THE OUTER LIMITS
The Outer Limits:
Stan Drogie (left), Gerry Layton, Gerry Smith and Jeff Christie
JEFF Christie's first band of note was The
Outer Limits, but it certainly wasn't his first group. Around
1958, Jeff and good mate Rod Brooks formed
a unit called Goliath and the Barbarians: Jeff on lead guitar,
Gerry Layton on rhythm guitar, Stan Drogie on drums and Rod
Jeff wasn't too keen on the saxophone sound, so persuaded
Rod to get a bass guitar.
"Jeff suggested that I got a bass guitar because
we wanted to try Shadows stuff so off we went to the local
Scheerers music shop and I bought me a red Hofner bass guitar.
The next step was to Jeff's house and he taught me the basics
and off I went," Rod recalls.
Even at this young age, Jeff was somewhat of a musical
prodigy, adept at guitars and keyboards and having already
won a talent competition when he was 13.
knocked off Shadows and Ventures instrumentals one after another.
Jeff was the best thing since sliced bread with his Hank Marvin
style. Nobody could touch him," Rod said.
band changed the name to The Tremmers, and began to make a
name for themselves on the local circuit, even being considered
innovators of the northern UK rock sound. They were offered
local gigs: the Cro Magnon Club (local) and a Friday, Saturday
and Sunday at a night club called the Tahiti.
They also used a couple of lead singers when they needed
to produce some vocal numbers in their acts. One of them was
a black singer named Gary Steele, unusual for that time.
Like any new band trying to establish themselves, they
found that income was meagre and expenses had to be curtailed.
"Our transport was a very small Austin A35 van which
belonged to Gerry's dad. Gerry drove, Jeff sat on Stan's knee,
and I laid on top of the gear in the back ... being the smallest,"
Rod said. (Stan was a burly ex-boxer.)
Finding that they needed to expand beyond playing just
instrumentals, the band decided Rod should become a singing
guitar player. "The first number I ever sang was "It's
all over now" by Shane Fenton and the Fentones,"
Rod said. (Shane later took the stage name Alvin Stardust).
"Jeff never sang in those days. He was a little
shy I suppose. His singing started when he formed the Outer
Limits after I left, and I formed the Dawnbreakers."
Jeff recruited Paul Cardus to replace Rod on bass.
Paul and Gary later left the group to join a group called
5-Man Cargo, and Gerry Smith came on to play bass. This line-up
was responsible for putting out three singles under the name
of The Outer Limits: When the Work is
Thru, Just One More Chance, and Great
When the Work is Thru,
a song written and produced by Godfrey Claff, was a charity
record for Leeds University which was only released in Leeds
for RAG (Raise-and-Give) Week. "Gerry Layton plays sax
on this very effectively," Jeff recalls.
On the flipside was a song by 5 Man Cargo, thus making
the record one on which seven Outer Limits members played.
Thanks to help from Jeff's
father, the Outer Limits secured a recording contract
with Deram, and Just One More Chance
was the first single - and it proved a promising start
for the band.
"This was my first time in a London studio to
actually make a record and not audition for a record contract,"
Jeff says, "and I suppose marked the beginning of my
"I was 20, excited, and eager to fly! It was a
beautiful day, the birds were singing, and so was I. The session
went smoothly, and there was a buzz of expectancy in the air
as the song was generating a lot of hopes of a hit.
"By todays standards it probably was, albeit
a minor one in that it bubbled under the top 50 for a few
weeks. Today we have a top 75 chart, so by definition it might
have had a placing between 50 and 60.
"It generated massive airplay, particularly on
pirate stations Radio Caroline, and Radio London, as well
as the BBC. It also had heavy airplay in Germany, and was
a small hit in Germany, and very popular in Berlin for some
This song also generated a few covers - a great coup
for the young songwriter! There was an Italian version, the
first time someone covered a Jeff Christie song, and also
a typically surf-sound rendition by US surfer group The Hondells.
The B-Side, Help Me Please,
features almost unrecognisable vocals by Jeff - caused by
a bad cold. Jeff calls this his Spencer Davis impersonation.
The second single promised so much more: The
Great Train Robbery had a lavish musical arrangement
and production, and such was the melody that it had a more
instantaneous appeal than Just One More
Chance. Things were also looking rosy when the
group was signed onto the Immediate label owned by Rolling
Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham.
Perhaps in tribute to the Outer Limits' promise, the
song was chosen to launch Immediate's progressive rock label,
Instant, which paradoxically
worked against them because the label was not well-known.
