The Zombies: The British Invasion Group That Almost Wasn't There

By | April 19, 2021

test article image
Portrait of British group The Zombies taken in the 1960's.; (Photo by King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images)

The Zombies gave us three hit singles that rank among the classics of the '60s: "She's Not There," "Time Of The Season" and "Tell Her No," and the group's 1968 album Odessey And Oracle is one of the secret masterpieces of its time (though it's a secret that seems to be getting out more and more). It's true that The Zombies didn't generate the teen ecstasy of Beatlemania, nor did they have the longevity of the Rolling Stones, but who does? They were a vital part of the British Invasion.

Except they more or less missed out on the whole thing. The Zombies gave us a few dozen classic tracks, but were plagued by some extremely bad timing, and when the moment arrived for them to get the recognition they deserved, they'd already ceased to exist.

Zombies Weren't Even A Thing In 1962

test article image

The Zombies formed in 1961 -- as with many British Invasion groups, it's a story of schoolboys getting together to jam on early rock and American R&B tunes. There were five Zombies at the start: Rod Argent, Paul Atkinson, Hugh Grundy, Colin Blunstone and Paul Arnold. Arnold was a guitarist, and he didn't stick around long, but before he gave the band something priceless: their name. Though our Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, I Am Legend etc. era has saturated us with the concept, the idea of living dead corpses called "zombies" was not really part of the pop culture of the time. The movie that gave us our modern idea of zombies, George A. Romero's Night Of The Living Dead, would not be released until 1968. It was an exotic, possibly puzzling name, but it worked -- it's arguably the best name of the British Invasion. And it beats the hell out of the name they had been using, The Mustangs. Every band just starting out, it seems, calls themselves The Mustangs for at least a couple of weeks.

Paul Arnold left The Zombies before they saw any success, and was replaced by Chris White.