The Zombies – She’s Not There (Song Review)

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Perhaps the most interesting fact about the Zombies’ debut single is that the session that birthed it was won as a prize. The band came first place in a talent contest in 1963 and by the end of the next year, their Decca-released hit was making waves in both the UK (#12) and the US (#2) charts. Despite no actual studio experience, main song-writer Rod Argent proved himself to be a master pop craftsman right from the start – She’s Not There’s piano melody builds up wonderfully to an explosive chorus, showcasing Blunstone’s sensible lead vocals and the group harmonies along the way. It is the type of form-and-substance balance in song that only few others at the time could master (think Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Lennon-McCartney).

In 1965 She’s Not There would be included on both the UK Begin Here album and US self-titled one. And while the hit was no doubt a blessing for the group, propelling them directly in the middle of the whole British Invasion phenomenon, it was also kind of a curse. The Zombies struggled to re-capture its commercial success with many singles throughout the next years, of which only Tell Her No really came close (#6 on Billboard). This lack of success combined with internal disagreements caused the band to split up before the release of their follow-up album in 1968, the masterpiece that is Odessey and Oracle. Before that album and its lead single, Time of the Season, took off and gained the classic status, The Zombies were most likely viewed as a one-hit wonder. But even if that had remained the case to this day, I see no shame when the hit in question is She’s Not There – a song that sent girls into hysterical levels of screaming upon release, and that still holds up more than 50 years later.

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24 replies

  1. When revisiting the last 50 year of music I have come to the conclusion that I warm to circa 1967 the best – A lot of it to do with the fact that I love the sound of baroque pop and the Zombies, with She’s Not There was possibly the first baroque pop record.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice tune – and Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Lennon/McCartney is pretty nice company to be in!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Classic hit, brilliant songwriting. I remember the shiver when I first heard it in the Sixties.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Has a punk rock band ever done a cover of this song? It sounds familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great songs and memories. Plus, a few more good ones came with Argent after The Zombies break-up. I was watching an old British invasion music show on PBS and my teenage daughter came in to listen to “She’s Not There.” Liking the song and knowing zombies were becoming the rage on TV and Netflix, I told her the name of the group. She immediately replied about the now older fellows, “they look like zombies.” So, unfair she was as she patted my balding head and went upstairs.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Along with the Beatles and the Zombies, so many great bands appeared on the scene with the British Invasion. The Hollies, the Yardbirds, the Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Kinks, Los Bravos (Spanish), and the Left Banke. Great song. Great band.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t remember Tell Her No at all. It can’t have had much play on the radio in the UK. She’s Not There was good, though, and I actually bought Time of the Season with what little pocket money I had as a kid. An under-rated band, The Zombies, I always thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Next to the Beatles and Small Faces, the Zombies are my favorite band of the “British Invasion.” Dozens of unknown gems by them that should have been hits (I highly recommend the box set “Zombie Heaven”). Rod Argent, and later Chris White, were top-notch songwriters, the band had great harmonies, and Colin Blunstone had a unique husky voice. They were as good as the Kinks or Hollies, in my opinion, but broke up right when the “matching suit” era ended, and it hurt their standing in rock history (get your act together, Rock Hall of Fame!!!).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great tune. I think it was the Santana version I heard first, but it wasn’t too long before I found the original and I never actually went back to the Santana take on it. This is about as perfect a tune as you’ll find.

    I don’t reckon The Zombies get the recognition they deserve. Remarkable band.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The song never ages, a tribute to great song writing

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, this was an awesome snippet of history. Huge Zombies fan!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I prefer Colin Blunstone’s pop-psychedelic version as Neil MacArthur in 1969. It’s more dynamic, more dramatic and has a wonderful ‘strings going down the plughole’ effect. No harmonies like the original but that wonderful voice is centre-stage.

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  13. One of my favorite songs of all time. I was lucky enough to see Rod and Colin touring as The Zombies in late 2014 and they still sound great (and put on a great show). As noted above, the Zombie Heaven box set is well worthwhile, so many wonderful lesser-heard songs.

    Finally, guitarist Frank Marino uses “She’s Not There” as a centerpiece of a long (26-minute), beautifully played instrumental guitar piece on the 2001 live album RealLIVE!. Not for everybody, but worth at least one listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. One of my absolute favs. It’s so great to know that others enjoy the Zombies as much as my dad and I do! Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

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