“I think it’s great they lasted this long – after all they never stopped did they?”
With these words, Rod Argent, co-founder of The Zombies – one of the bands considered part of The British Invasion, displays his affection for a group which lasted ‘slightly’ longer than his own …
“I remember seeing the Stones when they first came out with the song ‘Come On‘ when nobody knew about them. I went to a club with about seventy-five people and of course they were sitting on stools because they were pure Blues players at that time. I remember being totally knocked out about them and more than I really have been after that.”
Although Argent has not seen any group which ‘blew him away’ since, he does think that The Rolling Stones owe a lot to The Beatles. A group who actually formed one year following The Zombies.
” When The Beatles would come out with a record like ‘I Feel Fine‘ with a particular way of playing guitar, a particular way of ‘riffing’ the guitar – the Stones would come out with something like ‘The Last Time‘. A song that would have the same ingredients …” He laughs. ” I’m not putting the Stones down for this. By the time it channeled through their creativity, it came out as their own sound and they always sounded great. All of their records were always great and continue to be so …”
Even though his band was part of a bigger picture that will forever be linked to music history, Argent and his mates – Colin Blundstone, Paul Atkinson, Hugh Grundy and Paul Arnold did not associate with other British groups. Nor did other British groups associate with them. Bands such as The Animals, The Kinks and The Who along with The Stones and Beatles – never once picking up the phone and talking with their countrymen.
“We never had time – really …” Says Argent from his home in England. ” We were so busy back then! It was like a whirlwind really – one day we were kids with dreams in our heads and the next we are flying off to America! It’s funny. It’s only in the last ten years or so that I have spoken to some of those guys from other groups. Just last week I was speaking to Alan Price from The Animals and we were reminiscing a bit about those days.”
‘Those days’ were 1964.
Chris White had replaced Paul Arnold on bass and the group came out with one of their biggest hits. ‘She’s Not There’ catapulted the band to stardom and eventually – American soil. Their following single, White’s ‘Leave Me Be’, went over well ‘live’ in England yet did not make a mark on the British charts. ‘Tell Her No’, the band’s third attempt, became a Top 10 record in the U. S. but once more failed to hit big in Britain.
“It was funny.” Says Argent. “Here in England, people did not get us like they did overseas. Germany and the States loved us but in our own country – we were nothing except for the song ‘She’s Not There’. I always wonder if that song would have been big without George Harrison‘s help …? He was a guest panelist on a television show we were on called Jukebox Jury. He loved the song and of course – George’s influence was enormous!”
The band came to America touring with other performers such as The Shirelles, Ben E. King, The Shangri-Las and The Nashville Teens.
“I still remember like it was yesterday!” Adds Rod. “Here ( England), we played before 1,500 people who I believe was the biggest audience we had to that point. We get off the plane in America – there are 10,000 screaming girls waiting for us! We thought we were The Beatles or something like that!”
Argent’s own influences when it came to songwriting consisted of The Beatles – a group who Rod adamantly repeats ‘influenced everyone’. The Zombies and Argent relied heavily on harmonies in their songs. They probably rank right up there with The Beach Boys when it comes to a perfect blend of vocals.
“The Beach Boys influenced us a bit later on.” Admits Argent. ” Around 1966 -67. They were great but by that point, we had already established our style and we worked well together. If I had to pick one artist and one song which influenced my particular songwriting style – I would have to say Elvis Presley and the song Blue Moon. When I first heard that, it was breathtaking really… Even now when I listen to it – it inspires me and I get that same feeling I had back when I was seventeen or eighteen years old.”
The Zombies continued to be successful in the U. S but at home in Britain it was the same old story. The songs ‘I want You Back‘, ‘She’s Coming Home‘ and ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ were not as popular in the States as their older songs and in Britain – a disaster for Decca. The band’s record company.
” People think we broke up because of poor record sales.” Explains Argent. “The band was not doing as well as before but we were getting decent royalties. We broke up more because Chris and Paul wanted to make more money. They wanted to start families and needed more income. That is why we broke up really. It had nothing to do with our quality of songs or animosity within the group.”
A few months later, the album ‘Odessey and Oracle’ was released. Critics and fans thought nothing of it at the time. One radio station in the U. S. started to play the song ‘Time of the Season’. So often that it hit number five on the U. S. charts and suddenly The Zombies were more popular than they had ever been. That album has become known as one of the all time best albums. The Zombies version of ‘ Pet Sounds’ or ‘Exile on Main Street’. It ranks number sixty in the top 100 albums.
A staggering statistic considering the band was no longer together even though record companies were willing to give ‘big bucks’ for the group to re – unite. Something that makes Argent sometimes wonder ‘what if ‘ …
Not often though.
“I am a very positive person and I always think to the future. ” Says Argent. ” That is why I formed Argent in lieu of a Zombie reunion.”
Please stay tuned for Part Two of my interview with Rod Argent.