Monday, August 22, 2011

Reanimating The Zombies: She's Not There

About a month ago I was watching the movie “Kill Bill, Volume 2” and I noticed the late Malcolm McLaren’s interpretation of The Zombies’ hit “She’s not There.” Since the first line of the tune is accentuated in McLaren’s version, he named his rendition as “About Her.” As this version is quite different, I wondered how many other interpretations of this classic oldie from August 1964. Until recently, I was only familiar with the original and the remake by Santana.

As I began to investigate, I found a slew of releases that were radically different from the original hit by The Zombies. All were different and they all had redeeming value. While I couldn’t find all of the different versions of the song, I am including a dozen different renditions of the tune.

The Zombies 1964 Original

Although released in the US as a single in 1964 on Parrot Records, The Zombies self titled album was issued in January 1965 and also featured their follow-up hit “Tell Her No.”

All of The Zombies hits in the US did better in North America than in their native Britain. “She’s Not There” peaked at 2 in the US and Canada and was their biggest hit in the UK peaking at #12.

“She’s not There” was the second song written by Rod Argent whose use of a Hohner Pianet gives the song it’s unique flavor. Colin Blunstone sang the lead on this cut.

Psychodelic Zombies

When Vanilla Fudge released their debut album in 1967, they included a psychedelic rendition of The Zombies hit. Mark Stein provided the lead vocals as well as the thundering Hammond B3 organ on this recording.

The band was rounded out by Carmine Appice on drums, Tim Bogert on bass, and Vince Martell on guitar.

Garage Band Zombies

In 1968, The Litter, a Minneapolis garage band with grunge/psychedelic leanings, released their rendition of “She’s Not There.” The recording on Warwick Records was from the band’s second album “$100 Fine.”

The keyboard lead is reminiscent of the Ray Manzarek’s lead on The Doors’ “Light my Fire,” which was issued the previous year. Denny Waite is the keyboardist. Bill Strandlof’s guitar style is also influenced by The Doors’ Robbie Krieger. Jim Morrison would have fit in well with this little known band from the Upper Midwest. You betcha.

Early Progressive Zombies

The album version of the 1969 single release of “She’s Not There” by The Road features a short prelude called “Follow the Less Traveled Road.” While the song starts out much like the original, the chorus is extended vocally and has some interesting kicks. The Hammond B3 organ lead is, as they say in the vernacular, “outta sight.” The vocals are really good on this one as well.

This version was a local hit in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the label credits the wrong Zombie, Chris White, as writing the song.

The Remade Zombies

In 1969, Deram Records introduced singer Neil McArthur to the world with a remake of “She’s Not There.” The single peaked at 34 in the UK. The arrangement is quite different from the original with acoustic guitar, distorted guitar, flute, and orchestra.

If the vocals sound interestingly familiar, they should Neil McArthur was actually The Zombies' lead vocalist Colin Blunstone.

Latin Zombies

When Santana released their 1977 remake of The Zombies classic, it was their first hit to chart within the Top Forty since 1972. It peaked in the US at #27.

From Santana’s album “Moonflower,” it features the legendary leads of Carlos Santana and Greg Walker on vocals.

Punk Zombies

Released during the height of the Punk Rock movement in 1979, the UK Subs released the song as their third single. This British punk band’s version charted in the UK at #36. I love how this version ends – rather abruptly.

Acting like a Zombie

An interesting interpretation of this tune was released by actor Tim Curry in 1981. It is a different but interesting (in a good way) version of “She’s Not There.”

It comes from Curry’s album “Simplicity.” You can hear his command of his spoken word in this version.

Techno-Pop Zombies

A very nice techno-pop release of Rod Argent’s tune was issued in 1983 by the band Panic. This one comes from a 12 inch maxi-single. The 12” singles were primarily used in club play; however, radio occasionally played these remixes.

Indie Zombies

Australian indie rock band, The Cruel Sea, recorded their jazz influenced version of this timeless hit. Parts of the piano reminds me of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." It was used on the soundtrack to the motion picture “Boys” and was released in 1996.

Mashuped Zombies

This is the version that started it all for me - Malcolm McClaren’s mashup of Bessie Smith’s recording of St. Louis Blues and McLaren’s use of portions of “She’s Not There’s” lyrics. It gained in popularity for its use in “Kill Bill, Volume 2.”

Dual Zombies

Recorded in 2011 for the opening of the fourth season of HBO’s “True Blood,” Nick Cave and Neko Case combined talents for a highly interesting version of The Zombies’ debut hit. In comparing the talents of Case and Cave, one poster to YouTube called it a “perfect marriage between heaven and hell.” Like all of the other versions, I like this one as well - especially the accordion leads.

Surfin' Zombies

When you think of surf instrumentals – typically, you think of California and the groups that made the genre popular: Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, The Ventures, The Chantays, and others that came along a generation later like the Raybeats. We typically don’t think of Italy. Cosmonauti was a surf instrumental band from Rome. Here’s their 2003 rendition of “She’s Not There” from their LP “Bikini Angel.”


  1. Fantastic! I have been discovering these covers myself, how wonderful to find them all here in one place. Thank you.

  2. Here's a list of several hundred covers of various Zombies songs...

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.