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Interview: Colin Blunstone

The podcast of this interview appeared at The Vinyl District on November 19, 2021.



It’s hard to look back at the British Invasion and not be amazed at the level of skill and talent that came across the pond to impact and influence the revolutionary pop music that was being made worldwide at the time. One of the major bands to break out of the UK was The Zombies who hit it big in 1964 with, “She’s Not There” and continued to have hits throughout the 1960s. The wonderfully romantic and singular voice of the band was that of Colin Blunstone who is my guest this week.


The career of the Zombies took a curious turn at the end of the decade, the band broke up soon after releasing their final album, Odessey and Oracle, but fate had other plans for the group. Their song, “Time of the Season” became a hit of epic proportions and Odessey and Oracle slowly grew into what is now seen as one of the cornerstone achievements in rock and roll history.


Following the break-up of the group, Blunstone set out to discover what the next move for his career was and began to release solo albums beginning with 1971’s, One Year which celebrates its 50th anniversary and is being re-released this year featuring 14 previously unreleased recordings and nine unrecorded compositions with never-before-seen photos and new liner notes penned by Blunstone. Of course, the project will include a new vinyl pressing mastered by Joe Lizzi and cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio.


Blunstone continues to record and tour with the Zombies, but this anniversary is an important opportunity to take a peek into his solo career and pay special attention to his luxuriously exquisite vocals and unique artistic directions. Keep an eye out for Blunstone to visit the states soon and perform his inaugural solo album. During this interview, Colin’s computer - and my own - were both running low on battery power. Do we make it through the whole chat? You’ll have to listen to find out, but just remember, even rockstars need to charge their devices.


ezt:

Hi, Mr. Blunstone. How are you?


Colin Blunstone:

I'm fine. I just wanted to check just one thing very quickly.


ezt:

Absolutely.


Colin Blunstone:

I'm wondering if I can get my laptop to a plug because I've just noticed I've only got 21% left. Just one sec.


ezt:

You're reminding me to plug mine in too.


Colin Blunstone:

Okay. No, sorry. I can't do it.


ezt:

Oh, well-


Colin Blunstone:

Nevermind. Nevermind. If it gets serious, I'll just have to move somewhere else in the room.


ezt:

I think we might make it through 21%. We might be okay.


Colin Blunstone:

Yes, I'm sure we will. So how's it going?


ezt:

It's going okay. Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today. I really appreciate it. I'm a big fan, and it's real pleasure to see you, well not quite in the flesh, but here we are on the internet lines here.


Colin Blunstone:

Absolutely. Where are you geographically?


ezt:

I am in New Jersey. I'm in Northern New Jersey, just about 20 minutes outside of New York City, so I'm not far from the Big City.


Colin Blunstone:

Great. Okay. I'm just Southwest of London.


ezt:

All right, cool. It's 9 o'clock. I appreciate you doing this. It's a little late in the evening.


Colin Blunstone:

It's fine. I'd like to say, listen, I'm a rock and roller. We don't go to bed until the sun comes up, but actually that's not the truth. I go to bed when I'm off the road, I go to bed quite early, to be absolutely honest. It's a little treat, because obviously when we're touring, it can be anytime.


ezt:

Absolutely. No, no. I'm sure you've gotten used to both things. Well, I'd like to just share, I like to do, you see my vinyl collection is behind me and I like to do a little show and tell sometimes before I start these interviews and I won't keep you too long today, but I want to start with a little show and tell, just some cool stuff from my collection. This is an original promo copy of Odessey and Oracle here. It's got the old timing strip on the bottom. This is really one of my most valuable records in my collection.


Colin Blunstone:

How much is that worth?


ezt:

It's worth a lot of money. People love these promo copies. It's interesting too, to think about the story of this record and how, of course, and you know this guy in the middle was kind of blown up to become the cover of the next version of this album that was released. But this is a really cool thing here. Here's one I bought. I actually saw you guys ... This is the autograph. Thank you for your autograph, by the way.


Colin Blunstone:

I can see that. Yes.


ezt:

This was from, I saw you guys at the Town Hall concert as 2017, March 25th. I think it may have been the last time you performed Odessey and Oracle, I don't know.


