ROD ARGENT (THE ZOMBIES/ARGENT): “We Aren’t Just A Vintage Band Playing Old Stuff”

Rod Argent has written and performed on some of the most iconic songs in music with “She’s Not There” and “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies and “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” and “Hold Your Head” up being staples of Rock radio for over half century. Mick Burgess called him up to talk about the upcoming Livestream featuring The Zombies from the iconic Abbey Road Studios on 18th September; the forthcoming new album and touring plans for 2022.

We’ve been going through some unusual times recently. How has Covid impacted on you?

It has certainly impacted on us in terms of making our latest record. We really felt that we were starting to Rock. We’d finished three tracks and we got some instant fantastic reactions. We were getting excited and felt like we were on a creative roll then it all petered out because of Covid. We have had to work remotely and some things suit that approach but I usually write the songs often when we’re on tour and sometimes you need that interaction with each other to see what’s really working. That immediate interplay between members of the band is so important sometimes. That was really frustrating but we have now just got to the point where we can start to record again.

On 18th September you will be doing a live stream called Live From Abbey Road – World Tour In One Night. Are you looking forward to this?

I can’t wait. It’s been too long and we are all really looking forward to it.

What sort of show do you have planned for your live stream?

We will be playing about five songs that we’ve never played live before on stage so that’s pretty scary but exciting. We’ll obviously be doing stuff that people expect from us like “Time Of The Season” and “She’s Not There” and some deeper cuts too. We’ll also do “Hold Your Head Up” from my Argent days. We’ll also be doing some brand-new songs which is very exciting for us. We’re very lucky that we generally get a great reaction from audiences. It’ll be a bit scary as we haven’t played for 2 years but we’re really looking forward to it as well. On the new album I’ve written three songs with string scores. Jessica Cox who plays with ELO has put together a beautiful quartet and we’ll be playing those three new songs with a string section. That’ll be exciting for us. There’ll be a lot of extra elements to what we do in our usual shows. It’s exciting for us and I hope it excites other people too.

Will you be doing anything else besides performing music?

We’ll also be doing a live interview with David Fricke from Rolling Stone magazine, who have been a big supporter of us over the years and there’ll also be a question-and-answer session with some celebrities asking us questions. Our management have said there’ll be some great people asking us questions and there’s also going to be quite a few young bands who have huge followings who want to ask us questions which will be great.

It’ll be strange performing in front of a camera in a studio without an audience present. Is this the first time you’ve done something like this?

There will be a very small audience due to Covid restrictions so we are limited to 30 people. We’ve got 10 of our American superfans coming over and a few other people too.

Abbey Road is where you recorded the classic Odyssey and Oracle album in 1968 and it must hold some great memories for you. Will this be the first time you’ve been back to that studio?

Abbey Road has some lovely memories for us. When we did Odyssey and Oracle album, that was the first time that we had produced ourselves as we’d been getting very frustrated at how our singles were sounding. The album did nothing when it came out but over the years it’s grown and grown. We’ve got some lovely plaudits from people including Paul Weller who said it’s his favourite album of all time and he actually buys it for other people to hear which is absolutely lovely. When we did that album, we worked with Geoff Emerick after the Beatles had just walked out after finishing Sgt. Pepper and that was a lovely experience. I also recorded some Argent albums at Abbey Road which was great. Abbey Road have maintained contact with us over the years which is really nice and they actually asked us if we’d do this, so the original idea came from them. I have done some production work in there since Argent but I’d say it’s probably 25 years since I’ve been in there so it’ll be great to be back. It’ll going to feel like home going back there because it became so familiar and was such a nice experience. They have a long tradition going back to the 30s when they recorded Elgar there but they also have cutting edge technology. I don’t think there’s another studio quite like Abbey Road anywhere in the world.

You mentioned playing a couple of new songs. What can you tell us about these?

It was important for me to get several groove tracks on the album that that had a real energy. The rhythm section is great on all of the songs except one where I just wanted a really intimate voice and piano with some added strings. There’s a song called “Merry-Go-Round” and there’s a song called “Different Game” which is one that we do with strings and another one called “You Could Be My Love.”

When can we expect this to be released?

I really hope that we can get the album finished by the end of this year so that we start touring again next year with a new album.

Are these all new songs or have you been able to rework some ideas you’ve had in the archives for a while?

