UK TV Advert Song & Music Database

March 2014 | The Zombies Ride Again!

POSTED BY ON 8 May 2014

For the last seven years Kiera Knightley has been the favoured face of French parfumier Chanel and the focus of its never less than sumptuous TV campaigns.

But, with the possible exception of Joss Stone’s cover of James Brown’s It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World – which underpinned La Knightley’s 2011 Marianne Faithfull / Girl On A Motorcycle homage – the soundtracks to these spots have never been as fragrant as the footage.

Until now, of course, following the licensing of The Zombies’ smash She’s Not There into what is, essentially, a remake of the Cinderella story crossed with a James Bond thriller.

The song was written by the band’s keyboard player Rod Argent and boasted a superlative vocal by Colin Blunstone. It remains one of the Swinging Sixties most sophisticated singles and proved a prototype for the folk, jazz and soft rock styles which were to dominate the decade that followed.

Legend has it that The Zombies were all ‘brainbox’ grammar school boys from St Albans in Hertfordshire and had still to take their A levels when they won a local paper talent contest for which the first prize was a record deal with Decca.

The band arrived at the label’s now defunct West Hampstead studio in June 1964 expecting to record a version of George Gershwin’s evergreen Summertime from the musical Porgy and Bess.

But all that changed when Argent played an unfinished fragment of She’s Not There to producer Ken Jones who knew a hit when he heard one. A second verse was written on the spot and, with soon-to-be superstar producer Gus Dudgeon acting as assistant engineer, the song was soon transformed into a little piece of four track mono magic. It shot to Number 12 in the UK and by Christmas was sitting on top of the Cashbox charts in the USA too.

Thereafter it was in America that The Zombies fortunes lay, since they never enjoyed another Top 40 hit at home. Indeed most British fans had probably forgotten about them entirely by the time CBS (their label in the United States) released the pioneering budget sampler The Rock Machine Turns You On early in 1968.

There, alongside iconic tracks by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel and Spirit, was The Zombies showstopping swansong Time Of The Season – the single from their brilliant but largely ignored Odessey and Oracle album.

The Progressive rock era had officially begun and who knows what the five boys from St Albans might have made of it. But by then they’d gone their separate ways with Argent and Blunstone enjoying variously successful solo careers while guitarist Paul Atkinson became a record company exec in New York.

Of course, the 1968 proved a watershed for a lot of acts who had been working for years either to make or maintain a name for themselves in the music business.

One which was sadly on the slide by the end of the decade was Motown’s Marvelettes. These four High School girls from the Detroit suburbs had begun it in style in 1961 with Hey Mr Postman which was not only their debut single for Berry Gordy’s burgeoning empire but was its first US chart topper too.

Follow-ups like Playboy and Beechwood 4-5789 were less auspicious, at least in crossover pop terms, but The Marvelettes status at Motown’s 2648 West Grand Boulevard HQ was still such that they were offered Where Did Our Love Go in 1964, only to turn it down in favour of Too Many Fish In The Sea!

As co-written and produced by Norman Whitfield, Too Many Fish… was a respectable Top 30 hit for The Marvelettes. But who’s to know what they might have achieved if they’d chosen differently?

Certainly they cut a couple more corkers in the shape of Don’t Mess With Bill and their only UK hit, 1967’s Number 13 When You’re Young And In Love. But by the time they recorded Destination: Anywhere a year later (which now features in a series of ads for budget airline Ryanair) there was something a shade old-fashioned about the girls’ sound which not even Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s considerable skills could disguise.

Meanwhile in 1968 another great R’n’B vocal group, The Staple Singers, was about to break into the big time after nearly 20 years on the gospel and chitlin’ circuits.

Newly signed to Stax, guitarist Pops Staples and the singing siblings Cleotha, Pervis and Mavis were stuck into sessions with Booker T and the MGs, which would produce a couple of patchy albums. Then label manager Al Bell dispatched them to Muscle Shoals where they developed the distinctively downhome sound of early 70s hits like Respect Yourself, I’ll Take You There and If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me).

But it was back in February 1962, when they were signed to folk and blues specialist label Riverside, that the Staples created the version of (It Takes More Than) A Hammer And Nails which you would have heard in Sainsbury’s Easter TV campaign.

The song was written by the same Aaron Schroeder responsible for Elvis smashes like Good Luck Charm and It’s Now Or Never as well as being the producer of Gene Pitney’s 24 Hours From Tulsa and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

In its time Hammer and Nails has been recorded by artists as varied as the late lamented Jesse Winchester and Government Mule. But in the hands of The Staple Singers it’s still quite one of the most boisterous and rousing gospel numbers you could ever wish to hear. And it doesn’t mention God once!

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