THE STORY OF JEFF
CHRISTIE in his own words
"I DON'T WANT NO CHAINS ON ME .."
LEFT school at 16 after scraping through my GCE with three
O levels. I treated school as one big cat and mouse game with
the masters and took great pleasure foiling their constant
attempts to discipline me with physical or mental punishment.
It was all huge fun until my parents started
getting fed up with my behaviour and the last two or three
years I made more effort to get down to some swotting and
not make a total disgrace of myself when it came to the final
GCE exams, that would determine if I would qualify for the
sixth form or not, with all its attendant privileges, and
a compass set reading for university which I wasnt interested
in as I was itching to get out there and play
some full time rocknroll, stay out all night and
be done with all that homework or swotting for exams!
It was 1962 and the Beatles were about to conquer
the world which only reinforced my earlier, youthfully, optimistic
and arrogant ambition of having the same job! I was fortunate
to make some good pals at school of who Im still in
After a short period where I resat some GCEs
and failed them due ironically to not having the discipline
of being at school and the freedom of not being at school,
my dad decided that I wasnt going to lounge around the
house any longer and would talk a pal of his in to giving
me a job at a carpet warehouse in Leeds called Modern Floor
Covering to try and stop what Im sure he saw as a gradual
decline in whatever small sense of residual discipline may
have remained from my school days and to build character!
Even though my dad was to prove a
great support in helping me on my journey to fame and
fortune, or infamy and misfortune (whichever suit fits) along
with my mum in those days, he, like most parents at that time
didnt believe their kids could ever make a decent living
as a musician, and hoped Id one day take over his fish
and chip restaurant which was quite possibly the best in Leeds
after building it up from a shop in town with a small café
in the back to a thriving successful business with an enlarged
premises within a few years. I used to wait tables in school
holidays and remember going down into this dank cellar where
a chipper chipped all the spuds and the haddock, cod, plaice
and halibut were skinned and filleted for human consumption
It just wasnt going to happen, how could
it possibly compare with my dream of doing what I really loved
and being paid at the same time! In other words making music
and traveling the world in the process, or at least that was
my hope. Like the song says youve got to
have a dream, if you dont have a dream, how you gonna
make a dream come true.
I worked for a couple of years dragging carpets
from floor to floor and selling them to poor unsuspecting
newlyweds, pensioners and all sorts of people. I quickly learnt
the art of doing the least work I could get away with which
was the form at work, to buck the trend wouldve sided
me with the bosses and by default set me apart from my comrades
in arms who seemed to want nothing more than to make
as much money as they could whilst doing as little work as
they could, drinking as much as they could and generally skiving
off and finding some poor new kid (me) to go out to the shop
and buy a skyhook, which I almost did.
I knew I was being tested just like early schooldays
with the bullies, so had to win some respect there whilst
not being seen to be too groveling to the boss who was friendly
with my dad. A question of fine balance was called for.
One day an employee called (Jolly) Jim Preston
challenged me to a duel hoisting 27 inch body carpet on our
respective backs and carrying them up to the balcony storage
area four flights of steps from the ground floor. Dapper Jim
was popular with all the lads, tall, slim, in his late 20s
and somewhat rakish in appearance with slicked back hair,
slitty eyes and a moustache that made him look a little shifty
with the look of a northern Lothario who you wouldnt
want to buy a car from, new or used!
Big Jim thought Id wimp out of the challenge
or at best give up after a few runs. I was dropping
on my feet and bathed in sweat but refused to give in and
concede defeat to this gloating swaggerer when after 20 or
so runs he red-facedly announced to me and the assembled workforce
watching All right Jeffrey, I think youve made
your point, which seemed to suggest Id challenged
him in the first place, although by this time I was greatly
relieved that he bottled out first as it was only sheer defiance
that kept me going! Another case of standing up to bullies
proved correct, he never bothered me again.
Jeff always stood
up to bullies.
The following year, aged 18, I quit work
and turned professional as it became untenable and embarrassing
for me to remain the job after I started coming in late for
work after traveling further afield, to gigs out of Yorkshire,
across to Lancashire and Derbyshire and getting home very
late at night.
I was also starting to experiment with songwriting
and would disappear into the nooks and crannies of this big
warehouse to jot down lyrics and song ideas. I broke out in
a rash all over my body once with the overwhelming frustration
of being stuck in this demoralising cycle of negativity and
It was always on the cards that Id quit,
as the job was never anything more than a stopgap and a means
to an end in buying me a little more time to learn my
real trade more."
At the University of Leeds
with my band The Outer Limits, we played alongside Bluesology
and they had this keyboard player who was as quiet as
a mouse, and so under the radar, called Reg Dwight ..
who a couple of years later morphed into Elton John.