The Zombies occupy a respectable place below The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, and maybe one or two other influential British rock groups of the 1960’s.
Yet The Zombies are known on a level a notch above other influential groups of that era like The Incredible String Band, Soft Machine, and King Crimson.
Hit singles like “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “Time of the Season” are good for a lifetime of accolades.
In the new documentary, Hung Up On A Dream, filmmaker Robert Schwartzman chronicles the band with reverence and a sense of the true meaning of rock and roll. The era is brought to life with archival footage and testimonies.
The title refers to a song on side one of what is perhaps the Zombies most accomplished and last ‘60s LP, “Odessey and Oracle.”
The Zombies are currently on a North American tour with dates in March through Texas including SXSW in Austin where the film celebrated its world premiere earlier this week. The line-up includes original members Colin Brunstone, Rod Argent, Chris White, and Hugh Grundy.
Schwartzman follows the band’s trajectory with editing skill that emphasizes the contrast between the players then and now. Modern day interviews are framed on a decorated set that slyly emphasizes its depth. There are flowers in the background, but the focus is on Rod or Colin sitting on a vintage couch in the foreground.
Schwartzman has been making movies for a while and interested viewers would behoove themselves to check out his underrated 2019 narrative, romantic comedy The Unicorn. His older brother Jason is best known as the star of Rushmore and of course, his mom is Talia Shire.
The film uncovers just about every facet of the group’s career, although perhaps not oddly missing is the song “I Love You,” which actually became a hit single for the American one-hit wonder group, The People, in 1968, three years after the Zombies recorded it. Also absent is any mention of The Zombies contribution to the kidnapping thriller “Bunny Lake Is Missing,” where they appear on television in a bar scene.
Colin Blunstone, Hugh Grundy, Rod Argent, Chris White and director Robert Schwartzman. Photo by Sean Mathis
Hung Up On A Dream covers all the Top 40 songs the Zombies produced and offers a more than comprehensive view of how the members fared in the post-Zombie era.
Argent formed a titular group, perhaps best known for the hit single “Hold Your Head Up.” Brunstone had an offer to return to recording while he was selling insurance. Other members became A&R reps at major labels. The drummer frankly explains how his job was to listen to audition tapes. He discovered Queen, but his superiors rejected his suggestion to immediately sign them.
This story of aging rockers takes a turn inwards. Reinvention, missteps, and redemption come naturally for the members.
One archival clip has the premiere of an early 45 r.p.m. on the British show “Juke Box Jury.” One of the guest judges is George Harrison and he completely flips for The Zombies’ platter.
As one member sums up his life experience: “In your seventies you realize you were successful in your twenties.”
Hung Up On A Dream is a movie about a bunch of mates who still like each other after 60 years.