The Magic Highway


Jeff Christie did a round of several interviews to promote his double album No Turn Unstoned. Here are extracts from a chat with Graeme Logan from East Lothian FM, which aired in August, 2012.

Graeme Logan

Graeme Logan (GL): Jeff, welcome to the program. There's quite a bit of interest again in Christie. Why do you think that is?

Jeff Christie (JC): Theres always been a certain amount of demand from songs from my era, the 60s and 70s, and there are some great records from the time, and I made two or three records that made an impact.

GL: At the mmoment there's a double album on the way out in August. Do you want to tell us about that?

JC: Well, this is an interesting album because it really is a compilation of songs that were mainly demos, that I put together, sometimes with guys in the band, or various personnel that happened to be in my den at the time. It was like a notepad that I would take to the band and re-record in a later stage in a more sophisicated studio where we had the benefit of engineers and producers and more time. You can listen to a songwriter's song today and it's so clinically perfect and pristine .. sometimes there's a lack of soul to them, you know everything's been fiddled aorund with to that extent. The songs on this album are very .. well .. you can hear the warts and all .. you can hear the progression of the songs, and in a way that's quite refreshing I think. You can hear bum notes and tape droupouts even, but I think there's a certain validity to it.

GL: Do you have any favourite tracks from this album?

JC: I have a lot of favourite tracks. It's hard to pinpoint anything down.There's a very rocky Christie-type thing called Abilene, and there's another called Loser.They're probably as close to what people thought Christie sounded like. The rest is very varied, different songs from different time spans right through the 70s.

GL: Is the line-up for Christie still the same as in the 70s?

JC: No, no. It's completely changed. The band broke up in '74 and I didn't play live for quite a long while. It wasn't till the 90s that I resurrected a band. I was producing a band called Tubeless Hearts and they put in one of my songs for Eurovision, strangely enough. They knew all my records and the songs and were very interested to play again (with me). And that's been the line-up since they became the second or third Christie. These guys have been with me longer than anybody from the 70s, literally since the 1990s.

GL: Let's remind everybody about the most famous single from yourself, Yellow River, how many countries was that successful in?

JC: This is a question that has been asked a lot of times, but from my information it was No 1 in 26 countries, and and in pretty every record-buying country, it was top 10 or 20. A big record in the States and stayed in the charts for six months. They tought it was a Vietnam song in America and on my website there are a lot of Vietnam vets who have written in about the song, which is fascinating as it was intended to be about the American civil war. It goes to show how people put their minds and interpretation to things and songs and I'm happy with that.


Jeff in 1976.

GL: When your old band the Outer Limits broke up, was that a surprise?

JC: It was very much a surprise. It took us fours years to break through and Andrew Oldham was very interested in the band and recorded the second single. The first single would have been regarded a hit by today's stanbdard. And then we did the Hendrix tour, the last of the big package tours, we opened that tour. Unfortunately we didn't get the support of the record company and ran out of money and people just got fed up of waiting. The band broke up not long after that and I went into songwriting. I really wrote a lot and that was the time when Yellow River was written. So I was very disappointed when Outer Limits broke up but it did lead on to bigger and better things.

GL: Christie have toured a lot. Have there been any live recordings made?

JC: A lot of live recordings are on an amateur level. There's a lot of stuff on youtube from fans and things like that. But there's a live recording on this album (One Way Ticket), going back to the album No Turn Unstoned, it was done in rehearsal in CBS studios but it's the band playing live.

GL: There are lots of covers of Yellow River, thousands, are you impressed with any?

JC: Very good question. There are a few. Not many! Because most of the cover artists have just copied the original. Having said that, REM copied the original and it's quite exciting for REM to take their hats off to the song.I remember I read REM's Mike Mills saying they loved the song when they were younger. Elton John recorded it, but again very similar to the original but some of the versions I have been impressed with .. there's an amazing bluegrass version by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, it's just fantastic, and there are a few versions like that. It wasn't just Yellow River that had covers, the other two hits San Bernadino and Iron Horse have had their fair share of covers. There's a Swedish punk band called Satanic Surfers who do this amazing version of San Bernadino which you would virtually not recognise, such a wild, thrashing punk version of it. It's very flattering when people cover your songs because they wouldn't cover them if they didn't like them or thought they were rubbish, so you've got to take that as a compliment. There are some very good Finnish and Estonian versions of Iron Horse. And of course Joe Dassin was a very big French arist who did Yellow River but it was called L'Amerique, a bvig hit right across the French Canadian territories.

GL: How much touring are Christie now doing?

JC: I play, I do TV, sometimes with the band, sometimes on my own.There are other things in my life which are important to me, like writing, and if I was on the road all the time, I wouldn't be able to write. First and foremost I'm a songwriter. Performing is something I still ejoy doing from time to time. I don't do heavy tours and I tend to be selective in what I do. I did a big French TV show a few months ago which had a 70 million viewership across the globe, which is pretty good. So the train is still rolling, it just isn't steaming along the tracks.