River : Our very
first single and our very first hit. What else can
It was inspired by a 1960s
Hank Janson cowboy novel, the title of which escapes
me, but the colour was yellow. To a young boy fascinated
by Americana, the West, Native Americans, and the
civil war, the evocative imagery of this lodged
itself into my minds computer for later usage.
Also an inspiration was Jim Webb's
by Glenn Campbell in 1968/9 that I just loved, and
wished that I could have written. So I guess Yellow
River became my Galveston!
The song came about one day when
I was having breakfast and decided to write a song.
I thought that the title Yellow
River would go well and in 10 minutes
I had the number completed. I never thought it was
a great song, but there it was.
As is well-known, the song was
picked on by The Tremeloes when they were listening
to my demo tapes. The cassette player overshot the
track I really wanted them to hear Tomorrow
Night, which was in the style of the melodramatic
Italian pop ballads that the group were covering
at the time.
Be Free : It's a very
simple song with a light country feel about it.
The acoustic guitar gives it a nice, very live sound.
Got A Feeling:
thinks it's a bit of a joke. The original song wasn't
like this, but we altered it somewhat. It may sound
like a send-up, but it isn't. Vic asked to handle
the lead vocals on this one.
It's as bent as the North Circular road.
is it, folks, a Vic Elmes song! I got the riff first
and then wrote the song around it. Mike Blakley
did the lyrics and asked me to come up with the
track turned out well and was worthy of inclusion
on the first album.
Inside Looking Out:
This is one of my favourites. It chugs along nicely
and I think Johnny Cash could have covered this
well. It was mooted as a follow-up single to Yellow
Your Money Down: This
was our tribute to Chuck Berry, for I think most
groups have been influenced by him at one time or
another. This rocker was also considered as our
The Mississippi Line:
This is an improved version and slightly faster
take of the B side to Yellow
original was done in a rush in a 4-track demo studio
because we wanted to get the single out, and included
some wrong lyrics.
Bernadino: I was going
through a phase of songwriting when I opened the
Daily Express and read about a prison riot in San
Bernardino and the title somehow stuck. Long John
Baldry loved the song so much he wanted to record
it as a single. But when Yellow
River proved such a big hit and a follow-up
was needed, San Bernadino
was the natural choice and he missed out.
The name of the city is actually San
don't know how the extra 'r' was omitted from the
spelling of the title on the record label originally,
but once CBS (Sony) had pressed so many records,
they would not entertain destroying them and then
re-label with the correct spelling.
Boy: Another of my favourites.
More or less a basic rhythm track which could have
made a nice single.
One Time: This is about
a guy on the run and it's done in my country rock
Home Tonight: There's
a little Latin-American piano feel to this one.
Some nice harmonies .. in fact this was also considered
I Am: This was the flip
of our second disc and another raw chunk of rock
complete with the whole echo bit.
The Dawn: This is in
complete contrast to everything on the first album.
It would suit Roy Orbison, and as a matter of fact,
he once tried to reach me. He phoned my home in
Leeds when he was appearing at Batley. In later
years, I would write a song, All
The Love, specially for him.
(Vic): The basic
premise of Magic Highway
is that power means nothing. All along the trip
through history and time, we see all the powerful
men, leaders and kings, etc, with all their fame
and wealth, and they all ended up the same way:
(Jeff): A lot
of time and imagination was spent into the arrangement
of Magic Highway, what
with the harpsichord arpeggios, and dischord effects
from joining up minor seventh chords with majors
and ninths. It was a big departure from what everyone
expected, and we all had to grow. Everyone performs
well on this track.
Many Faces: I remember
writing it in Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington,
where Paul and I lived from 1970 to 1973 with various
other Leeds lads and two Southerners. This is a
dark little heavy number that got lots of approval
from the heavies but not the poppers.
also remember doing the promo
film with a bad flu and not being able to be
there in the last sessions. As a result they filled
it up with Paul and Vic goofing around as everyone
did in those days. I always hated the fact that
every time promo films were made they always had
to ape the Hard Days
Night goofing-around-template. I fought a
losing campaign with CBS to try some of my own ideas
that wouldnt need to portray us all as idiots
having fun, fun, fun 24/7!
actual recording was done in the Bond Street Studios,
as were the other songs from the second album. This
was the first Christie single Paul played on.
song was my tribute to The Creation's Painter
Man, after working with them at a University
gig in the 60s. It's great that a fan spotted
King: Peace on Mars. The best part of
the second album for us as musicians was that it
allowed us to stretch, even if CBS wanted more songs
in the style of Yellow River.
on Earth. A special song for me. Originally conceived
with the Black Dyke Mills Band playing on the track.
