Jeff was featured
in East Leeds Magazine in July 2010. The publication spotlights
well-known personalities from Leeds and surrounding areas.
40 Years of Jeff
1970, Jeff Christie had a massive worldwide hit with
Yellow River. The song sold 20 million copies and
was No1 in 26 different countries and spent three weeks
at the top stop in the UK. He's still gigging now and has
released a World Cup song, an upbeat ska version of Yellow
River. Oh, and he's from these parts as well.
"I knew from an early age I wanted
to be a musician," he said. "My parents used to
take me to Roundhay Park and I used to stand in awe at the
brass bands who played there. I took piano lessons as a
child but knew I wanted to do something different."
"Then I heard Elvis. We seemed to
go from my mum still talking about ration books and her
old gramaphone to rock and roll - Little Richard, Gene Vincent
and Howling Wolf. From that point I knew I would make my
living through music. I knew I didn't want a job in a bank
or office. I was fortunate to have very supportive parents.
"I started playing in bands when
I was 13, but my first band (of note) was called Outer Limits.
At about 17, we released a couple of singles which had moderate
success, one of which - Just One More
Chance - was a crowd pleaser at Wigan Casino and
was even covered by a couple of American bands - but the
band disintergrated in '68. I couldn't blame the others,
they'd had enough of sleeping in the back of vans and went
and got proper jobs. I pressed on though, carried on writing
songs and formed Christie. Yellow
River was my third single."
It's fair to say Yellow
River changed Jeff's life. At its peak, it was selling
80,000 copies a day. It's still played on the radio and
has featured in film soundtracks. He toured the world and
even left an impression behind the Iron Curtain.
Christie played the Sopot Music Festival
in 1970 in Poland. They were the first Western band to perform
and be beamed live to the whole of the Eastern Bloc.
Whenever I play in Eastern Europe
I always have someone mention that gig and tell me they've
waited years to see me," he said.
"I've seen videos of Russian garage
bands covering obscure Christie album tracks, it's really
flattering. I've fond memories of Russia, even the 2001
Olympic Stadium gig in Moscow in front of 15,000 hardy souls,
at -24 degrees in thick snow, doesn't spoil the memories!
The "French Tom Jones" - Joe
Dassin - also recorded a French version of Yellow
River called L'Amérique
and it was a hit all over the French speaking world. It
didn't stop there.
A Russian band, Singing Guitars, released
the song in Russian and Shimi Tavori did the same in Israel,
and hundreds of cover versions have been recorded and continue
to be - most famously by Elton John and REM. The song was
banned in Australia due to a simmering disagreement between
commercial radio stations and major record labels, which
resulted in major UK and American pop songs being refused
airplay on Australian commercial radio stations. But despite
the ban it was covered by Aussie band Jigsaw which had a
hit with it.
Jeff followed up Yellow
River with two more hit singles but called it a day
at the end of 1974. Jeff went to live in Los Angeles and
only came back when his father died in 1975:
"In 1978 I was picked up by an independent
company and started to record at my own pace on a collection
of new songs," he said.
"It was great, I was really allowed
to take my time, then the record company went bust and the
independent tried to sell the album on to a major company
but as punk was still such a dominant force in 1980, I couldnt
get it released. Most of the recording has appeared on the
'Floored Masters' album. In 1990
I started to rehearse a new band again, then tour throughout
Europe as Christie once more.
And that's where Jeff is now; he played
in Antwerp with 10CC last November and is off to Berlin
later this month to play with the Searchers, Sailor and
the Boomtown Rats.
thing about Jeff is that he is still a true music lover.
He talks like a fan when he tells of when he met Paul McCartney:
He knew my name," Jeff said.
"Im glad he did because I was tongue-tied, I
mean what do you say to him? I just thanked him for opening
the door for the likes of me. After the Beatles singer,
songwriters had become very much in vogue.
But just as big a deal for Jeff
was meeting Jimmy Webb, who wrote
Galveston, which Glen Campbell made a hit:
"I met Jim and told him that song
inspired Yellow River and I
wanted to thank him for helping to change my life. Ironically
Glen Campbell had played in the American band The Hondells
- one of the US bands who covered the Outer Limits' Just
One More Chance," Jeff said.
We could have sat with Jeff for hours,
reminiscing how humble he felt when Marc Bolan waxed lyrical
about the song; when he shared the bill with Jimi Hendrix,
Pink Floyd, The Move, The Who, the Small Faces; we could
go on forever.
Jeff still gets asked by Vietnam veterans
if they can include the lyrics in their books, but to be
honest Yellow River has spawned
so much, it could become a book in its own right.