Cruising Raises The Zombies’ Legacy
Sailing into the Hall of Fame … Sailing into the Hall of Fame … Sailing into the Hall of Fame …
Next month — March 29, to be precise — all eyes will be on Brooklyn, New York’s Barclay Center and the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The Hall’s 2019 “class” includes Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, The Cure, Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Roxy Music … and, my personal favorite, The Zombies.
And right about now you’re wondering what on God’s green earth this has to do with cruising. I’m glad you asked.
Last week, I caught The Zombies aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas as part of the phenomenal On the Blue Cruise, an almost-annual, star-studded classic rock musical festival that I’ve practically lived for since its 2013 inaugural. And The Zombies have been aboard for each of those sailings.
On the most recent On the Blue Cruise, I had the opportunity to add a rock journalist hat to the cruise writer one I usually wear (boy, was my hair a mess), and talk to original Zombies members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent about their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction along with their cruise experiences. What I discovered is that these classic rock legends partially credit their ocean-going jaunts with the surge in popularity that will land them on the Barclay Center stage next month.
“We had no idea what to expect with that first cruise,” admits Argent. “And do you know what? I think the cruise, in itself, helped our situation in America because before that — well, we’d always had big audiences in New York and L.A. and sometimes in Chicago as well but in the Midwest and, particularly, in the South, we’d play to very, very small audiences when we first came over. We noticed after we played that first cruise, people were coming to all of our shows — now when we play the South we get packed audiences! Everywhere we went, we were meeting these guys who were saying ‘We saw you the first time on a cruise and we told all our friends about it,’ and so on. We couldn’t believe how much difference it made but I guess there are thousands of people on these cruises.”
Blunstone agrees. “Cruising has played a huge part in the recent successes of the band because, of course, the people who come on the cruise live all over America — they live all over the world — but especially they live all over America and they spread the word and it’s made a huge, huge difference.”
Cruise Concert Veterans
The Zombies’ first shipboard performance took place during the 2013 inaugural sailing aboard MSC Poesia’s pool stage, an elaborate construction erected — not surprisingly — on the ship’s pool deck. Thousands and thousands of fans crowded the decks and lined the staircases for an extraordinary set that led to the cruise organizers adding two separate Zombies theater shows to subsequent sailings to accommodate the band’s following.
“We were very lucky with that pool stage performance, you know, because it’s great playing the pool stage but the conditions need to be right. In fact, last year we couldn’t play the pool stage at all because the rain cancelled the concert,” Argent recalls. “Some people came on the cruise from New Zealand, from Australia, and they said ‘Oh, we heard a lot about you but we haven’t heard you play and now we’re not going to see you.’ Colin and I tried to find an alternative but there was nowhere that could accommodate the number of people.
“They really tried though — they didn’t cancel until the very last minute hoping that the weather conditions might allow it to go on. It is a bit of a nightmare playing that stage if conditions are like that but when they are perfect as they were in 2013, it was magical. We loved it.”
Whether you realize it or not, you know The Zombies’ music. You may have owned the 45s for “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” or “Time of the Season” back in the ‘60s or you might have picked up Odessey and Oracle, an album that Rolling Stone Magazine ranked No. 100 of its Top 500 Albums of All Time. And even if you’re not a music lover, chances are you’ve heard Zombies’ tunes as backdrop on Mad Men or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. No doubt you heard “She’s Not There” on the Chanel commercial that seemed to air constantly a few years ago.
So next month, when you watch The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2019 induction ceremony, keep in mind that cruising helped lift one of this year’s honorees on to that Barclay Center stage. Sure, it helps that The Zombies are icons of the British Rock Invasion of the 1960s, produced music that over the decades has remained relevant and have had their songs covered by everyone from Tom Petty to Eminem.
But even Argent and Blunstone admit that they’ve enjoyed particularly smooth sailing ever since they boarded their first cruise ship!
Details of the next On the Blue Cruise have not yet been announced. Visit www.onthebluecruise.com for updates!
Photos: Payley Photography , Judi Cuervo