R.I.P.

So, I’ve wanted to transcribe the back cover to The Zombies’ (now legit) follow-up to Odessey and Oracle as I felt the band’s own explanation of what R.I.P. is will better suit those needing to know than me trying to piece together any sort of sloppy, half-baked narrative. So, without further ado, here is, in its entirety, the explanation of The Zombies’ R.I.P.

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America’s love affair with The Zombies began in September 1964 with the release of, “She’s Not There,” and has more or less ebbed and flowed ever since. The song found almost immediate popularity on US regional radio charts and in October reached the national Billboard singles chart, rising to #2. In their homeland, the disc had peaked at #12 and The Zombies quickly earned the distinction of being more popular in the States. As proof, their follow-up release, “Tell Her No,” registered similarly, reaching #6 in the US and #42 in the UK. It would be their last UK chart single, leaving little room to redress the balance of their American popularity.

Despite radio and television appearances, two stateside visits and a slew of impressive singles on Parrot label, The Zombies also hit a commercial wall in America by the end of 1965. in 1966, they no longer bothered to invade the colonies and throughout 1967 they focused on recording an impressive long player, Odessey And Oracle. By 1968, they quietly disbanded due to the continued lack of interest in their fine recorded and live work.

As for their stateside record released, they seem to be well and truly buried. Following one single on Columbia (#Care Of Cell 44″), The Zombies’ new material was moved to the Date label. This seemed like the bitter end until a third single from the album, “Time Of The Season,” began picking up regional airplay in October 1968, long after it had been forgotten by the band and their label. Through the winter of 1968, it rose from the dead and by March 1969 had reached #3 nationally. As a result, Odessey & Oracle was also reissued in a revised album jacket and crept into the album charts the same month (reaching a high of #95).

Behind the scenes, The Zombies’ key songwriters, Rod Argent & Chris White, had made significant progress during 1968 to demo new material and were on the verge of launching a new band when this success lit up their phone lines. The Date label wanted a follow-up and fast. Despite the demand, it was unlikely that the original Zombies could be revived given that the other members had quickly moved on from music. Vocalist Colin Blunstone worked in insurance, guitarist Paul Atkinson focused on computers and drummer Hugh Grundy tried auto sales. Meanwhile, in the United States a group of imposters assuming the name of The Zombies toured the country, shamelessly riding on the success of “Time Of The Season.”

“We would never get together again,” remarked lead vocalist Colin Blunstone in February 1969, “we’ve all agreed on that. It was  put to us, but we decided not to. There would be complications with contracts if we wanted to reform. it was not a case of me not wanting to join them, it was a mutual decision.”

However, no contractual issues prevented Argent & White from returning to the studio to record new material under the name The Zombies. At Morgan Studios in December 1968, they taped six new masters (“Imagine The Swan,” “Conversations Off Floral Street,” “Smokey Day,” “She Loves The Way They love Her,” “Girl Help Me” and “I Could Spend The Day”) and subsequently dusted off outtakes from past Zombies sessions spanning 1967-1966 with engineer Gus Dudgeon.

“Well,” explained Colin Blunstone in a rare interview with the UK music paper Top Pops published in March 1969, “CBS (Columbia/Date) wanted an album for America, so we used old tracks which had never been released. I sing on one side of the L.P. We brought the tapes up-to-date by adding certain things and taking away others. It sounds very complicated, but I think it turned out well.”

The “certain things” added where orchestration, backing vocals, additional keyboards and, in the case of “Walking In The Sun,” a new lead focal from Colin (who was now coaxed out of retirement and poised for a comeback under the name Neil McArthur with the revamped revival of “She’s Not There”). This album – evenly split between the new and the old – was given the clever title of R.I.P. and delivered to Date in early 1969.

Sadly, this project met its demise through commercial indifference, after a couple of pilot singles – “Imagine The Swan” and “If It Don’t Work Out” – failed to excite buyers (despite some snazzy cartoon promo ads). Although it undoubtedly features some of their finest recordings, this is the first legitimate issues of the R.I.P. album as it was originally intended in the United States. And so it seems that The Zombies, one of the finest groups to emerge from the 1960s, have gone on to an even more beautiful afterlife.

– Andrew Sandoval

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