Lead singer Colin Bluntstone explains his beef with fighting the undead, ahead of their Dewey Beach concert on Aug. 29.
There’s zombies and then there’s The Zombies.
One is a group dedicated to turning people into their own personal happy meals, while the other is a gang of English rockers who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in March.
The latter boasts a horde of infectious tunes like “The Way I Feel Inside,” “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”
The Zombies will sink their teeth into their deep catalog of music when they tour The Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach on Thursday, Aug. 29, with support from Ninet Tayeb.
Lead singer Colin Bluntstone, who co-founded the band as a teen in 1961, got philosophical and touched on his dilemma with fighting the undead, how it feels to finally reach the top of the mountain of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame after nearly 60 years, and his reaction to no getting to play in Woodstock 50 this month, which recently got canceled.
How much weight does being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame carry to you?
It means everything. Firstly, there are over 328,000 votes, and the public votes for us. I can’t get my head around that. That is a huge amount of votes for us. Then in the actual Rock Hall vote, where it’s our peer group voting for us, it’s just fantastic to know they’ve noticed what we’re doing and they appreciated what we’re doing over the years. Every musician longs for peer-group acceptance.
If you were in a zombie movie or TV show, what weapon would you use to fight against them?
I can tell you that in 1961 we were desperate for a name for the band. The first thing that came up for about a week [was] we were The Mustangs. Then for the next week we were The Sundowners. Then our original bass player, who’s called Paul Arnold, came up with the name The Zombies. I had no idea what a zombie was [laughs], but it stuck. It was memorable. I really said all that because to a large extent, I’ve no idea what a zombie is now. So it’s hard for me to choose a weapon when I don’t know what a zombie is. I guess I’ll just grab the nearest thing.
A zombie is a person that’s dead, but has come back to life. Some prefer to fight them with guns or grenades.
I’m totally a non-violent person. The thought of me being a Zombie and picking up a grenade is a little bit outside my life skills. I think maybe I’d better pass on this question. I’d suggest no one ever pick up a weapon, certainly never when their temper is being tested. It’s much better to talk things through. Take it from me, Zombies talk through their problems. They don’t pick up weapons and attack people. I should know, I was a teenage Zombie -- I’ve always wanted to say that -- so I should know about these things.
But do you realize one of the things about zombies are they’re mindless and all they want is to eat flesh?
I think they’ve just got a bad reputation. I’m sure they’re not as bad as you’re painting them. I think people should not pick up weapons and should just try and talk and sort things out. I’m seeing some Zombies later this afternoon, and first of all I will check on how they feel about violence; and secondly I will make a strong recommendation to them that they talk through their problems and do not respond [with] violence. So I will be talking to some Zombies later on, and I assure you they will agree with me.
Early in the game, did you have any concerns Woodstock 50 wasn’t going to happen?
I don’t think [there were doubts], right at the beginning. But I was following it on the news and on Facebook the same as anyone else would be following it. But we had an extra commitment because one of the promoters is a personal friend of the band. So wherever Woodstock would’ve been played, if it had taken place, we would’ve played; firstly, because we have a personal relationship with one of the promoters; but secondly, we were contracted to play, so we would’ve played. That was our take on it.
What was your reaction when you learned Woodstock was canceled?
Of course, we were incredibly disappointed. It would be great to play at a festival that size anyway. But it’s very, very special because it’s commemorating the first festival of its kind in contemporary music. It’s commemorating that very first festival. It would’ve been wonderful to have been involved with it.
Are there any glaring differences when you perform in the United States, versus the United Kingdom?
I think music plays a larger part in the average American’s life than it does in most other places in the world.
Any guesses why you think that is?
A couple of thoughts would be that the blues and jazz originated in America, so people were listening to music that contemporary music fans can relate to a lot earlier here than they were in the U.K. or in Europe. Also from many years ago, [the U.S.] had many radio stations. So there was much more variety in what you could listen to. I think of this as a separate issue: the history of contemporary music in this country is unique; and most countries in the world are influenced by the history of contemporary music in this country.
But as a secondary issue, you’ve always had many radio stations. In the U.K., for instance, we only had the BBC and they had three stations: one was a talking station, one was a classical music station, and one played light music, but like light orchestral music (or big bands) and things like that. It’s only comparatively recently that we’ve had a similar setup to you. So there was never the chance historically for British people to listen to music in the same way as you can in America.
When you first started the band, did you foresee taking it this far?
You have to take into account that when we started this band, we were 15 years old. I remember the first rehearsal really vividly. I was just trying to get through the first rehearsal [laughs]. I didn’t even know if we would ever play in front of an audience, honestly. It took us about a year, because we started with nothing, no equipment.
That very first rehearsal, one of the big bands in Saint Aubin lent us their amplifiers and equipment. On our second rehearsal, we borrowed [more equipment], and we had absolutely nothing. It took us about a year, I think, to be able to get our own very small, very old amplifiers -- a microphone or two -- before we could play our first local gig. These things happened quite slowly.
Was there a point when you realized you could play professionally?
From ‘61 to ‘64 we started building a local following; and I can tell you exactly when I thought there might be a chance of us having a professional career in music. We won a big rock ‘n’ roll competition that was held locally, but people came from all over the country to go to it.
To cut a long story short, over 10 weeks, 10 bands played a night. So there were 100 bands in this competition. It’s a rather old-fashioned name, but it was called (where we lived was a place called Hertfordshire County) “Herts Beat Competition” in the spring of 1964; and we won it. It totally surprised us. One hundred bands went into this. It was sponsored by a big London newspaper.
It got attention outside in our local area, because it was sponsored by this big London newspaper. When we won that I don’t remember us having a conversation about it. But I think we all thought maybe -- I know I certainly did -- do I dare to dream there could be a professional future for the band? That was when it first struck me.