The Zombies' She's Not There 45 RPM single
The Zombies formed in 1959 in St. Albans, England, and gained their early reputation playing at the Old Verulamians Rugby Club in that city. The group was formed while the members were attending school; according to some sources, Rod Argent (organ, piano, vocals) , Paul Atkinson (guitar, vocals) and Hugh Grundy (drums) were at St. Alban’s School, while Colin Blunstone (lead vocals) and Chris White (bass, vocals) were students at St. Alban’s Boys’ Grammar School. After winning a beat group competition sponsored by the London Evening News, the Zombies signed to Decca Records and recorded their first single, “She’s Not There” b/w “You Make Me Feel Good”. This is today’s featured single.
“She’s Not There” was the Zombies’ biggest hit and best-known track. Released in July 1964 (and the second song written by Rod Argent), it came right in the middle of the first wave of British Invasion hits, but the song cannot be easily categorized: it’s not Merseybeat; it’s not Rolling Stones/Animals rhythm and blues raunch; it’s not mod-ish like The Who. It opens with Rod Argent’s haunting, melodic organ playing a minor-key melody, soon accompanied by the rhythm section, and Blunstone delivers his breathy, artful vocals, just loud enough to break through the din: “Well, no one told me about her/ The way she lied/ Well, no one told me about her/ How many people cried”. The lead guitar contains a grand total of four chords: Em-A-Em-A on each verse, and Am-Em-Bm-Em-Am-Em-Em-A during the chorus. Rod Argent’s organ playing on this track is impeccable, and we even get a brief, jazzy organ solo about 1 minute and 36 seconds into the song, before there is a reprise of the chorus, and the song comes to an end with Blunstone’s vocals and a cymbal crash. This song is marred somewhat by Rod Argent’s off-key harmonizing on background vocals, which somewhat defeat the band’s efforts to sing in harmony on the chorus (an element seemingly borrowed from folk songs) in the manner many pop records of the day. But make no mistake about it: “She’s Not There” is a rock classic (and moreover, a song that seems tailor made for AM Top 40 radio), a song which helped differentiate the Zombies from a number of British Invasion bands to arrive in the wake of The Beatles, many of which sounded alike and openly aped the top-tier British Invasion bands. The Zombies were no copycats, and their originality shines through on this track. The song seems tailor-made for AM Top 40 radio, and indeed the song started to get traction in the United States after WINS (1010 AM – New York) DJ Stan Z. Burns debuted it in his noontime “Hot Spot” segment. The song ultimately reached #2 in the U.S. and #2 in Canada (and #12 in the U.K.). The song was also covered by several artists, including the Vanilla Fudge and the U.K. Subs.
The B-side of the single, “You Make Me Feel Good”, is a Beatles-esque love song [it’s only fitting that after I praise the Zombies for their originality in reviewing “She’s Not There” that I should make that comparison] written by Chris White. The verses features harmonies by Blunstone, Argent, Atkinson and White; once again, one of these things is not like the others, although Argent’s singing is better on this track. The lyrics are somewhat generic (“You don’t need any reason, do you baby?/Surely you should know that by now/But if you need a reason, I’ll give one to you:/You make me feel good, you make me feel good”), but once again, Argent’s organ playing gives the song a unique sound, and the rhythm section helps fill out the sound.
The single (catalog #: 9695) was issued in the U.S. on Parrot Records, a subsidiary of London Records (the American branch of Decca Records). The label was the typical Parrot label from that era, with the tuxedo-wearing green and yellow parrot featured prominently on the label, and track/artist information on the bottom. As far as I know, no picture sleeve was issued with this single. The success of “She’s Not There” led to a tour of the United States (among other concerts, they played Murray The K’s Christmas shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theater). The follow-up single, “Leave Me Be”, stiffed in the U.K., but in 1965, they had a second U.S. hit with “Tell Her No”, which reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 (peak U.K. position: #42). An album, “Begin Here” (1965) was released, containing many of their early tracks. The U.S. version was titled “The Zombies”, and deleted some tracks while adding others, most notably, “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”. Subsequent singles failed to get much traction in either the U.S. or the U.K. Eventually the band signed with CBS Records, and recorded their second album, “Odessey and Oracle”, in the summer of 1967. By the time it was released in April 1968, the Zombies had broken up, disillusioned with the fading commercial fortunes of the band. In 1969, one of the singles from “Odessey and Oracle”, “Time of the Season” b/w “Friends of Mine”, became a major hit in the U.S., eventually reaching #3, but by then, Argent and White had already formed a new band, Argent. In 1991, Blunstone, Grundy and White briefly reunited to form a new Argent lineup. In 2004, Blunstone and Argent, who had been performing together since 2001, began performing as The Zombies once again, with Keith Airey (guitar, vocals), Jim Rodford (bass, vocals), and Steve Rodford (drums) rounding out the new lineup. After the demise of Argent, Chris White became an A&R man, and Paul Atkinson had retired as a performer and was an A&R man when he died in April 2004.