So you did split up in the 60s but are you back together for good?
Yes we are. For the foreseeable future. We got together my chance to play 6 concerts in 1999 and we just kept going. The two original members, including myself, and the rest of the line up has stay ed the same over the last 20 years.
For 18 years we have been together and toured all around the world. We do around 3 US tours a year which is quite unusual for UK-based band to play in US as much as we do. We do spend most of time touring in the States.
Why the US rather than UK?
Well there is a much bigger market and a bigger demand for The Zombies. It could be because we are part of the first wave of British invasion. We went there shortly after the Beatles and there was this fascination with the British invasion.
It leads to people wanting to come see us in the concert – all top 5 records over there. Our iconic last album Odessy and Oracle, Rolling Stones nominated it in the top 100 albums of all time. And this is what we will play at the London Palladium. It has a standing that it doesn’t quite have in the UK, people are fascinated by that album.
Is it true the spelling of Odessy was simply a spelling error?
It is sort of if you think back before computers. The painting of Odessy and Oracle was a piece of art. It was hand painted by an artist Terry Quirk who I know quite well. He went to the same school as me and I admit I cannot spell very well. He may have spelt Odessy incorrectly and nobody noticed. The artist made a spelling mistake. We were abroad so we didn’t have
The artist made a spelling mistake. We were abroad so we didn’t have chance to see it before it was already at the printers. It’s now become folklore. The spelling has become just as popular as the album. It sort of the same mystique of the album.
After The Zombies ended you had a successful solo career. Was it difficult to change from a band to solo?
It’s certainly different when the weight of responsibly is solely on your shoulders. Probably the edge was taken of me as I had Rod Argent produce my first album. It was co-produced by two of the original Zombies. So it was the same project but under another name.
It’s interesting to get involved in solo career after being involved in a band. I’m involved with The Zombies but still have a solo career. I still go out and tour and make albums. I enjoy having two careers. When The Zombies are having a quiet period I can go out and tour under my solo career.
It doesn’t seem like you will ever be slowing down.
Touring and performing is quite physical. It probably will come a time when we have to slow down but we have all agreed we will keep going while we can and long may it last.
So what has been the highlight of your career?
The reincarnation of The Zombies started in a low key manner in 1999. We were playing quite small venues and weren’t billed as The Zombies. We had no idea that we would be reforming The Zombies. We were playing with a group of musicians coming together. There is a huge international interest in The Zombies.
And it’s been great to see that interest grow, to see them growing in bigger places. We managed to relaunch The Zombies and now it’s quite a formidable touring entity. We get to play concerts in some of the biggest theatres in the world and that’s just been done by continually touring and word of mouth.
Would you ever want to collaborate with any current artists?
No I don’t think so. I’ve got my hands full now. There are loads of wonderful artists but I am very happy to just listen to Elton John, Sting, all these wonderful artists and I am very happy to go to their shows and listen to their records without having to force myself on them but of course I do have favourite artist.
And finally what is the weirdest thing a fan sent you?
Cannot think of single thing – huge bouquets of flowers but flowers you can’t hardly get into the room. We have had items of underwear thrown on the stage. One item was a large and generous variety thrown at us in Seattle. As they floated down with the lights behind them it looked like a parachute. I do remember them quite well. I didn’t know what to do with them. I just left them.