Stagecoach 2017: The Zombies' 'keeping their chops up' in 50-year career

Stagecoach 2017: The Zombies' 'keeping their chops up' in 50-year career
Zombies band members, from left, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent, Jim Rodford, Tom Toomey and Steve Rodford gather before the group's performance April 28 at the Stagecoach country music festival in Indio. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

When the Zombies recorded their 1968 album "Odessey and Oracle," the one the group is performing in its entirety Saturday night at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, the last thing the band members were thinking was that they'd recorded something for the ages, something they'd still be performing half a century later.

"My idea at that time was that a career in music might last two or three years," lead singer Colin Blunstone, 71, said backstage Friday shortly before his performance at the Stagecoach country music festival with fellow founding member Rod Argent.


And there was little reason at the time to think there'd be a long shelf life, either for the album, which Argent conceded "got no airplay in England at the time," or the band, which broke up not long after.

The Zombies disbanded, in part, they said, because of the indifferent reception to their latest effort and to ongoing money woes from "being ripped off to the tune of 2 million pounds — do you know how much money that was then?" Argent said.

But things have changed, and it seems that time has healed at least some, if not all, wounds inflicted on the musicians so long ago.

"It's just amazing," Argent said of the response the band has received since a first round of reunion performances in 1999.

The Zombies' Rod Argent performs Friday at Stagecoach.
The Zombies' Rod Argent performs Friday at Stagecoach. (Christopher Polk / Getty Images for Stagecoach)

"That was supposed to be just six shows," Blunstone said. But the positive response encouraged the group to continue, and Argent added that "each time we've come back, the crowds have gotten bigger and bigger, leading the band members to conclude that more than simple nostalgia or curiosity is at work."

"I think we all feel we are singing and playing better than ever," Argent said. "There's one new song I've written that has a note near the end that's higher than anything Colin sang originally, just for fun. It's possible to keep your chops up as you get older — you just have to work harder at it.

Saturday's performance of "Odessey and Oracle" is the final date on the group's 26-city spring tour focusing on that album, and with a lineup that includes original members Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy.

The Stagecoach set featured the band's latter-day lineup, with Argent, Blunstone, Jim Rodford, Tom Toomey and Steve Rodford, and consisted of a broader career survey that ran about 45 minutes. That set, which touched on hit singles "She's Not There," "Tell Her No" and "Time of the Season," played to a couple thousand boisterous onlookers spilling out of the Palomino Stage's massive tent in Indio.

"Last night [on Thursday], we did a performance at the Grammy Museum for a couple hundred people," Argent noted, "and today we're at this huge festival. I love the variety of it."

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