Built around the bassline heard in the intro, this song has some very effective and unusual structural components that helped it endure. The bass riff is punctuated with a hand clap and the breathy "ahhhh" vocal. These elements add sonic texture during the verses, and also show up in the two interludes.
And while most hit songs pound you with the chorus, this one doesn't. The full chorus - "It's the time of the season for loving..." takes just eight seconds and is repeated three times. That's just 24 seconds of chorus, but this minimalist approach gave the line tremendous impact, resonating with listeners at a time of social and political turmoil in America.
The band broke up in late 1967, shortly after recording the album. When the album was released in April 1968, it sold poorly, stalling on the US charts at #95 and making no impact in their native UK. The "Time Of The Season" single, however, became a huge hit in America even though the group had disbanded and couldn't support it. It sold over a million copies, peaking at #3 on March 29, 1969.
With their newfound American success, band members Rod Argent, Paul Atkinson and Hugh Grundy got the band back together, minus lead singer Colin Blunstone. This reunion was short lived, and by the end of 1969 The Zombies were once again dead. Blunstone went on to have a successful solo career, including a #15 UK hit in 1972 "Say You Don't Mind," and was the guest vocalist on Dave Stewart's (not the Eurythmics Dave Stewart) 1981 UK #13 cover of "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted." Rod Argent formed the band Argent, which had a hit with "Hold Your Head Up" in 1972.
The Zombies keyboard player Rod Argent wrote this song. He said in The Guardian
February 22, 2008: "'Time of the Season' was the last thing to be written (for the album). I remember thinking it sounded very commercial. One of my favorite records was George Gershwin's 'Summertime
;' we used to do a version of it when we started out. The words in the verse - 'What's your name? Who's your daddy? Is he rich like me?' - were an affectionate nod in that direction."
Argent added: "The album title's slightly high-flown, isn't it? As is the quote from The Tempest
on the back. It was a very flowery time in all sorts of ways. Me and Chris (Chris White bassist and co-songwriter) shared a flat with a guy called Terry Quirk who was a very talented artist and he came up with this beautiful, florid cover that we adored. We didn't notice that the word odyssey was spelt wrongly, to our eternal embarrassment. For years I used to say, 'Oh that was intentional. It was a play on the word ode.' But I'm afraid it wasn't."
The famous lyrics, "What's your name, who's your daddy, is he rich like me?" are a nod to the Gershwin standard "Summertime
," which The Zombies released on their first album. That song contains the lyrics, "Your daddy's rich and your mama's good looking."
The theme of "Seasons" was a concept on the album Odessey And Oracle. Albums were very popular in the late '60s, so artists could put songs together that meant something when played in a certain order.
In Word magazine January 2008, the vocalist Colin Blunstone was asked whether the word 'Odessey' in the album title was deliberately spelled wrong. Blunstone replied: "Rod (Argent) told this story for nearly 40 years of how it was deliberate and a play on the word 'ode,' hence 'odessey' when it should be spelled 'odyssey.' So I was astounded as anyone when he finally admitted about a year ago that it had been a simple spelling mistake. Too late to change by the time anyone noticed it. A bit embarrassing, but it's history now."
The recording of this song bought about a minor spat between keyboardist Rod Argent, who wrote the song, and the vocalist Colin Blunstone. The argument was over the phrase, "When love runs high." Blunstone struggled with the high note at the end of the line, and snapped at Argent, "If you're so good you come and sing it." Argent admitted in Mojo
magazine February 2008: "It was written really quickly and we didn't rehearse it an awful lot. I was trying to change the phrasing."
Blunstone told his side in our 2015 interview
. "It was written in the morning before we went into the studio in the afternoon, and I kind of struggled on the melody," he said. "Rod and I had quite a heated discussion – he being in the control room and me singing the song - and we were just doing it through my headphones. Because it had only just been written, I was struggling with the melody."
Blunstone added: "It makes me laugh, because at the same time I'm singing, 'It's the time of the season for loving,' we're really going at one another."
Rod Argent's organ sections take up about 90 seconds of this song's 3:22 running time. Most songs of the era that devoted so much of their time to organ riffs were much longer compositions like "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
" by Iron Butterfly and "A Whiter Shade Of Pale
" by Procol Harum.
This song has been sampled or interpolated on tracks by a number of artists, who sometimes use vast swaths of the song as the basis for their tracks - it's the base for the 2009 Melanie Fiona hit "Give It To Me Right
" and for Eminem's 2013 track "Rhyme or Reason." Other tracks to use it include "Rolling Stone" by ScHoolboy Q and "Don't Look Back" by Miguel.
Surprisingly, this song never charted in the UK, although it is widely known there. In our 2015 interview with Rod Argent
, he said: "'Time of the Season' was the #1 in most countries in the world, but it wasn't in the UK. It's been released three times in the UK, and it's never been a hit. But the extraordinary thing is that everybody knows it in the UK. We played Glastonbury this year, and we had a big audience of the young kids who went completely mad when we played 'Time of the Season.' So, it has become, strangely enough, a classic in the UK, but it's never been a hit."
"Time of the Season" was the first song picked by Al Kooper (just after leaving Blood Sweat & Tears) in his new position as staff producer in the A&R department at Columbia Records. As told in Kooper's Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards
, producer Clive Davis was about to sign off Columbia's options to release Odessey And Oracle
. Kooper persuaded him to keep the option, and the Zombies' later success was the first feather in his cap.
Speaking of Columbia Records, their Manhattan offices (located at the CBS Building on Sixth Avenue between West 52nd and 53rd Streets) are known as the "Black Rock" after the appearance of the building. File that next to "Brill Building" in influential buildings in rock 'n' roll history.
According to Argent, he was told by Paul Weller that Odessey and Oracle is his favorite album of all time. Bassist Chris White added in the February 2008 Mojo interview: "The Foo Fighters said in a recent Rolling Stone they listen to it most mornings. Tom Petty's keyboard said to me, 'You guys don't realize how important that record's been. As far as we're concerned there's Sgt. Pepper and Odessey and Oracle."
In the UK, this was used in a commercial for Magners cider. In the US, Fidelity Investments used it.
After this song became a surprise hit in America after the band had broken up, an opportunistic promoter in Michigan put together an ersatz version of the group and sent them on tour. Since no singer could convincingly imitate Colin Blunstone, the promoter announced that Blunstone had died, but the band decided to soldier on without him. The real Blunstone was surprised to learn of his demise, and kept the clipping explaining his death as a keepsake.
This was used in the movie Awakenings with Robert DeNiro in a scene when they are driving in the car.
The Cantopop artist Samuel Hui released a cover in 1971 (in English) that proved very popular in Hong Kong. It came at a time when Western music was being introduced to the area.
This was used at the end of the 1996 Friends episode "The One With The Flashback" in a scene where Rachel fantasizes about Chandler. It was also featured in the 1994 episode "The One Where Monica Gets A Roommate."
More TV shows to use the song:
DC Legends Of Tomorrow ("Daddy Darhkest" – 2018)
Good Girls Revolt ("Pilot" - 2015)
NCIS ("So It Goes" - 2014)
Cold Case ("Revolution" - 2005)
South Park ("The Mexican Staring Frog Of Southern Sri Lanka" - 1998, "201" - 2010)
The Simpsons ("D'oh-in' in the Wind" - 1998)
All The Money In The World (2017)
The Conjuring (2013)
Riding The Bullet (2004)
Shanghai Knights (2003)