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Rod Argent

 

Rod Argent is a musician, singer, songwriter, composer and record producer. In a career spanning more than 50 years, he came to prominence in the mid 1960s as the founder and keyboardist of the psychedelic rock group The Zombies, who formed part of the British Pop Invasion of the US throughout the 1960’s, along with bands such as The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, The Faces and The Yardbirds. Formed in 1962, the group released their debut album, Begin Here, which contained the hit ‘She's Not There’. The band released their second album Odessey and Oracle in 1968, which contained the hit ‘Time of the Season’. The group continued to record through the 1960s but disbanded in1967.

 

Argent was one of the main composers of The Zombies' music, and made major lyrical contributions to the group’s songs. He was one of the group's two main songwriters, penning the hits ‘She's Not There, ‘Tell Her No’ and ‘Time of the Season, amongst others. And as their keyboardist he used a variety of instruments, including the Mellotron, the harpsichord and the organ.

 

After the group disbanded, he went on to form another group called Argent, which had a hit album in 1972 with All Together Now, which contained the single ‘Hold Your Head Up’. His Hammond B3 solo on that track is cited by Rick Wakeman as the greatest organ solo ever. The group disbanded in 1976.

 

In addition to his work with the Zombies and Argent, he has composed music for television series, been a session musician, produced albums by other artists, and has had a solo career, which has included three studio albums: Moving Home, Red House and Classically Speaking. And he has played keyboards with a number of musicians, including piano on the title track of The Who's album Who Are You, and on Variations with Gary Moore, Julian Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

 

In 1987, he formed a production company with ex-Van Morrison drummer Peter Van Hooke which produced a number of artists, including Nanci Griffith's album Late Night Grande Hotel.

 

In 1999, he recorded a solo piano album, Rod Argent Classically Speaking, in which he played Chopin études and music by Ravel, Bach, and Grieg, as well as three of his own compositions.

 

In 2004, he and The Zombies’ vocalist Colin Blunstone recorded a new album, As Far as I Can See in the style of The Zombies. A subsequent album Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent of the Zombies Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre received favourable reviews, as did their 2007 US tour. One critic noted, ‘The Zombies, still led by original keyboard wizard Rod Argent and featuring the smoked-silk vocals of Colin Blunstone, is the best 60s band still touring which doesn't have Mick Jagger as a front man’.

 

He has continued to tour with Colin Blunstone as The Zombies, and in April 2009 the original surviving members of the band played four reunion concerts performing the album Odessey and Oracle. This led to a group reunion. The current line up consists of founding members Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, alongside Steve Rodford and Tom Toomey, with Danish fan Soren Koch stepping in to replace the late Jim Rodford.  

 

The Zombies are embarking on a UK tour throughout June 2018, after another sell-out series of shows in North America this spring. The UK tour dates are:

 

  2 June:  Thornden Hall (Eastleigh)

  6 June:  De La Warr Pavilion (Bexhill-on-Sea)

  7 June:  Theatre Royal (Margate)

  9 June: The Secret Festival (Essex)

12 June: Tramshed (Cardiff)

13 June: Leamington Assembly (Leamington Spa)

14 June: The 02 (London)

16 June: The Queens Hall (Edinburgh)

 

 

 

 

Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?

 

A: Song lyrics are not the same as poetry, because lyrics primarily have to sound good when sung. Sometimes a lyric can add to the muscularity or energy of a phrase, for instance, or enhance the rise and fall of a musical line purely from a sonic point of view alone. The requirements are different from lines which have to be effective or moving when read or spoken. 

 

Nevertheless, I do love to include devices such as internal rhyme and to write with a deal of poetic imagery and rhythm and structure which I believe have elements in common with poetry, depending on the subject and mood of the song. Just one example:

 

Bathed in starlight

Birds wheel hard across the sky

Me, I want to fly

And the days go so slow

With no way to satisfy

I just must break free, 'cause I'

 

I want to fly

Leave the ordinary world

And say goodbye

Kiss the earth and make a wish

And say a prayer for the lonely ones

 

Clouds come steepling

Peopling fantasies that I

Watch as they race by

And my heart is breaking

Aching for the reason why

Me, I want to fly...

 

(the beginning of  The Zombies' ‘I Want To Fly’)

 

Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?

 

A: I don't actually think songs have to rhyme—but most of the time I believe rhyming does provide a positive effect, and can just be a pleasing element in itself. It also can often help propel a song with a sort of forward momentum.

 

Q: Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?

 

A: I personally believe that structure is perhaps the most important element in the writing of a good song. I think it's something which holds true for almost all art.  But it doesn't have to be something that's often used, or easily recognised. It just has to be there, and it has to work! It can be invented. You certainly don't have to use a well-tried formula of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, chorus etc., although there's nothing wrong with that, either. Good structure in a song gives the listener a sense of satisfaction. It can be set up intuitively, but I believe it's important that it exists. 

 

Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?

 

A: I felt a tremendous connection between poetry and the music I enjoyed, I was actually passionate about many different forms of music—I'd love early Elvis, Bach, The Beatles, Blues and Miles Davis absolutely equally, and in a strange way got the same transcendent feeling from the best of all of them. And it was the same feeling I got from the wonderful music of Wordsworth's ‘Tintern Abbey’, or W. B. Yeats's ‘The Cloths of Heaven’ or ‘The Second Coming’ or ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ etc. etc.

 

Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?

 

A: Well, not directly—but indirectly yes, hugely. The use of meter, stress and rhythm in phrases, for example. (In ‘She's Not There’, the Zombies first hit, the third section builds to a climax on a final major chord. I very much used these elements to build to a climax—‘Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked, the way she acted, the colour of her hair’—and so on). And of course the feeling of flow and musicality.

 

Q: Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?

 

A: Songs are just a different, generally more accessible medium; I also feel that most people react initially to the music rather than the words on first hearing a song... Some poems of course have an immediate impact, but often the best benefit from concentration and measured assimilation over time before they reveal a full flowering.

 

 

 

 

  copyright © Rod Argent