of Yellow River into a World
Cup song was covered in articles run in several Jewish publications.
THE JEWISH TELEGRAPH
FOUR decades ago, Jeff Christie toppled England's World
Cup anthem Back Home from the
top of the charts with Yellow River.
And he has updated the classic song
as Hat Trick of Lions (Come on England),
which is set to become the unofficial anthem for Wayne Rooney
and co's bid for World Cup glory in South Africa.
Released as a digital download,
the song has had positive reviews - to the delight of the
"There is a tremendous feel-good
factor about it," Jeff told the Jewish Telegraph.
River has an ability to make people nostalgic, but
this is so totally different and has a multicultural tag."
In British popular music history
Yellow River has achieved a
cult status, but it's a long way from Jeff's musical experiences
growing up in Chapeltown and Chapel Allerton districts of
Leeds with parents Toni and Mickey Christie.
Influenced by their mother, Jeff
and elder brother Lester enjoyed operatic and classical
music while also taking piano lessons.
Struggling to master Mozart and
Beethoven, Jeff switched musical instruments after hearing
Spanish flamenco guitarists first hand.
But there was only one route to
follow after Elvis Presley exploded onto the music scene.
"All the rock 'n' roll guys
were my heroes," Jeff recalled. "Little Richard
blew me away and then there were Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy
Holly, Eddie Cochrane and Gene Vincent.
"I was a reasonable piano player,
but when rock 'n' roll came along I took to it like a duck
"Dad had bought me a Spanish
guitar and after school I would hack away. I got a chord
book but knew chord structures and scales from the piano
so would play a chord and work it out on the guitar."
Following a few guitar lessons,
Jeff teamed up with pals at the Judean Club in Leeds.
"I'd made up my mind to make
a living as a musician," he recalled. "I thought,
how cool would it be to earn a living as a guitar player?
"The 1960s was such a revolutionary
period. Anything was possible. It produced The Beatles,
James Bond, British fashion and Carnaby Street.
"We'd practice at the Judean
Club and then set up at Roundhay Park and perform."
- who has two younger brothers, Mark and Robin - formed
a skiffle band 3Gs + 1 and then The Tremmers, which developed
into The Outer Limits who built a national following.
Predictions of a bright future ensued
from those in the know, but struggling to make an impact,
Jeff began to pen his own material influenced by a host
of sounds on the radio.
"I listened to everything and
knew about obscure blues and rock 'n' roll artists people
on the street had never heard of," he said
"Backed by classical and flamenco
influences, my own style evolved."
Hungry for success, Jeff added:
"The first thing you want to be is a musician, then
turn professional and then be in a group, do gigs, raise
your profile, sign a record deal, have a hit and then hopefully
a number one."
The Outer Limits recorded Just
One More Chance, which proved to be a minor hit that
spawned three covers, and the group toured with Jimi Hendrix
in 1967 alongside Pink Floyd, The Move, Amen Corner, The
Nice and Eire Apparent.
Not long after the tour, The Outer
Limits broke up and, for a couple of years, Jeff played
in a trio at the Lido Revue Bar in Leeds while writing prolifically
in search of a hit.
The big breakthrough arrived when
Jeff sent a tape of Yellow River,
among other tracks, to The Tremeloes. The group liked Yellow
River, but declined it as they were enjoying success
with their own material.
Other groups registered an interest
in the track, but Jeff recorded it with his own group Christie
with CBS Records.
And the decision paid off as the
single topped the charts in 26 countries, including the
UK for three weeks in June 1970.
Selling more than 20 million records,
Yellow River netted 10 gold
discs and accolades including the prestigious Ivor Novello
Looking back to those halcyon days,
Jeff said: "I hit on a chord sequence that was quite
"From a technical point of
view Yellow River was a merger
of major and minor chords. The song is upbeat, but the minor
chords had a melancholy sound about them.
Yellow River created was incredible.
"There was a massive rush to
get the band rehearsed, there was TV, radio. It got crazy.
After months of waiting things took off in a big way.
River changed my life forever. There is a website
with all the covers from Elton John to REM. Every conceivable
version has been done, but there is something about the
River at the time captured a moment and clicked around
the world. You cannot put your finger on it, but it had
a magical quality and I was lucky enough to have created
Follow-up single San
Bernadino reached Number 5 in the UK, Number 1 in
Germany and made top 10 in many European countries.
Various musicians went on to work
with Jeff as he forged a career in the music industry touring
The current line up of Christie
- Jeff on lead vocals and guitar, Adrian Foster (lead guitar),
Simon Kay (drums) and Kevin Moore (bass) - has been together
since 1990 and performs at gigs with bands from its heyday.
Christie enjoyed a successful 2009
European tour and has a big gig in Berlin next month.
"The buzz when you come off
stage is incredible," Jeff said.
River, when you play it, especially abroad, you don't
have to sing it, the audience sings it for you.
"Germany is a fantastic market
for British groups from the 60s and 70s.
"I think it has something to
do with The Beatles and Hamburg. The Germans have a sense
of ownership and there is a special relationship."
stunned the music world in 1970 and Jeff has his place assured
in pop music folklore.
River has become a classic and sometimes I look back
on those days and think it's not me," he said.
"When you tell people you toured
with Hendrix, their chins drop, because he was a god, as
were Jim Morrison and Elvis.
"All were iconic figures and
their songs became classics. Yellow
River is up there and that is a very satisfying feeling."
