Monday, October 24, 2016

Z Is For...

The last of our 26 artists, A to Z -- and who else could it be but the band who recorded the first single I ever bought, back in 1964?

The Zombies / "I Love You"

I love the Zombies.  Love them, love them, love them.  Loved them then, love them now.

In August 1965, this track, written by bassist-songwriter Chris White, was the B-side of "Whenever You're Ready." A measure of how good the Zombies were in their all-too-brief 1960s career is how often this B-side has been covered since then.

Meanwhile, this video has led me down a whole 'nother rabbit hole. The images star the brilliant Rita Tushingham, whose performances in such seminal 1960s British films as A Taste of Honey, Girl With Green Eyes, and The Knack...And How to Get It were linchpins in that cinematic revolution. (If there's anything I love more than British pop of the mid-1960s, it's British cinema of the mid-1960s.) I've watched this video over and over, trying to pinpoint which film these clips are from. And finally I've had to come to terms with the fact that no one else is as obsessive as I am when it comes to Brit Nouvelle Vague circa 1965 and I had better just move on to the topic at hand. Which is, after all, THE ZOMBIES.

The Zombies had two extraordinary things going for them -- Colin Blunstone's incredibly ethereal voice, and Rod Argent's keyboard wizardry. What Chris White concocted in this song is a jazz-soaked number that gave both those assets a chance to shine.

The formula is devastatingly simple. Over and over, the singers repeat "I love you," numbly, dumbly. When you're hog-tied by infatuation, that's all you can do. Then the combo snaps into a crashing halt, to let the lead singer urgently emote: "And I don't know what to say!"

He's so sunk in desire, he can scarcely think. "My words should explain / But the words won't come." And the chords -- mostly minor key -- shift into conditional mode as he laments: "I should tell you just how I feel / And I keep tryin' / But something holds me back when / I try to tell you."

Tied up in knots? Anyone who's ever been an anguished adolescent (and that's just about all of us) can relate to that.

But finding a musical expression of that is something else. The Zombies were always the earnest, anguished suburban boys of the BritBeat scene. In this devastatingly perfect number, they forever lay their claim to that territory. Which is as good a note as any upon which to end this serendipitous series of posts.

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