The Zombies on the strange 2nd life of 'Time of the Season'
Singer Colin Blunstone on what happens when a hit song outlives your band.
In 1969, The Zombies had a huge hit on their hands with "Time of the Season," a chart-topping song that, in effect, became the soundtrack to the hippy era. The only problem was, the Zombies wasn't a band anymore. The British group had broken up years earlier and, to make matters worse, its members didn't even know the song was doing well.
"News did get to us more slowly in those days," says frontman Colin Blunstone over the phone. "We did know it was picking up radio play, but there was no band. It was recorded in '67, released in North America in '68, and 'Time of the Season' wasn't a hit till '69. We were all committed to other projects by then and there was no conversation about the band re-forming and getting out and touring."
This created a vacuum that could really only exist in a time before the internet. With a hit song and no one to play it, fake Zombies bands started to form and tour North America.
"In those times, I don't think anybody even knew what we looked like," says Blunstone. "I know there were at least three bands going out and touring as the Zombies. We had this huge hit record and there was no band. It's not an ideal situation, but I'm not going to come down too hard on anybody who filled the vacuum. I want musicians to be able to work, and that got some guys out on the road, so good luck to them."
Including, most famously, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard of ZZ Top.
"Hopefully, it helped pave the way to the huge success they had later on," Blunstone says. "I'd be more concerned with them not being very good. If they were good, even better than us, I could quite get into that I think."
At the same time, the real Zombies were offered a million dollars to reunite and tour in support of Odessey and Oracle, the album the song was from, but they simply weren't interested.
"I remember the million dollars," says Blunstone. "It's a lot of money now, but in 1969, it was a huge chunk of money. We were offered that, but it never became a conversation."
That said, the band did reunite in 2004 to create new music, and this year it's playing Odessey and Oracle in its entirety to celebrate 50 years since its recording. It will be the first time they've played the album, now considered one of the greatest of its era, in Canada, and the tour includes the current incarnation of the band as well as the remaining original members.
"It's a big sound and it means we can replicate every harmony on the album and every overdubbed solo," Blunstone says. "If you want to see Odessey and Oracle performed, this is really the last time. We did it for the 40th anniversary, and we're not going to do it again. You can't live your life by looking back. You've got to do what you believe in."
The Zombies kick off the Canadian leg of the Odessey and Oracle tour April 1 in Montreal before dates in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. For full details go to zombiesmusic.com.
— Jesse Kinos-Goodin, q digital staff