Alas CBS wouldnt pay session fees for a whole
band. For All Mankind
could have been more lavishly arranged; I spent
a lot of time with producer Martin Clarke on it.
It's a song which I think has dated and I would
very much like to redo it if I have the opportunity.
Lovin' Man: I really was a peacenik in
those days still am I guess, though some
things are worth fighting for, and freedom has a
price. This is a tight punchy track with controlled
aggression, and a passionate anti-war lyric. A three-piece
has to be dynamic and I hope this was achieved on
these recordings. There were very few overdubs on
the whole second album, and therefore we were able
to reproduce these songs accurately live. I tried
to keep this challenge in mind whilst writing the
songs for this album.
Gone: The best part for me is the extended
instrumental middle section, which allows the tension
to build, although this track has always disappointed
me. The fact that the song is structurally a bit
weak doesnt help! Heavy, and sometimes dirge-like,
it can be oppressive, but I hope some people liked
In You: Morning
Dew was a much loved Tim Rose song that I
used to play in the Outer Limits, and featured that
fast wrist rhythm guitar effect that I wrote in
to the arrangement for this. It started life as
an open letter to Nixon about Vietnam that morphed
into a fantasy conversation with Nixon in the White
House. Absurd and pompous as that may sound, I was
very seriously always thinking how I could find
a way to give peace a chance in whatever capacity
and to whoever would listen.
I remember writing this in the flat at Cornwell
Gardens. Melancholy, and plaintive, with a beautiful
melody, it was a yearning to break out of tight
schedules and fly away from the grey London sky
to some sun-soaked paradise and be with someone
Gonna Be Alright/Freewheelin' Man: These
two songs were written at around the same time,
probably not too far apart.
Coming up with more commercial
songs must have been suggested after the heavy second
album, and possibly that's the reason for writing
the songs, but I also felt that Everything
.. in particular was a catchy, hooky song
with a good country, pop rock feel. It was about
containing depression and self-doubt, and how to
keep it at bay .. "keep the sunshine in your
mind" was something a Danish girlfriend used
to say when the black dog was on my back - Viking
Iron Horse was recorded
at CBS Bond Street Studios. Vic played the
lead guitar parts and I played bass and acoustic
guitars and piano, Paul played drums. I liked this
song a lot. I have a very clear memory of writing
it whilst staying in a beautiful hotel in Villajoyosa,
Iron Horse was the name
the Plains Indians gave to the locomotive trains
that crossed the American Prairies westward from
the east bringing settlers, commerce, engineers,
etc. It helped speed up the tragic endgame for the
Native Americans through disease, destruction, and
double cross. I wanted to try and convey the menace
and the thunderous sound of the train in the rolling
guitar chords at the beginning of the song as well
as lyrically trying a little to see it through red
The song charged into the top 50 and was expected
to be a massive hit, top 20 or 10. But there was
evidence of chart
rigging which forced the song out.
Gold: This was written in 1972. I conceived
the arrangement to include an electric sitar as
I loved the sound just like wah wah and voice
box, like in (the Eagles song) Rocky
Mountain Way and wanted to fit them
in to my songs somehow. I used sitar in Fool's
Gold, and wah wah pedal in Pleasure
and Pain. I never used voicebox effect as
I didn't have a song that would fit that effect
at the time.
Every Now and Then/California
Sunshine/Born To Lose: I had many other
songs suitable for B sides, but it was around this
time that manager Brian Longley felt it would be
a generous gesture on my part to let Vic and Lem
to contribute to the flipsides.
I loved the song when it was played to me and felt
I could put my stamp on it, and hopefully I did
the song justice. I never met the writer Bob Ruzicka
but hope he liked my arrangement.
This was the first session with
Triumvirate, which comprised of three producers:
John Millar and two others, Rob Edwards and Roger
Hand. They had some good ideas and I just used Roger
Flavell on bass, as I was auditioning for a drummer
and first lead guitar at the time of these sessions
and did most of the overdubs myself with the exception
of a guitarist whose name I cant remember,
who came in for the lead solos, and was very effective.
