The Magic Highway




WHEN Christie were on the charts in the early 70s, Jeff's songwriting talent was recognised and much in demand. Singers who approached Jeff to write songs for them included Ray Coniff, Cliff Richard, Long John Baldry, James Last, Jackie Wilson, and Peter Noone (Herman of Herman's Hermits). Ray Coniff even approached Jeff personally at a party to ask him to write several songs for one of his albums.
     Unfortunately for Jeff, because Christie toured round the world so much, he could not find the time to accept the requests, and even had to turn down what would have been a lucrative offer to write a jingle for Coca Cola. For Jeff, the group came first, and all his energies were focussed on helping the band establish themselves.
     But there's a story with Baldry, Jeff recalls.
     "Sometime in 1969, with Yellow River and San Bernadino already born and waiting to meet the world plus many more, I was able to get to many artists, as I'd already worked with them at gigs where Outer Limits were supporting, and would try to interest them in my songs," Jeff said.
     "Baldry initially was and still is a great blues singer. I knew him from gigging with him, Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger when they were in Steampacket, so I met up with him in London and played him lots of songs.
     "He liked quite a few, and loved Yellow River and San Bernadino. He wanted to record San Bernadino and I felt that as Yellow River was in the Trems' pocket, San Bernadino would be great for him.
     "At the time, the Trems were still going to release Yellow River themselves and were still on course with it. I didn't know they were going to change their mind and that subsequently I would record and release it, so when that actually happened and it was a hit, San Bernadino was a natural follow-up for me so Baldry didn't get it in the end!
     "I didn't see him after that as within a few months I was climbing the charts, and when I hit No.1, he sent me a congratulations telegram which I still have today."
     Ironically, when Jeff initially set out to carve himself a name as a songwriter after the Outer Limits split up, he had composed many pieces with specific performers in mind.
     A song called Tomorrow Night, for example, was offered to the Tremeloes because it was in the style of the melodramatic Italian pop songs that the group were covering at the time. But the Trems rejected it in favour of Yellow River, which they subsequently came close to releasing as a single.
     Jeff also wrote a piece called Sunday which he thought would suit Frank Sinatra, and a catchy pop tune called All The Love for Roy Orbison, who at one stage even tried unsuccessfully to contact Jeff for a song. In later years, Jeff came up with Troubador, a song he felt suited the style of Elton John.
     Another song called Northern Lights was intended for Rod Stewart, but Jeff rejigged it as Yuletide Lights and released it as an inclusion for a Stars of the 70s Christmas album.
     "I was asked to provide a Christmas song for the festive season album project being set up by Alan Williams of the Rubettes," Jeff said.
"I had to give him part of the publishing on this track for a period of time, that's why you'll see Jonalco Music alongside Christabel on the album credits."
     Nevertheless, some of Jeff's material — which were not performed by Christie — has been covered and performed by other artists.
     A Brazilian singer named Rosemary recorded a song called Nothing Has Changed, which she released in 1974.
     In 1976, Jeff was commissioned by an aspiring singer to write a soul song, and to play on the backing. Together with Paul Fenton on drums and Ted Platt on bass, the trio played on the song — called Shoot Out The Light — with the hopeful wannabe on lead vocals.
     Jeff liked the song so much, he substituted his own vocals after the project was finished.
Joanne demo In the 80s, a young female UK singer named Joanne Booth was the lucky recipient of two of Jeff's songs, Living Without Your Love and End Of Time. Jeff also played the instruments on both of these songs.
     "Considering that she'd never set foot in a studio before, she did very well, I think. She went to study drama in London soon after," Jeff said.
     The sounds and arrangements are very much in the flavour of the 80s, and are reminiscent of some Sheena Easton productions.
     In the late 80s, the UK band the Tubeless Hearts recorded Jeff's Safe In Your Arms, a song submitted for the Eurovision song contest.
     "As much as I dislike song contests, I was persuaded to have a go by a London publisher who bemoaned the lack of quality songs that were entered into Eurovision," Jeff said.
     In 1998, Jeff was invited to a songwriting workshop at Copenhagen, Denmark, during which time he co-wrote several pieces with other writers, including six songs in six days, each with a different Danish participant. There was another co-written song with a girl singer named Ann Louise Mathiesen called It's Alright, which she released on record.
     Out of these sessions also came the jazzy Whispering Trees.