They are all totally newly written songs except one song called “Say You Don’t Mind” that was written by Denny Laine which we put a complete string arrangement backing to it. All of the other songs have come absolutely from scratch. It’s great to play “Time Of The Season” and “She’s Not There” to audiences all over the world and we never get tired of that but there’s nothing like getting a reaction on something new that you’ve done and to get something new played on the radio and still being able to get an album in the charts is an unbeatable feeling. That’s why were still doing it really.

What did you do after The Zombies originally split in the ’60s and how did you end up getting back together with Colin Bluntstone?

After The Zombies broke up in 1967 even before “Time Of The Season” went to Number 1 in The States, I immediately formed Argent. I was with Argent for a few years and then after that I was involved in all sorts of production and films, it was still in music, I just wasn’t out on the road. Around the year 2000 Colin had come along to a charity show I’d done and he was in the audience. At the spur of the moment, he got up to sing with me. It sounded great and it felt as though it’d been just a couple of weeks since we had last performed together. Colin suggested doing half a dozen gigs together and it took a lot of persuasion but in the end, I did the gigs and I had such a ball, that those six gigs turned into another 20 years of touring all over the world. Unbelievably we appear to have been on an upward curve, particularly in America which culminated us being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. Our last album charted in the States and that’s not something that we could have dreamed about when we got back together. It’s been fantastic and energising.

You’ve worked with Colin now for over 50 years. What is about you two that works so well together?

We met on our first rehearsal and we’ve been friends ever since. Even after The Zombies split up, I still produced two or three albums for him and on later albums I sang backing vocals for him. We’ve always retained a friendship and a connection. I never expected it to be renewed in such an intensive way but that’s what’s happened.

Are you looking forward to touring again next year?

The problem for us is that our management is American so we hardly seem to have played in the UK in the last 7 or 8 years so we worry whether anyone will turn up when we play. This is our home country and we do want to play here more so we can’t wait to tour in the UK again. We want to build up those relationships again as we still have the energy and the ability to put on a great show. I do think that we are doing this for real and we aren’t just a vintage band playing old stuff.

What did you make of the remake by KISS of your Argent song, “God Gave Rock and Roll To You”?

I enjoyed their version. I thought it was very similar to ours in many ways. It did make me laugh a bit when Gene Simmons claimed that it was a song he’d written. What actually happened was he changed a few words and took out the reference to Cliff Richard and claimed a credit which I thought was a bit cheeky. Nevertheless, I thought it was really good and very close to how we did it. I think that cover and the one Santana did of The Zombies, “She’s Not There” were both really good. I also loved Dusty Springfield’s cover of “If It Don’t Work Out” which I wrote for her.

You actually toured together in their early years. What did you make of their show?

I was completely astonished the first time we played with them. We’d done our soundcheck and then these giants with 8-inch platform heels walked past us and they seemed so bizarre and it amused us in the best possible way. They were an incredible spectacle live.

Is Argent, the band still a going concern or is The Zombies your main focus now?

I’ve only got energy for The Zombies. If you do it for real it takes all your energy. We did do a small tour 10 years or so ago of maybe a dozen gigs which was great fun but I just don’t have the energy for more than one band so the focus is very much on The Zombies for me. The Zombies just seem to be getting better and better to me. It’s great that all different ages come to our shows and it knocks us out when young people come to our shows. You get a real energy back from the audience which just stokes your own energy. It’s lovely to feel that they can relate to the old stuff and the new material that we’re doing.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline over the coming months?

Over the years I produced the first Tanita Tikaram album which went on to sell four million copies and I went onto do a lot of production after. I also did a lot of session work where I played on a few songs on Who Are You by The Who and played with Gary Moore and Jon Hiseman on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Variations album. I also wrote a lot of TV music including the ITV World Cup Theme that became the Big Match Theme which then became the theme tune to Saint and Greavsie so that was all a lot of fun. When I started with Colin again, nothing beats being in a band again and being able to continue writing material, that takes absolutely all your energy so that’s all I’m doing at the moment, concentrating on The Zombies.

Interview By Mick Burgess

The Zombies livestream Live From Abbey Road – World Tour In One Night is available on 18th September.

The Zombies UK Tour starts on 10th February 2022 at Exmouth Pavillion.

For more on The Zombies visit


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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