The Magic Highway


An Interview with Christie's singing drummer Simon Kay
(Extracts from a series of chats conducted by Ray Chan)

Simon KayQ) How did you end up being a musician? Did you plan to work in another profession?

A) I left school in 1971.The year before I was in my 16th year and was part of a street theatre group called Interplay in Leeds. One of the students running the group was going to France in the summer holidays and was worried about his drum kit being left in his flat, so much to my dad's disapproval I said I would look after it.
   The deal at home was no drums after dad got in at 6pm. So all summer in 1970 was spent with a drum kit in my bedroom , my stack-up record player and seeing what happens. Poor mum... but it all started there and that was it, nothing else in my life was as important as becoming a member of a band.

Q) You can hold a tune and are not a bad singer. Were you always a vocalist?

A) No , that all started with being asked to do harmonies in my first semi-pro band named Concept, originally with a girl singer from Bradford. In our two years I sang Oh Carol and Roll Away the Stone badly. Now I share lead vocals with Alan in the Stat Band.

Q) Were other drummers your musical heroes?

A) Very much ... my stack-up record player had The Hollies on, the Stones, Beatles and the Who. For drum fills I look up to Bobby Elliot. For total showmanship, Keith Moon. And Charlie Watts for solid playing, putting in only what's required.

Q) Tell us a bit more of your musical career and how you ended up being with Tubeless Hearts.

A) I had just gone pro at the end of 1975 with an awful cabaret group which, to be honest, was a mistake but it got me into playing more than Saturday night. I saw an advert for a drummer and decided to give it a go as the cabaret band kept getting "paid off " as they were so bad.
   I went to Morley to audition where I first met Trevors Midgley and Sargent. I joined Grapevine, which then replaced the bass player and brought Alex Brooklands in. Interestingly, this is the line-up for The Stat Band, the group I play in today when not on tour with Christie.
   After one year we disbanded. I went on the cruise ships in a three-piece playing on the Oriana and Canberra. I sang all the pop numbers of the day such as Hold Me Close and Don't Give Up On Us, Baby and others from 1977. It was on board that I met one of the big band drummers that had a dream of a big show band to work the big venues in Demark and Scandinavia.
   That man was Jim Percy and the following two years would give me the best apprenticeship of all, playing seven 45-minute spots in the band Apollo. The original bass player in Apollo was not very reliable and Jim looked to replace him in 1979 when we returned after a tour. The replacing bass player was Kevin Moore.
   I left Apollo in 1979 as I wanted to be with my Leeds friends more . Then in 1980 my old guitarist and bass player fancied doing something, so it was Trev Sergeant , Al and me doing Flying Squad as a three-piece. We asked Trev Midge to join as we fancied expanding and almost at the same time Al decided to go into the licensing trade. As if by magic, I got a call from Jim asking if there was a band needing a bass player as Kev had enough of playing disco music. So The Tubeless Hearts were born.

Q) How did you meet up with Jeff Christie?

A) I was at the same school and class as Robin Christie (Jeff's brother ). Jeff was a Leeds hero in 1970 and I was a friend of Robin's so he invited me for tea to his mum and dad's house . He told me Jeff was up from London and as it was Thursday night, Top of the Pops was on and Yellow River was No 1.
   I think every Leeds teenager had a copy of Yellow River. Jeff signed my copy and he gave me a copy of Just One More Chance. I still have both records.
   In 1989 I had a friend called David Gloan, who knew many promoters and Leeds celebrities .He knew Jeff was looking for a band to re-record Yellow River in the 80s style, and as he had been instrumental in getting us on TV for the 1988 Telethon, we all thought this would be a good idea. We met Jeff , Kev sang the re-working and so began our first venture with Jeff .The idea of him using us as his band came after we said we would love to do a show with him --- some 25 years later, here we all are .

AntwerpQ) Did you ever envisage being in a group which produced hits that you grew up with?

A) Absolutely not . I remember the first time we did Golden Years in Antwerp (left). We had a police escort from the Crowne Plaza Hotel to the Sportspalace. Jeff remarked that this was a slice of what it was like at the height of it all. During these oldie nights, I have met and indeed got to know many heroes from the 60s and 70s. It's been a great ride.

Q) What are your favourite Christie songs?

A) I always enjoy the reaction to the big ones when playing live ,and when they come on the radio I still enjoy them and proud that I play them as near to the original recordings as possible . If I was to nominate one we don't do but I love, that would be The Dealer.

Q) The setlist for some of the shows, notably the Israeli tours, was fantastic. Songs like Fool's Gold and City Streets. How about bringing them back?

A) Actually Fool's Gold and City Streets were in the very first shows we did, as was Alabama. It was only after Israel in 1994 that we kept I Hear You Knocking and Feel a Whole lot Better, as more Oldie nights had a call for a few covers . There were some songs we never did apart from the Israel set such as Learning To Fly and Handle With Care, which was a shame as Jeff sang them superbly.

Simon on drums

Q) Is it difficult to rehearse for new songs for the shows? Fans would like to hear more old Christie songs.

A) Sadly ,yes, as Kev lives in Spain. However if we were to secure a run of dates like in 2009, we would probably look at some changes and some more album tracks.

Q) What do you do when not playing with Christie?

A) I have my local band called the Stat Band, which is my first pro band reformed .We play classic songs from the 70,s such as Don't Fear The Reaper, Blinded By The Light and Band On The Run.