The Magic Highway


An Interview with Vic Elmes
(Vic answers questions posed by Ray Chan and some fans)

UPDATE: Sadly, Vic passed away in April 2017, just a couple of weeks shy from his 70th birthday.

Vic1) In the beginning

I was a self-taught guitarist, I started playing when I was about eight and a half. I was influenced by people like Bill Haley, Elvis, and the like. I formed a group with Mike Blakley in 1963, The Epics, and we spent a lot of time in Denmark.

2) On the Christie years

I enjoyed being a part of Christie. It's every musician's ambition to crack a hit record and to get recognition.
  In the very early days with Christie, we used to perform many cover versions of other people's songs, apart from our hit singles. We rarely performed album tracks.
  But I soon developed a desire to write my own songs. Jeff's songs were very catchy but were also very similar in style .. I wanted to come up with something different so that our fans could see that there was more to the band than Jeff's material. I never really had a favourite song among all my compositions.

3) On the Christie sound

We had no set plan as to which style of music we eventually wanted to play, as the first thing in our minds was to get a hit record, and then hopefully take things from there.
  Nothing frustrated me personally about the commercial music we were playing, I've always been the kind of person with the philosophy of being thankful for small mercies. It was Jeff's idea of trying to turn the band into Led Zeppelin Mark 2 on the second album.
  In the 70s, Dave Cash was one of the top DJs in the UK with a daily radio show (BBC Radio 1) and a TV show (on which Christie were prolific guests). He was such a big fan of Magic Highway that he used to play the song almost every day on his radio show. He even stated on air that this song would be the best track Christie ever recorded. That surprised and flattered me because Magic Highway was out of character with most of the other Christie songs.
  Everything I recorded whilst I was with the band, was actually released either on the albums or singles. The only official singles I was involved with after Iron Horse were, if my memory serves me well, JoJo's Band, Freewheeling Man, and then Fools' Gold. The flipside of JoJo's Band, which was released only in South America, was California Sunshine. What happened after I "left Christie" I know very little about.

4) Life after Christie

I was with the band for three years until one day in 1973 I was told by the manager that the group would be disbanding because Jeff wanted to pursue a solo career.
  After I left Christie, I got a "normal" job to make ends meet. I did the odd television score (Space: 1999). But I did eventually create a new band called China, and we released a single featuring songs written by me. Unfortunately, that project failed when we were let down by our manager.
  I went to live in Germany in 1980, when I joined the Tremeloes for a year, and then after that, teamed up with Mike Blakley again for a Christie revival tour. The gigs sort of petered out after that, and I toured the circuit as part of a duo (singing covers).
  I lived for about 10 years in Germany, where I met Gary Danker in 1987, and together with a drummer Gilles Marquis, we formed a new Christie line-up. The band evolved into a foursome by the 90s and we played a few gigs as Jo Jo's Band and as Christie Again.

Jo Jo's Band

5) The future?

In 2004 there was a new album release, covering the original Christie sound fans like to remember, and featuring new songs. I continue to write for soundtracks and recently wrote a song for the reformed Quarrymen.
  And you can't say no to the possibility of working with Jeff again.It's very difficult to know how things will turn out in the music business. Let's just say it's not an impossibility.

Zorba6) Audrey from Russia wrote:
   My favourite Christie song is Magic Highway.  What is Magic Highway about? How was it written? Which chords did you use in it?

Vic answers:
   The basic premise of Magic Highway is that power means nothing. All along the trip through history and time, we see all the powerful men, leaders and kings, etc, with all their fame and wealth, and they all ended up the same way: dead. Nothing could help them.
   The guitar arrangement is a little bit too complicated to explain without showing it. So Audrey, I just have to show you personally the next time you are shopping in London. ;)

7) Laurence, Europe , wrote:
   Vic, you are such a great guitar player that you would make a great session musician. Have you taken part in session recordings and if so, for who?

Vic answers:
   I did a couple of sessions, eg film music for At the Earth's Core (featuring Peter Cushing, Doug McLure ..), Space 1999 (composing as well), Gary Glam Band, the movie High Looking High (title song), also the movie The Ups and Downs of a Handyman (composing as well).

8) Otis, Belgium , wrote:
   I'm a Space:1999 fan, and I've just been given this address from another fan talking about Vic's contribution on the main title theme song. I must say that for all those years, more than 25 now, the guitar riff on the title has been one of my favorite sounds. I was fascinated by it. I thought (I was young) that it was the result of incredibly deep research in a high tech lab, and that Vic Elmes was the name of an engineer. I never realised you were hairy and flowery :-) ! But never too late to learn. Thank you anyway for that good job.
   I'm also happy to wander in this site. So many of those songs are classics. To find them is like to play with souvenirs, a photo album. I'll go and check it again from time to time.

Flower powerVic answers:
   Dear Otis, I thank you for your humorous opinion (... hairy and flowery... ;)). People like yourself keep the history alive. We (Christie) went to Belgium in the summer of 1970 and I have very nice memories of the short time we spent there. Please continue to support us and the 70s music. With very best regards and good luck to you in the future.

9) Nic, UK , wrote:
   Hey Vic, did you ever have any kids? And are they following in your footsteps (playing guitar)?

Vic answers:
   Yes, perhaps in my last life but not this one. But I'm still young ;) Thank you for your ongoing interest. Best regards, Vic.