THE LEFSETZ LETTER: The Zombies At The Santa Monica Pier

I'm getting tired of seeing the classic rock acts. They show up every summer, playing the same hits, going just makes me feel old. I've seen it all before.


But not the Zombies.


They were more like shooting stars, they didn't have a dominant arc like the acts populating the sheds. And I'd consider them irrelevant except their hits were so iconic and when they reformed Cliff Burnstein told me they were excellent.


So I was interested.


You could barely get there. I-10 was backed up all the way to 20th Street. When you approached downtown it was gridlock. I ended up parking at a friend's house miles away and walking. And despite being told by the promoter that the band would begin at 8:30, just after getting our wristbands, just after walking onto the expanse of boards that serves as the show space, they hit the stage and started to sing "I Love You."


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.


AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY!


You might be scratching your head, believing you don't know it, but the truth is you do, assuming you're a baby boomer. The U.S. hit wasn't by the Zombies, but by one hit wonder People!


And elation was spontaneous. Not only was the band playing one of my favorite songs, they were good! Colin Blunstone still had his voice, Rod Argent was tickling the electric ivories and I was brought right back to Ilene Kramer's bat mitzvah party at Hillandale Country Club.


Actually, back then they still called it a BAS mitzvah. The Valiants were playing, it was a dark February afternoon. And I can still vividly remember them singing "She's Not There," which is equally black and mysterious.


Yup, long before deejays ruled the party circuit, bands of teenagers, usually high school students, played the hits of the day that our parents were unfamiliar with but we knew by heart.


Just like the audience in attendance was unfamiliar and were busy talking.


Free shows… Most oldsters won't go, they need to be treated well, the youngsters attend to be part of the scene. That's the essence of the millennials… I was there, let me tell you about MY experience. Whereas we baby boomers sat on chairs in rapt attention as our heroes played their hits.


And stunningly, these kids did know the hits!


But it was long before the Zombies played another.


They'd taken the stage early in order to play longer. There was a hard curfew. This flummoxed me. Usually bands, especially older acts at free or soft ticket shows, want to get on and get off, it's about the check. But the Zombies were giving a performance. With Rod Argent and sometimes Colin Blunstone narrating the whole affair. This did break the mood, I wanted to believe it was still the midsixties, at first I was too far away to see the lines in their faces, but I give credit to them for having no airs.


And then they played "Time Of The Season"…


Credit Al Kooper for rescuing it. But what's strange about this hit is its endurance. And its timeless quality. Sure, it was a hit way back when, but it didn't sound like anything else then and there's still nothing else that sounds like it. That's what makes the Zombies hits so iconic, that they're sui generis.


But when they followed it up soon thereafter with "Tell Her No" and "She's Not There," where were they going to go next?


"Hold Your Head Up."


Come on, if you were alive in 1972, you're familiar with this Argent hit. And sure, Russ Ballard was not there to sing it, but Colin's voice with its unique timbre cast a spell nonetheless, and Rod and bassist Jim Rodford were there on the original.


And they did an Alan Parsons cut Colin sang and then they played…


"God Gave Rock and Roll to You."


Funny track. A lame follow-up to "Hold Your Head Up" from Argent's fourth album, "In Deep," with time the song has marinated and gained new life, especially after Kiss's 1991 cover for "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey."


"If you wanna be a singer or play guitar
Man you've gotta sweat or you won't get far"


We all sang and we all learned to play guitar! It was a mania driven by the Beatles and their British compatriots. We were infected the same way you are with your smartphone. We lined up at the record store instead of the Apple Store. And we might not have been able to take our records on the run, but we did have our transistors, we were never without our music.


"And if you're young then you'll never grow old
Music can make your dreams unfold"


There isn't a baby boomer alive who believes he's over forty five. Most still feel they're teenagers. And what's kept us this way is the music, which is truly the soundtrack to our lives. The music inspired us, made us who we are, rode shotgun through our trials and tribulations. Sure, today's athletes listen to their favorites before the game, before running the course, but we invented this paradigm, we discovered and then harnessed the power of rock and roll.


And then so did the corporations. Who still use it to sell useless products to the unknowing.


But once upon a time it was not this way. It was all a lark. The musicians were finding their way, having fun, and no one expected it to last forever. It'd be as if they only made the iPhone for two years and then forgot about it. But it turns out the productions were so good that they lasted.


So, you've got aged hippies traveling to the Santa Monica Pier to bond with what once was, finding out it still exists.


I couldn't help throwing my hands in the air, singing with my head lifted to the heavens. I didn't care that the later generations saw it all as grist for the mill, that they thought they were their own heroes. Because as Bowie sang, you can be a hero for a day, but the Zombies' music…it's FOREVER!

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