Song of the Week – Care of Cell 44 and This Will Be Our Year, The Zombies

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

The story behind the UK band The Zombies is an important slice of rock history.

The group was led by keyboard player and songwriter Rod Argent and had a “signature sound” thanks in large part to the breathy vocals of Colin Blunstone. They enjoyed early chart success during the Beatles’ inspired British Invasion in 1964-65 with the hits “She’s Not There” (US #2) and “Tell Her No” (US #6). Check out this video of their early ’65 appearance on TV:

Follow up releases failed to meet with the same success as these initial recordings but the band soldiered on.

In mid ’67, they followed The Beatles – who had just finished recording Sgt Pepper – into Abbey Road studios to begin recording their next LP. Legend has it that they arrived at Abbey Road only to find Beatles’ recording engineer, Geoff Emerick, dismantling the multi channel tape decks he had jury rigged for the Sgt Pepper sessions. The Zombies persuaded him to leave the set up behind for their use.

The end result was Odessey & Oracle. But initially it received little notice in the UK and wasn’t even scheduled for release in the US. CBS in the US only released it after Al Kooper “discovered” the album in the UK and talked them into it. By this time the band had become discouraged and decided to break up. Soon after, US radio stations began to play “Time of the Season” and it reached #3 in the spring of 1969.

Over time, Odessey & Oracle has become recognized as a psych pop classic. Rolling Stone ranked it at #100 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The record is also included in MOJO’s collection of The Greatest Albums of All Time. Clearly then, it is much deeper than “Time of the Season”. Let me prove it to you.

The album opens with “Care of Cell 44”, the most cheerful pop song ever written about someone’s lover being released from prison. (“You can tell me about your prison stay…”, “Feels so good, you’re coming home soon…”)

They group gives The Beach Boys a run for their money on the “Good Vibrations” era multi-part harmony.

“This Will Be Our Year” sounds like a lost McCartney tune.

It has a wonderful, clever melody. It begins as a simple piano based ditty but then the horns come in and you can easily imagine it as a Magical Mystery Tour outtake. The lyric is sweet and innocent:

And I won’t forget the way you held me up when I was down
And I won’t forget the way you said, “Darling I love you”
You gave me faith to go on

It’s amazing to me how much sentiment can be packed into a 2 minute pop song!

Enjoy… until next week.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Care of Cell 44 and This Will Be Our Year, The Zombies

  1. I’ve always admired Odyssey and Oracle more than listened to most of it. It indeed sounds great and has those harmonies and very lush arrangements, but I find the surface shimmer to deflect my interest in the songs. This Will Be Our Year, as you note, is a simple but powerful sentiment, but the ornate melody has obscured it’s meaning for me until you pointed it out (and quoted the lyrics). And even still, reading the chorus while listening mostly reminded me of how hard it is to follow the meaning of the lines.

    The result is akin to glossy mud, Beatlesesque in a way the Beatles were able to avoid always. I don’t mean this to sound as harsh as it probably does. When I listen to O+O I always enjoy it, but I think this shiny much is the reason I’m not drawn to play it again right away.

  2. Sorry Tom, I can’t abide this. It’s like in baseball, when you leave the game alone the pitchers take over. When you leave the Brits alone, they will be in the music hall in 10 minutes, with jaunty melodies and clever arrangements and Americans oafs like me hurling tomatoes. I was a little proud that Sgt. Pepper didn’t make our list because Brit Disease affected even The Beatles. This is what Sgt. Pepper wrought and it took years to sweep it all away. The lyrics are good here, I wonder what Blue Cheer (or better, Turbonegro) could have done with them.

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