by Stephen Dunstan

The ZombiesThe Zombies. The worst, least appropriate name for a music group ever. Visions of stiff-limbed, raggedy faced Woody Strode-a-likes. They should have just called themselves The Charming English Boys Who Sing Like Angels And Play Like Demons. That name would not have fit onto a record.

The Zombies. The worst, least appropriate time for a group to disband ever. All grown up. Masters of their Art. Create a masterpiece of delicate grandeur and then slip away unnoticed, disowned by the Will of fame. Odessey and Oracle. A lofty title for a collection of immediate pleasures. 1967 at it's best.

CARE OF CELL BLOCK 44. Must have been a big place. Forty four Cell blocks at least. The boy is excited. His girl is coming home. He can't wait to see her. Can't wait to touch her, hold her, invade her being once again. It's gonna be great. It's gonna be just like it was back then when everything was perfect. Back then before she went away. Back then before she went to JAIL! How many songs could spring into being here? A lament at being rent asunder? A tirade of anger that sees no future? A despairing dirge for a box of time rendered empty? Hah! That would be Country music fodder at it's sentimental worst. What The Zombies give us is jauntiness with optimism shining like a brand new bunch of keys that can open all the locks between goodbyes and hellos.What happened? Did she smoke a few lungfuls of illicit air? Did she knock off a Policeman's helmet? Did she walk on the cracks of the pavement on Tuesdays? Don't know. Can't have been anything baaad! Not in this song. The boy doesn't care. He's a sweet guy. Kept her room the same. Hope she's the same girl who resides in idyllic memories. Hope she likes her room..'

A ROSE FOR EMILY. A collection of dried flowers seen by no-one. A portrait of an outsider. The tragedy of a life that leaves no mark. The old comfort: you can't take it with you, is no comfort here for there is nothing to take.

MAYBE AFTER HE'S GONE. She loved. She left. Remember. Cling on to the summer sunshine days. Forget the drift of Autumn leaves and the needles of Winter. She'll be back in Spring. When she's alone again. Like me. Maybe..

BEECHWOOD PARK. Here we go again, drifting through the gently relentless seasons. Summer lanes....the breeze....evening stars....golden days....laughter....kisses. Where did the good times go? Yet another dose of soft regret. A walk through another of Mother Nature's perfect palaces. Can't forget you.

BRIEF CANDLES. By now the sense of loss should be overbearing. Instead the atmosphere trips airily along the tightrope with absurd ease. Sadness that makes you smile. Perfection that causes tears to sneak into those seen-it-all eyes. Once again, it's those golden memories that prove to be the saviour. They are in there somewhere, old and sepia tinted by now, but there nevertheless.

HUNG UP ON A DREAM. A trip out of mind and body. Confusion giving way to comfort. One of those times when the world feels good; feels better because you don't expect it. Of course it's all a dream and dreams never come true do they?

CHANGES. Yet again the seasons are the shadings for this sketch. In Autumn she's sad. Winter was her cloak. In Spring she speaks. Summer is her crown. All is transient and comes crashing down about us but we should enjoy the display while we can.

I WANT HER,SHE WANTS ME. Faltering steps. Uncertain paths. Been there. Done it. This will be different. Just take it slowly and carefully and things will be alright.

THIS WILL BE OUR YEAR. After a catalogue of vulnerability comes this statement of intent. Too bad they were wrong.

BUTCHER'S TALE (WESTERN FRONT 1914). Among a thousand 'Stop the War' songs this stands out because it is one of the most horrific. It's not preachy in tone but expresses a desolate sadness not only for the dead but for those poor souls condemned to endure a 'living death' . "My mind won't stop shaking, I want to go home" . After listening to a dignified suite of songs dealing with longing and quiet desperation this explicit statement of disgust becomes even more shocking.

Friends of MineFRIENDS OF MINE. Yes it's frothy. Yes it's bouncy. Yes it's a wonderful antidote to the previous song. Simple message. Simply warms your heart. It feels so good to have friends. It feels so good....

TIME OF THE SEASON. "What's your name? Who's your daddy? Is he rich like me?" Arrogance appears late in the day. Perhaps this is the reason why this song became a successful single after all else failed. This is so cool. A fitting end but just too late. Too late in the season to save The Zombies.

All that's left is a portfolio of snapshots that illuminate their immediate surroundings every time that they are exposed to the daylight. Love goes bad. Life is a trial. The endless swirl of the seasons leaves us helpless, nothing but bewildered observers. Through it all we smile and remember the good times. What makes it all worthwhile?

The Zombies. What a terrible name.............


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