Hindsight quite often works with 20/20 clarity, and the legacy of The Zombies certainly falls into that category. The British band never reaped the initial rewards of their greatness and were split up by the time that ‘Time of the Season’ became a hit.
Their debut album, Begin Here, arrived in 1965 but created little fanfare, with The Zombies still operating from the periphery rather than from within the belly of the beast. Following the commercial failure of their first record, Decca dropped them, and the band were without a label until 1967 when CBS took a gamble on the group to create a follow-up. However, even though they were on a major label, they still didn’t have the budget available that others had.
The Zombies made the album on a shoestring budget compared to other similar bands of the day and couldn’t even stretch to session musicians. Instead, the band used a Mellotron to fill out their arrangements, something John Lennon had left at Abbey Road after using on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Another example of their limited budget is that the label only mixed the LP in standard mono, with Rod Argent and Chris White personally paying for stereo mixes of the record to be made.
After the first two singles from the record flopped and the demand for live appearances completely dissipated, The Zombies called it a day after the final show in their calendars in December 1967. Their second album, Odessey and Oracle, failed to chart when released the following April and only got a US release after producer Al Kooper convinced Columbia to do so. If Kooper hadn’t personally intervened, then The Zombies would have been written out of the history books and ‘Time of the Season’ wouldn’t be the classic that it is today.
‘Time of the Season’ was given a release in the States by the label in 1968, becoming a sleeper hit and eventually climbing to number three in the charts in 1969 and number one in Canada. The newfound success made CBS approach Argent and White, instructing them to get the band back together to record another album—they duly obliged. Then they shelved the album before its release, with only a couple of singles getting a release.
During the recording for ‘Time of The Season’, the band was at each other’s throats, fighting their own creative battles with one another. It is something that contradicts the glowing sound that shines throughout the song. The spat between keyboardist Rod Argent, who wrote the number, and vocalist Colin Blunstone was over the line, “When love runs high.”
Blunstone found the high note at the end of the line particularly challenging and yelled at Argent, “If you’re so good, you come and sing it.” Argent later recalled to MOJO in 2008, “It was written really quickly, and we didn’t rehearse it an awful lot. I was trying to change the phrasing.”
Blunstone finally offered up his version of events in 2015: “It was written in the morning before we went into the studio in the afternoon, and I kind of struggled on the melody,” he said. “Rod and I had quite a heated discussion – he being in the control room and me singing the song – and we were just doing it through my headphones. Because it had only just been written, I was struggling with the melody.
“It makes me laugh, because at the same time I’m singing, ‘It’s the time of the season for loving,’ we’re really going at one another,” Blunstone wistfully added.
Even though The Zombies never capitalised on the track’s success at the time, they’ve been back together since 2004 and been making up for lost time over the last 17 years. Their legendary status was secured in 2019 when The Zombies were inducted into the exclusive Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Rod Argent made sure Kooper received a special mention in the induction speech, “Without his help, it may have never been released, and we have to thank him massively because it spawned a story that still continues 50 years later.”