Colin Blunstone:

Oh yeah. I don't know. It might have been, it might have been. It gets confusing because we've had this huge gap of not playing since December 2019. It gets a little bit difficult to actually remember accurately what was happening, but it could well have been, yeah. Were we with Brian Wilson?


ezt:

Right, I think that was the one. Maybe not. I don't-


Colin Blunstone:

No. Brian Wilson was at the Beacon Theater and that was the last time in New York I think.


ezt:

Okay. Well, this was Town Hall, so I don't know which came, but our two rock and roll memories are failing us.


Colin Blunstone:

It's inevitable, I'm afraid.


ezt:

The big Zombies return.


Colin Blunstone:

Yes.


ezt:

Here you are looking happy and refreshed.


Colin Blunstone:

Yep. It's Chris and Hugh.


ezt:

Oh, this is great. This is Still Got that Hunger also autographed. Thank you again by you. And of course what we're here to talk about, this is my original copy. It's actually a beautiful pressing of One Year. There you are. What a great record. And I've even got for bonus, just so you know I'm serious here, Mr. Blunstone. Here you are, your cool shed here. You've got your wherever you are there and more.


Colin Blunstone:

I remember them all very well.


ezt:

Well, thanks for taking a look at the records. Do you have any of your old vinyl collection? Do you still hang on any of that stuff?


Colin Blunstone:

I don't know. They're around in the house, but I haven't got them all put together like you have. Some of mine are in the loft. Some are in the next room there and there are some behind me over here, but they're not in any order. So it's a little bit difficult to put my hands on them immediately.


ezt:

Right. It's tough to listen to if you don't know where to find them, but you've probably got your own. You've got all your books and stuff. You've got your own system, I'm sure.


Colin Blunstone:

Yes. It's chaos. We work in total and absolute chaos the whole time. And I play the nearest record to my right hand normally. That's the one I play. But what I have got by the by is I have demos of The Zombies that only five were ever made. There was one each for us. So I haven't got a lot, but I have got those hidden in there somewhere and other probably quite rare things. And in fact, under package of the One Year reissue, I don't know if you've read this, but they unearthed 14 demos that I did at that time in 1971. And it was actually Chris White, the original bass player's sons were going through all his old tapes because they're trying to get his publishing in order, so everything cataloged because Chris has written so many songs.


And they just found these two reels of my demos. And it was so interesting because when I first played them, I didn't recognize some of the songs. I recognized my voice. I knew it was me, but it's been 50 years. And they really, rather than demos, I would call some of them sort of song ideas. It was a tryout to see whether we were going to expand them into proper songs and some of them we never did. So it was really interesting. I still don't remember the sessions. Chris White said, he thought some of them were at Regent Sound in Denmark Street, which is actually where the Rolling Stones recorded their first albums, quite a small studio, but they recorded their first album. And I know we did do some demos there, but there's 14 of these demos that are going to be included in the package of One Year.


ezt:

And are there, so there are tunes that are, are they the tunes that are on One Year or they were looking ahead to the next project at that time?


Colin Blunstone:

They were recorded about the time of One Year. And from memory, it's only the, I think three of these demos actually went onto One Year and one went onto Ennismore, which is the other album that you just held up. So I think it was four that were seen through, and they did become masters. But the others were just lost in time. And no one's more surprised than me that they've turned up.


ezt:

Right. Well, we're here to discuss the reissue of One Year, of course, and its 50th anniversary this year and it kind of symbolizes a transition from your Zombie years, obviously. Can you take us back to that time in between Odessey and Oracleand One Year? There's a lot of mystery on the internet information about this time, about how you guys broke up and you had the hit. Bring us back to that time. How did you end up sort of getting from The Zombies to the solo project?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, I certainly took the scenic route. That's for sure. It wasn't a straight line. When The Zombies finished, I mean I think it's important to just say that we'd spent three years on the road touring really hard and the non-writers in the band had made just no money at all. And we were all broke. The two writers, luckily their money went directly to them. It didn't go on the same financial stream as our life work did. So Chris White and Rod Argent were fine. And they would say the same thing if they were here. I'm glad that they were successful. It's fantastic. But for their rest of us, I mean in particular, Paul Atkinson, our guitarist had just got married and he said, "Guys, you know, I've got no money. I've just got married."

