The Magic Highway


A strange article from the US music magazine Circus, April 1971. The journalist loves Yellow River, and makes some perceptive observations.


By Richard Robinson

"YELL low riv vah, Yell low riv vah" comes pouncing out of my radio and I'm happy again. Happy that good ol' American pop music is so much fun, so alive, so completely ready for me to enjoy it.
Circus   Last year it was Ma Belle Ami, Little Green Bag and Ride Captain Ride that made me feel just fine. This year it is Christie.
   They're a band from England which is a far-off place these days, what with the Dead and Airplane and Grand Funk and people like that being the mainstream. Of course we do have Elton John and his song about being glad she's in this world, Led Zep, and George Harrison's record which is being played as much as In The Summertime was in the summertime.
   But Christie is the kind of group you don't know were they're from initially, which makes it nice that they're from England and not Spokane, Washington. Although they certainly could have been from Spokane or even Duluth.
   Christie are Jeff Christie, Mike Blakley and Vic Elmes. Not that it matters, since they should quit now and not even release another record.
   Hey, you say, what does he mean? What is he writing about Christie for, except maybe to point out that they're really heavy.
   Well, they're not. Their album is okay as far as albums go and certainly better than the run-of-the-mill pop album put out after a single gets into the top 10 nationwide. But I don't care if you never listen to the album at all. Or if you never hear of Christie again. Of course I'm sure that Christie care but that, brother, is the story of rock and roll.
   Jeff Christie has been writing songs for about, oh, let's say 10 years. After 200 songs, nothing happened. Then he wrote Yellow River and he made a demo and this group called The Tremeloes heard it and liked it and decided to record it.
   So ya see, Jeff was about to be in the big time. But then The Tremeloes decided they needed the publishing on their next record, or something like that, so anyway the end result was that Jeff had another song that had nothing happening at all with it.
   "Well my goodness," he said, "I can't just sit around working on my next 100 songs. I got to do something." So he did. He decided he was going to record Yellow River himself!
   But The Tremeloes weren't upset about Yellow River storming up the charts. That's because Mike Blakley is the brother of Alan Blakley, who is the leader of The Tremeloes, and it's all in the family anyway.
   Now if you happened to grow up to rock and roll music during the past five years, you probably have no idea whatsoever about what I'm talking about. You've probably never heard of The Tremeloes or even Christie for that matter. Which is why I'm writing in the first place.
   Christie are a big pop group right now. They just had a big hit record. On the radio. When I say radio, I mean that squeaky set of sounds that come out of your AM dial. The song was called Yellow River and it was a gas. Even if it was between two high powered commercials and wasn't in stereo.
   For one fleeting moment, Christie were the group. Now Christie are working on their follow-up record and the promotion man is probably running around trying to convince FM radio underground air personalities that they really are a heavy group and trying to get their album played. And no one is listening to him and he goes home to his wife and kids and sits in front of television with his tie off and doesn't even wonder about anything more than his next raise.
   Why? Because sadly, Christie aren't cosmic. You shouldn't ever hear them on FM radio or see them performing at the Fillimore.
   They're just a sound that once was and will only be again as a golden oldie spin to bring back memories. Sort of like I Want To Hold Your Hand.
   But that's what a group should be: a sound and nothing more. Isn't it wonderful not to have to sit through their sets and dig their drum solo. All that Christie is is one sound. Which you either enjoyed or didn't. A sound that didn't keep you from anything more important and may have given you a lift when you needed it.
   And that's just what Christie did for me. What did they do for you?