Mingling with Rock Royalty: My chat to The Zombies iconic singer Colin Blunstone

I am such a huge fan of The Zombies, a band whose music has spanned over five decades and is still so current. I consider them Rock Royalty along with Slade. That’s why I keep interviewing Colin Blunstone at every opportunity. Ahead of their London gigs next week in London, I have managed to get a few more anecdotes out of Colin, who is one of the nicest guys in the world of rock and roll. Check this out. 

Group portrait of The Zombies walking down a street arm in arm in Chiswick, west London, 1965. L-R Rod Argent, Paul Atkinson, Colin Blunstone, Chris White, Hugh Grundy. (Photo by Stanley Bielecki/ASP/Getty Images)

Monica Costa:               It’s rare these days to experience such an incredible warm atmosphere at a rock concert… But The Zombies still rock! 

Colin Blunstone:           Oh, yeah. We rock. We give it everything we’ve got, every night. For us it’s what we need to do, it’s such a pleasure for us to get out there and to perform. And so we often think that there’s more energy on stage now, than was in the 60s with our original line-up, which probably we’ve never seen. I mean there’s a 50 year gap, but we just love to get out there and perform.

Monica Costa:               The audience notices this passion you’ve got, and that you give everything you’ve got, and this transpires from every inch of your skin and your voice, and everything you do on stage. Your passion gets across.

Colin Blunstone:           Well, that’s excellent. I’m really thrilled that you should say that. The kind of music that we play, and actually the keys that we play in, you have to give everything. You can’t just go through the motions on those kind of songs, played in those keys. You have to work at it, and it’s incredibly fulfilling when it comes off, and especially when I hear comments like you’ve just made, that makes it all worthwhile.

Monica Costa:               I look forward to seeing you next week in Canary Wharf in London. I am so thrilled about seeing you again, and I’ll come and say hello. 

Colin Blunstone:           Okay. So, where are you coming? 

Monica Costa:               To the Boisdale in Canary Wharf on the 21st of March.

Colin Blunstone:           Okay. Yup, absolutely.

Monica Costa:               Yeah, I come and say hello this time.

Colin Blunstone:           Yeah, do. Yeah. It’s very interesting, ’cause Rod and I have done a few of these two-man acoustic shows. It’s not the whole band, it’s just Rod and I.

Monica Costa:               Oh, fantastic.

Colin Blunstone:           We’ve done a few of them before and it is quite different. We probably talk more than we would with The Zombies. People like us to tell stories and all that kind of thing.

Monica Costa:               Oh, I love that.

Colin Blunstone:           So, it will be quite different, I think, from The Zombies. I’m not absolutely sure what we’re gonna be playing yet, but I’m sure we’ll work on it this week.

Monica Costa:               Oh, great. I hope the Time of the Season will be there.

Colin Blunstone:           Oh, I’m sure it will.

Monica Costa:               I love that song. It’s one of my favourites of all time, actually.

Colin Blunstone:          Sure that will be there, yup.

Monica Costa:               Although we talked a lot last time, there’s always a question I want to ask you, a few actually. Well, first of all, The Zombies are going to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year along with The Cure, Roxy Music, Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, and Def Leppard, there’s all quite a good line-up. I wanted to ask you, who among your fellow nominees are your favourites?

Colin Blunstone:           Now that’s an interesting thought. I would say Roxy Music probably, because they’re the only ones of those artists that I’ve seen live, and I really, really enjoyed it. And so I’m looking forward to the induction ceremony, because everyone plays live.

Monica Costa:               Wow!

Colin Blunstone:           I’ll try, and catch everyone, and I’m sure they’ll all be brilliant.

Monica Costa:               Oh, yes.

Colin Blunstone:           But off that list, off the top of my head, I would say Roxy Music.

Monica Costa:               Great. Then another important milestone, if you want, is The Zombies’ coloured vinyl, the album box set In The Beginning, has just been released on Demon Records, and why do you think vinyl is coming back in an era of purer sound quality?

