Colin Blunstone, an English singer, songwriter and musician, chats with Kevin Cooper about The Zombies being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, playing a memorial concert in remembrance of Jim Rodford, a new solo album and his forthcoming solo tour of the UK.

Colin Blunstone is an English singer, songwriter and musician. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he came to prominence in the mid 1960s as the lead singer of the English rock band The Zombies, who released four singles that entered the charts in the United States during the 1960s, including She’s Not There, Tell Her No, She’s Coming Home, and Time Of The Season.

Blunstone began his solo career in 1969, releasing three singles under a pseudonym of Neil MacArthur. Since then, he has released ten studio albums and one live album under his real name. His solo hits include She’s Not There, Say You Don’t Mind, I Don’t Believe In Miracles, How Could We Dare To Be Wrong, and The Tracks Of My Tears.

In 2004, Blunstone and Rod Argent recorded As Far as I Can See…, a new album in the style of The Zombies. He continued to tour with Argent as The Zombies and in April 2009 the original surviving members of the band played four reunion concerts performing the album Odessey And Oracle in its entirety, which led to a band reunion, which included Jim Rodford who remained a member until his death in 2018.

Blunstone will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of The Zombies this year, and whilst preparing for that, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Colin how are you today?

I’m fine thank you Kevin. How are you doing?

I’m very well thank you and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No worries, it’s always a pleasure.

And just how is life treating you?

Live at the moment is treating me very well. Life is very exciting at the moment because as you no doubt know The Zombies are about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and so we are going over to the states shortly for the actual ceremony which will be wonderful. I didn’t think that when Rod (Argent) and I got back together again back in 1999 that even in our wildest dreams we would have thought that something like this could finally happen. There are only seven people being inducted this year; Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, Roxy Music, Radiohead, The Cure and we are also included in there. So life at the moment is truly fantastic.

After so many years, why do you think that it has finally happened?

I have to say that The Zombies have really tenacious fans who voted for us throughout the month of the fan vote and we managed to get over 300,000 votes. And then it also shows that the members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have finally noticed and now appreciate what it is that we have been doing, because the final vote now goes to the members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So it is very exciting at the moment. We recently got back from touring over in the States and again, it went really, really well. I took my solo band over first and we toured in the North-East and then the solo band together with The Zombies went on a music themed cruise which was five days in the Caribbean which was beautiful.

After that The Zombies went off through Florida and onto Texas. And I have to say that the whole experience was totally wonderful. We played to full houses all the way. So things really are going very well.

(Laughter) it’s a hard life isn’t it?

I know exactly what you mean (laughter). It really was hard for us to take a Caribbean cruise half way through a tour of the USA, but hey, someone has to do it (laughter). It’s one of the perks of being out on the road. It really is funny because with musicians you very rarely get the mid-ground; either the phone isn’t ringing or you are working all of the time. So at the moment both with The Zombies and my solo band it is very much the latter. There is so much work at this moment in time and I am eternally grateful. I never thought that at this time in my life that I would be out on the road touring constantly. That’s what musicians love to do.

Actually you pre-empted it slightly as I was intending to offer my congratulations regarding the Hall of Fame (laughter).

(Laughter) I’m so sorry but thank you so much.

How did you feel when you were notified that The Zombies were finally going to be inducted?

I have to say that my first reaction was one of disbelief simply because this is the fourth time that we have been nominated and you really do start to wonder if it will ever happen. So there may have been a second or two of total silence and disbelief. But then of course it was just an utter thrill. Being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is regarded in America as being a very prestigious thing, far more so than it is here in the UK. It’s known over here but it doesn’t have anything like the standing in the UK that it does over in America. And so for us The Zombies tour far more over in America than we do here in the UK. So we are all aware of just how prestigious it is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

So perhaps for us, more so than other British bands, it is just incredibly exciting and fulfilling. In some ways it validates everything that we have ever done since 1964. It really is exciting for both bands, because I think of it as being two different bands, the original incarnation of The Zombies from 1964 to 1967. In some ways when the band finished we perceived ourselves as being unsuccessful. However, I feel that if we had been able to wait a little longer things might have changed especially with the success of Time Of The Season in America. But now we can see that work is appreciated and I combine that with the new band, who when we first went to America we had to start from scratch.

