The group formed in 1961 in St Albans, England, and gained their initial reputation playing the Old Verulamians Rugby Club in that town. After winning a beat-group competition sponsored by the London Evening News, The Zombies signed to Decca and recorded their first hit, “She’s Not There” (Argent’s second song, written specifically for this session), which was released in mid-1964. The minor-key, jazz-tinged single was first played in the United States during the first week in August 1964 on New York City rock station WINS by Stan Z. Burns, who debuted the song on his daily noontime “Hot Spot” segment during which new songs were played. The tune began to catch on in early fall and eventually reached the Top Ten.
In 1965, “Tell Her No” also became a huge seller in both England and the United States. Although subsequent recordings such as “I Love You,” “Indication” and “Is This the Dream?” were of uniformly high quality, none achieved the success of the previous two singles.
In 1967, The Zombies signed to CBS Records for one final LP, only the second of their career and the first one produced as a single unit. Their previous LP, Begin Here (1965), was a collection of early singles, half a dozen original songs combined with several R&B covers. The resulting album, Odyssey and Oracle, was one of the very first to utilize a Mellotron keyboard, as the band's budget did not allow for the hiring of session musicians.
By the time Odyssey and Oracle was released in the spring of 1968, the band had broken up. The album sold little, and was only released in the US because musician Al Kooper vouched for it. An album track called “Time of the Season” was released as a single and later (1969) it became a huge hit when a DJ discovered it and put it in rotation. Since the group refused to re-form, various concocted groups tried to capitalize on the success and falsely toured under the band’s name.
After The Zombies, Rod Argent formed a band called Argent, while Blunstone eventually launched a solo career. In 2003 Blunstone and Argent reunited to record and tour, and released an album in 2004 credited to The Zombies (As Far as I Can See...), which received generally poor reviews.
Guitarist Paul Atkinson died in Santa Monica, California on April 1, 2004.
Having revisited their 1960s landmark Odessey and Oracle a few years back, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone revive The Zombies as a going concern, with a new album – Breathe In, Breathe Out - that repositions the band within the sonic lineage of Steely Dan.
The serpentine melodies and smart-aleck musical chops of tracks like “Any Other Way” and the title-track could have come off Aja or Gaucho, and elsewhere an authentic 1960s progressive-pop tone is sustained through Argent’s surging organ and sly piano, combined with the layered harmonies of Blunstone, whose voice seems impressively unravaged by time. There are echoes of “The Long and Winding Road” in “Shine on Sunshine”, while the reflective “A Moment in Time” could have come from Odessey and Oracle.