LOOSE transcript of a BBC Radio Cumbria interview between
Tony James and Jeff Christie in February 2009.
we go back to the early 70s and Christie. They had a few
hits but this one, Yellow River,
will live on forever! Our very special guest later on, the
LEGENDARY Jeff Christie!
(Plays song Yellow River)
It's a really interesting story. Jeff Christie
was in a group called the Outer Limits, and they've got
a new album out with all their classic hits like Just
One More Chance, and toured with Jimi Hendrix, which
was absolutely amazing! And then he kind of went on his
own way and did his own thing ... they still are very active,
they gig across Europe, 12 shows in Germany this year, and
one of them, 12,000-capacity, sold out! This is good stuff.
So Christie, Yellow River!
Can you remember the other hits? Before we talk to our special
guest, let's hear one another one of them.
(Plays song San Bernadino)
There we go, a 70s hit for Christie, San
Bernadino. Hello to Sue, the post lady, she texts
"Just to let you know, Tony, I have Yellow
River for my messager on my mobile phone, brilliant
song! Looking forward to the interview".
So here we go again, then, a couple of days
ago we caught up with the man singing San
Bernadino and the classic Yellow
So you'd been in the Outer Limits, which was
critically acclaimed and you toured with Hendrix, etc, a
big deal, so how did Yellow River
come around? You offered it to the Tremeloes first.
Having worked in the Outer Limits I grew up with everybody
and in those days you could have access to bigger artists,
especially if you had a personal connection like I did,
from playing with them. I'd written lots of songs, one of
which was Yellow River, which
was not for the Trems. I'd written a specific one for the
Trems ... they really liked Yellow
River , they wanted to pass on this other song I
had, Tomorrow Night, which
had been much in the style of the Trems songs at the time,
you know Italian songs with English lyrics like My
Little Lady .. I just wrote it on spec, I thought
"This is the Trems".
The Outer Limits had broken up and I was just
concentrating on writing, I didn't think at that particular
point that I 'd put another band together. I was disillusioned
and I thought I'd try and crack it as a songwriter. I'd
been to see quite a few people .. Alan Price, the Marmalade,
Jonathon King, and Jonathon said there are some great songs
there, go and see so-and-so, and one of them was Wayne Bickerton
at Deram, and Wayne turned Yellow
River down, and I understand that Wayne lost his
job over that. People who passed on Yellow
River were like people who passed on the Beatles,
heads rolled when mistakes like that happen.
The Trems really liked Yellow
River, but sat around with it for ages and ages and
eventually decided not to do it and I went into the studio
to finish it off.
TJ: But they had put it
on as an album track. Let's hear it.
(Plays Trems' version of Yellow
Where did you go from there because you obviously thought
it wasa hit single?
JC: No I didn't think it
was a hit single. I was very prolific at the time, I was
writing a lot of songs, I was coming up with three or four
songs a week, and I thought it was a good song, but I thought
a lot of the songs I was writing were good at the time!
That was very much the calibre of the swamp rock,country
rock kind of thing which I was experimenting with as a writer.
I hoped that if I could get a song away with some big artist
then it would raise my profile as a writer, and then maybe
come through the back door and get a record deal again.
When I put my version out, it just went crazy,
it just went round the world like wildfire.
TJ: Then you ended up having
to form a band and keep recording, almost by default. The
next single, San Bernadino,
was excellent, it really is a good record, but I guess when
you have such a massive song like Yellow
River , it's almost impossible to follow up.
JC: It is very hard, some
people can do it, the Beatles, the Stones .. San
Bernadino was a big hit, but the following record
we went in a different direction, it was called Man
of Many Faces, that was a hit in Germany but it sort
of bombed in Britain because it was a lot heavier. The press
gave it great write-ups but unfortunately the public had
gotten hold of two songs with this country jangly pop rock,
and that's what was expected, and sort of what the record
That didn't do so well but the third song that
was a hit was a song called Iron Horse.
That should have been a bigger hit but something very strange
happened. We were stablemates with Johnny Nash, who had
a record out called I Can See Clearly
Now. We were getting sales figures every day and
the record was a certain turntable hit, and the figures
for Iron Horse were much higher
than I Can See Clearly Now.
The most bizarre thing happened: Johnny Nash jumped into
the top 30 and we disappeared out of the top 50. There was
a big stink about it and everytime our manager tried to
investigate, doors were slammed in his face. You have to
be careful what you say on radio, but something wasn't very
right there. When it comes down to it, if Iron
Horse had gotten into the Top 30, like it should
have done, the whole perspective would have changed, because
we would have had three massive hits then.
TJ: How do you feel now
about Yellow River?
JC: It's like a child,
like a little baby that has grown up and done well. I always
get a kick out of hearing it because it reminds me of those
days, they were exciting times. Still played all around
the world and covered by lots of artists. On the Christie
website, the cover versions that appear here are incredible,
and a lot of them are on youtube.
TJ: Can you give us the
JC: It's www.yellowriver.0catch.com.
It won an award in Australia and was put together by a young
Australian lad who came to see us in Perth in 1971, his
dad brought him to see the band, and he was a massive fan,
and about eight years ago he tracked me down and said he'd
like my permission to do this website.
He finds out things about me that even I don't
know! Just really fantastic.
TJ: That's wonderful! It's
been a complete honour to talk to you, Jeff Christie, and
Yellow River is one of the
finest British pop records ever made and I genuinely believe
that, and it's still superb, it sounds as fresh today as
when it first came out. Jeff Christie, an honour and a privilege,
thank you for being with us.