Ipswich: Zombies are alive, kicking and coming to the Regent

The Zombies

The Zombies - Credit: Archant

They were at the forefront of the rhythm and blues boom of the 1960s and although they broke up in 1967, their revival 15 years ago was nothing short of amazing.

The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds - Credit: Archant

The Zombies hit the charts almost immediately with She’s Not There, but further success eluded them in the UK and they decided to call it a day.

The Zombies might have finished, but we weren’t finished with The Zombies.

Just as they split, their album Odessey & Oracle (sic) became a massive hit in the States and has since become a cult album, with many artists from Tom Petty to Paul Weller citing it as an influence.

Resisting the temptation to get back together, the band continued their new careers with solo success musically for keyboard player and songwriter Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone.

But The Zombies – just like their horror-film namesakes – just would not die. In 1999, Rod and Colin teamed up again to play Zombies music – and they are still doing it.

“It’s such a surprise there’s still this interest in the band – a worldwide interest at that. In fact, no-one is more surprised than us,” says Colin, 68.

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“When Rod and I got back together again in 1999 we had no intention of doing more than six shows and here we still are.”

The band’s music evolved from the early rhythm and blues into jazz-influenced pop and rock.

“We were a Rhythm and Blues band,” the singer says. “In fact, our original name was Zombies R ‘n’ B.”

Colin’s breathy, wistful voice was the perfect foil to Rod’s keyboard work, but Colin has his own idea about the group’s success.

“I think we had two phenomenal writers in Rod and Chris, they were very prolific and they wrote some timeless classic. Funnily, Rod says he learnt to write songs by writing for my voice, but I say it’s the other way around – I learnt to sing from the songs he wrote.”

Now The Zombies - who now include ex-Kink Jim Rodford on bass, his son Steve on drums and guitarist Tom Toomey - are touring the UK again in a special revue celebrating the 50th anniversary of RnB.

Accompanying them on this tour are such luminaries as The Yardbirds, The Animals and Friends, Maggie Bell and Spencer Davis.

“I’m absolutely looking forward to the tour,” smiles Colin. “We’ve worked with The Yardbirds and The Animals before and they’re really good lads. I worked with Spencer in America, but I’ve never worked with Maggie before and I’m quite looking forward to that.”

With so many artists on the bill, The Zombies will be playing a shortened set.

“As things stand, I believe we’re closing the show and will be doing about 40 minutes,” he says. “We’ll give the set a flavour of RnB, as that’s what we’re celebrating, but people do want to hear the hits so we’ll put as many in as we can.”

Not just The Zombies’ hits either.

“We hope to do some of my hits and the Argent hits which always seem to go down well.”

There will also be a new(ish) song.

“We will probably play Breathe Out Breathe In and I Want You Back Again as they’re quite bluesy.”

The first is the title track of the band’s most recent album which was well received.

“It really did make an impression,” says Colin.

I Want You Back Again has recently been covered by Tom Petty. It seems that the music of The Zombies is still contemporary, says Colin.

“Yes, it’s strange,” he says. “Eminem sampled Time of the Season on his recent Rhyme and Reason and last year’s film The Conjuring opens with that song.”

After the tour, The Zombies will perform on The Moody Blues Cruise with The Moody Blues, Carl Palmer and Roger Daltrey before heading to the US for a short tour.

“We were incredibly busy last year,” adds Colin, “and in the autumn of our career we have to pace ourselves a bit,” he laughs.

“I was recently asked what the difference was between the 1960s and now. I said the main one was that in the 1960s, when the show finished, the evening began. Now, we can’t wait to get home.”

The band have also started recording a new album.

“It’s early days yet. We’ve recorded one track and it’s just finding the time to get in the studio. However,” Colin concludes, “one thing for certain is we want to continue playing for a long time to come.”

The Ultimate Rhythm and Blues 50th Anniversary Tour featuring The Zombies, The Yardbirds, The Animals and Friends, Spencer Davis and Maggie Bell, comes to the Ipswich Regent on Sunday, February 2.

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