And he'd been offered a job, he's very bright Paul Atkinson. And he'd been offered a job in computers, which was very new in 1967. And he said, "I'm going to have to take this job." And I think that, that was one of the reasons why the band finished. We'd run out of money really. And particularly with Paul leaving, it was decided it would probably be best to all find new projects. And I just couldn't find anything else in music at all. And I had absolutely no money. I was living at home. I had a very old, beaten up old car. I didn't gamble. I didn't take drugs and I had no money. So I took, I just went to an employment agency and I took the first job that they offered me, which was in a very busy office in the center of London.

And I worked there for about a year, but I had this strange relationship with money in that when I worked out what I was earning for this job and took away the traveling expenses, a little bit of rent and a couple of other things, I was actually working at a loss. So I have no idea what I was doing, but it did help. It helped me get through that period because it was a very sad time. I mean, it was a very emotional time. The band finished. We'd been together since 1961. So it was however long that is, six years. And of course we toured the world, and it was a very emotional time. And then suddenly, Time of the Season started to take off. It was quite a slow, drawn out affair. And the phone started ringing for me to perhaps get into the music business again. And one particular producer who was very persistent, his name was Mike Hurst. He'd been in a band called The Springfields, very successful over here with Dusty Springfield. And he was now a producer and he produced the early Cat Stevens records, which were things like “Matthew & Son”, “I'm Gonna Get me a Gun”, “I Love my Dog”.


ezt:

I've got it hiding down here somewhere, yeah.


Colin Blunstone:

I'm sure you have.


ezt:

I love those early Cat Stevens records, they are awesome.


Colin Blunstone:

Yeah. Fantastic. Well, Mike Hurst produced them. Yeah, they got separated from his later work and Mike was very persuasive. I wasn't sure after the sort of heartbreak of The Zombies that I wanted to get back into the music business really. But he managed to get Olympic Studios in Barnes, which is a really good studio. Again, the Stones used to record-


ezt:

Yeah, another Rolling Stones.


Colin Blunstone:

And I would go there in the evening sometimes straight from work. And I'm sort of laughing at myself. I'm sure I turned up in a heavy pinstripe suit and caught, I probably took my tie off, and I would just sing on these tracks and it started to sound quite good. And Mike had got the idea of re-recording “She's Not There” and we did that, which is a little bit of a strange idea, but I wasn't really sure if I was getting back in the music business or not.

So it was just an experiment. And then eventually there was a deal for these tracks we did. And Mike suggested I change my name. Now I've seen him in print say that that was my idea. But we remember things differently. I thought it was his idea. I don't know why I wanted to change my name. And originally I was going to be James MacArthur. It was very arbitrary. A few days before the record was printed, one of the guys at the record label in America said, there's a James MacArthur in Hawaii Five-0, an actor called James MacArthur in Hawaii Five-0. You can't be James MacArthur. So suddenly I became Neil MacArthur. I know not why. And the record was released and it was a small hit in the UK. So there I was, I was back in the music business and goodbye to my day job.


And for a year I was Neil MacArthur, but it was running out of steam. And then I was coming back from a party with Chris White. Chris White was driving and he said to me, "Why don't you forget this Neil MacArthur thing? Use your real name and come and record with Rod and I. We've got a production company and come and record with us." And I just said, "It's a great idea." And we found ourselves back in Studio 3 at Abbey Road where we'd recorded Oddysey and Oracle with Peter Vince at engineering, who'd done the majority of the engineering on Odessey and Oracle. So we almost got the old team back together again, Rod Argent, Chris White, myself and Peter Vince, Studio 3, Abbey Road and off we went. In fact, we did a couple of tracks before we went back to Abbey Road now to come to think of it. But eight of the tracks were recorded and it was all mixed in Abbey Road.


ezt:

And did you ever have the conversation? Did you guys look at each other and say, "Hey, maybe this is a Zombies record." I mean, it's kind of a lost Zombies record, could have been, could have been, I don't know.


