10 Best Songs by The Zombies

Hertfordshire band The Zombies endured a somewhat erratic career in the 1960s. They enjoyed early hits with ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Tell Her No’. It took, however, three years to record another album after 1965’s debut Begin Here. Discouraged by a lack of success, the band broke up after recording their second album, Odessey and Oracle. Sweet voiced singer Colin Blunstone left the music industry to pursue a career in insurance.

Despite the initial lack of success, Odessey has since become one of the most acclaimed albums of the 1960s. Additionally, ‘Time of the Season’ was a belated #3 Billboard hit in the USA. The band reformed without Blunstone to record a follow-up, but it wasn’t released until 1990. The Zombies reformed in 1989 and have continued to tour and record, but this list focuses on their 1960s heyday.

It’s a shame that The Zombies didn’t record more in their 1960s prime. They had two excellent songwriters with keyboardist Rod Argent and bassist Chris White. Drummer Hugh Grundy and guitarist Paul Atkinson were part of the classic lineup. The band were talented enough to incorporate jazzy sophistication on early hits like ‘She’s Not There’ and ‘Tell Her No’, then dabble in psychedelia on ‘Time of the Season’.

10 Best Zombies Songs

#10 Care of Cell 44

from Odessey and Oracle, 1968
‘Care of Cell 44’ was the lead single from Odessey and Oracle. It wasn’t a hit – Chris White admitted to SongFacts: “We tried to promote ‘Care Of Cell 44,’ but there was no positive reaction. It was downhill from then on.” With the exception of the grittier ‘Time of the Season’, the chirpy, sophisticated pop of Odessey and Oracle seemed out-of-step for 1968 as popular music became heavier and more psychedelic. ‘Care Of Cell 44’ recalls the sophistication of Brian Wilson in his mid-1960s prime, especially the vocal arrangement. The narrator is writing to his girlfriend in prison, unusual subject matter for a pop song.

#9 I’ll Call You Mine

b-side of Time of the Season, 1968
After the belated success of ‘Time of the Season’ in the US, The Zombies regrouped without Blunstone. The album was assembled in 1969 but wasn’t released until a Japanese edition in 1990. The second side was comprised of previously recorded material, polished for the new album. ‘I’ll Call You Mine’ was previously a b-side for ‘Time of the Season’. It’s a little grittier than most of the Odessey material, sounding like mid-1960s Beatles.

#8 Whenever You’re Ready

non-album single, 1965
After a series of unsuccessful singles, Argent’s ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ attempted to invoke two things – the mood of breakthrough hit ‘She’s Not There’, as well as Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions. It was unsuccessful, missing the Billboard 100. Its lack of success is inexplicable – Cashbox magazine wrote “The Zombies should have no difficulty in zooming up the hitsville path lickety-split with this ultra-commercial Parrot offering called “Whenever You’re Ready.” Its b-side, ‘I Love You’, became ultimately better-known – American band People! reached #14 with their version while The Carnabeats had a #2 hit in Japan with their translated version.

#7 Friends of Mine

from Odessey and Oracle, 1968
Odessey and Oracle is one of the best albums of the 1960s, packed with tuneful, accessible, and sophisticated songs. The charming and upbeat ‘Friends of Mine’, written by Chris White, is one of my favourites. I wonder if any of the couples listed in the song – Paul and Molly? June and Daffy? – are still together? Like ‘Care of Cell 44’, ‘Friends of Mine’ was an unsuccessful single.

#6 Tell Her No

non-album single, 1965
The Zombies’ third single is arguably their third-best known song – it was a top ten hit in the US. It’s the mellowest of their big hits, recalling the soft and sophisticated pop of Burt Bacharach in the verses. Written by Rod Argent, this 1965 song repeats the word “No” 65 times.

#5 Imagine The Swan

non-album single, 1969
After the success of ‘Time of the Season’, Argent and Grundy reformed The Zombies with a couple of ring-ins. ‘Imagine the Swan’ was written by Chris White, who continued to work with Argent in his new band (also named Argent) but no longer wished to perform. Even without Blunstone’s distinctive voice, ‘Imagine the Swan’ is an impressive Zombies song.

#4 This Will Be Our Year

from Odessey and Oracle, 1968
This joyful track has been used in the closing credits of TV shows and movies, including Mad Men and the finale of Schitt’s Creek. It wasn’t a hit, so it’s not overfamiliar. Yet it’s a great song, perfectly capturing an innocent optimism. It was written by Chris White.