There simply were no two ways about it. We have toured constantly and built up a fan base purely by word of mouth together with continually touring. I think that the induction is a reward for all of those hours that we have spent on the road touring in the States. Whenever you tour the States you really do travel some big distances between gigs and I have to say it’s not for everyone (laughter). Touring really does have to be in your blood. Having said that we thoroughly enjoy it and absolutely love playing in the States.

I did smile to myself when I finally saw the list of inductees as there are two of my favourite bands on there, yourselves and Roxy Music.

I have to say that we really are in good company; I love Roxy Music as well. I think that I really started to appreciate them when I saw them playing live, they really were fantastic. So yes, we certainly are in very good company with the inductees this year.

It really is strange just how these things work themselves out because the induction ceremony will take place fifty years to the day that Time Of The Season went to number one in the States.

That really is incredible isn’t it, absolutely incredible. It almost takes your breath away and then afterwards there is not much that you can say about it really (laughter). I personally think that it is a frightening coincidence. Originally CBS were not even going to release the Odessey And Oracle album. It is because of the work by Al Kooper, who as you know started Blood, Sweat & Tears, but at this point Al had just become a staff producer at CBS and on his very first day at CBS he went into the offices to see Clive Davis who was the very head of CBS and said “we have to sign this album, Odessey And Oracle, it really is fantastic”. He really did put his neck on the line for us, and Clive Davis said to him “we already own that album but we weren’t going to release it, we were going to pass on it” (laughter).

Al fought for it and if it hadn’t have been for Al Kooper the album would never have been released. After that, there were four singles released and it wasn’t until Time Of The Season was released as the forth single that the album very slowly started to take off. We have always been told that there was one DJ out in Boise, Idaho who started playing Time Of The Season and would not stop. And it just spread from Boise, Idaho in a way that you probably couldn’t do now, simply because people are no longer free to play what they want to play. But it spread from there and eventually it became number one in Cashbox and number two in Billboard.

So it is a strange story because that particular single was a hit two years after the band had finished. By then we were all committed to other projects, and there was never any discussion regarding the band getting back together again. We felt that we were committed elsewhere so it really was a bit of a strange tale really but even after it happened some two years after the Zombies finished it was still a wonderful feeling to be number one in the States.

I recently spoke to Graham Gouldman, who as you know was inducted a few years ago now, and he told me that all of the inductees are asked to perform one song?

Really, well maybe it’s different every year because I understood that, I could be wrong, but I understood that everyone will be playing three songs.

If that is in fact the case, have you already decided what songs you will be performing?

(Laughter) I’m not trying to avoid the question here but I am led to believe that the choice of songs is all decided with a certain amount of input from the Hall of Fame (laughter). But having said that I’m not sure if I am allowed to tell you (laughter). In order to build up the excitement prior to the ceremony actually taking place there is quite a lot of details regarding the induction that is kept secret. But I have been told that we will be performing three songs.

Well what I will say is that I would never embarrass you by asking you for a response in either the positive or the negative, but I have been told that a certain Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles will be inducting The Zombies (laughter).

(Laughter) have you really, well if that is in fact the case then that really would be nice for all concerned don’t you think (laughter).

Will there be a tinge of sadness on the night because Jim (Rodford) and Paul (Atkinson) sadly won’t be there with you?

Yes there will, there truly will. Occasions such as this really do put things into proportion in many ways. Firstly, yes of course there will be a tinge of sadness, and secondly it focuses your mind and makes you realise that you have got to get on with it. Whatever it is that you want to do you have simply got to get on and do it because no one knows just what the future holds. We are really lucky in the fact that we are still strong enough to be able to tour and perform constantly. However, our bodies will start to tell us eventually that perhaps we are overdoing it a bit and perhaps we should start to slow down and we all know that day will eventually lead to retirement.