Colin Blunstone:

There was never any discussion about reforming The Zombies, and not even when “Time of the Season” went to number one in Cashbox. There was never any conversation of that. I don't think any of us really like to look back. That was in the past and we all like to write and record new material and think about the future rather than thinking about the past. Now I know ironically, we are now touring as The Zombies, but it all came about rather by chance. But there's a huge gap there. There's a 30 or 40 year gap, but we recorded this album over quite a long, it seemed to me a long period of time, because with The Zombies, we recorded very, very quickly. And it was about a year. It was I think from July to July and hence the title One Year. And it did become not literally, but fairly autobiographical. And it was like a diary. It was like a diary of the year. And so that's how the title stuck.


ezt:

How long did you live this sort of this dual life as you had your day job and then you were continuing to do some recordings? How long did that last before you said, "I'm just going back to music."?


Colin Blunstone:

I think I did that day job for about eight or nine months.


ezt:

Oh, not long.


Colin Blunstone:

About eight or nine months, maybe a little bit longer. And then this new started seeping through about Time of the Season being a hit. It took us by huge surprise because Odessey and Oracle had been pretty much ignored by the world's media. I sometimes say that the CIA was doing our publicity because they tried to keep it a huge secret and no one ever heard anything. It wasn't that people hated it. No one paid attention to it. But what happened was Al Cooper from Blood, Sweat and Tears, he joined CBS as a producer and he'd been in London. He bought 200 albums and he found that one of those albums just really suck out. I mean, I've talked to him about it many times and he just started with CBS and on his first day of work. He went to see Clive Davis.


This is very brave of him really. Clive Davis is the most powerful guy in the record industry, certainly then probably as now. And he said, Clive, or sir, I'm not quite sure how he addressed him, "Clive, this one album, I don't care what it costs. We've got to get this album, Odessey and Oracle." And Clive Davis said to him, "We already own this album. And I was just about to pass on it. We weren't even going to release it." But because of Al Cooper, the album was released. If it hadn't been for him, it would have never even been released. And I think they released three singles before they got to “Time of the Season”. And one DJ in Boise, Idaho just would not stop playing “Time of the Season”. And it went from there.


Other stations picked it up and gradually, it was very slow. It went across the country. It took months. And that's how Time of the Season was a hit. But even then, Odessey and Oracle wasn't a big hit. It was one week in Billboard at number 98, I think. And it was years later that it started to get recognition with the help of people like Tom Petty in America and Paul Weller over here, and many others who just wouldn't stop talking about it and supporting it. Sorry, I've gone backwards rather than forwards because we were talking about One Year.


ezt:

Well, let me ask you, and since we're there though, I am curious to ask you to just share a little bit of your emotional state at that time, when that song takes off, the band is broken up, you're kind of in a career limbo. What did it feel like? What were you, I mean, were you like staring I mean, staring at the radio, like how is this happening right now? It was frustration because you couldn't tour with it. The guys weren't together. How did you feel at that time?


Colin Blunstone:

It was a strange feeling, but it's more complicated than that because it wasn't on the radio in the UK. It's never been a hit in the UK. It's been a hit in every country around the world. It's Zombies' biggest record by far. It's never been a hit in this country. So I wasn't listening to the radio. I was getting, remember there was no internet really then, but I was just getting vague messages that it's doing okay. And I just thought it was some kind of miracle. I didn't believe it to start with. It had been, the whole album had been so ignored. I couldn't believe it to start with. And it was frustrating yeah that we couldn't go out and tour, but by then, I don't know, it was probably two or three years since the band had folded. It wasn't too bad. We were all doing different things by then.


ezt:

So let's talk about a few songs on the album. I'll just throw them into our conversation. The lead off track, “She Loves the Way They Love Her”, it's a great rock and roll tune. What can you tell us about that tune?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, it's a Rod Argent song, and to me, that's probably the most Zombie tune on there. That could have gone on the next Zombies album very easily I think. It's Argent playing on that track, wonderful players, Jim Rodford and Russ Ballard and of course, Rod Argent. And it's the first track that we recorded. And funnily enough, the second track on the album, “Misty Roses” is the second track we recorded and we recorded them outside of Abbey Road. I can't, just for the minute, I can't remember what the studio was called. I really like both of those songs, but “Misty Roses”, when we recorded it, we just recorded the guitar bit at the beginning of the track. And we realized it was incredibly short. We all loved the song, but it was probably about one and a half minutes long.


