Yapp (JY): Everybody listening would have I guarantee
perhaps unwittingly sang, hummed or whistled to one
of this man's songs. He is an Ivor Novello award winner
and his song Yellow River was
No 1 in 26 countries .. 26 countries !!!! ... pretty
good going for a Loiner .. his new album No
Turn Unstoned is out now and I'm delighted to
say that Jeff Christie joins me now. Good morning Jeff,
do you ever get tired of hearing Yellow
River or playing it?
Jeff Christie (JC): Nope.
Each time I hear it, I'm still trying to work out what
chords I wrote!
JY: (laughing) I watched
a pop video of Yellow
River and I'm sad because you haven't got the
luxuriant flowing hair that you had back in the 70s.
JC: I'm lucky to still
have hair, never mind luxuriant flowy hair.
JY: Five decades your career
has spanned now. You started in '67.
JC: '67 was the first record,
the first national release. I started playing around
groups probably around '62. I left school at 16, got
a job for a couple of years, and at 18 I turned pro
with the Outer Limits. Then a couple of years later
toured with Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd. Halfway in '68,
the Outer Limits ended, ran out of steam. I went a couple
of years just writing.
JY: Did you think maybe
that was it? You had your peak?
JC: Well yeah. I was heartbroken
when the Outer Limits broke up because they really were
a good band. You don't get on the Hendrix tour if you
don't have some sort of credibility. I put everything
into this band, which had been going for several years.
I was determined to make it but other band members were
fed up of having no money, no clothes. But determination
won through because one way or another I was determined
to make a name for myself as a songwriter and a musician.
In 1970 Yellow River came
out and it just took off like wildfire. Christie were
formed pretty quickly. One minute we were in Belgium,
next minute in Argentina, we just went all over the
world. Africa, behind the Iron curtain, we went to countries
which don't even exist anymore. It was an amazing time,
there was good stuff and there was bad stuff. When you
reach the stage that you dreamed of for years and years,
where do you go from there?
JY: How did it affect you?
JC: Well, I like to think
that I kept my feet to the ground to a certain extent.
I came from a pretty tight family unit which was a big
help. I was never in a position of making money for
money's sake. I just love to make music and that's what
motivated me, and I still do. I just felt as a kid that
if I could make a living out of being a musician, that
would be the coolest thing.
JY: We could get creative
people into a job but the impulse will still be there
to force you out, you won't have a choice but to leave
and make music.
JC: I can go months without
writing, and then suddenly it's as if a song starts
to write me. I don't know how the process happens, it's
just a mystery to me. It's like a muse, I'll be walking
along and somebody will say something, and that'll just
click. And next thing I know I will have a top line,
and I'll find an instrument to establish that top line,
and then suddenly I'm back into the swing of it again.
I've got scraps of paper all over the house. With scribbling
and chords and things like that. The ideas sometimes
come faster than you can finish them, so not all are
JY: There's a story that
Paul Simon tells. He was in a taxi and he had that moment
like you were saying, that little idea came and he said
to the cab driver, "take me to a piano", because
he wanted to figure out the chords and stuff, and they
drove around to hotels looking for a piano. And he said
they couldn't get to one in time, it had gone. "So
somebody else got my song now," he said. That's
a nice way of looking at it, these songs are flying
around in the ether and you have to pull them down.
JC: I can remember when
I used to watch Leeds Utd
in the 60s, and I remember being on the terraces and
getting an idea for a song, but I was trapped because
I couldn't get out. So I'd try to watch the match and
get this song in my head, but there's only so far you
can go without getting to an instrument. It's a thing
that songwriters have .. get me to a piano, get me to
JY: Do you ever worry that
it's going to dry up? Like, is that it, you've gone
a few months and you haven't written anything?
JC: When I was younger
I used to think that. I don't now. Really whatever I
do now is bonus because I'm happy I can still write,
and I write to please myself. I always did that anyway.
I was lucky enough to be pretty successful for a period
of time and my records are still being played all over
JY: You've been covered
by Elton John and Michael
Stipe (REM). How did that come about?
JC: I've no idea. You just
find out one day. They don't need permission from me.
They go to the publisher. When I found out that REM
had done it, I said "what, this can't be true".
You know, they were one of the top five bands in the
world at that time. For them to do one of my songs was
just mind blowing.
JY: Tell me more about
the new album, No Turn Unstoned.
JC: They're rough edged
demos from the 70s . I'd get off tour and I'd have a
brace of songs with me, and I'd have maybe 10 days or
two weeks before the group was off somewhere else. I'd
come home to Leeds and I'd find a little studio somewhere
and find anyone who was available, sometimes Paul Fenton
would join in. They're all demos that were meant to
be finished at a later point.