She’s Not There (as made famous by The Zombies)

“She’s Not There” is the debut single by British rock band The Zombies, written by organist Rod Argent. It reached No.12 in the UK Singles Chart in September 1964,[1] and reached No.1 on the Cashbox chart (No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100) in the United States at the beginning of December 1964. In Canada, it reached number two.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked “She’s Not There” number 297 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2]

Rod Argent built the lyrics of “She’s Not There” from a John Lee Hooker song, whose title – “No One Told Me” – became the opening phrase of “She’s Not There”. Following an 29 April 1964, performance by the Zombies at St Albans Market Hall, Argent played the one verse he had written of the song for Ken Jones who was set to produce the band’s first recording session. Jones encouraged Argent to write a second verse for the song, intending for the band to record it. Argent recalls: “I wrote the song for Colin’s range”—referring to Zombies’ vocalist Colin Blunstone — “I could hear him singing it in my mind”. The song’s genres and musical styles are described by authors and music journalists as jazz rock,[3] beat[4] and pop rock.[5]

“She’s Not There” was the second of four songs recorded by the Zombies at a 12 June 1964, recording session at Decca’s West Hampstead Studio No. 2. The song’s backing track necessitated seven takes.[6] One of the song’s most distinctive features is Argent’s electric piano sound; the instrument used was a Hohner Pianet. The backing vocals are in a folk-influenced close-harmony style.

The narrator has unsatisfactory dealings with an untrustworthy woman. He reproaches unspecified associates for failing to warn him of her unsavoury character. The real inspiration behind the song, however, was Argent’s first love, Patricia, who called off their wedding weeks before and broke his heart.

This minor key, jazz-tinged single was first aired in the United States during the first week in August 1964, on New York rock radio station WINS by Stan Z. Burns, who debuted the song on his daily noontime “Hot Spot” segment, during which new songs were played. The tune began to catch on in early autumn and eventually reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1964.[7]

The song was later released both on The Zombies’ UK album Begin Here (December 1964) and US album The Zombies (January 1965). It was also included on the soundtrack to the 1979 feature film More American Graffiti.