All vocal effects were by Rob, Roger (Triumvirate)
and me. Im not sure if Roger Flavell assisted
on any vox.
The only flaw in this session
was the session drummers early/hesitant kick
drum beat on the final beat of the triplet in some
of the drum breaks. I cant believe I missed
that, although one of my beefs was not being involved
in the mixes. They wanted total control over the
sessions and allowed me no space for quality control.
This mistake was not so evident on mono mixes, but
stereo made it more noticeable. The fact that they
allowed that to go through showed some sloppiness
on their part, although they did a good job and
I would have liked to continue the association albeit
as long as I regained some of the control that I
But The Dealer stands
out as one of the better productions of the Christie
recordings for me. It received very favourable
Pleasure and Pain:
I remember the session at CBS, and using a wah wah
pedal on electric piano or organ instead of guitar
and being pleased with the result; cant remember
much more except Paul Fenton was on the session,
cant remember if there was anyone else. It
was coming to the end of our contract with CBS and
this may well have been amongst
those final sessions. Another philosophical song?
Apart from the silly film promos
we had to do for all these songs, these Triumvirate
sessions had a really good chemistry. I think this
was the final session of the three tracks and by
this time it was really cooking.
This track spawned a blistering
performance all round and seemed to incorporate
all the factors needed for a hit, including good
melody and lyrics, nice guitar work, tight playing,
good vocals, and a great arrangement, all wrapped
up in a great production that just exploded out
of the radio. A pity it sank without a trace, assis
es la vida.
Alive: The last of Triumvirates
packet of three. I was, and still am, very happy
with this: songwise, arrangement, playing and production.
All three tracks were recorded at Air London in
Regent Street. The studio vibe really suited me
and I enjoyed myself immensely doing these sessions.
Leonardo Schultz, our South American promoter, suggested
us doing this at stadium gigs on the frequent tours
there. The song is an anthem in South America and
the crowds would go wild when we did it, so when
it was suggested to record it, it seemed a good
idea. This is the only recording with the Capability
Brown guys, and its good.
There was a guy called Ken who
was chef at The Damn Yankee Restaurant in Leeds
who loved this version, and never ceased to heap
praise on it whenever I went to eat there. The owner
was a personal friend who said it reminded Ken of
his work experience in Yucatan with a wry grin.
The back-up vocals were a lot
of fun and everyone played and sang well. The solid
arrangement borrows from La
Bamba, it was produced by Steve Elson and
kicks hell out of the plaintive folk song. Apologies
to Pete Seeger and co.
Steve Elson producing again, Caravans John
Perry on bass, but I dont remember who was
on drums. The rest is all Steve and me on overdubs,
building up the track. I liked the lyric a lot,
it was good poetry, and the melody fitted perfectly.
Singing someone elses song is a challenge
when youre the main writer. I was pleased
with my vocals, and hope we did it justice.
The bells in the background are
an effect I was trying to get on my guitar with
a slapback echo over a double tracked guitar part,
plus harmonics, also double tracked.
Most Wanted Man:
Steve producing again. He was a very talented musician
and is a friend to this day. He worked in Starlight
Artists under Peter Walsh, who was an agent and
manager of the Tremeloes in 1970. Its where
I met Brian, and for a while Christie were based
in that stable.
Steve actually auditioned as
a guitar player unsuccessfully at the time Christie
was changing to a four-piece. He increased his profile
at the office and eventually came to Mexico with
us on the last tour as our minder. He honed his
playing and production skills and would become a
worthwhile asset to any band, and to this day is
touring the corporate world with a great Rolling
Stones tribute band.
I wrote the part "runnin'
scared with a gun in my hand", as I felt the
song needed a bridge. This was the last single and
effectively it was all down to me, as Christie had
disbanded. Great drums from a young, future Who
drummer in Simon Phillips, and Perry was probably
Steve Elson again producing, I think. Recorded at
RG Jones studio in Wimbledon. The only memory I
have of this track is double tracking the guitar
riff sequence throughout the song, which was quite
tricky. This was a leftover from "old"
Christie days, with Vic handling lead guitar. The
vocal slotted right into my guitar riff quite nicely
I thought. All in all a fun, rockin little