For some reason, or maybe no reason, I woke up with zombies and an earworm. Okay, let’s make it clear quickly that these were The Zombies, not those amalgamations of decimated flesh now creeping constantly across your television screen. Nah, what was rattling around in my head was that British Invasion band and that great song, “Tell Her No.” If you’re a Gen B member, bet you can sing a few bars of that hit (and if you don’t know the truth about earworms, get the scoop).
There was a certain minor-key inflection to the song that set it apart from some of the perky pop of the early-to-mid 1960s. And a maturity to the lyrics as a guy admonishes a friend to stay away from a girl he loves, opening, “And if she should tell you come closer / And if she tempts you with her charms / tell her no, no, no…” But then he acknowledges in the bridge, “I know she’s the kind of girl / Who’d throw my love away / But I still love her so / Don’t hurt me now, don’t hurt me now.”
Finally, perhaps accepting deceit and defeat, he tells his adversary, “If she tells you ‘I love you’ / Just remember she said that to me.” Small consolation perhaps, but certainly worth a shot.
The band was led by Rod Argent, a creative keyboard player, and Colin Blunstone, who offered up breathy blue-eyed soul vocals that reportedly made girls quiver. Bassist Chris White was also an able songwriter. Over a brief career, The Zombies also made the charts with “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season.”
The Zombies’ first single, “She’s Not There,” made it to number two on the charts. That song also had a minor-key, slightly jazzy feel to it that set the song apart from the lighter pop sounds of other bands of the period, an early taste of British psychedelia, maybe even a little influence on The Doors (check out the organ break). The band made its American television debut on the very first episode of “Hullabaloo,” performing “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No” in front of screaming teenage girls (the norm for the time).
“Time of the Season” came out after the band disbanded in 1968, but in 1969 made it to number three on the Billboard Top 100. Again, an unusual presentation, defined by the opening of bass, a snap and a sigh, and slightly strange, obscure lyrics, such as “And let me try / With pleasured hands / To take you and the sun to / Promised lands.”
Um, yeah, pleasured hands. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Nevertheless, a cool tune as well. And, damn it, now that I’ve listened to it again, it’s become Earworm #248.
These days, if you listen to Tom Petty’s “Buried Treasure” show via satellite radio, you can just about always expect to hear a song by The Zombies, for whom the rocker has a stated affinity. And it seems you can’t go too long on any decent radio station playing classic rock without a Zombies tune popping up—or maybe one popping into your ear via earworm, without warning, for no good reason.
Note: The Zombies have returned from the crypt and are actively touring, led again by Argent and Blunstone.