The Decca Stereo Anthology The Zombies


Big Beat
Catalogue Id:
CDWIK2 225

Due to public demand, the Zombies' incomparable Decca catalogue is given a fresh new slant with this spectacular stereo anthology, spotlighting the group's entire 1964-66 output, with many tracks appearing in stereo for the first time. Hear pop music history in the making.

When they traipsed downstairs into Decca No 2 in June of 1964, the Zombies, the fab five from St Albans, could never have guessed that, forty years later, people would be passionately arguing over which version of the astounding debut, She's Not There, that they were about to record was better - the mono with the overdub, or the stereo without. In an age when the recycling of arcane vintage rock'n'roll is a veritable industry, the appearance of stereo from what was once mono is often heralded with both joy and despair. The basis of this problematic mono vs stereo argument is the fact that that certain people get upset when the bright and shiny stereo remix doesn't actually sound like the original record they remember. Anyone familiar with the history of the Zombies' recording career will at least acknowledge that, in regard to producer Ken Jones' intentions, the mono versions of the Zombies' Decca catalogue are the definitive versions. Any stereo mix is going to necessarily differ, because it was created after the fact. But this is not the place for a stereo/mono debate. Rather, we present these fresh stereo remixes - including many songs never previously available in that format - in the interests of maximum fidelity, as an alternative for the folks who can't stand mono, and with the happy excuse that we can all revel once more in the pop majesty of the Zombies.

One thing that has always been quite clear is the fact that, compared to some of their contemporaries such as the Kinks, the Zombies' Decca sides were all exceptionally well recorded. As Marquis Enterprises had a lease agreement with Decca for the Zombies' masters, Ken Jones availed himself of Decca's house studio in West Hampstead, London, with which to record the band. By the standards of the time, Decca was an older facility that was having to compete with the rise of the independent studio in the early 1960s. Their tactic was to steal the engineering talent from indies like Olympic, Lansdowne and IBC, as staff engineer and Zombies associate Gus Dudgeon explained: I'd been at Olympic for eighteen months as a tape jockey and tea maker, but I ended up at Decca because Olympic's business suddenly collapsed on them - it was to do with the clients. None of the major record companies were using their own studios, they were all going to IBC or Olympic because the engineers were good and much younger. Within a couple of months of each other, the two biggest clients, Decca and Pye, pulled all their sessions because their studios had poached these young engineers. So I got laid off, but as I only lived five minutes from Decca's studios, I applied to work there. I luckily got the job, and I remember thinking if I didn't get on that board within three months I should quit. I was incredibly ambitious."

Gus got his break when the engineer assigned to the Zombies' first Decca session, Terry Johnson, was too drunk to continue manning the board, and tape jockey Dudgeon stepped into the breach. Because officially speaking Terry had kicked the session off, a part of the work had been done so certain things were already set. It should be noted that on that 12 June session, Johnson engineered the backing tracks to It's Alright With Me and She's Not There, while Dudgeon supervised the taping of You Make Me Feel Good and Summertime, and recorded some or all of the vocals for each of the four tunes.

Incidentally the vocals, and occasionally additional percussion, were the only things ever to be overdubbed on the Zombies' Decca sessions - everything else, even instrumental solos, was cut live in the studio (and on certain songs, like It's Alright With Me and I'm Goin' Home, Colin is also singing live with the band). Therefore, often one instrument will 'bleed' onto another's track-.-a facet of these recordings that, rather than being a problem, approximates the natural ambience of musicians playing live. This room sound becomes even more apparent when the channels are panned as they are here, producing the patina of true stereo, rather than four isolated mono tracks blended together.

Interestingly, the Decca master takes have a lot more flexibility for remixing in their track-by-track configuration - bass/drums on one, guitar on a second, keyboards on a third etc - than was normal at the time. Most contemporaneous studios, even EMI's state-of-the-art Abbey Road, would normally record the entire band onto one channel of a 4-track tape, leaving the remaining three for vocals and/or further instrumental overdubs. Or they would create a 'reduction', ie start by recording the band across one 4-track tape, and then mix those four tracks down to one channel of another 4-track tape. This technique was standard when mono was the norm, and remained so somewhat into the stereo era, resulting in the idiosyncratic imbalance of early stereo pop mixes. Incidentally there are only three examples on this compilation: the multi-track tapes for Kind Of Girl and Sometimes only feature one channel for the entire band (vocals occupy the others), whilst Goin' Out Of My Head, the last Zombies session for Decca and held at the independent De Lane Lea, was the subject of a reduction mix to allow for Ken Jones' orchestral overdubs.

But when Jones and the Zombies recorded and mixed these songs, making stereo counterparts was the furthest thing from their minds. Mono was the format they solely worked in, and Jones in particular was most insistent on retaining control of the finished product. Utilising Decca's facilities, including their distinctive echo chambers and Pultec equalization units, the producer focused upon creating a distinctive, ear-catching master that would have the potential of becoming a hit single. Recalls Gus Dudgeon: "The mixing session was really something done to finish the job off, and you'd be lucky if you spent twenty minutes on a song. It was such a fast process that you never sat back and thought about it. There was a great sense of naivetZ. No-one expected these records to go on and become these icons over the years." Despite the relatively short time spent on them, Ken Jones certainly had a clear vision when he mixed many of these tracks-.-whether it be performing fade-ins and edits to shorten or lengthen them (Work N' Play and I Love You), or adding sound effects to the beginning and end of a track to create a specific mood (The Way I Feel Inside).

Of course, the most significant facet of Jones' original mixes is that he saw fit that additional drum parts were to be added as the tracks were dubbed down to mono, in an effort to thicken the cuts. These overdubs are clearly present on the mono versions of the first eight songs the Zombies recorded at Decca, most significantly, of course, on She's Not There, where a drum beat was superimposed to completely alter the rhythm of the verses. Elsewhere, there are a couple of examples of additional vocal overdubs present only on the mono singles: backing vocals on Is This The Dream, and a second, superimposed, lead vocal that Colin added to Goin' Out Of My Head. It is clear that if Jones had any intention of creating stereo mixes at the time, he would have kept the overdubs on the four-track session tape. "Ken was a 'get it out fast' kind of producer," recalls Chris White, and Jones was producing the band at a time when stereo was a rarity amongst all but the best selling of pop groups, of which the Zombies at that time, in the UK at least, were anything but.

When commercial dictates did require the creation of stereo mixes of the Zombies' mid-1960s Decca catalogue, the combo had already ceased to exist for a full year. In the spring of 1969, with the Zombies' swan song, Time Of The Season, topping the charts in the United States, the group's former American label, London, rush-released EARLY DAYS, a hodge-podge of singles sides and album tracks. The stereo album market now flourishing, London had a staff engineer at UK Decca perform quick stereo passes of seventeen Zombies tunes from the original 4-tracks. These were done in one day, 24 March 1969 to be exact, and then delivered to London, from which the American album was compiled. A year later, Decca producer Tony Waddington supervised a further batch of stereo mixes (or 'compatible masters', as they were then called) to constitute a volume in an extensive budget catalogue series that Decca was developing, THE WORLD OF THE ZOMBIES. Obviously, in the interests of expediency, little if any attention was paid by those undertaking the remixes to matching the differing equalization, reverb or feel o


Track listing


Side 1

Side 2

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