So while we are still strong we have just got to get out there and do it. Losing both Paul and Jim really does help to focus your mind on just how fortunate you really are to still be out there performing and doing something that you love. You really should enjoy every minute and perform as much as you can. I honestly believe that if you continue to think young then you can lead a life similar to the one that you led when you were younger. Obviously teenagers can run around all day long and often do. However, I can’t really do that but most of the things that I did when I was younger I still do. I just probably do it all a bit slower (laughter).

On the 20th January you played a memorial show in remembrance of Jim. How did it go?

It sold out in hours, so there was an absolutely packed house, and it really was fabulous. There is a band who are based in St. Albans called ARC who are Jim’s son Russell, who plays the guitar, and his two granddaughters Anja and Cara who both sing. They opened for us and that really was emotional, especially for Jim’s family. They are really good and they opened the show and then we went on and played and every note that we played, we played for Jim. At the end of the show Russ (Ballard) and Bob (Henrit) from Argent came up on stage and sang God Gave Rock And Roll To You with the rest of us, and that is what we closed the show with because as you know, Rod, Russ, Bob and Jim were Argent. That was a very emotional moment; we had the whole of Argent together with most of Jim’s family up there on stage with us. It was a wonderful event, it really was.

You are going back out on the road in April with your solo band. Are you looking forward to that?

Absolutely yes, I really am looking forward to that. We are playing all the way down from Scotland to the south coast. That should be really good fun. After we have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we have to stay on in the States as we are performing on what is most probably the biggest show over in the States; The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. After we have done the show I have to immediately get myself on a plane, fly into Edinburgh and do a show up there in Scotland. So I will literally get off the plane and perform a show (laughter). After that we will gradually work our way down the country, and we will finish the tour with a gig in London at The Borderline Club.

It will be great fun to get the solo band back together again. I really did enjoy touring with them in the States, especially the five week Caribbean cruise which really was wonderful (laughter). And now I get the chance to play with them once again in April.

Looking at your forthcoming tour dates and schedule, wouldn’t it be great if the venues were available on the dates that you actually want them (laughter).

(Laughter) absolutely although this tour is actually not too bad. I am often intrigued whenever I see the dates that we have got and just how many times we will be criss-crossing the country (laughter). I can often be heard screaming “oh blimey why are we going all the way down to the south coast and then all the way to the north-east the following day” (laughter). I have to be honest and tell you that sometimes it really can be rather challenging but the forthcoming one doesn’t look too bad really.

The last time that we spoke you said that you were toying with a few ideas in relation to a new studio album. Have there been any developments on that front?

Well firstly I have to tell you that things have been rather slow on that front simply because both The Zombies and my solo band have been playing so much live, and that really does affect the time that you can put into writing and recording simply because I can’t be in two places at the same time. What I can tell you is that we have got three or four tracks pretty much finished for the solo project, and I will be going back into the studio sometime soon in order to tidy-up those tracks to a point where they are ready to be mixed and therefore get some idea as to where we are up to. I am hoping that we will get at least three tracks finished before I have to go back to the States, but they are close.

We have got a hell of a lot of material; it is just a matter of finding the time, but after my tour in April, despite playing a few festivals in the summer, there will be lots of gaps when I will be able to get myself into the studio. I must tell you that we have actually recently started rehearsing the first track for a new Zombies album. The last Zombies album, Still Got That Hunger, was back in 2015 which is four years ago now, and I think that my last solo album was even before that. I sometimes think that people believe that you are recording a new album every two years. However, that is not the case. It really does take us four or five years in order to get a new album ready.

On the subject of your solo albums, I have to tell you that my copy of On The Air Tonight which you released back in 2012 is almost worn out.

Really, well that is excellent, that really is excellent. There are some really good tracks on there, and I have to say that I was really pleased with most of it. This is what I have tried not to do on this project. With On The Air Tonight we came up against a time barrier, and so I know that there are one or two tracks that we probably could have got more out of if we had been given the time. However, there was a set release date and I haven’t done that with this album deliberately, so this new album will be finished when it is finished. That is my personal artistic judgement and not me being provocative in any way. I’m just saying that I want the time to finish it properly. I have to say that I really did enjoy recording On The Air Tonight; there really are some great tracks on there.

