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The Magic Highway

 

To coincide with Christie's extensive 2009 set of German shows, the German publication Good Times produced this retrospective on the group, with lots of pictures and information culled from this site! Still, it's a nice tribute to the band. Here are some excerpts .. thanks to Antonie for translating!


FROM THE YELLOW RIVER TO SAN BERNADINO

good times


JEFF Christie and his band aren´t one-hit wonders, rather a two-hit band. What could they have done after Yellow River?!
   The story of the singer and bass player and his group is exciting, with many ups and downs. It´s a story of clean, well- ordered arrangements and of a rocking group with heart, hooks, great clean singing .. and Yellow River still has the feet tapping.
   But probably not the feet of the Tremeloes though: they had the song ready and recorded, but then they decided not to do pop but heavier rock.
   So Mr Christie was soon singing new lead vocals on the record - and climbed the high which the Trems could only dream about.
   It was a World hit! It won an Ivor Novello Award! And the royaltys!
   Wayne Brickerton is another who lamented a long time when he listened to Yellow River.
Brickerton, ex-Pete-Best-Group, was the A&R man at Deram Records and on the progressive trip in 1970. For that he refused the Christie compositions, and according to Jeff Christie, “he lost his job”.
   The band's story began in Leeds, when Jeff was 12 years young and began to do music.
   Five years later, he won a talent competition in Lyceum Ballroom in Bradford. In 1964 he appeared on Stars of Tomorrow on Thames TV.
   His first band was named Goliath And The Barbarians, and they played rock´n'roll; at the time Jeff wasn´t singing, yet. Next came The Tremmers.
   With Gerry Smith, Stan Drogie and Gerry Layton, Jeff founded The Outer Limits: they had a bit of the Liverpool sound, could sound like The Hollies, delved in psychedelic basic rock and threw in a Tamla-Motown influence. Their music was labelled Northern Soul.
   Jeff's father Michael supported the group, helping with starting capital, looked after shows, wrote songs with his son and also appeared in a teen-magazine comic strip!
   The group's Great Train Robbery, their third single, was banned from radio after it was thought the song about 19th century Western USA was focussed on the UK's own great train heist in 1963.
   What a pity, for this catchy, lively song should have made the charts. The track was orchestral and produced by the first Shadows drummer, Tony Meehan.
   The radio station ban signalled an early end of The Outer Limits, though they played a UK- package- tour that also involved Jimi Hendrix, The Move, Pink Floyd and Amen Corner. By early 1969, the Limits were on the Outer.
   The farewell was recorded for TV in a documentary called Death Of A Pop Group.
   Jeff Christie was at a turning point. Should he join the progressive train, or should he profit from his talent that he found it easy to create songs with unforgettable hooks (more than 400 until today) between pop, soul and country.
   That’s the way the singer became a songwriter, by sending almost daily new creations on tapes, one of these tapes coming to Alan Blakley (1942- 1996) from the Tremeloes.
   His band, always snooping for hits, invited Jeff to London and recorded some of his creations including Yellow River.
   As a Tremeloes single the popular song seemed to be a certain success. But the group had just been successful with the progressive song Call Me Number One, and preferred to record their own songs.
   Than Alan called his brother Michael Blakley who played drums together with the guitar player Vic Elmes in the band Epics. He saw that much potential that he believed that he could build a group.    Anyway, Jeff decided to record the song by himself at the same time - the producer Mike Smith removed lead vocals of the Tremeloes from the mix and let Jeff sing on it.
   Quickly, Yellow River became the hit of the summer 1970 - together with In The Summertime from Mungo Jerry!

good times


   In the USA, the story of the happy veteran touched people because of Vietnam associations- “So long boy you can take my place”- and stayed 22 weeks in the Billboard charts!
   Jeff (bass) founded his trio Christie with the drummer Mike Blakely and Vic Elmes.
   Christie managed to follow up with San Bernadino, which became the anthem of this US city and in the end of October 1970 it was a number 1 hit in Germany (UK number 7).
   Of course, the CBS wanted to see an album after such success - preferably the day before yesterday. But Mike hadn't played the drums regularly since the Epics era, and as the gigs became more and more, the deficiencies could be heard.
   In the studio he was only on the flipside of Yellow River single, on Down The Mississippy Line.
   They had to be fast for the single San Bernadnino and the LP which was recorded in a hurry. Two professional session musicans were there to help: Zombies drummer Hugh Grundy and Telstar drummer Clem Cattini.
   The debut LP Christie would probably have had even more hit singles, particulary Got To Be Free, which sounds like Who’ll Stop The Rain in the beginning.
   But CBS made a new song for the next 45 .. Man Of Many Faces, the frist project with the new drummer Paul Fenton and a candidate for the second album.
   When the trio finished its second album in summer 1971, For All Mankind, with the anti-war gravestone-cover, it was clear there was a heavier sound, although there was no shortage of catchy tunes like Man Of Many Faces.
  members It was clear to see that the trio had become tighter and full of adrenalin, with a lot of stage experience: Picture Painter was seen as a tribute to the Painter Man band The Creation, livened up with Who- and Kinks- like riffing. Magic Highway by Vic Elmes or the fantasy-SF epic Martian King were brilliant as qualified progrock with hooks.
   The title song was a dramatic peace ballad, for which Jeff originally wanted a wind arrangement- but CBS refused to give an appropriate budget.
   Jeff then came up with another promising chart candidate: Iron Horse wasn´t easy to get out of the head maybe because of a certain similarity to Yellow River.
   Jeff got himself another bass player in the band, in order to have fun on the strings next to Vic:    Howard “Lem” Lubin from Unit 4&2, who made his debut with Fools Gold.
   Soon there were a lot of changes in the band: Paul Fenton founded the band Carmen with the Chicken- Shack bass player John Glascock and Vic Elmes soon quit the band.
   Christie addressed their South American fans with new singles. When they were already in the south- side of the Panama Canal while on their first tour, they were welcomed like the Beatles were and now they returned the favour by adapting Spanish songs like Guantanamera.
   Nowadays Christie still tours: Jeff Christie is permanently on the road, making headlines in 2001 when he performed together with Ray Dorset/Mungo Jerry in Moscow and St. Petersburg and he is on tour in Germany at the moment.

good times