This was written by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, who founded The Hooters. It is filled with biblical images and created some controversy. Hyman told us: "I think the spirituality of it wasn't premeditated. I think everyone is a spiritual person in whatever they believe or not. There was no real agenda on our part. I know it got banned on several stations, which interested us - there were some Christian stations that refused to play it. There were articles - we never understood the controversy that much, but it stimulated activity. For a writer, that's the best thing you can do."
The Hooters included this song on Amore, an independent album they released in 1983. Around the same time, Cyndi Lauper's first album came out, which Hyman and Bazilian had worked on. Columbia Records took notice and signed the band soon after, releasing this as their first single. The version released by Columbia was slowed down, with instrumental sections added to make the song almost 6 minutes long.
Hyman: "That may have been the fastest song Eric and I ever wrote that was of any quality. We've written some quick songs, but that one stayed with us. That one we literally did write in one night. We like to call it the '10 minute song,' I think it was more like a couple hours, but we did bang it out in one night."
In our talk with Eric Bazilian, he explained: "This is spooky. When we first wrote the song, the first lyric that came out of someone's mouth, I think it was Rob's, was 'All you people hide your faces, all you people in the street.' We wrote a song based around that, and the next day we came in and Rob and I decided it needed a better word than 'People.' The word that came out of Rob's mouth was 'Zombies.' There was something familiar about it to me. I thought about it, and it wasn't for another year or 2 that I realized that was the title of a Robert Heilman story which I had read in 7th grade. It was a really bizarre story. Rob had never read a science fiction book in his life. It took me years to find a copy of the book because it was out of print. By the way, it had nothing to do with the song."
Hyman: "We launched into this kind of biblical world with Moses and Noah and all of the imagery which was the obvious, basic stuff that you read and hear about, whether it's in The Bible or in movies, and just combining those kind of icons and images with this reggae beat, which is something I was always very much into."
Hyman and Bazilian liked this song, but thought is was way too quirky to be a hit. They considered it a throwaway song, and played it in clubs early in their sets when most people weren't paying attention. They didn't realize people liked the song until they did a live concert for radio station WMMR in Philadelphia. When they played this, the phones lit up and the station got flooded with requests for it. They released a vinyl 45 of the WMMR performance to satisfy the demand.
The Hooters played this on the Philadelphia stage of Live Aid in 1985. They were from the area and given the slot opening the concert after the introduction ceremonies and a performance by Joan Baez. Over 100,000 people attended the show while another concert was held in London. Proceeds from Live Aid went to famine relief in Africa.
Hyman: "To this day, it probably is the song that people ask us about the most, they want to know what it's about, they want to know the intent and the meaning, and it just happened. We didn't think about it, it wasn't discussed, it wasn't premeditated. It just came out of us. The lyrics are very intriguing. Some songs are just like that, you never quite know what they're about and if it's put together in the right way, they can be wonderful experiences. I love songs like that, you just listen and every time you hear it you kind of wonder what's going on."
Hyman and Bazilian went on to work with Joan Osborne on her album Relish
, with Eric writing the hit "One Of Us
," which also contained some religious themes. They have worked with many other artists as well, including Dar Williams
, Ricky Martin and Jon Bon Jovi. (Thanks to Rob and Eric for speaking with us about this song. Their websites are www.robhyman.com and www.ericbazilian.com.)