I was watching a YouTube clip of The Zombies performing “She’s Not There” from 1965, and in true British Invasion style girls were screaming throughout the song. As a singer, did you find it tough to concentrate on lyrics or stay on pitch in that environment?
[Laughs] Sometimes it could get a little bit difficult, but it just seemed to be the thing at the time, and we got used to it quite quickly. By the time “She’s Not There” was a hit in America, it had already been a hit in the U.K. for about three or four months; we had gone from a local band to having a huge success with our first record, so we were getting used to it. I sometimes wonder, though … I probably could have not sung for the first year we were on the road, and I don’t think anybody would have been the wiser.
What do you think it is about revered Zombies LP Odessey and Oracle that has helped it grow so much in stature since 1968?
I think Rod Argent and Chris White were going through an exceptional period of songwriting; I don’t think there’s a weak song on there. And there’s a kind of contradiction in that it epitomizes the mid-to-late ’60s musically, and yet there’s a timeless feel about that album. Most people say to me, it sounds as fresh now as if it were recorded last week. So there’s a bit of a contradiction in it, but I think the contradiction works.
The band broke up before Odessey was released and “Time of the Season” became a hit. Why didn’t you guys re-form and try to capitalize on that success?
I think in general terms, the band’s perception of its position was that its success was in decline. In those days you rarely knew what was going on in other parts of the world; we might know what was happening in America, but we wouldn’t know what was happening in the Far East, and sometimes we wouldn’t know what was happening in Europe. It was only after the band finished that we realized there was never any period that we weren’t having hits somewhere. Perhaps subconsciously, we also all thought that a career in popular music lasted about two or three years. I think everybody felt that way then—no one thought in terms of a lifetime’s career. So we were probably all thinking it was time to move on and do other things. And then Rod and Chris were very committed to their next project, Argent. There were offers of considerable amounts of money to re-form and get back on the road, but it was never seriously considered.
Let’s get to the bottom of that Odessey spelling … intentional, or was that just a cover story?
The second thing is the truth. Rod and Chris shared a flat with an artist, Terry Quirk, who did an illustration for the cover. The release date was set and the presses were ready to roll when somebody noticed the spelling on the sleeve. But Rod and Chris even told me, and the rest of the band, that it was intentional. It was only about two or three years ago when, suddenly, in an interview, Rod said, “Well, it was a mistake, so we made up some story about playing on the word ‘ode.’” It’s a very loose story, and unconvincing. But I’d believed it, for 35 years. And now it’s sort of become part of The Zombies brand.