And eventually as the album was being recorded, we were introduced to this incredible string arranger called Chris Gunning. And we just gave him complete freedom to do what he wanted to do. Although I know there was a feeling that we were always saying, think Bartok, think Bartok. And that's what he did. He came up with this incredible string interlude in the middle of “Misty Roses” and then I come back in and sing over these wonderful strings playing just incredible chords. I thought, I've no idea if I'll be able to play over that arrangement, if I'd be able to sing over that arrangement. But it worked out in the end. It's one of my favorite tracks, “Misty Roses”. Oh, it's Tim Hardin classic, is wonderful.


ezt:

When I revisit this record, the word that keeps coming into my head is... The adjective that keeps coming into my head is it's exquisite. How did you, what was the thinking in approaching these tunes that way? You're talking about these classical influences. Who was the driving force behind that? Was that you that really wanted to have this string, these are I guess we call they're pop songs, but they're arranged with these string pieces and they're just beautiful exquisite little works of art.


Colin Blunstone:

Well, I would say it came more from Rod and Chris really than from me, but I mean I think they're really beautiful. I remember Chris Gunning playing me these arrangements when we first sort of went down that road, but he was playing them to me on the piano. And there are places where it's incredibly complicated. And I have to tell you, played on the piano, I think now I would get it. But at 21 or 22, I just got completely lost with what he was playing to me. But I knew he was great, and we all just had complete faith and trust in him. And of course, when it was played either with a quartet, quintet or actually with a string orchestra in some places, it just sounded wonderful. But if you hear that on a piano, it can start getting a bit confusing, especially with the state of music at that time, there was nothing like this. I'm not sure there's ever been anything like it since either. Nothing really prepared us for those arrangements. And I personally didn't think that they sounded, I thought they were beautiful. Don't get me wrong. I loved them. But I didn't think they sounded particularly commercial. But the Denny Laine song, “Say You Don't Mind”, which is the last track on the album, sorry, I've skipped to the end.


ezt:

I'm not up to that yet! I'm not up to that yet! (laughing)


Colin Blunstone:

We can backtrack.


ezt:

I'll cross it out. I'll cross it out.


Colin Blunstone:

I'm just going to say it was actually quite a big hit. I was really surprised because there was nothing like that on radio, but radio in this country then, they didn't have such tight playlists and DJs actually could, some of them anyway, could play the music they wanted to play. I'm not sure a song like that could be a hit now in this country, but it was then, and it was a wonderful surprise.


ezt:

Right. Tell us about hooking up with Denny Laine on that tune. How did that song end up coming to you? Did you have a relationship with him at the time or how did it end up to you?


Colin Blunstone:

I did know him, not particularly well and subsequently, I've played with him quite a lot, but we were fans of The Moody Blues to start with. And then when Denny wrote this song, we bought the record and The Zombies used to close their show with a rock and roll version of this song. And in fact, when we first recorded it for the album, we tried it as a rock and roll song. Argent went out of town, so we couldn't use Argent. So we had to use session players and it didn't work. We had to scrap that. And then we just went to Chris Gunning and said, "What can you hear on this song?" And that's what he came up with. So originally, we just got the song, we just bought Denny Laine's record. And The Zombies used to play it '66, '67 would be yeah, '67.


ezt:

Right. So it was like a cover tune that you guys were doing at the time.


Colin Blunstone:

Yeah, absolutely. Just such a great song.


ezt:

Just to jump back in history a little bit, everyone's got their own opinions and theories, but what do you feel set The Zombies and you apart from the British invasion, your counterparts, the Beatles and the Stones and the Kinks. What were some of the things that you felt made you marketable in your own Zombies creative way? How did you try to do things differently than some of your colleagues?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, we didn't try to do things differently. We just tried to be true to our sense of music. And I think that our great strengths was quite possibly our great weakness as well, that we took our musical inspiration from such a wide spectrum of music, from classical music to the blues, rhythm and blues, modern jazz, rock and roll and pop music. And you can hear all those influences in The Zombies music. And I think sometimes it confused the media because the media likes to categorize music. They liked, is this progressive? Is this heavy rock? Is it hiphop? Is it this? Is it that? And I think they could never really categorize The Zombies so that can be a weakness because people won't know whether it should be in this magazine or on this radio station because they don't know what kind of music you play.

