In June 1967, just after The Beatles recorded “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and Pink Floyd recorded “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” at the same studio, The Zombies entered Abbey Road to record nine songs that would appear on “Odessey and Oracle” (and no, that’s not my misspelling, but one by the album cover’s designer which The Zombies tried to cover up at the time by saying it was deliberate). By January 1968 when the stereo mixes were completed, the band had split up.
The lush vocal harmonies and bouncy bass line immediately caught me the first time I heard “Care of Cell 44,” which opens the album. It’s one of those magnificently perfect pop concoctions, with just the right mix of tunefulness and melancholy. Written from the point of view of someone writing a letter to their lover in jail, the lyrics seemed a little impenetrable at first, but it’s all about that explosion of hopefulness in the chorus: “Feels so good, you’re coming home soon!” I think everyone can relate to that.
Despite the complete indifference that met this song when it was released as an advance single for “Odessey and Oracle” in 1967, the album itself has finally found its recognition as a classic, landing at number 80 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list in 2003.