Entertainment & Arts

Paul Weller on 'unsung heroes' The Zombies

The Zombies
The Zombies split up before Odessey and Oracle was released

It is "one of the all time greatest records", according to rock hero Paul Weller. But when The Zombies' psychedelic LP Odessey and Oracle was released in 1968, it virtually sank without trace.

The band had imploded by the time of its release, and the album struggled to compete with releases by acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks in that landmark year.

But the psychedelic long player has gradually gathered fans over the years, with Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters and folk-rock band Fleet Foxes all emerging as big fans.

Here, Paul Weller describes how the band influenced him and the band's Rod Argent says they are finally getting the credit they deserve.

PAUL WELLER

"The Zombies made one of the all-time greatest records in Odessey and Oracle. It came out in 1968 and by the time it had come out I think they had split. No-one bought it at the time.

"It was a fantastic record, and of all the albums that get some kind of recognition from that period, they always seem to get overlooked.

"The first time I heard it was in the mid-70s, and it just blew my mind.

"When I listen to it, I'm instantly transported back to autumn '74, sitting in my mate's flat overlooking Woking Park and the leaves falling and turning gold and green and orange. We would be hanging out, writing songs together and plotting how we were going to make it.

"We'd be getting high and listening to as much music as possible and learning - it was a learning experience.

"I hadn't heard music like that before. The harmonies were fantastic and so were the chord progressions. It's got a very wistful, melancholic English sound, a very autumnal sound and I can't think of many records that have got the same sort of sound.

"The Zombies were really unique - they had elements of jazz and classical music in their songs and songwriting. They had a very, very different sound compared to a lot of their contemporaries at the time.

"It made a very, very big impression and it's still to this day probably my all-time favourite record.

"I've met them once - I went to see them in recent years when they performed the whole of Odessey and Oracle at Shepherd's Bush Empire, which was brilliant. I was a bit nervous about talking to them but they were lovely."

Paul Weller's 10th solo studio album Wake Up the Nation is out now.

THE ZOMBIES' ROD ARGENT

"Odessey and Oracle was a very strange story - we recorded it in 1967 and it came out in 68. One of the tracks from it, Time of the Season, was our biggest hit - not in the UK, but almost everywhere else in the world.

"In spite of that, the album didn't really sell. And then about 12-15 years later, it gradually started to pick up sales and has continued right up until the present day.

"We broke up as soon as we made the album and never played any of those tracks live. Colin [Blunstone, singer] and I went back on the road, but not with the two guys that hadn't really played professionally for years. [Bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy survive. Guitarist Paul Atkinson died in 2004.]

"So when it was coming up to the 40th anniversary, Chris said: 'Why don't we do a special concert and premiere the album 40 years later?' We did and it was a great three nights. Paul Weller had tickets for all three nights - on the second night he bought us a huge magnum of champagne.

"The first guy that I was aware of saying something about the album was Paul. When he was number one with The Jam, he was asked what his favourite album was and he said Odessey and Oracle. You could have completely knocked us over at the time to hear that. Since then, succeeding waves of young artists have been kind enough to say similar things about it.

"It really has spread around the world, in a cottage industry sort of way. We recently played in the Ukraine to a packed audience of 22-year-olds who were singing every single word. It's an underground, cult thing.

"The album doesn't sell in huge quantities but remains a good selling album year in, year out. It's not Dark Side of the Moon but it gives us a continuing source of income."

After The Zombies, Argent formed the band Argent, who had hits in the 1970s with Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock And Roll To You. He also worked as a session musician and a producer. He still performs with Blunstone and the pair are currently working on a new Zombies album.

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