The Zombies – On The Blues (Part One)

The Zombies – veteran purveyors of scintillating and haunting music for over five decades, drawing on jazz, rock and blues influences at every turn but scoring durable chart hits all over the world, even gifting Carlos Santana with one of his biggest hits and spurring The Byrds to explore psychedelia…in Part One of this series, Pete talks Blues and history with dear Jim Rodford, not long before his tragic passing after a fall at home. A true gentleman and born raconteur and this then becomes our tribute to a family man, a Zombie, a Kink, a star of Argent and much more…

 

John Bull/Rockrpix

JLTT: Cheers, Jim – the idea of this piece, I was talking to Rod over tea and cakes last week about everything and we incorporated his thoughts on The Blues and his favourite recordings. Along with discussing my review of the latest Zombies album which to be candid I consider to be the band’s best…

JR: (firmly) Personally, Pete – I agree. For various reasons, I might add, but yours?

It’s got skill and technical stuff but the tunes are out of this world, the singing glorious PLUS so much warmth

I’m right with you on that. It’s down to the songwriting, of course. And we arranged a lot of it between us including the harmonies you picked up on. Chris Potter’s production I think is masterful.

Yes at times there is a touch of the classic West Coast sound, like say The Notorious Byrd Brothers. I fell in love with that song about New York, that Rod explained to me

Ha! That’s a true story, it’s great isn’t it? So many excellent songs on that set, I think we are all proud of its sound as a record and also the ground it covers, but staying characteristically Zombie music, as you stressed

As this is for the Just Listen To This readership, which includes many Zombies fans, what I seek – given your history ! – is your favourite blues recordings, please

Great idea! Well as you will know, I have played with quite a few blues acts myself. When I was touring with The Kinks, I did a jam one time with Junior Wells in Chicago..

I hate you

Haha! You don’t turn that down, do you? I did a lot of gigs with Mick Abrahams who was in Jethro Tull, Blodwyn Pig and all

And a neighbour of one of my guitar pals Colin, lived next door to him

Really!? Wow..and I did a tour with Champion Jack Dupree, back in the Sixties..Jimmy Witherspoon at The Marquee..so that was my early Blues Experience as such. Then there was a really great blues band around in the Seventies, The GB Blues Company. Then I was with the John Slaughter Blues Band for a long time in the Eighties and Nineties..

I used to see him in Chris Barber’s band…fantastic player! Weren’t you in The Bluetones?

Yes, that was our local group. We started off playing skiffle in that boom, in The Fifties. I had a tea-chest bass. Washboard, the whole bit. We gradually bought amps and guitars, like everybody else. Including The Quarrymen. We started playing a bit of Chuck Berry and stuff like that. Rod used to come along and watch. Come 1961, he said ‘I want to form a group’ I said I wouldn’t be in the band BUT I would help him get started. That was the beginning of The Zombies and that is how all that came about. The Bluetones, we were a bluesy pop-rock outfit doing covers.

He signed The Zombies Collection for me and on there we have Mojo, Roadrunner..all numbers that I started playing in the wave behind, as it were

(Laughs) And you can still get those sometimes in the live set. We do Ray Charles’ Sticks And Stones. That was on their first album.

Well that sets the scene, which songs would be on your own r&b Jukebox?

They’re maybe quite obvious ones. I do particularly like Albert King, Born Under A Bad Sign. Booker T Jones and William Bell came up with that, I think. I’ve never actually counted the bars, it skips around a bit, I have played it a few times in shows. With Mick Abrahams a lot, he likes the number. Then I Need Your Love So Bad

Ah, Little Willie John

Yes, Peter Green’s version was the one. That really got me, no Kinks pun intended.

I thought the strings added on that was quite a brave move, for the time

Yes, whoever arranged the strings, it was..what’s the word? It suited the feel of the piece, put it that way. Gary Moore did a version on one of his records

David Coverdale did a very cool take of it, his vocal is superb

In the Sixties, I was in a band called The Mike Cotton Sound, a very popular soul and r&b band. David Coverdale nearly joined us. We did a lot of blues with Mike Cotton so that’s what got me into a lot of it. Right, Spoonful..who did that?

Howlin’ Wolf. Saw him sing it, at Tolworth

It was the version by Cream that really impressed me, what they did with it, how they made it build up. I did really like the playing and writing of Willie Dixon, in and around all that. Another one I’d pick is Every Day I Have The Blues. I sing that a lot myself.

B B King?

Yes, that’s a good version. Also I am choosing Rock Me, Baby – also B B King

I had a feeling you might pick Freddie King

Ah! Yes I do one of his with our little family band….an instrumental, Top Ten hit in America..

Hideaway?

Yes! that’s very definitely one of my favourites, too.

I think we’ll allow you six! I saw Freddie once, he was backed by Killing Floor, do you remember them?

Oh yes…another good guitar player in that time was Mick Moody, he was in the Mike Cotton Sound before he got involved with Juicy Lucy.

Thinking of John Slaughter, Barber used to feature the core power trio during the sets then bring the horns back. He was telling me once about his band going out to play at Muddy Waters’ club in Chicago

(Enthused) Yes! America is great, they get it, they’re open-minded, totally. Eager to hear anything fresh

They so respected Muddy that any guest was treated well…great food, no gear got stolen. Barber couldn’t say enough good things

Chris Barber and The Stones are directly responsible for a lot of those talented black artists having a career ! Playing with Lonnie Donegan, we would play Lonnie’s songs but really they were based upon jug band blues. I’m doing my memoir at the moment and I’m up to the time that The Mike Cotton Sound were on tour with a name American star and his group. This is 1966 and the Hammersmith Odeon. He really liked what we were doing, was most complimentary so we were all chuffed. Then we were doing what was the Brixton ABC. At a soundcheck, his bass player was not around so he calls ‘C’mon up man – you play !’ I couldn’t believe he was asking me but I obliged. So I’m playing along with these two drummers, the old Hammond chugging away…I am on a cloud somewhere. But I’m thinking, no-one is going to believe me – I am playing with James Brown & The Famous Flames!!

Man – my favourite of his is There Was A Time – relentless, driving, the two guitars chattering away..

We had a residency at The Marquee and one night Eric Burdon came and sang Night Time Is The Right Time with us..magical!

He was ahead of the world..his multi-racial band War were way ahead of their time, could do no wrong for me

Absolutely!! Early 1970, Argent are playing at the Whisky A GoGo and Eric comes along. Out in the audience are Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, The Monkees guys..it’s like an exam ! Eric says later he’s having a party at his house, to launch his new band, come on up. That was War, with Lee Oskar. Jimi was there too, it was one of those days you’ll never forget, ever.

Well thanks, amigo – see you at the next Zombies gig, no doubt

Take care, Pete…I’ll be interested to see what Mr Argent chooses for his five!

Pete Sargeant

 



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(It’s been rather sad, typing this up…love and respect to you, Jim – Pete)

(Thanks to Sacha at Hush PR and John Bull at Rockrpix)

Feature Image Photo Credit: John Bull/Rockrpix

Live Photos Photo Credit: John Bull/Rockrpix

Band Photo Photo Credit: Supplied By PR

You can read our review of The Zombies latest album ‘Still Got That Hunger’ here: http://bit.ly/1q1hpcw

The Zombies will be releasing a brand new ‘In The Beginning’ Vinyl Boxset Collectors Edition on Demon Records in February 2019. You can pre-order the release here: https://amzn.to/2TcoPsu

For more information visit the band’s official website here: http://bit.ly/235iIcy