Justin Dealey (JD):
Jeff has just released a double album of his 70s songs.
It's a collector's item, as Jeff explains.
Jeff Christie (JC):
It comes from 1970 through to about 1980. These are
ostensibly demos and some of them are very rough and
ready. They weren't meant to be finished, the idea
was for us to go over to CBS studios to record these
properly. Some are quite crude but some are also pretty
well almost finished. It's quite a potpourri but the
interesting thing is you can see the evolution of
the different styles of songs on this.
JD: A track off record,
Loser, had the potential
to become a magnificent hit single. (plays song)
JD: Jeff is also
our special jukebox selector today and he has chosen
two of his favourite musical memories. First up is
Jimi Hendrix. Jeff was in the band the Outer Limits
and they went on tour with the rock legend.
flying V guitar.
JC: He was very shy.
All the bands used to watch him on stage from the
wings. He also filmed everyone. And at the end of
the tour, there was a party at his flat, and he'd
filmed all the bands and also the audience and everybody
was invited. But we couldn't go because we had a gig
.. typical! And it was something I've always regretted,
not being able to watch that after-tour party. It
would have been chaotic, pandemonium. He was going
to show these films. At Newcastle he was playing a
Gibson Flying VL. His guitar went off tune during
Wild Thing and he took
it off and he threw it like a spear with one hand
into this Marshall amp stack, and this thing, which
looks like an arrow, stuck in the stack, smoke was
coming out, there was noise and the roadies behind
were trying to hold it all together. The whole place
went insane because they thought the whole thing was
JD: For Jeff's second
choice, it's Glen Campbell and Galveston.
JC: I remember hearing
it and I just loved that song. I loved his voice,
I loved the production, I loved the guitar part, a
throwback to Duane Eddy, and the writing, the chord
sequence, the way the whole thing moved. Yellow
River was inspired by that. It became my Galveston,
if you like. Yellow River
was such a worldwide hit and the covers that it spawned
was just phenomenal. It's my debt, if you like, if
I hadn't heard Galveston
and been so inspired by it, I might not have written
JD: We love the stories
behind the songs. The original inspiration for Yellow
River also came from a trip to a market when
Jeff was 15 yrs old. He saw a bright yellow cowboy
novel and that was the start.
JC: It really was
a fictituous title that I suddenly invented. It had
no relation to the Yellow River of China, it was in
relation to this mythical western setting and I just
conjured up this civil war scene about this confederate
soldier going home on leave and sick of war and you
put this together with this comic inspiration pulp
fiction western cover that I'd seen. That was all
swirling round in the computer and Yellow
River was what came out. I was very prolific
at the time, and I was writing a lot of songs in this
sort of swamp rock country rock vein, when I was listening
to people like Tony Joe White, Joe South, Jerry Reed.
JD: You must have
been surprised at the success of Yellow
River. As good as that record was, it was No
1 practically right across the world.
JC: To this day it's
still an amazing thing. Sometimes I think that's not
me, that was somebody else. It was another time, another
life, an amazing time.
Spiers (JS): Christie shot to fame in the early
70s with Yellow River,
receiving six gold records in the UK, and gold in
Japan, France, Germany, Brazil. San
Bernadino won the group three gold records
in UK and has been adopted as the city's official
song. Most of the band's songs were written by leader
and lead singer Jeff Christie, who won an Ivor Novello
award for this song. Jeff is back in the studio reviewing
his masters and he has just put out a two-CD set which
was recorded in the 70s, No
Turn Unstoned. Good morning to you, Jeff. What
inspired Yellow River?
JC: What inspired
it was a Jim Webb song called Galveston.
Every songwriter hears songs from time to time and
says "Why didn't I write that, and of course
that acts as a spur to write better songs, just like
we've been just watching the Olympics and hopefully
a new generation of young kids were watching these
athletes and saying, "I wanna do that".
You get inspired by whether it's great athletes or
great pieces of art or music, and if you get an inkling
of that, then that's your goal .. to write something
as good as that. By the time I had written Yellow
River although, I had already had two records
out ... the first one (One
More Chance) would have been classed as a minor
JS: That was the
band that went on the Hendrix tour.
JC: Yes, the Outer
Limits. And that's when I realised I could start playing
my own songs. We used to be a covers band doing Motown
stuff and then we started opening with one of my songs,
Sweet Freedom. Lee Jackson
from the Nice said "What was that song and I
said that was one of mine, and he said that's what
you should be doing, not Reach
Out, I'll Be There, with greatest respect to
Holland and Dozier. I came out of that tour and started
writing more songs.
River made CBS the biggest
record label in 1970, featured in an Andy Capp
cartoon and was covered by a wide range of people.
JC: It's fantastic,
it's still being covered. On my website are the most
incredible versions including artists like REM, Lobo,
Bernadino was a success. Why didn't success
JC: You can blame
anyone, including yourself. The song was massive in
the states, six months but there were visa problems
and we didn't go there. The nearest we got to the
US was a Mama Cass TV special which was recorded in
London. South America was very popular. We started
off with a good producer, Mike Smith, but then later
we got put with another producer. And with our third
hit, Iron Horse, we were
outselling Johnny Nash, who was on the same label.
We'd done lots of TV on that one. We were both sitting
in the top 50 and we knew we would break into the
top 30. But very mysteriously, Johnny Nash went forward
and we went out. There was an unholy stink and manager
Brian Longley went absolutely ballistic because it
looked like we were sacrificed. Why, I don't know.
If Iron Horse had been
a top 30 hit, we would have a longer shelf life.
JS: You never stopped
writing and producing. Did you turn down a really
big one for a big drinks firm?
JC: You mean Coca
Cola? Well we were busy and never had time at all.
We were very successful and in very high demand. They
don't see the work or travelling that goes into it.
There's a limit to what you can do. But many years
later I did do a Coca
JS: Tell me about
JC: This stuff is
all from the 70s, from demos, between tours, songs
I wanted to get a notepad down for. So I went into
small unsophisticated studios and I just did them
quickly so I could do them properly later at a bigger
studio. They're all there in their ragged glory. My
record company loved them, all warts and stuff. One
of the songs, Movin' On,
was done in Boston and started off as a drum track
and I wrote the song around the track. I didn't even
have a melody, it was just built round a drum pattern.