Rod Argent is a forward thinking kind of fellow. “I’ve always looked forward to the future,“ the 66-year-old tells me from his recently revamped Red House Studios.
It’s an outlook that has been with him and his band, seminal ‘60s pop-rock group The Zombies since their early days. This eye on what was to come meant the St Albans five-piece slipped onto the scene with songs like the jazz-laced She’s Not There, only the second song Rod had ever written, and unlike anything heard in British rock back in 1964. And what about those haunting harmonies?
“From the very beginning, we’d set up two mics for me and Chris [White] to sing harmonies behind Colin,“ remembers Rod. “Before the Beatles came out it was very unusual for a group to sing a three-part harmony and we were doing that from the very beginning. I think those elements all conspired together to make us pretty unusual from the start.“
Victims of their own vision, by the time they released their second album, Odessey and Oracle, the band had already called it a day. With only the songwriting members of the band making any money and two singles released to indifference, tragically, at the peak of their creativity, an amicable disbandment was their only option.
“We got frustrated,“ explains Rod. “You can’t ever know how records will be received. We’d given it our best shot and thought it was our best album.
“One thing we’d always wanted to do was produce our own album, to get our own stamp on something before we broke up.“
By the time its single Time Of The Season was released “we were already embarked on other things“ he tells me.
It took some time for the public to catch up. It wasn’t until artists like Paul Weller called attention to the forgotten masterpiece that they finally got the recognition they deserved – some 15 years after its release.
“It completely astonished us when these names started mentioning it as an influence, years after it had come out.“
Rod and his band may have missed out in their heyday but faith in their philosophy is now paying off.
“We always stayed true to what excited us,“ explains Rod. “That sometimes meant that these weren’t immediate hits, but in the long term, because we weren’t slavishly following trends, the songs have lasted and have retained their quality.“
Now, 50 years since the band got together outside the Pioneer Club in Heathlands Drive, St Albans, Rod has joined with lead singer Colin Blunstone for an anniversary tour and a new album Breathe In, Breathe Out. After resisting the golden oldies theatre tours for so long (“I always ran a mile from the idea,“ says Rod), the pair are approaching much of their past work, as if for the first time.
“In some ways it feels like we’re catching up on what we missed out on the first time around,“ explains Rod. “Many of the songs we never even got to play live, it’s been great to revisit those tracks.“
They made sure the tour passed the place where it all started, St Albans, and as a special treat for local fans, original members Chris White and Hugh Grundy will be joining them on stage for a couple of numbers.
Thanks to Rod’s future-facing outlook, he has sometimes had to wait for due appreciation to get back to him and his band.
“It’s always been like that, in the ‘60s you could have a hit in Australia and not find out about it for a year! We may have missed out on commercial success, but our music hasn’t dated as much.
“Although it does mean I never kept any of the original records or memorabilia from the time – maybe I should have, they’d be worth a fortune now!“
The Zombies are at The Alban Arena, St Albans on November 27 at 8pm. Details: 01727 844488