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Whenever you're ready: The Zombies target 50th anniversary of British Invasion

The most influential '60s pop-psychedelic band that you've probably only heard fleetingly, the Zombies' rich and varied discography truly offers something for everyone. Now led by two founding members – singer-songwriter Colin Blunstone and keyboardist-songwriter Rod Argent – in addition to stalwart bassist Jim Rodford – who played on the group's unheralded final single sessions and later joined Argent and the Kinks in quick succession – in the '60s the Zombies never experienced the accolades befitting their massive talent. That would come much later, particularly in America.

Colin Blunstone ably demonstrates his handball prowess as his Zombie bandmates stoically guard the goal, 1965: An image originally used for the LP cover of "The Zombies," a greatest hits compilation released in Sweden in 1966
Colin Blunstone ably demonstrates his handball prowess as his Zombie bandmates stoically guard the goal, 1965: An image originally used for the LP cover of "The Zombies," a greatest hits compilation released in Sweden in 1966
Image Credit: Big Beat Records
Before there was such a thing as The Walking Dead...the unsettling cover of Time of the Zombies, a greatest hits compilation released by Epic in America; the LP debuted on May 25, 1974, barely charting at No. 204 Pop
Before there was such a thing as The Walking Dead...the unsettling cover of Time of the Zombies, a greatest hits compilation released in the USA. The LP debuted on Billboard on May 25, 1974, barely charting at No. 204 Pop. Image Credit: Epic Records

Blunstone possessed an ethereal vocal instrument capable of articulating why he couldn't declare his undying devotion to a sunny girlfriend on the hypnotic "I Love You." Conversely, Blunstone could summon a soul shattering cry on the group's effective rendition of Little Anthony and the Imperials' "Goin' Out of My Head." The song interpreter's voice is unmistakable and wholly original, and he has experienced a plethora of imitators during the ensuing years. Progressive rockers the Alan Parsons Project shrewdly featured Blunstone on various albums in the 1980s.

Apprenticing in a cathedral choir as a child, Argent served as the wizard behind the curtain – anchoring the foundation of every band performance on a vast array of classically-inspired Hammond B-3 organ solos, penning all their major hits, and supplying Hollies-esque harmonies and occasional lead vocals ["She Loves the Way They Love Her" is one of his finest moments in that department]. Argent later decisively proved his commercial potential when his eponymous band scored a Top Five single with "Hold Your Head Up." The Who even seized the pianist's prodigious talent on the ubiquitous "Who Are You."

Three singles, bolstered by Hugh Grundy's underrated broken drum patterns and Chris White's fluid bass lines, reached Billboard's Top Six in a five-year period – their debut, the spellbinding, slightly eerie "She's Not There," "Tell Her No," and "Time of the Season."

The latter became their biggest hit record while the accompanying album, the psychedelically diverse Odessey and Oracle, was an underground critical darling…inexplicably months after the group called it quits. Odessey is currently ranked No. 100 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. A recent telecast of AMC's Mad Men spotlighted "This Will Be Our Year" from Odessey in a pivotal scene during the "A Day's Work" episode.

Diverse artists including Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Beck, Dave Grohl, and Arctic Monkeys have sung the praises of the Zombies. The quintet was finally nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, some 25 years after they became eligible.

One year later found the group recognizing the 50th anniversary of the British Invasion with dates in the USA. Definitely catch the Zombies' electrifying road show if they happen to appear in an intimate venue near you. Still unsure? Then investigate the video of the tantalizing, shoulda-been-a-major-hit, "Whenever You're Ready."

  • DON'T GO ANYWHERE YET! The Beach Boys were at a crossroads in the early ‘70s, exacerbated by Brian Wilson's dwindling creativity. Fortunately for listeners everywhere, little brother Carl had a remedy. He had propitiously been demonstrating his burgeoning production skills since the soulful "Wild Honey" arrived with minimal fanfare in 1967. Gradually taking over the leadership reins from his elder brother, Carl was more than ready to put his stamp on the band's 18th long player, along with a little help from two South African musicians with a penchant for hard driving rock 'n' roll, Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. An in-depth feature on "Carl and the Passions – So Tough" sheds light on an often misunderstood period in the group's renowned discography. At least for a season, this was not your parents’ square fun in the sun band anymore.

