Brian Wilson with The Zombies
When: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 8
Where: Arlington Theatre
Information: thearlingtontheatre.com or 805-963-4408
The way Chris White tells it, he and his bandmates in The Zombies knew they had something special on their hands in 1968 — but no one seemed to care.
The English rock band had just wrapped up “Odessey and Oracle.”
“We thought it was the best thing we’d ever done,” Mr. White told the News-Press. “It just didn’t sell. And while there were a couple of writers in the group, guys made their living playing gigs.”
And that forced the group to disband after just five years, having to chase what would pay the rent and not what paid the heart.
Fast forward 51 years, and “Odessey and Oracle” has been ranked as No. 100 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time — and the centerpiece of the band’s North American Tour that will come to the Arlington Theatre on Sept. 8, fulfilling a lifelong dream of going on tour with Brian Wilson.
“It’s quite the dream, we’ve always wanted to tour with Brian,” Mr. White said. “And to also do it with our album, 50 years later, to see people appreciate what it was, it’s going to be fantastic.”
This will be the second trip across the pond for the band in recent months, as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“It was just an honor, to be among the giants that we grew up with, that influenced us,” Mr. White said. “It felt like it was a justification for the album that we performed. Especially being 76, it was great to get the appreciation after all that time.”
It’s not lost on the band on how the “Odessey and Oracle” continued to grow over the years, with Mr. White pointing to Tom Petty and Dave Grohl as influential when they revealed that it aided in their own sounds.
And the sound has continued to evolve over time for The Zombies, but according to Mr. White, there is nothing better than getting on stage.
“When we are on stage, you feel like you’re 25 again,” Mr. White said. “What else am I going to do? Retire? We can’t stop working, the music is in our blood, you have to get it out in order to live.”
Even when the band wasn’t active — they’ve disbanded and regrouped four times — Mr. White continued to write, with more than 800 songs that he has never released, with his two music-industry sons focused on making that happen.
But it all points back to his time with the Zombies, which continues to inspire him to this day.
“We grew up together, grew our music together, we still very much like being around each other,” Mr. White said. “We get on very well, we tell the same jokes — and we all forget the endings.”
Mr. White was among the founding members of the Zombies, alongside Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, both of whom are still in the active band.
According to Mr. White, the band has remained relevant for one reason: storytelling.
“It’s a great pleasure to make music that can encourage other people to write songs,” Mr. White said. “These songs are so important because they mark specific periods in our lives.”