from the Yorkshire Post, May 2010
It's 40 years since Yellow
River topped the charts, and now it's been reworked
into a World Cup anthem. Chris Bond talks to Jeff Christie
about his most famous song.
MANY musicians dream of having a number-one single,
but few ever have one.
still produce a smash hit so big it changes their lives.
for Jeff Christie, Yellow River
did exactly that. As well as topping the UK charts, it reached
number one in 26 countries, selling more than 20m copies
and securing a place in pop music's hall of fame.
40 years after it was first released, Christie has teamed
up with producer David Robertson to rework his classic song
into an unofficial World Cup anthem for England's football
the song that Yellow River
knocked off the top spot was Back
Home England's 1970 World Cup single.
new version, Hat Trick Of Lions (Come
on England), features Christie and ska musicians
along with up-and-coming rapper Aggi Dukes.
when Robertson first approached Christie with the idea,
the Leeds-born musician wasn't sure about it.
have been hundreds of cover versions over the years, including
some great ones by people like Elton John and REM, but I
couldn't see how this one would work," he says.
Robertson's persistence eventually paid off.
gradually made me realise that it was a bit of fun and it
could work, and when I heard the final version, I was really
impressed. There's never been a version like this before."
with all great songs, Yellow River
has that little sprinkling of stardust and if music is,
indeed, somehow magical, then Christie was hooked from an
mum used to take me to Roundhay Park to watch the brass
bands and she said I'd be mesmerised. Even then, music to
me was pure magic."
the age of eight, he began piano lessons and became besotted
with flamenco music, until rock 'n' roll came along and
whole generation was inspired by people like Elvis, Buddy
Holly and Eddie Cochran. We all went out and bought guitars
and played until our fingers bled, trying to sound like
these people from across the water."
soon as he was old enough, he joined his first band, Three
G's Plus One, before going on to form The Tremmers.
talks about getting in a band to pull the girls, but I really
wanted to be a musician from an early age and I felt it
was something I could do."
never been a version like this before."
the early days, Christie just played guitar, but when a
singer failed to turn up for a gig in Leeds, Christie took
on the vocal duties.
were playing at a club in North Street called the Tahiti,
and someone shouted at me to have a go because I was the
only one who knew the playlist, so I did and that's how
it started," he says.
never regarded myself as a vocalist and I still don't, but
as long as you can carry a song, that's all that matters."
the mid-60s, the band had morphed into the Outer Limits.
Christie had also started writing songs and one of his compositions,
Just One More Chance, became
a minor hit in 1967, which was enough to get them on the
bill of a pop-rock tour alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix,
Pink Floyd and The Move.
remembers watching Hendrix in the wings one night at Newcastle
used to finish with Wild Thing,
and during his guitar solo he would juxtapose it with the
song Strangers in the Night.
that night he was having trouble keeping his Gibson Flying
V in tune and at the end he hurled it like a spear straight
at the stacking system behind him. To everyone's incredulity,
it stuck slap bang in the middle of the stack.
audience went bananas thinking it was part of the show and
carried on stomping and shouting for encores long after
Jimi had walked off."
the end of the decade, he had formed his band, Christie,
and was honing his songwriting skills, inspired by luminaries
like Jimmy Webb.
day, I heard a Glen Campbell song called Galveston
on the radio and I just loved it.
you hear someone else's song and it inspires you and that
was the song that inspired me to write Yellow
couple more hits followed, including San
Bernadino and Iron Horse,
but by 1975 the band had split up and Christie moved to
the US in a bid to get a deal as a writer. But this failed
to materialise and following the death of his father, he
returned to Leeds.
of the blue, he was offered the chance to make a new album
but after working on it for two years, the record company
with the industry, he took a hiatus from performing until
1990, when he reformed Christie with a local band he had
then, he has continued playing gigs across Europe, and a
retrospective double album, Jeff
Christie Outer Limits/Floored Masters Past Imperfect,
was released last year, which is available to download.
the fact that his subsequent career never matched the heights
set by Yellow River, he regards
his defining record with genuine affection.
knew I had a good song but I didn't in my wildest dreams
believe it would still be talked about 40 years later. I'm
still dazed and amazed that I came up with something that
had such a universal impact.
changed my life."