So our strength was that, that we took our inspiration from such a wide spectrum of music, but it had a downside as well. And also of course, right from the beginning of the band, we were a keyboard based band, which when we started in 1961, there were no keyboard based bands. And we also always sang harmonies, mostly just three part harmonies. But again, there were no bands singing harmonies, well in the UK there weren't anyway, until the Beatles came along. But that was '63. That's two years after we started. So we started off a bit different because of this keyboard based element. And then it was just where we took our musical inspirations was probably a bit different to the other bands.


ezt:

Right. And members of the Beatles and the Stones always report that there wasn't really any malicious rivalry between the bands, but did you have the same feeling? Did you have a little brotherhood or a little rivalry between you British invasion guys? Or what was the feeling?


Colin Blunstone:

No, I didn't know any rivalry at all. I mean, I always wish people the best of luck. If the Kinks have a hit, it doesn't affect me one way or the other or The Who have a hit. I think, good luck, they're great bands and good luck to them. There wasn't any rivalry. I wasn't aware of huge camaraderie either, but then we were often abroad rather than in the UK. And when we were abroad, we weren't playing with other British bands. We were playing in America, we were playing with American bands. And also, we never played the club circuit in London like the Stones did, The Yardbirds did and Georgie Fame. A lot of bands at that time, they would play the Marquee, and all these wonderful clubs. But our very first record, we were practically just out of school, our very first record “She's Not There” was a big hit. And so we were straight away channeled into these touring extravaganzas. Our first tour was with The Searchers, Dionne Warwick, The Isley Brothers. And we were playing theaters rather than playing the clubs.


ezt:

That's two New Jersey bands, two New Jersey acts, see?


Colin Blunstone:

There we are then. Yes, that's a definite connection. Who are the New Jersey acts?


ezt:

Dionne Warwick was a New Jersey person and the Isley Brothers are right from about 15 minutes from where I'm sitting. They were in Teaneck, New Jersey, the Isley Brothers.


Colin Blunstone:

I didn't know that. I didn't know that, but I do think that we, it would have been better for us if we could have done that club circuit and just learn our craft because we went from being an amateur band to a full on professional band over a period of weeks. And I think we were probably a little unprepared for that. We were fine. We were fine, but it might have been better if we had that experience. And we intended to do that. We won a big rock and roll competition, which led to the contract with Decca, which led to “She's Not There”. And because we won that rock and roll competition, we were all saying, "Hey man, maybe we could be a professional band. Maybe we could." And we planned to, we bought a truck. I don't know what the master plan was. We were going to drive off into the sunset and play gigs. But then we had a hit record, and it al changed. So possibly, we would have played those clubs if the hit record had come a bit later, but it just changed the course of our careers.


ezt:

Back to the record. Another one of my favorites off of One Year is “Caroline Goodbye”. Could you tell us a little bit about that?


Colin Blunstone:

Absolutely. I just started writing. I actually did write two songs for The Zombies. I was very inspired by what Rod and Chris were doing. I didn't know they could write songs when we were at school together. And I really wanted to try it and write. And with One Year, I wrote four of the songs on One Year. I was just, my writing was just starting to come to some kind of fruition in its early stages. And I've always written very much from personal experience, either things that have happened to me or things that I've observed happening with other people. And I think it's quite well known that “Caroline Goodbye” is a very personal song. And if I could have put another name in there, because there was a Caroline, if I could have put another name in there, I tried to for months to think of another name, but I couldn't.

