Bucket list interviews are few and far between, but it seems only fitting that my 50th year of music journalism should find me chatting with one of my favorite rock vocalists of all time: Colin Blunstone. As a member of The Zombies, this lead singer brought his distinctive vocal stylings to the world with the band’s debut in 1964, and continued through the group’s run until 1969, when the band dissolved after releasing “Odessey and Oracle,” containing their big hit “Time of the Season.” They reunited in 2001 and have released several albums since. In 1971, Blunstone released his first solo project, called “One Year,” which began a series of 10 studio albums, as well as live and greatest-hits releases and compilations. Having been a fan since the very beginning, when I discovered that Blunstone would be bringing his solo band to One Longfellow Square in Portland on Feb. 4, I petitioned and received permission to interview him. He called me from his home just outside of London and talked for 22 minutes. I began by asking if he’d ever played in Maine before.

Blunstone: With my solo band?

Q: In any format.

Blunstone: I think I’ve probably played there with The Zombies. But you know, (chuckle) over 50 years, it does get a bit difficult to remember. You know, I can always remember venues when I see them, but I’m not very good on names. I did actually bring a different solo band over in about 1973, and then I basically brought this band over from England about five or six years ago, but we played in and around New York, as far as I remember. So, this could be the first time my solo band has come up to Maine.

Q: Now, is this solo band the same one that is on your newest CD, “On The Air Tonight”?

Blunstone: For the most part, yes. Actually, I’m thinking. Can I answer that again?

Q: Surely!

Blunstone: No. The drummer’s changed, the bass player’s changed, as has the guitarist — the keyboard player is the same. But nowadays all musicians are in two or three, three or four different bands. You have to see who’s available before you put a tour together, or sometimes after you put a tour together, and you take the best players that are available. It’s just the way of the world now. But they’re great players, and they’re lovely guys — lovely to travel with, so I’m very fortunate.

Q: You have such depth in doing what you’ve been doing for over half a century — that gives you incredible insight into not only the structure of your own career but also what’s been happening around you with music in general. I wish we had about three hours to go over that perspective; I truly do.

Blunstone: (Laughter) Well, to put it in a nutshell, I actually find the music business a bit of a mystery. It’s one of those things, the more you see the less you know, and it never ceases to amaze me what happens in the music business. I think I’ve now become very philosophical about business: I know what I’m doing — I love writing songs, I love recording and performing and try to do all three of those disciplines to the best of my ability. And that’s it in a nutshell; that’s what I do.

Q: Well, as far as the performing aspect, I believe you are going to enjoy One Longfellow Square. It’s a very intimate venue, and you’ll be able to make eye contact with everyone there.

Blunstone: I’m really looking forward to it.

Q: What can folks expect from that Monday night show?

Blunstone: We try to make the solo set very different from The Zombies. It’s done on purpose, so we’ll only probably play two Zombie tunes: We’ll play “She’s Not There,” and we’ll play “Time of the Season.” Otherwise, it’s all songs that I’ve recorded over the years. And there are quite a few hits in there — this is intriguing to me — but none of them were hits in America. There are some hits from the U.K., and there are some hits from Europe, but I’ve never had a solo hit in the States, and I’m interested to see how people will react to well-written songs that they’re not familiar with.

Q: Well, since your 1971 solo debut, you have not only written some beautiful songs like “Though You Are Far Away” and “Beginning,” but covered some equally beautiful tunes by the likes of fellow Zombies Rod Argent and Chris White like “She Loves the Way They Love Her” and Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses.”

Blunstone: Well, I think it would be crazy for me to go out and play an evening of Zombie music — that would really detract from The Zombies, I think, and it would sort of be an easy way out. What I’m trying to do is feature songs that I’ve recorded over the years and also feature songs I have written, and that’s kind of the backbone of the material that make up the show.

Q: And speaking of the Zombies, I understand that you are going to become inductees this year.

Blunstone: We are! It’s very exciting. I don’t think “exciting” is the right word, but it is exciting. I feel it validates, to some extent, what we’ve been doing over the years since 1964. Because, in the first place, we had this wonderful reaction in the fans — we had over 320,000 votes in the fan base — and then, of course, the members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voted for us to be inducted. Peer group acceptance is what all artists want, and so on both of those votes, it was just absolutely brilliant to get that kind of response.

Q: Now, with your solo work and continued performing with The Zombies, it doesn’t sound like you’re slowing down at all after 55 years.

Blunstone: The first few months of this new year are going to be quite interesting. I come over with the solo band, then we fly down to Miami and we go on this cruise with Justin Heyward (of Moody Blues fame) and many wonderful bands on a five-day cruise of the Caribbean — my solo band and The Zombies are playing on that cruise. When we get off the cruise, I go with the Zombies from Florida across to Texas and then we go back home. At the end of March, we come back for the induction, and then I go back home again. In April, I’m doing a tour in the U.K. with my solo band. That’s as far as I know, up to the end of April, but it’s going to be quite full-on, I think. Rod (Argent) and I were talking about this area of our careers saying, “Well, maybe we should play a little less now that we’re in the autumn of our careers!” Then we look at our calendar and think, “This isn’t less, this is more!” (Laughter) I think eventually we will slow down a bit, but there doesn’t seem to be much sign of it at the moment.

Q: Well, sir, I have one last question for you. Is there anything that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article about your One Longfellow Square debut?

Blunstone: Well, what I’d like to say is that we’ll be playing many songs that were hits around the world, and I’m intrigued to see how an American audience will react to that. But they’re really good songs, quality songs. It’s a fine band, and I’d just like to encourage your readers to come down and hear the band. I believe there’ll be something there for everyone. And I think that that would be about it, really.

Lucky Clark has spent a half-century writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.


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