The Magic Highway


Reprinted from Disc and Music Echo, February 1972: why Christie went heavy and then back to commercial pop.


Jeff ChristieOUT of sight, out of mind, is a fate that seems to befall most public figures at one time or another, but in the pop world none have suffered this ignominy more strongly than Jeff Christie and the lads.
     Such a blank has been drawn in fact that even the worthy Radio 1 panel discussing Christie's new single Iron Horse compared it only to Yellow River and San Bernadino, as if Man Of Many Faces and Everything's Gonna Be Alright had never existed.
     Iron Horse, plus the group's college tour which started on Tuesday, are certain to bring Christie back into the British limelight for the first time in almost two years — an extraordinary state of affairs for a group whose initial sucess smashed just about every record in the book.
     "There were lots of problems at the start of our career," says Jeff, in ever-thoughtful mood. "We were on the road within about two weeks of Yellow River making the charts. We kept our outside jobs until the very last minute and were rehearsing in a garage the day before our very first gig.
     "So British audiences got the very worst of Christie. We weren't playing well and didn't really start finding our feet until Paul Fenton joined. It was only after we started working abroad that we were satisfied with our playing."
     But although Jeff became happy with the music, Britain was further disillusioned, first by the "new" sound on record and the even stranger sound on stage.
     "One thing was just leading to another. We thought the reason we were failing to attract British audiences was because of our pop music, so our immediate step was to change the sound and deliberately get heavier. It wasn't a drastic change to us but it certainly was to most people. It was the wrong direction. The real reason for us not being more popular was that the band was "untogether" on stage."
     Lest you should suppose these self-deprecatory reflections are leading to confessions of bankruptcy and gloom, it must be said that Christie are now, and have always been, very well off, thank you.
     While Britain shunned them (and they, in return, sem-shunned Britain), the rest of the world welcomed them with open arms. Yellow River has been a hit in virtually every country in the world and Christie have played in virtually every one of them!
     "But that's only half a consolation. You can imagine our despondency on returning from South America, where we played to crowds of 50,000, and not being able to pull in more than 250 people to a Midlands club," Jeff said.
     So as deliberately as Christie went heavy 18 months ago, have they now reverted to the tried and trusted sound for Iron Horse?
     "I admit I was striving to write another Yellow River," Jeff said. "Christie can only survive on hit singles, which is a sad but true fact. This college tour may change a few attitudes. There are such good musicians in this band and they never get a chance to prove themselves.*"
     If the tour succeeds, Christie could be doing more for the good of pop music than anyone else in the past two years.

* >>That's really quite an understatement. Jeff was a child prodigy at guitar and keyboards, Vic could play electric guitar like no other, and Paul was and still is an astounding drummer. This was a band that could play! - Ray <<