I really do love the title track and The Best Is Yet To Come. I think that they are both fantastic.

Thank you, they really are two fantastic songs I think, really great songs.

Just what do you think makes Odessey And Oracle so popular some fifty years after its release, so much so that it has an almost magical status?

In some ways it is far more popular now, as you say fifty years after its release, than it was back then. I personally feel that there are twelve wonderful songs on Odessey And Oracle and I always say that if you haven’t got the songs, you may as well pack-up and go home. Sometimes they get the wrong idea about recording; they think that if you get into a certain studio with a certain producer then the project will be a success. However, for me, it is the material that is the most important thing. So firstly, there are twelve wonderful songs on Odessey And Oracle and secondly the band all played very well. There are some really good performances on there and we were very fortunate to be in Abbey Road at that time.

We had Geoff Emerick engineering the whole album, the majority of which was produced in Abbey Road Studios. It was all mixed in Abbey Road and I think that we were just very fortunate to be working with such a wonderful engineer. So if you put all of those things together, the songs, and I have to say that there are some great performances, the whole album was simply very well recorded by the engineers at Abbey Road. If that all adds up then you have every chance of making a really good album. I have to agree with you and say that yes, there really is something magical about that album. I think it is because it has fought its way through to prominence on its own.

It hasn’t been promoted, it hasn’t been marketed yet Rolling Stone magazine at one time had it at number eighty in the best five hundred albums of all time, and in fact the album has been in two or three of their charts. When you take a look at the albums around the eighty mark it’s The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and artists like that. It really is incredible for an album that never really charted and it is getting that kind of recognition now. I think that it is part of the mystery of The Zombies and I have to say that I am not sure that anyone really knows because I certainly don’t (laughter).

I will tell you what Rod always says and I have to say that I totally agree with him, we have always recorded what we wanted to record and they have always been songs that meant something to us, songs that touched us. In the hope that if these songs mean something to us, then hopefully they will mean something to the listener; to other people. And I think in the end that it has worked with Odessey And Oracle together with some of our other albums as well. Another album that is coming to prominence at the moment is my first solo album, One Year, which was recorded and released way back in 1971. That album, as you will know, was co-produced by Rod Argent and Chris White.

People over in America are always asking me about that album and are even now asking me to perform the whole album at festivals but I simply don’t think that I could do it now. That album was released almost fifty years ago now. I think that in the long run, if you write, record and perform from the heart then it will always work out for the best. A lot of the songs that were recorded in 1967 were recorded with the express idea of trying to make a hit. However, they have all faded into obscurity because they don’t have any real value. At best they were copies of what was commercial at that time. However, we did exactly the opposite; we didn’t try to copy anything. We just tried to write and record from the heart.

The last time that we spoke you said that you had got to do your homework as you were going out on tour with Uriah Heap. How did that go?

(Laughter) yes I did and what can I say, first of all Uriah Heap really are a great band. Plus they really are lovely blokes. We actually opened for them so the headliner really do have a lot of power as to whether or not you will enjoy the tour or not, because they can make it so challenging for the opening band. However, they were so welcoming and so very professional that it was an absolute pleasure. We started off on our own touring Italy then we met up with them in Germany where we played twelve dates. Then we moved through Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland and it really was great fun. We are all really glad that we did it, it was brilliant.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely. They are lovely guys and although our music is very different, hopefully people saw it as two class acts. We are very different but that made for a truly magical evening.

Now correct me if I am wrong but it sounds as though you have got a bit of a cold?

(Laughter) no, not at all. This is just a singer’s voice first thing in the morning (laughter). I have to say that the one thing that I really do dread is getting a cold. As a singer getting a cold can really affect your ability, especially as a lot of the songs that we do are in really high keys. They are all at the top of my range and it is that which goes first whenever I get a cold. So it is quite serious for me when I do get a cold. I have to be really careful throughout the winter months, and so if I notice that someone is coughing or sneezing, I literally keep well away from them as much as I can (laughter).

On that note Colin, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been wonderful and keep well.

Thanks Kevin, I have really enjoyed it. It was great to talk to you again. All the best and I will see you in Bilston.