Mary Lyn Maiscott

A Hard Birthday's Night

On Friday, October 9, my husband, the writer Robert Rosen, released the first e-book version of his cult-classic bio, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon—an enhanced 15th anniversary edition with new revelations and several bonus chapters. It was Lennon’s 75th birthday.

That night we went to hear the 60s British-invasion band the Zombies at, of all places, the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Along with a couple of newer members, the original band members Rod Argent, very fleet on keys, and singer Colin Blunstone—at 70, in remarkably rich voice—played early songs that included their hits “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season,” as well as tracks from their latest album, Still Got That Hunger. Yeah, we could tell, and the roar that regularly went up from the crowd in the small theater showed it.

I found Blunstone, despite his tallness, rather elfin (à la Will Ferrell)—surprisingly low-key and almost self-effacing for a 60s rocker who was more or less on a par with Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, and Roger Daltrey. Nearly every song was introduced by Blunstone or Argent with a charming story, such as getting permission at the last minute from Paul McCartney himself to use the line “I believe in yesterday” or Blunstone deciding to write songs after Argent, the band’s main writer, passed by in his Rolls Royce while Blunstone was traveling by bicycle (even if apocryphal, cute).

 

The original members of the Zombies reunited at New York Society for Ethical Culture: Hugh Grundy (left, on drums), Rod Argent (keys), Chris White (bass), and Colin Blunstone (next to White).

For their second set, the other original members, bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy, came out to help recreate the band’s 1968 tour de force record, Odessey and Oracle (purposely misspelled?), lending a special excitement and emotion to the ambitious work.

And, oh yeah, somewhere in the first set the group played “Hold Your Head Up,” the huge hit of the offshoot band Argent—extending it and letting us all sing along. My sister loves that song, and I always think of her when I hear it. But I learned something: Everybody should stop singing, “Hold your head up, whoa.” It should be “Hold your head up, wo-man.” (That’s straight from the horse’s mouth.)

In sum: Zombies walk among us, and we’re better off for it.

Candles frame a portrait of John Lennon at Strawberry Fields the night of October 9.

But the evening did not end there. After we left, Bob suggested we go to Strawberry Fields, so we walked the several blocks up to 72nd Street and into Central Park. As we followed the sound of singing, we passed a couple of police cars that were obviously there to protect the little group that had gathered. We got up close enough to see a bit of the glittering “Imagine” mosaic on the ground and the candles and flowers people had left. A few musicians were playing guitar, and we joined in singing “Eight Days a Week.” A couple of young women near us were getting into dancing and sometimes used their voices to add instrumental touches in the recording. After that—preceded by someone announcing the Mets-Dodgers score—came “Girl” and the intoxicating “Across the Universe.” At that point we walked out of the park, and I stared up for a moment at the Dakota.