Evie Christie reminisces
about growing up with a rock star in the family
and Crashing: Christie and Yellow River
"EVERYONE grows up with a kind of family mythology.
While I grew up in a small village in Ontario, the
easy chair/ white bread/new country/ FM/ patio/ Zen mastery
was not mine.
The closest I saw my dad come to crying was with his
realisation that my brother and I had dragged yet another
needle across yet another selection of LPs for an unattended
I grew up under the influence of 60s-70s music and
a bona fide legendary Brit rock and roller, my father Marks
cousin Jeff Christie. And a story: Teenager from Leeds forms
a band called Outer Limits, the rest is history, so it goes.
Jeff Christie and his band Outer Limits had already
toured with Hendrix and Pink Floyd in his teens and early
20s before the band dissolved.
BBC interviews from this time reveal a pensive Jeff
Christie, a man not eager to remain in the limelight but rather
steadfast; it was this work ethic that had him working as
a songwriter, writing constantly and pitching songs to sell
to big names that took a young Jewish kid from Leeds to number
one on the charts before he reached 25 yrs of age.
After selling his song Yellow
River to The Tremloes, Jeff formed his own band, aptly
named Christie, along with Vic Elmes and Paul Fenton.
The band recorded a self titled debut album including
Yellow River and signed with
CBS Records UK. The band quickly reached number 1 in countries
across the world (number 6 on the charts in the US) and stayed
on the pop charts for 22 weeks.
They kept up a heavy touring schedule and traveled
the world becoming one of the top touring bands ever. This
is where the story kind of halted for me.
It was true that Elton John and others were covering
his insanely popular Yellow River
while I was still in feety pyjamas.
Even when REM covered Yellow
River there wasnt a lot of fanfare in my home
country, a radio show here or a 70s hits LP there at most
reminded me of these early albums.
So what happened? Early fame (too early), burning out,
packing it in?
Most agree that the bands fame was stilted by
some poor business decisions. Releasing a second quite popular
single followed by a third, Man of Many
Faces, from another second album yet to be released,
a rather unconventional and ill chosen single for the immediate
and timely nature of pop charts.
And so another album, For All
Mankind, would never see the same level of success
as the self titles debut with its golden Yellow
Meanwhile Jeff Christie was traveling everywhere else
it seemed. It wasnt until I traveled a bit that I realised
how widespread this early notoriety was.
In the UK I could hardly go anywhere without hearing
Yellow River, it was on the radio,
my favourite UK mystery TV show and was the frequently heard
Yellow Pages song after all - another early business
decision Jeff neither endorsed nor agreed with.
Jeff with Evies brother
Caleb on cousin Marks farm.
Jeff relaxing at the farm
(with black eye after accident playing squash!).
And then there was the front man and songwriter
Jeff, whom I traveled alone to meet and stay with during the
summer I was 17.
His face was its own recognisable brand it seemed,
as women in cafes ogled the man who was footing my bill for
drinks -- on roundabouts they stared and winked dangerously
from luxury sports cars.
He hardly seemed to notice, retreating to his studio
to write at the end of the day, asking me to be careful with
his stereo (eye-roll) and help myself to the German beer in
the fridge (which I did, feeling bad now for the eye-rolling
incident circa moments earlier).
It was clear that he was not absorbed with recapturing
his early years, instead focusing on his professional songwriting
career, touring with his band across Europe, TV appearances,
lecturing, his close-knit family and his hair (as all men
of music do).
In my close-to-a year in Israel I learned that
they danced to Yellow River in
clubs, and my German, Danish, Japanese and Swedish friends
covered it in their best drunken broken English in hostel
bars and discothèques; I had to wonder why after a
couple of successful albums and a pretty constant touring
schedule, multiple re-masters and releases around the world
when Yellow River, admittedly
a great song, wouldnt give way to another Christie song.
However I also learned that to
write one good song that made people happy even momentarily
was quite a lot to achieve.
I left Jeffs home with a
newfound love of imported cigarettes and alcohol and a gift
a book of poetry, which would be my formal introduction
to the serious work of Auden, Douglas, Hughes, Larkin, and
Yeats and some advice: dont live a clichéd life,
As a writer this advice was indispensable:
work hard, be original. I also learned that beyond the work
ethic one could only do so much and that a good poem, story
(and indeed hit song) is quite a lot to give the world."
mellowing out, sitting on the front porch of his late
Uncle Morris' house in Lakefield, Ontario , with Gary
Christie (whose son is speed ace Jodi),
Grant Christie, a guy named Frank who was a friend
of the man next to him, Mario Weissenberger, and Mark
Christie (Evies dad).
Jeff recalls how he met Mario:
day whilst the band were trying to negotiate a meal
in Mar del Plata, Argentina, a guy over at the bar
watched our antics with amusement.
He came over and introduced himself saying
he would be happy to translate and end our famine!
This he duly did and then sort of attached
himself to our circus; though at first treated cautiously
by all, he eventually overcame our suspicion and became
indispensable as we toured Argentina continually.
He and I became good friends that lasted
Born in Buenos Aires from German immigrant
parents, he married a New Jersey girl called Judy,
had kids, settled there and worked for her father.
He was he was always gracious and kind to me and never
tried to be anything other than a good friend.
He brought his family to meet me one
holiday in the El Montiboli Hotel in Villajoyosa,
Spain, which in later years was where the England
squad stayed during a World Cup.
He also came to meet up on one of my
many visits to my family in Canada as seen in picture,
and I also stayed with him at the family home in New
Jersey one time.
The last I heard of him was around '84/5
after he left his wife, hooked up with a much younger
woman and came to England where he made a beeline
to me, stayed at the house for a few days before repairing
to the Lake District with me.
I never heard from him after that and
couldn't figure it at all. I tried not long ago to
track him with no success.