THE JEWISH CHRONICLE
'Yellow River' singer's World
By Simon Rocker
A TOP songwriter hopes to spur on England's footballers
by adapting a version of his classic 70s hit as a World
Jeff Christie's Yellow
River topped the charts in 26 countries, including
three weeks in the UK.
Now it is being re-released under the
title Hat Trick of Lions on
Monday, refreshed with a ska beat, a rap and a new chorus:
"Come on England".
There may be no official English theme
song, but Christie hopes the team will remain in the tournament
long enough for the song to catch on.
He was first approached with the idea
of redoing Yellow River by
producer David Robertson a few years ago.
"He thought it would make
a great World Cup song for England and asked me to give
my blessing, but I kept putting him off," Jeff said..
"I was concerned about the possibility
that the song would lose its integrity. It's still played
all over the world and I was reluctant to mess with it.
"Football songs can also be a bit
naff - you'd get demos of World Cup songs which were less
than impressive with lines such as 'let's make sauerkraut
out of the Germans'."
But Mr Robertson's persistence paid off.
As the song took shape, Christie began to warm to it, even
the rap - a modern form with which he generally struggles.
But rapper Aggi Dukes's contribution to the new version
"put a smile on my face".
The original Yellow
River actually knocked the official English World
Cup anthem Back Home off the
No 1 slot back in 1970 before being displaced by Mungo Jerry's
In the Summertime. Christie
went on to have hits with San Bernadino
and Iron Horse.
He first began playing in a group with
friends from the Judean Youth Club in Leeds - "one
of the best clubs in the north of England", he recalls.
"They would have dances on Sunday night. You had to
be 13 but I would sneak in when I was 12 and dance with
all the girls."
Two fellow Judeans, drummer Stan Drogie
and rhythm guitarist Gerry Layton, later joined him for
a time in another band, the Outer Limits, which supported
Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd among others.
was subsequently covered by artists as disparate as Elton
John and REM, and, spurred by the band's success, Christie
moved first to London and then West Hollywood until returning
to Leeds a few years later after the death of his father.
Although his band broke up in the mid-70s,
he reformed it in 1990 and even did a residency at the Tel
Aviv Hilton some years ago, a venue that proved "fun
but a bit chaotic".
Regarding his Jewishness as cultural rather
than religious, he sums it up by quoting the line from a
Shlockrock song Ani Yehudi, "Not better, not worse,
a little bit different".
JLIFE MAGAZINE LEEDS
Rock star Jeff Christie speaks to JLife about his
Leeds roots, the fame game and how his classic song, Yellow
River, has been re-worked as Englands unofficial
World Cup anthem.
JEFF Christie, singer songwriter and front man of one of
the most successful music groups of the 1970s, Christie,
is a former Leeds Grammar School pupil and grew up in a
Jewish household in Chapel Allerton. His group hit the number
one spot in the UK and 26 other countries in 1970 with Yellow
River, which sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
The song is being re-released under the title of Hat
Trick of Lions (Come on England) as an unofficial
World Cup anthem for the England football team.
Who or what inspired you to become
a rock star?
I always knew I didnt want to go
the traditional route and work in a factory or become a
businessman. I wanted to make a living as a professional
musician. My mother introduced me to classical music; she
was a trained ballet dancer and had to flee Germany during
the Second World War. My father loved the crooners and jazz
music. So, between the two of them, I was exposed to lots
of different types of music. When I was a very small child
my mother also used to take me to the Grand Theatre, Leeds
Town Hall and Roundhay Park to see live music shows, which
would leave me mesmerised.
I started playing locally in bands aged
13. I got my first record deal at 18 and had a minor hit
with Just One More Chance with
my group The Outer Limits, and went on to tour with Jimi
Hendrix in 1967. Christie formed in 1970 after recording
Yellow River. I never expected
it to be such a massive hit. San Bernadino
and Iron Horse followed and
were also big hits. Forty years on the band still performs
concerts across Europe.
How did your family react to your
My family were thrilled, and had a lot
to do with keeping me grounded. My mother was able to relive
her dream of being on stage through me. She backed me 100
per cent. My dad was a great support also but said I should
get a proper job if things didnt work out in the early
days - fortunately they did.
Christie was the first Western pop
group to play behind the Iron Curtain. What
was that like?
It was an amazing experience. We played
at the Sopot Song Festival in Poland in 1970, which was
televised to over 200 million viewers in the then USSR.
In Moscow, on a concert tour in Russia in 2001, we had people
coming up to us saying they had waited 30 years to see Christie
live after seeing us on TV at Sopot. We toured from 1970
to 1975 and one of the most unforgettable moments was when
we had to cancel a concert in Zambia due to torrential rains.
This caused riots and we received death threats. We had
to travel from Zambia to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) then South
Africa for three months to get home. It was a nightmare
but also an adventure. We couldnt believe it was happening
How did the re-release of Yellow
River as an unofficial anthem for Englands
World Cup team come about?
Coincidentally, the song Yellow
River knocked off the number one spot in 1970 was
Back Home, the official World
Cup song for the England football team who were then the
reigning world champions. The idea to re-work and re-release
it came about after I met producer David Robertson a few
years ago. He suggested doing a ska version with a rap
I thought the idea was hysterical! But it actually works.
Weve tweaked the lyrics so the song fits in with the
football theme and weve had positive feedback. If
England does well, it could get a lot of airplay and, who
knows, it might be sung on the terraces!