And then I thought, "Well, only my close friends are going to know anyway." It's a little bit embarrassing, but I hope it's not too embarrassing to her, but only my close friends are going to know. But then a national newspaper just found the story in this song. She's very glamorous. And they found a picture of her in a bikini. She was a model and worked in film, a kind of film star, and they made a story out of it and it was a full page in a national newspaper. And so the secret was out. It's a little bit embarrassing. I've always meant to apologize to her. I have spoken to her many times since that, but I've never broached the subject of the song. I hope she's okay with it.


ezt:

You could have found another three syllable name, Sylvia-


Colin Blunstone:

“Sylvia Goodbye”? I don't think so. I tried, I tried everything


ezt:

Gertrude…


Colin Blunstone:

…the closest I got was Carrie Anne.


ezt:

“Carrie Anne”, which of course the Hollies had.


Colin Blunstone:

But they'd just done something.


Colin Blunstone:

I'm trying to remember, this is 50 years ago. I'm trying to remember all this.


ezt:

Is there a track or two that you going through this, working on this reissue that really stood out to you as being favorites that I haven't mentioned yet?


Colin Blunstone:

I like the songs you mentioned. I like “Her Song”, which is track two on the B side. I think it's a very beautiful lyric. And it's an exquisite arrangement again by Chris Gunning. I think that is a really beautiful song. So I think there are some great songs on this album. Only time will tell whether it has a place in the modern music industry. I don't know because it's so different. It's like Odessey and Oracle. There's nothing else like it. It's so different. It would be interesting to see what people make of it.


ezt:

Another interesting thing revisiting this album for me was how it showcased your voice. I'm sure you've heard this before. And I mean, you have one of the most beautiful voices in rock and roll history and you get that from The Zombies music, for sure. But I think when you listen to these, particularly the vocal and string arrangements, you really, you go, "Whoa, wait a minute." It showcases and highlights your vocals on another level. Do you think much about your vocals? I'm sure, you'll probably say it's something that comes naturally to you, but did you work on your vocals or think about your vocals much? Because they are so fabulous.


Colin Blunstone:

Well, first of all, thank you very much. I think when I was younger, I didn't think that much about it to be absolutely honest, but as you get older, everything gets a bit more difficult, doesn't it? And you just have to work a little bit harder. And both Rod and I studied with a singing coach 10 or 12 years ago now. And I just learned a little bit about singing technique and he also gave me a set of exercises that I do regularly. And when we're on the road, I do them twice a day. I do them before sound check, and I do them before the show. So I will have done an hour of exercises before we do the show.


ezt:

That's a lot of work.


Colin Blunstone:

It's really helped. It's really helped to keep my voice strong and to keep the range because a lot of the songs that we perform and the songs I've recorded are incredibly high. And with age, that's the first thing to go is your top range, but I've managed to keep mine, but nowadays I do have to work at it. It's fun. I mean, I don't mind. It's so great imposition. It's fun.


ezt:

It's an exercise. I've seen The Zombies. I've seen you guys at least twice and you guys put it on a great show, and it's one of the only opportunities where you can really see so many of the original members of the band playing together in that band rather than as solo members. What's it like still, and I know things have been weird in the last year or so with the pandemic, but what's it like still taking the stage with some of these guys after so many years?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, it's incredible. I mean, we've just grown up together. We met when we were 15 and when we've been touring Odessey and Oracle, there's been four of the five on stage. Sadly, Paul Atkinson died about 15 or more years ago now. So it is incredible because we've shared our lives together. There have been gaps when we haven't seen one another, but we certainly spent our formative years together and it's wonderful that we can come together at this time in our lives, in the autumn of our careers, to perform together and to perform these songs. We never performed Odessey and Oracle in 1967, because more or less we recorded the album and shortly afterwards the band finished. So there's a lot of these songs we'd never played. And of course we had to learn them. We played them in the studio, but that's long forgotten. So yeah, it's very interesting. And also sort of delving back into the deeper cuts of the repertoire and finding songs that you'd forgotten about that really, really have got something. That was a lovely adventure as well.


ezt:

