The Magic Highway


A journalist's account after travelling with Christie on a visit to Germany, reprinted from New Musical Express magazine, January 16, 1971.

NME photo


By Andy Gray

JEFF Christie, quiet, sensitive, peace-loving composer-vocalist-bass guitarist, has plenty of young fan attention. The Leeds musician has enjoyed it in Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and at home in Britain in recent months. But deep in the heart of rural Germany, at a village inn early on Sunday morning, he was mobbed as never before.
   His attackers were about 20 plump German housewives, sporting full-bodied charms and bulging breasts. When Jeff and I returned at 1am from a most successful gig down the road, the fraus had been drinking at their own party from 8pm and were in a very merry mood.
   The tall, maxi-coated, Spanish-hatted Jeff was completely taken aback by their whoops and yells of wild abandonment. The hotel proprietor had told the mums that Christie were staying at the inn for the night and the German amazons, knowing the group from Yellow River and San Bernadino, were waiting to greet the pop stars their youngsters had enjoyed at the gig earlier.
   It was an incredible scene, with Jeff completely surrounded by the admiring women. Only by pushing and pulling did he make the stairs to the bedroom. Even then four big fraus followed him, one shouting "Mein boy! Mein boy!". Two pushed into his bedroom and one tested the softness of his bed by throwing herself onto it. Jeff looked at me in bewilderment. To placate them he autographed posters of Christie for them and only by hinting inconclusively that he might join them later downstairs that they departed.
   "One of them literally picked me up — bodily," Jeff gasped. The he grinned: "If these are the sorts of fans Tom Jones has, no wonder he has a lot of bodyguards."
   These amazing incidents took place at Levern, near Osnabrook in northern Germany. It was the second rural date Christie had played in two nights, and had a third the next night. Only one date was played in the city, Hamburg.
   On Friday I drove through fog and rain to watch Christie win the excitement of around 800 healthy-looking farming types in Ditmasrcher, and the next night at the Levern Festhalle, where more than 1500 turned up.
   Their only Hamburg date was at the Reeperbaum's Top Ten Club, which has taken over from the Star Club, once the Beatles' pop cradle. The Reeperbaum itself is the famous entertainment street in the port city, a neon jungle of sex palaces, beer gardens, cinemas and cabarets. (And where Vic Elmes returned recently to film his video, Deep In The Night.)
   Christie are three very easy-going musicians. I never heard a word of complaint from them, although conditions weren't perfect — like when the windscreen wiper flew off the car in heavy, drizzling rain at 1am, about an hour's drive out of Hamburg after the exhausting show. And no grumbles about the nightly ritual, when, after cooling off after their torrid performance, they met a hundred or so fans who wanted the posters of Christie autographed.
   They are all very keen performers. Vic Elmes and Jeff take about 30 minutes before each show to tune up together, reminding me of the old Shadows days. On stage, Christie work themselves up to a standstill and although Jeff and I argued about the mixed content of their repertoire, I had to admit everything they did got approval.
   I couldn't help remarking that I felt placing Jeff's heavier, long and wayout Martian King and Nightmare, each side of the highly commercial San Bernadino (which has a great swing to it), was confusing to the fans who had obviously come for Yellow River-ish music.
   Jeff would have none of it. "I want the listeners to like all sorts of music and I hope they accept my hard rock as readily as my simpler efforts. It's all just music."
   Vic is a really dominant lead guitarist and a very good lead singer, who can harmonise with Jeff vocally as well. Jeff sings extremely well solo and plays a forceful bass, full of authority (did you know he played with Jimi Hendrix for a time?). And Paul Fenton nearly wrecks himself, so athletic and hectic is his skin-and-cymbal bashing. No wonder he strips to the waist to do it.
   The Christie team — the three boys, expert road manager John Salter and two cheerful Glaswegian roadies, Booby and wee Alex — started their German jaunt most pleasantly on a Prins Ferry from Harwich to Bremerhaven, and ended with another mini-cruise back to England.
   This weekend Christie are in Scotland, where I'll bet Jeff doesn't get the shock mobbing he got from the house-fraus of Levern!