Colin Blunstone:           Well it is, isn’t it? It’s fascinating, isn’t it?

Monica Costa:               It is.

Colin Blunstone:           But, I think that there’s a warmer richer sound from vinyl, and I think that’s what’s attracted people to the vinyl market. There is a difference listening to music on vinyl, and I think it’s very exciting, that it’s the one area of record sales that is expanding. Of course everywhere else, the sales of CDs are not very healthy at all, but the vinyl market is expanding.

Monica Costa:               It is.

Colin Blunstone:           It’s because, in the first place, there is a richer sound from vinyl. And secondly, a lot of people love to read the album sleeve while they’re listening to an album. It’s a completely different experience when you listen to an album from track one to track ten, and you’re following it on an album sleeve, as opposed to streaming or downloading tracks that are not played in the order that the artist expected them to be played in. And of course you don’t know any of the background about the tracks, or the musicians who are playing, who produced it, where it was recorded. It’s a much fuller experience listening on vinyl. And also having that album sleeve and all the information to read while you’re listening.

Monica Costa:               You know, you talk to someone who still plays the records. I do.

Colin Blunstone:           Yes, and me too.

Monica Costa:               I have so many records, and I must say I have a new Dansette.

Colin Blunstone:           Yeah?

Monica Costa:               Yes. And I play my old records all the time. I love it but only because maybe I am used to. I was born in 1970 and I used to have only that as my first music, so I bought records, my first records, and I played them, and I still do. My son is almost 13, and he says, “Mummy, why are we playing this if we can have a better sound quality if we get it from a CD?”. I tell him: “You don’t understand, when you put the pin onto the record, the whole thing makes me shiver in a good way. I have goosebumps every time.” Anyway, that’s us, isn’t it?

Colin Blunstone:           Of course for me too, and obviously with a lot of other people as well.

Monica Costa:               My other question is, what’s your favourite song to sing in front of the audience, both from The Zombies, and from your own portfolio, and why?

Colin Blunstone:           Often there are many favourites. Of course, She’s Not There will always be a favourite with me, because it is the first record The Zombies ever recorded, and it changed our lives. I think it’s got a timeless feel about it. It sounds as special now as it did when we recorded it. And I’ll always enjoy performing that song. There are many others that I like as well, but that one comes easily. 

Monica Costa:               And what about one from your own portfolio, your own-

Colin Blunstone:           Well, I think Say You Don’t Mind is a wonderful song. It’s a Denny Laine song, and when we recorded it we had a fantastic string arrangement written by Chris Dunning, who’s a marvellous arranger, and I think that’s a stand-out track that I recorded. I also like a song I performed for the Alan Parsons Project called Old and Wise.

Monica Costa:               Oh, yeah, I was going to ask you about that too.

Colin Blunstone:           It’s a very beautiful song. A very sad song.

Monica Costa:               Yes.

Colin Blunstone:           It’s beautifully sad, particularly when we performed that in Holland. You know, different countries, different songs are popular … more popular in different countries, and it’s quite remarkable how different it can be. But in Holland Old and Wise is a very, very well-known song, and it’s incredibly emotional when I sing it there, because I can see that in the audience, that there’s quite a few tears in the audience. It means a lot to people, and people … It’s a song about someone dying, really, but it’s written in a very beautiful way, and I think it’s played a lot at funerals in Holland.

Colin Blunstone:           Which may sound a bit of a strange thing to say, but it’s a very important time in people’s lives, when they’re saying goodbye to someone who they loved, and the atmosphere’s electric in Holland when we play Old and Wise.

Monica Costa:               How does it feel to sing the song now? I mean, you’ve sung it later.

Colin Blunstone:           Still every time, it really affects me every time I perform it, and especially in Holland, as I said, I feel a real responsibility, because I can see the reaction on the audience, and I so want it to be good. I so want everything to be right when we do it, that it kind of adds to the pressure of performing it, in some ways. When you desperately want it to be good, that sometimes is when people can make mistakes, so you have to guard against being over committed to a performance.

