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“She’s Not There” – Well, Where Is She?

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I was just mentioning the Rod Argent-Colin Blunstone reunion tour, and this reminded me what a startling, even frightening song “She’s Not There” is.

Released by the Zombies in 1964, it’s one of the great songs of the British Invasion, highlighted by Argent’s jazzy organ and Blunstone’s high, breathy vocals. The song’s spookiness dervies primarily from the detachment with which Blunstone deals with his passion; his voice has a chill to it that Sting has similarly approached but never quite achieved.

    Well no one told me about her
    The way she lied
    Well no one told me about her-rr
    How many people cried
    But it’s too late to say you’re sorry
    How would I know?
    Why should I care?
    Please don’t bother tryng to find her
    She’s not there

Which translates to something like:

“You, my friends, didn’t tell me about this psycho bitch: she lies, she breaks hearts like twigs. Don’t bother to apologize now; but you should have, could have, warned me.

“She has powers – she’s a devil woman. I’m going to do what you all should have done: warn the unsuspecting world!”

The linguistic meaning of the phrase “she’s not there” is ambiguous. Normally a person describing such a situation would say “she’s not here,” meaning “I am here, in this particular space and time, but she is not.”

In other words, under normal circumstances, the only place he knows for sure that she is not is where he is. In theory, she could be anywhere else – unless he isn’t referring to geography.

One possible explanation for this odd use of “there” would refer to the woman’s mental state: she isn’t “there” even when she is there. Her attention isn’t focused on her physical surroundings. It is very disconcerting to be with someone who”s attention is elsewhere:

“What? Did you say something? I’m sorry – my mind was elsewhere. Was it good for you too?”

Not terribly flattering.

The woman’s attention may be elsewhere, but her appearance is beguiling:

    Well let me tell you ’bout the way she looks
    The way she acts and the color of her hair
    Her voice is soft and cool
    Hereyes are clear and bright
    But she’s not there

These attributes are invitations to disaster: like the Siren’s song or the Venus’ flytrap alluring scent. Each victim finds out for himself – each is sucked into the woman’s vortex to find the exquisite horrors that lie within.

Another explanation could be that the woman doesn’t exist: she is a figment of the singer’s fevered imagination. He imagines a devil woman of near infinite charm, but she’s not really there. His ranting about “why didn’t warn me” could just be a defense mechanism concocted in his delusional delerium. He friends shake their heads and look away, remembering the lucid chap he used to be.

However, after many listens and deep rumination, it is my considered opinion that the character portrayed by the singer killed the she devil. It is most likely that the woman was very real, pissed him off very much, and he did her in.

The overwhelming, centrifugal Jezebel seduced the singer. How could he resist those lips, those eyes, that hair. But she somehow deceived him:

“And I wasn’t the first: there were others, many others. And you all knew, but you didn’t warn me: why oh why didn’t you warn me?

“I had no choice – she lied. I HATE it when they lie! These women who lie and deceive and paint their faces and stand that way! Oh, they know what they are doing, I can assure you of that, my friends. They know, but they don’t care!

“They derive great pleasure and satisfaction from enslaving and tormenting and lying. The lies, lies, lies, lies! They look so innocent with those big staring eyes. Those eyes that say, ‘Come on in – all will be well. I’ll keep you safe inside my big staring eyes.’ But they do not!

“They say, ‘I want you – I need you – you’re the only one.’ I had to stop those eyes before they deceived another, before they lied yet again. I owed it to the world to turn off those eyes! Don’t bother trying to find her – she’s not there. Ha Haaa! She’s not anywhere.”

Or something like that. You know these artistic types: they get all excited about the least little thing.

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About Eric Olsen

  • jay S.

    The Zombies epitomized a Style (british invasion) of what the Beatles Started in the early 60’s. I just recently rec’d their Zombie Heaven compilation as a Birthday gift. It is an amazing piece of recorded history. I can’t stop listening to it. Proving that Argent’s Song writing was as UNIQUE as Blunstone’s Vocals. Writer’s & Performer’s ‘TODAY’ (feb 2003) CAN only “Dream” of having the kind of Talent that these Guy’s possessed. They were truely beyond themselves. Like Many Brtish Invasion Group recordings…very few Writers and/or Performers today with all the Glitz and Mountain of Production couldn’t even come close to what all these Guys did. I don’t know the circumstance that led to the Break-up of the Zombies, but it (without a doubt) must have been a very DARK day….Luv your music Forever. j.

  • Chris N

    I was wondering the same thing this morning after having watched American Idol and hearing Peter Noone ask Chris if he knows what the song is about but never gave the answer. I was painting this morning and it just came like a light bulb was turned on. Could it be Incubus they are singing about? That would be pretty awful but it’s highly likely.

  • Jeff Donaldson

    The song’s meaning is more sinister than that. He was a jealous boyfriend who did not want to share “her” with anyone. He murdered her, then after the funeral dug up her corpse to keep it with him. Hence “she’s not there” – she’s not in her grave, she’s with me.

  • tsnapcracklepop

    i th9nk “she” is heroine, the rest of the song reflects that the allure is not there once you try her

  • sarah

    im really not impressed. i a guy friend that got crossed wires about what our friendship was just told me this song reminded him of me!!! pffft

  • Jacky

    She screwed around, his friends knew about it but didn’t tell him, so he off’d the young lady.

    “Please don’t bother trying to find her, she’s not there”

  • Carlaumol

    No need to complicate a simple song. She’s a beautiful woman, but she lies and cheats with ease, therefore she is not there emotionally, not for him and not for any man. Simple.

  • 1 Who Should Have Known Better

    She probably had a Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)