On July 11th, 2017 I cycled down to the Ottawa Bluesfest for a headlining performance starring The Zombies. Okay, it was a sidestage gig, but a headlining slot all the same.
In case you don’t remember The Zombies, they were one of the original 1960’s British Rock & Roll acts. One might even argue that their first hit She’s Not There was the birth of the Flower-power cliché. If nothing else it sounds like fodder for The Thamesmen, if not The Lovely Lads and The New Originals. That said, to me the name The Zombies always brings to mind that weird band of ghouls that lived next door to the Flintstones for a while, The Gruesomes*.
I mentioned She’s Not There but The Zombies were no one-hit-wonders, I can assure you of that! In fact the band had two hits, and this tour featuring the four original members(!) was in honour of the 50th anniversary of that second hit song, the hippie-drenched mellow-yellow anthem Time of the Season.
Of course they played both songs at this concert, and they didn’t even save them for the last two songs. Why? Because: Argent.
Yes, from the ashes of The Zombies first disbanding*** came several new bands, most notably keyboardist Rod Argent’s band Argent. Now here was a one hit wonder, and one I had a special place in my cheesy heart for. Why? Because Argent is most famous for their hit Hold Your Head Up, which is a song that Phish often uses as a launching pad for a string of cover songs when they play live. Perhaps in some sort of nod to this esoteric notoriety, The Zombies (or should I be calling them Argent at this point?) jammed the song into snippets of Green Onions and some Bach too.
Come to think of it, I suppose Argent was as responsible for getting me off the couch as The Zombies were. Regardless, I stuck around to the bitter end, which was a one-two punch of She’s Not There and Argent’s God Gave Rock and Roll to You, which might not have been a hit, but I suspect might just have been the inspiration for the intro to Pinball Wizard (you heard it here first!).
In the end, it was a standard seventy-five minute casino-style retro nostalgia set, but I’m sure it was better than Hot Country Yee Haw heartthrob Jake Owen on the main stage. And at least it was the real Zombies (or was it?).
*The Gruesomes were a band on the show**, right? Or am I conflating them with The Way-Outs?
**(Yes, I realize that there was a real garage band from Montreal called The Gruesomes.)
***Wikipedia tells an incredible tale of The Zombies refusing to reunite even when Time of the Season became a surprise hit in the United States. So an American promotional company created two fake The Zombies bands and put them simultaneously on tour throughout the US in 1969 (the company also created fake groups pretending to be The Animals and The Archies; clearly they specialized in fraud from A to Z). One of the fake Zombie bands featured Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, two-thirds of what would soon become ZZ Top.