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Further Reading: Although originally covered by the Beatles (John Lennon on lead), Smith truly captured the counterculture's collective consciousness during the summer of Woodstock and Easy Rider with a fiery rendition of "Baby It's You", originally written by Brill Building pianist Burt Bacharach. A resounding Top Five single captained by the gorgeous, pre-American Idol Gayle McCormick belting the lyrics with intense abandon, the band inexplicably never had another hit. For the complete lowdown on why fans of classic '60s rock still hold the performance in such high esteem, head on over to "One Hit Wonder Flashback: The Timeless Allure of Smith's 'Baby It's You'".

Exclusive Interview: Dubbed the resident genius of the Monkees, a still-controversial band among some rock critics who rivaled the Beatles and the Rolling Stones for a time, Michael Nesmith knew he wanted to play music upon graduating from San Antonio College. The son of the inventor of liquid paper, Papa Nez participated in the incredible rat race of Monkee celebrity, but his heart lay in songwriting. After composing Linda Ronstadt's first hit, "Different Drum," Nesmith exited the band that made him a household name and ventured into the uncharted waters of country rock with his First National Band. The cosmically conscious musician surprised fans by spending much of the past few years on the road and agreed to spend some time with this writer on his musical back-pages, Elvis Presley, some tunes worthy of rediscovery, and the unimagined joy of touring again. Visit "Still Rollin' with the Flow: Twists and Turns with Songwriter Michael Nesmith" for the juicy enchilada.

Exclusive Interview No. 2: The Master of Telecaster, James Burton, is a charter member of legendary '60s L.A. studio wizards the Wrecking Crew. Burton has supported a who's who list of preeminent movers and shakers in a nearly 60-year career – notably Elvis Presley, John Denver, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Merle Haggard, and recently Brad Paisley. The guitar maestro joined Rick Nelson in late 1957 for the driving "Stood Up" b/w "Waitin' in School" rockabilly single, soon rooming with the Nelson family and ultimately forging an 11-year friendship with the handsome singer. To read a revealing in-depth feature with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer commemorating his fascinating journey with Nelson ["Six String Brothers: James Burton Champions the Timeless Allure of Rick Nelson"], simply click on the highlighted link.

  • Further Reading No. 2: When chanteuse Bobbie Gentry burst onto the psychedelic Summer of Love landscape with the mysterious "Ode to Billie Joe", usurping The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" from its number one perch, who could have imagined the massive success awaiting her? She also recorded a fine duet album with Glen Campbell in 1968 on Capitol Records. Country artist Reba McEntire revived interest in the singer when she made "Fancy" her theme song, decades after Gentry had a moderate hit with the Southern Gothic recording. To read about Gentry's enduring significance and exactly why she abandoned her career, visit the following link: "Ode to Bobbie G: The music and mystery of a Mississippi Delta Queen."

Exclusive Interview No. 3: Cherie Currie, best known as the former lead singer of '70s female punk icons the Runaways, lived the ultimate rock and roll fantasy until it came crashing down in a raging sea of inner band turmoil, trashed hotel rooms, financial mismanagement, and substance abuse. After an extended lost weekend invigorated by the success of The Runaways, a film based on her shocking memoirs and starring Dakota Fanning and Twilight's Kristen Stewart, Currie is ready to rock 'n' roll all night. In an extremely personal chat ["Believe in Yourself: Words of Wisdom From..."], the blonde bombshell revisits her meeting with singer-songwriter John Denver, the eclectic music she would take with her if stranded on a desert island, whether there is such a thing as the perfect guy, what she is most passionate about, what makes her angry, facing online criticism, the tragedy of living on pipe dreams, and much more.

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© Jeremy L. Roberts, 2014. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in full without first contacting the author. Headlines with links are fine. In addition, posting any links to Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or Google Plus is sincerely appreciated.

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