Saturday, November 5, 2016

SHG: The Zombies: "She's Not There"

The Zombies: “She’s Not There” Entered the chart on: 11/7/64 Peaked on: 12/12/64 Weeks at #2: 1 Song at #1: “Mr. Lonely” by Bobby Vinton

It’s funny, I was looking forward to 1964 so much. That was before I examined the year more closely. After that first rush of Beatlemania, it’s kind of a roller-coaster ride, alternating classics and crap. At least we end on a high.

Here at the end of the year we get another British Invasion act. The Zombies were probably the most musically sophisticated of those bands from the first wave of the British Invasion, thanks to the one-two punch of Rod Argent’s jazzy organ playing and the evocative, smoky vocals of Colin Blunstone. It’s odd, it took me a while to appreciate Blunstone’s voice, and via two cover versions from his post-Zombies years—his 1972 chamber-pop rendition of Denny Laine’s “Say You Don’t Mind” and a 1981 rendition of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?*”

While researching this feature, I was surprised to learn how few hits the Zombies scored, a grand total of three top ten hits, and that’s it. Meanwhile, the Dave Clark Five charted 17 top 40 hits between 1964 and 1967, all of which you most assuredly have forgotten (I know I have). Life can be so unfair (I mean, just look at what’s in the #1 spot this week! Really, people?). I suppose it’s better than in their native land, though, where this was their only top 40 entry, peaking at #12. Santana’s cover (#11) was more successful over there, as were both Blunstone and Argent in their post-Zombies careers.

Needless to say, this is one of those songs I’ve been eager to review, so let’s not carry on dilly-dallying...

Man, this band was super-tight! The way Argent’s electric piano meshes with Hugh Grundy’s drums over the instrumental intro is not something you hear unless a band really has it together! And as much as I love Blunstone’s singing—seriously, I could listen to his voice all day—the harmonies on this are to die for. I’m assuming that’s Argent and bass player Chris White on backing vocals on this. And I like the way everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, White with the little bass riff leading into the second verse, Argent with the crazy electric piano solo in the middle eight.

Lyrically, this song was way ahead of its time. I was expecting to do lots of these sorts of songs about obsessive love/lust in the early “new wave” era (circa 1979-81), not at the dawn of the British Invasion. The tone of Blunstone’s voice over the refrain really sells the fanatical tone of the lyric. And I have to say, there’s sort of a subtext to this. On the surface, it’s a song about an unfaithful woman that lied about it, and dumped the protagonist in a cruel and uncaring fashion. Dig deeper, and you’ll get to that wild chorus, where the protagonist reveals his crazy obsession with this woman.

That’s why I believe this is a lust song, not a love song. These two were making some steamy, hot love in the past, and he misses it. Needs it, like a junkie looking for a fix. But she’s not there.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Rating: 5

*the latter is actually a collaboration with ex-National Health keyboardist Dave Stewart. Blunstone was standing in for Stewart’s usual vocal collaborator, Canterbury folk siren Barbara Gaskin.

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