Chamber-pop staying power

1968 | The Zombies have it

Issue: "Summer of '68," Aug. 9, 2008

In the spring of 1968, eight months after they had recorded it then broken up, The Zombies released a shimmering '60s-pop apotheosis called Odessey and Oracle.

But perhaps because it had for competition such heady psychedelic smorgasbords as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, both of which had been released to great acclaim the year before (and both of which, like Odessey and Oracle, had been recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios), the album did not make much of an impression.

In fact, since 1964, when their singles "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No" hit the U.S. top 10, The Zombies had languished in the shadows of their British Invasion peers. Besides The Beatles and Pink Floyd, The Who and The Kinks were also etching their chapters into the annals of rock history. And the American groups The Left Banke (with "Walk Away Renee") and The Association (with "Cherish" and "Windy") had already taken The Zombies' diaphanous, chamber-pop sound to the top of the charts, thus preventing The Zombies from laying claim to that most essential element of '60s cachet: novelty.

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Then in 1969, by the time both The Left Banke and The Association were washed up, Odessey and Oracle's "Time of the Season" exploded. Sounding less like one song than like everything The Zombies had ever recorded condensed into three minutes and 33 seconds, it became an AM-radio staple and turned Odessey and Oracle into a perpetually in-print critics' favorite.

With the release in October of George Romero's film The Night of the Living Dead, 1968 turned out to be the year of the zombies after all. That it took the seasoning of time to capitalize the "z" merely underscores the capriciousness of hasty judgment.


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