Would you have any advice to those bands who just can't stand breathing the same air as each other? The bands that historically like, "Hey, we can't even be in the same building." What would you say to them? What do you attribute your longevity to your friendship together?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, I just think you just got to be a bit easy going really. Things can get tense on the road. Everyone gets tired. It can get quite stressful before shows. Things go wrong and it can be difficult, but if you can just control your emotions, I mean, there's no magic wand. If you can just relax, because this is a great adventure. That's what I'd say. We're lucky to be here. This is fantastic. But the trouble is that when somebody annoys you a little bit, the tension of being on the road and performing, that little bit becomes a lot more intense. That's the trouble. And I don't know what the answer is. I remember I was working with a Manfred Mann and I was traveling with Tom McGuinness. Tom McGuinness was driving from gig to gig and I was in his car and he said to me, "I don't know how with The Zombies, you do it. You all travel together and it's all fine." He said, "If we travel together, the band wouldn't last a week." So they drive in separate cars to every gig. And perhaps that's the answer to your question, drive in separate cars.


ezt:

Even airplanes. Right, so tell us just briefly about putting this reissue together. Obviously we're celebrating the 50th anniversary, so the date had much to do with it, but did anybody come to you and say, "Hey, let's anybody spearhead this idea.", and how did you go through some of these historical things and put this new reissue together?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, I think it was just a general conversation topic that do you realize it's 50 years since we did One Year? And it was talked about mostly between myself and my management company, The Rocks. And they just found there was a lot of interest in record companies to celebrate this 50th anniversary. And of course it was only intensified when they realized that there were 14 demos from that period that could go together to make this package unique. So it just came out of general conversation really. I don't think there was a master plan. It's like the rest of my career, I just sort of stumble on from one thing to another, but with a smile on my face. I'm enjoying it all. But most of it is chance and happenstance and things like that rather than planning one step after the other.


ezt:

Right. Did anything surprise you that came up or that was added to the set or anything that just kind of took you by surprise you weren't expecting or have forgotten? I know you mentioned some of those demos that you'd kind of forgotten about.


Colin Blunstone:

I mean, pretty much all of them, some of them, when I first heard them, I had no idea what the next line was going to do. Where's the lyric going? I'd completely forgotten them. And that was very interesting to me to hear those. And some are better than others. There are some quite good ones and there are some that you can tell this is a guy he's just starting to learn how to write songs. They're quite naive, some of them, right. The whole thing was a great surprise to me. I didn't know they existed. So it's worked really well.


ezt:

Well, I look forward to digging into it for sure and sharing some of it on this show that we create with this interview and what's next for you and The Zombies, or as nations sort of open up and kind of open up and stop opening up and start opening up again, what are you guys, what are you guys thinking about either solo or together?


Colin Blunstone:

Well, I'm going to come to America, firstly, to LA and then to New York and I'm going to play One Year in its entirety.


ezt:

Oh, awesome.


Colin Blunstone:

That is really exciting. It will be on all my website and on The Zombies website. All the details will be on there. So I'm going to come and play it in its entirety. It's going to be quite challenging because there's so many different kinds of music on there, but I'm really looking forward to it. At the same time, we're recording a new Zombies album. We're about halfway through it. And then The Zombies will start touring in the UK at the end of February, and we are coming to America and Canada later in the year. But all those details will be on the various websites.


ezt:

Well, Mr. Blunstone, I thank you so much. You've been very generous with your time today and I appreciate it. Pleasure letting me ask you all these crazy questions about your wonderful history. And this is a great record and I thank you for all the fantastic music that you've made. And I look forward to hearing more of it and seeing you live again.


Colin Blunstone:

Absolutely. I'm looking forward to playing this album live. If anyone wants to pre-order the album, they can get it from colinblunstone.net. Sorry. I had to say that.


ezt:

I should have given you opportunity to do that early. It's colinblunstone.net is the best place to go?


Colin Blunstone:

Yes. And yeah, I'm just really looking forward to playing this live. I think it's going to be really exciting and yeah, I'm practicing. When we finish, I'll be listening to One Year at the other end of the room. I'll be practicing for the concerts in the states.


ezt:

Thank you very much.


Colin Blunstone:

Cheers. We're down to 3%.


ezt:

I was just going to say. Hold on. I got three more questions. No, I'm just kidding.


Colin Blunstone:

How professional we are. Fantastic. It's been great talking to you. Thank you.


ezt:

Very good. And maybe I'll see you around one of these days, who knows?


Colin Blunstone:

Okay. That would be incredible. All the best.

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