The Zombies, one of the most masterfully melodic bands of the British-invasion era, broke up in late 1967 after only five years together. The band members, frustrated with the lack of label support, went their separate ways two years before “Time of the Season” was released almost as an afterthought, becoming the rock quintet’s biggest-selling song.
Two key players – keyboardist Rod Argent and singer Colin Blunstone – have kept their friendship intact. Argent – who wrote “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season” – formed the harder-edged Argent in 1969 with guitarist Russ Ballard and had a Top 10 hit in 1972 with “Hold Your Head Up.” Blunstone, meanwhile, enjoyed a moderately successful solo career and recorded several Argent-penned tracks.
Now, some 30 years later, the two have joined forces for their first album together. “Out of the Shadows” was released April 2 in the U.K. on Red House.
Argent sat down recently with Pause & Play to play “10 questions” via e-mail, touching on the Blunstone-Argent collaboration, their current tour and even the dreaded mad-cow disease.
Pause & Play – So, who gets top billing?
Argent – “The billing we get is equal – just like in the Zombies!”
P&P – What prompted “Out of the Shadows”?
Argent – “The collaboration came about as a matter of coincidence. I had agreed to put together a charity concert to raise money for a new theatre in Milton Keynes (a city close to where I live), which consisted of me playing half an hour of solo classical piano, then, accompanied by bass and drums, a short jazz set, and finally a reunion of Argent with all the original members.
“It was a great evening and in the final set I asked Colin, who I knew was in the audience, if he fancied coming up onstage to sing ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Time of the Season’ with us. He very gamely did so, and afterwards said to me, ‘OK – now you can repay the compliment! I’ve got a mini-tour of six gigs coming up. Why don’t you play keyboards for me?’ We put together a great band and had such a ball that we decided to keep things going. Out of that came a tour, and after about a year this new album.”
P&P – Tell us about the songs.
Argent – “The songs were all written by me. The idea was to renew the partnership that we had in the Zombies; and I must say that it’s great to have Colin singing my songs again. I think that there is definitely something there for the Zombies and Argent fans. Songs like ‘A Girl Like That’ and ‘Baby Don’t You Cry No More’ seem to me to have real resonances of Argent material, and much of the rest of it feels to me like a natural progression from the sort of thing we were doing as we broke up in the late ’60s.
“I think one of the reasons for this is the fact that we made a conscious decision to make the album organic – very few synths, lots of Hammond organ and an effort to get great performances from all concerned.”
P&P – When will it be available in the states?
Argent – “We are initially going to concentrate on promoting the album in the U.K. – but then will definitely plan to place the record with a company in the states!”
P&P – What was it like collaborating with your son, Mark, on one track?
Argent – “We didn’t actually work on the song together. Mark had written a poem some time before Colin and I had decided to make an album, and I had seen and loved it, and asked him if he would mind my setting it to music. In the event, it was a difficult task, because it had been written as a poem, not a song, and I had to find a way of following its shape and be sensitive to the feelings within it. But I loved doing it, and am really happy with the result.”
P&P – It’s also nice to see you working again with Russ Ballard, your fellow Argent member (collaborating on one track).
Argent – “Believe it or not, all the time that Russ and I were together in Argent, we never ever wrote a song together! It was great working with him, and we’ll definitely repeat the experience.”
P&P – Ready to take the show on the road?
Argent – “YES! The band sounds great live and we can’t wait for this tour to begin. Playing live again is such a buzz!”
P&P – What was the first record you ever bought?
Argent – ” ‘Singing the Blues’ by Tommy Steele, an English rock ‘n’ roll singer. The record broke, and I replaced it with the original version by Guy Mitchell. However, this was followed shortly by the real beginning of my collection – ‘Hound Dog,’ by Elvis.”
P&P – What was the first concert you ever went to?
Argent – “A local gig by The Bluetones in 1956. The band was led by my cousin, Jim Rodford, later to be the bass player for Argent. It had a huge impact on me, and I knew that evening that one day I HAD to have my own band.”
P&P – Has the mad-cow disease outbreak affected your eating habits?
Argent – “For years, I’ve tried to eat organic food wherever possible, and there has never ever been a recorded case of BSE (mad cow) in organically produced meat. However, I am trying to take care of my health in lots of ways now and find that I only eat red meat occasionally anyway.”
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