Monday, 18 January 2010

Song of the Week #3: "Maybe After He's Gone" by The Zombies

Obviously, phrases like 'lost classic' and 'underrated masterpiece' are batted around like confetti nowadays (and I guiltily hold my hand up as quickly as anyone), but the fact that the Zombies' Odessey & Oracle isn't as revered as work by contemporaries like the Beatles really is baffling. The story behind its recording and release is a good one (the wikipedia account is well worth reading) and points to reasons why it wasn't the success it might have been, but to me, it might have something to do with the fact the record is so, well, odd. Not musically of course - musically it's of its time while still being hugely inventive, and the melodies flow like they've been beamed in from another planet. But lyrically, it's something else. You have to admire any band who start an album off with a song where the guy is writing to his girl who's in jail, writing pleasantries that we assume probably don't go down too well:

"Saved you the room you used to stay in every Sunday /
The one that is warmed by sunshine every day /
And we'll get to know each other for a second time /
And then you can tell me about your prison stay."

It's such a perky song on the surface, but hugely unsettling if you dig a bit deeper.

Then you've got the sombre organ-led Butcher's Tale, a tale of front-line combat nestled snugly next to Friends Of Mine, an ode to couples in loving relationships: "It feels so good to know two people so in love, so in love!"

In amongst the odd lyrical concerns and baroque beauty is this week's chosen selection, the magnificent Maybe After He's Gone. But even that diverts from any kind of male bravado - "Maybe after he's gone, she'll come back and love me again." You reckon? Typical British restraint and all that, but come on! Then again, this level of coyness makes its appearance elsewhere in their catalogue; Goin' Out Of My Head, which appears as a bonus track on some versions of the album, includes the killer line: "There's no reason why my being shy should keep us apart." Hmmm... Wishful thinking perhaps.

The Zombies then - masculinity issues, but fortunately able to set them against devastatingly wonderful songs.

MP3: The Zombies - Maybe After He's Gone

Spotify: Odessey & Oracle

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