#3 She’s Not There

from Begin Here, 1965
The Zombies’ breakthrough hit carved out a distinct niche in the British Invasion. Rod Argent’s electric piano playing gives the song a sophisticated, jazzy feel. He wrote the song specifically for Blunstone’s vocal range, taking the opening line from John Lee Hooker’s ‘No One Told Me’. The electric piano and Blunstone’s vocal give the song an enigmatic feel, not unlike Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’ a few years later. ‘She’s Not There’ was a #2 hit in the US and in Canada – The Zombies were always more successful stateside.

#2 Time of the Season

from Odessey and Oracle, 1968
The tougher groove and psychedelic swirl of ‘Time of the Season’ should have been the lead single from Odessey and Oracle. It took a long time to become successful – it hit #3 on the Billboard charts nearly a year after the album’s release. Written by Rod Argent, it helped to popularise the phrase “who’s your daddy?”

Zombies Odessey and Oracle Review

#1 Hung Up On A Dream

from Odessey and Oracle, 1968
‘Hung Up On A Dream’ wasn’t a single, but its epic dream-like quality is special. It’s a big production with Mellotron and a choir, while the lyrics are very much of their hippie era. But it’s lovely, written by Argent who plays the beautiful piano intro. Blunstone’s gentle voice is perfect for the soft impressionism of the lyrics.

What’s your favourite Zombies song?

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  1. The only ones I really love are the three hits. And also Hold Your Head Up by Argent if you count them. I love that one. But not God Gave Rock and Roll to You. Ha ha. I think Kiss did a cover of it and somebody else too. One time I had that Colin Blunstone album that people like but I don’t remember it. Oh yeah, I also love the Vanilla Fudge cover of She’s Not There, which is totally great.

    • I figured you would have been a big Odessey and Oracle fan. I have never heard a note of Argent or Blunstone’s solo career – I guess I should check them out sometime.

      • Argent were like early progressive rock with lots of organ and stuff. Hold your Head Up is a progressive rock classic that was a humongous hit in its shortened single version, but the long version has a big long organ solo that’s really great.

  2. I purchased the debut in 1965 and have always considered it to be different and special. No other British Invasion band sounded remotely similar. I love the arch English public school vocals, particularly on one of my favs. – I Don’t Want To Know. Their version of Summertime is also good, though not to everyone’s taste. I also bought Odessey upon release and never understood why it wasn’t immediately successful. I saw The Zombies (Rod and Colin) just a few years ago, in a small venue in Las Vegas. Terrific and much appreciated show.

    • It’s cool you bought it when it came out – I wasn’t even alive then! The covers on the debut are a little bit frustrating – I like ‘Summertime’, as it suits Blunstone’s voice, but I don’t really need to hear them doing ‘Roadrunner’. I wish they’d kicked off some of the covers and used the Argent originals that were on the 1965 EP that preceded the album.

  3. Admittedly, the only two songs by The Zombies I could name before reading your post were “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There”, which I both love. I also recognized “This Will Be Our Year,” another great tune, and I like the remaining songs in your playlist. You’re right it’s a pity The Zombies didn’t record more music in the ’60s. They certainly were talented!

    • Thanks for listening! It’s weird they went from 1965 to 1968 without recording an album – lots of unsuccessful singles in that era. They probably would have produced more if they were successful.

      • Hey, thanks for posting, Graham! It’s kind of mind-boggling I didn’t know any of their songs except “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There”, especially given how much I dig these two tunes!

  4. I too prefer the hits, though I concede “Hung Up On A Dream” is really lovely. I was a freshman in high school when “Time of the Season” came out, and I loved it. My Top 3 would be:

    She’s Not There
    Time of the Season
    Tell Her No

  5. I was shocked that you have Imagine the Swan…I never had a good reaction from people who heard it…I first heard it on a Greatest Hits package I had…loved it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Whenever You’re Ready… a good song. I’ll listen to that one in the next few days.

    This is a fun one. Mine would be
    1. Care of Cell 44
    2. This Will Be Our Year
    3. Time of the Season
    4. Imagine the Swan
    5. She’s Not There
    6. A Rose For Emily
    7. Tell Her No
    8. Friends of Mine
    9. Hung Up On A Dream
    10. Beechwood Park

  6. Advise for the youngers: after more than 50 years this could be a totally unknown and obscure band. But if you like stuff like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Mamas & The Papas, you will love it.

    • Their catalogue’s a lot smaller than some of their contemporaries, but their best album and best songs are up there with The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

    • Yup, it’s one of my favourite albums of all time for sure. Not super keen of Butcher’s Tale though…

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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person. It features album reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

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Graham Fyfe has been writing this website since his late teens. Now in his forties, he's been obsessively listening to albums for years. He works as a web editor and plays the piano.

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