ON THE TURNTABLE:The Zombies-“Odessey and Oracle” 1968
North Vietnam and the Viet Cong troops launched the TET OFFENSIVE on The Lunar New Year, late January striking villages and towns throughout South Vietnam. The My Lai Massacre occurred March 16 but was not news until later that autumn, somehow it never made the news when it occurred but when it hit the news…
One morning, April 4, 1968 I was awaken to the news that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr , the Nobel Prize winner, was killed. Then, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, USSR invades Czechoslovakia, and LBJ ends the “Rollin Thunder” bombing of North Vietnam. He also announces he will “not seek” another term for President. The BLACK POWER salute is seen during the Summer Olympics in Mexico, viewed throughout America and the world in “living color”.Students overtake Columbia University, Apollo 8 orbits the moon, and The Beatles release THE BEATLES aka as the White Album.
Strange how sometimes it takes months, maybe years before someone appreciates a good/great piece of music. That is the case with THE ZOMBIES “Odessey and Oracle”, complete with the misspelling of the word “odyssey” in the title and printed as such on the cover.
THE ZOMBIES, one of the original band of the BRITISH INVASION was a short lived group in The States, 1964-68 and basically a non-entity in their homeland. Their first American release(October 64) was “She’s Not There” b/w “You Make Me Feel So Good”, a 45 on PARROT RECORDS. It took a run (November 7-#22, November 14-#9, November 21-#5, November28-#4,December 5-#4, December 12-#2) to the top of the charts (#2) in BILLBOARD being bested by BOBBY VINTON’S “Mr. Lonely”. Also during the tune’s nine week run in the TOP TWENTY were the #1 hits “Do Wah Diddy”,”Baby Love”, Leader of The Pack”,Lorne Greene’s “Ringo”, “Come See About Me”,and “I Feel Fine”.
The ZOMBIES,like many other British hit makers, were sent to the States to promote their hit single. They appeared at the 1964 MURRAY THE K CHRISTMAS Shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre along with CHUCK JACKSON,BEN E.KING,THE DRIFTER,THE SHIRELLES, DICK AND DEE DEE, THE VIBRATIONS,DIONNE WARWICK,THE NASHVILLE TEENS AND THE HULLABALOOS. To THE ZOMBIES this was an amazing experience later chronicled on their 2015 “STILL GOT THE HUNGER” album in a song entitled “New York” which describes their welcome by others, particularly PATTI LABELE and all those wondrous nights of performing seven shows a day.
JANUARY 12, 1965, The Zombies appeared on the very first episode of NBC’s “Hullabaloo” where they performed “She’s Not There” and introduced the follow-up, “Tell Her No” (b/w “Leave Me Be” Parrot Records). Funny how I remember the aftermath of that show, trying to recreate the drum part for our next band rehearsal.
Two US hits and The Zombies basically disappear.Sure they had numerous releases but never hit the charts again whether it was at home in England or in the States. As a matter of fact “Tell He No” did not chart in the UK. FUN FACT:The word “No” is mentioned a total of 63 times in the lyrics of the song,count ‘em.
February of 1968 I hear a song on “CKLW- The Big 8” by a band called PEOPLE, the name of the song is “I Love You”. Released by Capitol Records I find it and buy it. It is not until months later that I discovered that that very single was written (Chris White) and recorded previously by The Zombies. To the utter dismay of the Zombies, this recording by PEOPLE climbs the American/Canadian charts. To make matters worse it was originally the b-side of PEOPLE’s single “Somebody Tell Me My Name. Some dj liked the b-side so he played it and…
Late 1967 the unsuccessful ZOMBIES,dropped by DECCA RECORDS, seek and receive a new contract with CBSRecords and are working on a self produced “second” album. They settle in EMI ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS, using the same 4 track machine THE BEATLES employed a few months before on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Some internal friction and disharmony causes huge rifts in the band and after finishing the album (December 1967) they disband. A few tunes released as singles bomb and CBS is reluctant to release the finished “Odessey and Oracle” until AL KOOPER, working for the label, convinced the bosses for a release in April 1968 under the DATE RECORDS subsidiary label. And just like the singles,it bombed.
Summer of 1968 at a record store on Wall Street, NYC, I see the poster for “O and O” with the phrase “THE ZOMBIES” printed boldly on it. I bought it then and there. When it first came out, to me, it was a delight, to others it was a bizarre strange record.”Care of Cell 44”, “A Rose for Emily”,”Beechwood Park”, “This Will Be Our Year” are all gems but that final track “Time Of The Season” was phenomenal.
March of 69, fifteen months after THE ZOMBIES break-up, one full year after their album bombs at home and abroad, the single release of “Time of the Season” soars up the American/Canadian charts, #1 in CASHBOX, #2 BILLBOARD “forcing” COLUMBIA RECORDS to re-release the album (under the Columbia Records label this time) however using a faulty cropped cover.(record collectors love this shit, we do).
Congratulations go to THE ZOMBIES for their induction into the Rock N Roll HALL OF FAME 2019.God knows they of all deserve some recognition. They are still performing, and as I wrote a few reviews of their performances “they are no oldies act”. Enjoy.