from the Yorkshire Evening Post, April 2010
JEFF'S POISED TO ROAR AGAIN
By Grant Woodward
about that, says Jeff Christie, earnest in his apologies
for keeping me waiting.
I was doing an interview
with a radio station. My phones going crazy.
I have to say I was a bit
sceptical about all this in the beginning, but were
having a lot of fun and its getting a tremendous response.
Forty years ago, Jeff was living
the high life. His record was top of the charts, his band
Christie were selling millions of records around the world
and a glittering future beckoned.
We went to No.1 in lots of
different countries but we only celebrated here, he
recalls. CBS, which was our record label at the time,
picked us up in this massive Austin Princess and just kind
of chauffered us around London.
We went for lunch somewhere
and there was press and gosh knows what. The whole thing
was an incredible ride, it was a bit unreal in a way.
When youre kids you
just want to get a record deal, then when you get a record
deal you want a hit record. Then, when you get a hit record,
you want a No.1.
All those things happened
and life was never the same again.
The hit record that went to No.1
was called Yellow River. Chances
are you know it, even if you dont think you do.
As well as topping the charts here
for three weeks in June 1970, it also reached No.1 in 26
Now its being re-released
as Hat Trick of Lions (Come on England),
complete with reworked lyrics (Blow that whistle the
game is won, Fill my glass high the time has come),
ska brass and even a rap, to coincide with the approaching
nationalistic fervour of another World Cup.
Dave Robertson (the songs
producer) had this idea of doing Yellow
River as a World Cup song but I wasnt sure
to start with because the song has a life of its own,
says Jeff, now 63 and living in
It still sells in its original
form right across the world and I thought I dont
really need this.
It was only when Dave was
able to sell me his vision of it that I thought, Well
its not really me but it doesnt matter because
a great songs a great song and will lend itself to
Im sure its not
everyones cup of tea but people who have heard the
song say its great. And of course it helps that most
people already know it.
Life as a rock singer wasnt
Jeff Christies first choice of career. Growing up
on the border of Chapeltown and Chapel Allerton, he had
dreams of becoming a Spanish flamenco guitarist.
But he soon discovered to his disappointment
that there werent many flamenco groups in Britain,
let alone Leeds 7.
He moved to London at 23, by which
time he had already toured on the same bill as Jimi Hendrix
and Pink Floyd with his first band The Outer Limits, who
were big in Yorkshire before splitting in 1968.
had a small hit with Just One More
Chance, while second single Great
Train Robbery was produced by Rolling Stones
knob-twiddler Andrew Loog Oldham but banned
from the BBC for being, as Jeff puts it, too close
to the mark.
Between 1968 and 1970 I was
working in the Leader Revue Bar, which was in Albion Place
in Leeds, playing in a trio to keep body and soul together,
I was writing as much as I
could at that time and knocking out half a dozen songs a
week. In those days it was a lot easier to get to bands,
so Id go and see them and take them the songs Id
The Tremeloes were having
a lot of success with these Italian sort of songs and Id
written one for them called Tomorrow
Night, but they said that was exactly the kind of
thing they were trying to get away from.
I played them Yellow
River and they loved it but they ended up dropping
it and putting out something themselves, so I ended up releasing
Many musicians come to loathe the
song that brought them their biggest success, think Noel
Gallagher and Wonderwall or
REM and Shiny Happy People,
but Jeff doesnt feel that way about
Its kind of like a little
child that you release into the world and it becomes its
own personality, it has its own life.
When I hear it Im still
proud of it and still think its a great song. Its
been very good to me and the fact that 40 years later people
still have an interest in it is testament itself.
Its been covered by
so many people, everyone from Elton John to REM. That shows
its a classic song.
The follow-up single San
Bernadino reached No.1 in Germany and made the top
10 over here but after that the hits dried up for Christie.
Jeff kept the groups name
alive with replacement members, before reforming in 1990
and having an unsuccessful stab at representing the UK in
the following years Eurovision Song Contest.
They continued to tour all over
Europe, Russia and Israel, recording intermittently, before
reconvening last year for a European tour.
still has a life, says Jeff. Im still
doing gigs and weve got a big one coming up in Berlin
in July. Germany is quite a big one for us.
I never thought when I started
playing in bands at 13 that Id still be doing this
but its impossible to explain to people what the buzz
is like when you come off stage.
All the hardship and hassle
that goes with it is wiped out by that fantastic reponse
you get from people. With a song like Yellow
River, when you play that song, especially abroad,
you dont have to sing it, you just play it, the audience
sings it for you.
As for his World Cup song, Jeff
hopes the nation takes it to its heart.
He used to be a fervent Leeds
United fan and counted the likes of Bremner,
Charlton and Hunter as close pals. He says he would be delighted
to cheer England to victory in South Africa, ideally to
the soundtrack of Hat Trick of Lions
(Come on England).
But hes not pinning his hopes
on the song catapulting him back into the limelight in the
same way as his namesake Tony Christie, who a few years
ago saw his rereleased hit (Is This
The Way To) Amarillo go to No.1 and land him a slot
Well see if its
got legs, says Jeff. There are a few things
being lined up. I guess well just have to see what
I certainly dont regard
this as a make-or-break situation. Im still writing,
so theres always a chance I might write something
But even if it doesnt
take off its raised the profile of the song a bit
and the whole experience has been a lot of fun.