The Immediate catalog number originally issued to Great
Train Robbery was subsequently given to PP Arnold's
Angel of the Morning. But more
damaging was the fact that because there had recently been
a real great train robbery in the UK, the BBC were very sensitive
about playing anything that might be seen as glorifying the
event - even though Jeff's song was a fiction/fantasy Western
Subsequently, there was little airplay .. and what
everyone had tipped as a surefire hit never eventuated.
Gerry Layton left before the group accompanied Jimi
Hendrix on a pop package
tour in November 1967, and was replaced by Steve Isherwood.
Stan left the following year, and was replaced by Rod Palmer.
Paul Cardus rejoined as bass player for a couple of shows.
This new line-up soldiered on until the demise in early
1969, and the break-up became the subject of a Yorkshire Television
documentary titled 'Death
of a Pop Group'.
If anything, the Outer Limits experience served as
a good launching pad for Jeff's songwriting and singing career.
Apart from the songs that were released as singles, the band
performed several other original compositions of Jeff's, while
giving him the opportunity to develop as a more-than-competent
vocalist. Jeff and his father also composed
a piece called The Dream - Jeff
wrote the music, his father the words. Heavily influenced
by Procol Harum, the song is a beautiful piece of work which
features Jeff on hammond organ.
After the group's break-up, Jeff vigorously pursued
his songwriting ambitions .. and after a few months, succeeded
in getting the Tremeloes to record Yellow
River. The rest, of course, is history.
When The Work
Is Thru/What a Wonderful Feeling (5-Man Cargo)
More Chance/Help Me Please
Train Robbery/Sweet Freedom
SONGS (all by Jeff Christie except where noted)
The Dream: This
was a song inspired by Procol Harum's Whiter
Shade of Pale, and shares a lovely keyboard refrain.
The melody was composed by Jeff, the lyrics by Jeff's dad
Stop: This is
such a perfect pop song, mixing twinkling piano with electric
guitar. It embodies a bit of everything that was popular in
the 60s: Motown, R&B, pop, rock, and strong harmonies.
Would surely have been a big chance of becoming a hit if released.
Everything I Touch:
The group had a unique sound with their harmonies. This is
more strong 60s pop fare, and easily would have been a crowd
pleaser at the band's gigs.
Day Now: The piece has a killer riff, which would not
sound out of place if sampled on any of today's songs.
See It My Way:
Great two- and three-part harmonies in a melodic arrangement
that clearly shows the band were always striving to produce
a sound that was more than just straightforward pop.
Throw in the melodies of the Beatles, the harmonies of the
Hollies, and the coarser harder edge of the Who, and you might
be able to conjure up the basic sound of the band. Jeff throws
in a basic top line tune, and goes off on a couple of tangents.
Listen: As above.
Great counter harmonies, and again, a complex song progression.
It must be said that in all the songs, Stan Drogie does a
great job with the drums moving from one arrangement to another.
A heavier, progressive sound, verging on the psychedelic,
but with a nice underlying melody.
Days Of Spring:
Delving deeper into psychedelia here perhaps. You can almost
see the concentric circles swirling round.
Epitaph For A Non-entity:
As the title says, a story of a lonely man. A lovely melody
for this slower-paced piece.
Man In The Middle Of
Nowhere: Jeff's voice sounds very John Lennon-esque
at times, and when the band sticks to a straightforward pop
song, they can almost sound like the Beatles. This is one
such piece, with a lovely chorus, and even the title is reminiscent
of a Beatles song (Nowhere Man).
It's Your Turn Now:
Jeff's twinkling ivories kicks off this song, which culminates
in a nice, almost-singalong chorus, backed once again by the
great harmony work.
Back to the psych sound, and there's maybe a hint of mind-altering
substances with the name of the song.
At Me: Along with Stop,
perhaps the best of the band's pure pop songs. Again very
Beatles-like, but certainly in a mould of its own. Great bass
riff and nice chorus. Throw in an electric guitar riff, soften
the harmonies, and this could have been a Christie song.
Run For Cover:
Another instantly likeable pop tune. Verse, chorus and bridge
all gel into a song which must have had
the dance floors packed.
Mr Magee's Incredible
Banjo Band: This closely resembles Great
Train Robbery, but stands up in its own right. Maybe
it would have even made for a better single. Tremendous melody,
and just rife for all the lavish extras that accompanied Train
Robbery. It's boosted by a nice instrumental interlude
and those magnificent harmonies. Probably my favourite Outer
Night: The most unlikely-sounding OL song. This was
written to a formula: ultra-commercial singalong melody for
which Jeff hoped other performers would perhaps buy, and certainly
not in the band's own style. This was the famous song which
Jeff planned to give to the Tremeloes, but his tape overshot
the mark and instead accidentally played Yellow
River. The rest was history.
Writing On The Wall:
A powerful song with punchy guitar riffs, featured in part
on the documentary Death
of a Pop Group.