Monica Costa:               Yeah. Talking about the Alan Parsons Project, will you be bringing back more songs from that album in your solo tour. Which will start, I think, in April, right?

Colin Blunstone:           It starts in April. Will I be doing more Alan Parsons songs? I don’t think there’s any plans for that at the moment. In fact, unfortunately, I don’t know how much … I’m not sure, I’ll probably only meet the solo band very quickly, just before we start that tour, because most of the time up until the tour starts, I’m working on projects and they’re working on other projects too. It gets just very challenging to get us all together at one time, so I don’t think we’ll be doing any other Alan Parsons songs. 

Monica Costa:               I understand that. If you do know that already, which songs will you be singing on your solo tour?

Colin Blunstone:           Well, it will be based on what we did the last time we played. You know, we play 23 or 24 songs. It’s a lot of songs, because there are not that many long solos, so that means that you play more songs. So, they’ll be songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and from the more recent albums as well, but it will be a wide variety of songs. Quite a few hit songs, and of course some more obscure tracks as well, that I like to think there’ll be something there for everyone.

Monica Costa:               Do you know what the solo band line-up will be?

Colin Blunstone:           Well, mostly it will be the same as last time, except I know that our keyboard player, Pete Billington, can’t make all dates. I think it’s four of the concerts, so will have someone else on keyboard. He’s in rehearsals at the moment, but I’m not absolutely sure who it is right now. The basis of the band will be the same as the last time we played.

Monica Costa:             From your album The Ghost of You and Me I love the song Any Other Way. What’s the inspiration behind the original song?

Colin Blunstone:           Well, most of the songs that I write, the lyrics are either something that happened to me, or else it’s something that happened to someone I know. I very rarely write a lyric just from imagination, and so every line of that song is inspired by things that happened to me, all be it a long time ago when I was a young man. But I once walked into the room… How does it go? “Still remember seeing you standing there, suddenly your presence filled the air, there’s nothing I could do.”

Colin Blunstone:           I remember walking into a room and meeting a young lady who took my breath away, and I used that memory to start the song.

Monica Costa:               It’s charged with emotions.

Colin Blunstone:           I mean it is, the songs that I write, usually they’re very emotional. This might sound strange when you say it, but they’re very real. They happened. There’s one or two songs over the years, I’ve written, that possibly that’s not true, but the vast majority of the songs I’ve written are things that really did happen, and usually to me. And that’s one of the ways I write songs. I mean there can be other triggers, when if I’m playing a guitar and a chord sequence comes to me, that may be the start of the song, but lyrically it’s 99.5% of the time, the lyrics come from real life. I just find it works with me.

Monica Costa:               Absolutely. And Colin, one last question for you and then I let you go to the next interview. You’ve had such a great life and career, looking back at the past 70 years, because you’ve been around for a long time, and musically as well, would you change anything?

Colin Blunstone:           Probably not, you know. It’s a funny thing, I wrote a song on my last album actually, sort of about this subject, because if you change one thing, you change everything. And I have a very good life at the moment, I have a wonderful family and we have a lovely home, and life is very good. If I changed one thing … Obviously I did many stupid things, especially when I was a young man, but I could’ve probably handled things better. But if you change one thing, you change everything, and I would hate to think that I would do anything to take away what life has given me now.

Colin Blunstone:           I’ve been really fortunate, so I’ll settle for no, I wouldn’t change anything.

Monica Costa:               This is a very nice thing to say. I love that. You’re a very kind man, it’s nice to see that, and it comes across while you sing and you perform, that’s why I think you’re as successful as you are.

Colin Blunstone:           Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.

Monica Costa:               And it’s a pleasure to keep talking to you every now and then.

Colin Blunstone:           Absolutely. I really enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoy the two man acoustic show at the Boisdale club next week.

Monica Costa:               Yes, next week. I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to that, and I’ll try, and come and say hello this time.

Colin Blunstone:           Yeah, please do.

Monica Costa:               Yes. And, yeah, well I’ll let you go to your next meeting, and thank you so much for your time.

 

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About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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