The Magic Highway


Roy Carr from New Musical Express interviewed the boys about their visit to South America in 1970.


By Roy Carr

"OH hell, here we go again, straight outta bed, into a suitcase and onto a plane."
   With these immortal words, drummer Paul Fenton opened his eyes and greeted a brand new day.
 NME  There was more than a faint ring of truth in his statement. It was only a matter of a few short hours before Christie were due to fly out to Milan to coommence yet another extensive tour.
   It was now preciselt 10.45am and I had arrived unheralded at the group's expansive second-floor apartment in Kensington for some friendly words and a cup of coffee or two. But in order to do so, I had to literally drag both Paul and Jeff Christie out of their respective beds.
   "When we're in the flat, which is very seldom, all we seem to do is get our laundry done and prepare for the next overseas trip," Paul mumbled as he proceeded to rummage through a pile of clothes and assorted souvenirs he had acquird on the group's recent South American escapade.
   It's not that the boys are knocking their meteoric success. It's just that the pace and continuously jetting all over the world is beginning to show.
   If in the eight short months since they exploded up world charts with Yellow River the eyes have become darker, the faces a little drawn and the body movements slightly lethargic, then the band as an entity has become much tighter and professional with a noticeable improvement in direction.
   Partly revived with strong coffee, cereal and honey, Jeff wiped the sleep from his bleary eyes and informed me "There's a whole new market abroad for us. It's hard to believe but some places we go we are the first live foreign rock band the people have ever seen in their entire lives."
   Transfixing his gaze on his mushy bowl of cereal, it was left to Paul to continue the train of conversation: "South America was absolutely gggrrrrreeatttt," he emphasised in his strong Leeds accent.
   "The reception we got is what I imagine the early Beatles days were like, with something like 15,000 kids all chantin' yer name while yer playing."
   After showing me photographs of some of the local beauties, Paul surprised me when he said: "The voodoo cult is still incredibly strong in Rio. Out there they call it macamba, and when you go down to the beach you come across lots of circles of burnt-out candles where they have been up to their voodoo tricks the night before."
   He then went on to tell of their only encounter with this primeval cult. "It was one night when we were driving down a narrow street after a gig. It was very dark and the rain was pouring down. Suddenly this half-naked guy lurched in front of the car. And there he remained, writhing with his arms behind his back and his body bent forward in the glare of our headlights.
   "Our driver jammed on the brakes and then sat very quietly, obviously afraid of this guy, who was in some kind of hypnotic trance.
   "Then someone in the car told us he was feared by everyone because he was a well-known macumba worshipper. I tell you I was petrified," Paul admitted.
   "As was I," Jeff interjected, as he paused between mouthfuls of cereal. "We just sat there motionless until he decided to sidle off into the darkness. Then we drove off mighty quick."
   If Christie are helping to pioneer new frontiers abroad and open up lucrative markets for others to follow, they are aware of a totally different situation wich prevails in this country.
   "The whole scene is quite new to those we play abroad to, but here in England the kids have had the very best bands for well over six years, so you can't blame them for being a little bit blase.
   "When the Cream and all those big acts were on the road, they made a lasting impression, so honestly, what chance do most bands have of following that?"
   However, commit the cardinal sin of becoming a commercial proposition and you are publicly pilloried and ridiculed for selling out, no less.
   "I'm not knocking our records for one minute," Jeff said. "But I don't want our records to carry our act. The act has to stand on its own merits .. and believe me it does. Since Paul joined and we've toured abroad, we've improved beyond all recognition.
   "Anyway, without Yellow River and San Bernadino, I'd still be sitting home in Leeds doing nothing.
"I'll tell you one thing," Jeff began as he started to pack his suitcase, "the third hit is gonna be much harder for us."