The Magic Highway


An interview with Jeff Christie published in the Russian magazine Petropavlovsk (December, 2018), based in Kazakhstan.




By Dmitriy Avdeev

Jeff Christie takes part in our musical history section as a holiday gift to the readers of Petropavlovsk.

On the origins of Yellow River
    I wrote Yellow River sometime in April/May 1969 in about four hours on the piano.  It's so long ago now that I can't be sure which part started to write itself through me.  Usually I would start with the chorus and work backwards or laterally, but often as not I might have just started with those opening chords with a rolling piano feel that naturally segued into the verse chording. It was originally written in D Maj and the original demo is in that key. It was only later changed to E Maj as it was a better and bigger sounding guitar key. It took shape fairly quickly and the chord sequence just fell into place for the verses and then the chorus with an escalating tail to raise the tension, bringing it back to the third and fourth verses  and so on till the end of the song.
    I heard a Russian cover of Yellow River in some kind of children's television show. There are hundreds of versions around the world, I know many of them, but of course I don’t remember everything. In the original, the song is about the civil war in America.

The British Creedence?
    The British Music Press labeled us the English Creedence Clearwater, which I was never comfortable with as we were totally different bands. The comparison was probably because YR was loosely about the American civil war and that along with many of the songs I was writing at that time had a very strong  American country rock feel which was a big influence on me at that time. It was just a part of my songwriting as would be evidenced by the second Christie album, which altered course to mine another genre and so on.
    I'm a songwriter fundamentally as well as a performer and like to experiment with many different styles of songwriting; just as an artist likes to use a wide range of colours, that's how it is with me musically and I follow wherever the muse takes me. In retrospect I have to say the first Christie album was the most important album although some of the second album songs were standout songs for me also.

The Christie musicians
    There were several changes of personnel from 1970 to 1975 and each member played his part, all of which had their strengths and weaknesses as all musicians have. The main thing is that the band should be tight in its playing and as harmonious as possible on and off stage. This was what I strived for and sometimes achieved, but personality clashes and musical differences are common in bands and very often cause bands to splinter and go their different ways. Sometimes it's like being married to three other people!

Musical influences
    There were so many influences from a wide range of musicians and bands from Howlin' Wolf, Tamla Motown through to Steely Dan by way of Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, The Shadows Yes, Genesis, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Steve Winwood, Ray Davis, Beatles, Bob Dylan etc etc...... just too many to mention.
    By the time I wrote YR and Christie was formed, I had played in bands playing songs and music of so many variant styles that when I wrote songs all those past and present influences would percolate down and distill themselves into hopefully some kind of style of my own.