The Magic Highway


Ever wondered whether the simple Christie pop style was deliberate? Jeff reveals this and more in this article which appeared in the August 22, 1970 issue of the Spanish music magazine Mundo Joven. At the time, Yellow River was charting round the world.

Christie early

By Jose Maria Inigo

WITH its catchy rhythm and easily recognisable melody, Yellow River is easily this year's summer sensation.
  The song has for four weeks been number one in New Musical Express and Melody Maker, the most important music magazines of the UK.
   Christie consists of three musicians: Vic Elmes, guitar; Mike Blakley, percussion; and Jeff Christie, bass guitar.
  "We were part of other groups during various years and we have enough experience to know that a false start could sink us forever," Jeff warned.
  "At the moment, under the name of Christie, we are a group with a number one record.
  "When we have sufficient strength to present ourselves in public, we will do it.
  "Meanwhile - and since the only thing we want to do is make records - we are going on vacations until the end of September.
  "Then with new recordings we will consider the future."
  As you can tell by their statements, Christie are terrible realists.
  "Like hundreds of musicians of bands, we have suffered different phases in our career," Jeff said.
  "We have made money, we have gone hungry, and we have gone crazy in order to pay for our instruments and amplification equipment.
  "Until a few days ago, until we saw how Yellow River was travelling, we had been performing for a pittance in small cities and summer villages. We have now suspended that activity.
  "We have the opportunity to change, thanks to Yellow River, and we are going to give it a try."
  "I wrote Yellow River 18 months ago," Jeff said.
  "I wrote it thinking about the Tremeloes, and their style.
  "But after their enormous success with Call me number one, they only decided to record their own material and rejected mine."
  Then Tremeloes producer Mike Smith, trying not to slight the boys, and because of their friendship with Tremeloes member and Mike's brother Alan, invited them to a trial recording.
  Yellow River didn't sound bad and they decided to record it.
  Success was instantaneous.
  The Tremeloes lamented not having recorded the song, and in a show of friendship - to avoid any type of resentment - incorporated the song in their repertoire as well as recording it in Spanish for Spain and Latin American Spanish-speaking countries (No Comprende).
  Christie's own repertoire, however, is still not totally determined.
  "We will include old songs from the likes of Carl Perkins and Presley. Songs like Slow Down, Blue Suede Shoes, etc," Jeff said.
  "We will play music for everybody, but none of that "underground" or similar experiments.
  "We have all had various experiences in this area and we have agreed that there is little purpose in getting ahead of the majority.
  "Our style, although still not being clearly definable, will be simple and clear for everybody. Yellow River is an example."
  Vic Elmes and Mike Blakley were once in a group called The Epics, based in Scandinavia.
  They worked exclusively for money doing cover versions of world hits until they got sick of it.
  "We got sick of everything, all the people of this world, of the music, of other musicians, of the agents, of everything," Vic said.
  Nevertheless they have interesting memories of Stockholm, Oslo and especially Club Carousel, in Copenhagen.
  At the time they were restricted to performing songs from other groups.
  Today Jeff Christie, the creator of the trio, has written more than 150 numbers. Jeff, 23, apart from being the bass player, is the lead singer as well as composer.
  When he was asked how he wrote Yellow River, he didn't know how to answer, limiting himself to say that one day when he was having breakfast he decided he was going to write a song.
  "I thought that the title Yellow River would go well and in 10 minutes I had the number completed," he said.
  "I never thought it was a great song, but there it was.
  "I think that the songs I have like most, after having composed them, are the ones that have taken me one or two hours, no more.
  "When the words don't marry with the notes I prefer to leave it."
  Jeff has been in the music world since he was 18 years old, and has done it all.
  He has worked assisting Georgie Fame and the Tremeloes when they were accompanying Brian Poole, and before that, he was a recording technician in different London studios.
  He played the organ, guitar and bass, but was above all a songwriter.
  "During two years I was experimenting with the sounds, I studied blues and bass and the depths of the most warped and baroque underground," he said.
  "Now I love the simpleness of Simon and Garfunkel and am disturbed by the 'dark' sound now coming from some groups.
  "I don't want anything else in my recordings but guitar, bass and percussion.
  "I love simplicity and hate arrangements thought out like symphonies. I am direct and everything I do should be that way."