The Magic Highway



Jeff studio sessionThe 1972-76 Sessions (UK)

Jeff was always writing new songs whenever he could, even when the band was at the peak of popularity. Later, after Christie split up, Jeff started composing fresh songs at a furious rate as he embarked solely on a songwriting career. There was a conscious effort by Jeff to move out of the country pop pigeonhole into writing more contemporary pieces.
     These are some of the songs from that period, between 1972 to 1976. Jeff is clearly moving away from the country pop sound to one of general rock music. Jeff also provides some recollections on what was involved in writing them.

Turn The Pages Back
After The Laughter

Two wistful little ditties recorded on portable cassette recorder. After The Laughter was written around 1972/73 after Jeff attended a barbecue/fair, and the song reflects the emptiness usually felt at the end of the ‘party’. A ballad reminiscent of the tempo of If Only, it also brought back memories of an evening barbecue party in the grounds of the Victoria Falls Hotel, shortly after Christie and Edison Lighthouse were forced to leave Zambia.
     Turn The Pages Back was inspired by the style of Edith Piaf, and written at the same time as After The Laughter. It shares a dramatic structure similar to some of Edith's torch songs. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien!

Born To Be A Star
Sweet Jemima
Rain Or Shine

These three were written around 1972/3 and home demo’d using an old Grundig reel-to-reel tape deck owned by Terry Fogg and recorded in the lounge of the house where Jeff lived from 1973 to 1976.
     Born To Be A Star is as the song title suggests: a song about a friend who makes good and becomes a big TV celebrity. A nice melody that had the potential to become a solid finished product.
     Sweet Jemima has a hillbilly/country type feel, complete with mouth organ and a couple of high-pitched "oooos" thrown in.
     Rain Or Shine is a summery ballad along the lines of John Sebastian's Daydream, and has the same sentiment. "Come rain or shine, there's one thing on my mind, try my best to keep my baby smiling all the time."
    The demos were later tidied up with Terry on drums.

Better days
The first of several demos recorded at the Heckmondwike/Dewsbury studios of Billy Clarke. "This song was inspired by American singer songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, who I saw at the Speakeasy in Margaret St, London," Jeff said. "I was impressed by the artist and this song encapsulated his style." It has a strong melody and could have been turned into a srong Christie-type song. The chord progression interacts cleverly with the top line in the build-up to the chorus: for example, " I’m waiting for .. the sound of your .. footsteps at my door." There is a melancholic charm that makes this one of Jeff's personal favourites.

Little Miss America
A great, chugging pop tune about an American girl who used to share the flats in Cornwall Gardens, London, that Jeff and Paul moved into in 1970 as Christie were starting to make it big. "The girl's first name was Judy, and was affectionately called Judy Blue Eyes," Jeff said. "When Judy left, her flat was taken by a young Ruby Wax, who was later to become a big TV celebrity."

Jeff had always loved the song Good Mornin’ Little Schoolgirl and the idea of a song about a crush on a schoolgirl struck Jeff as a good one at the time, when things were a lot more innocent. "These days though, it might be considered very politically incorrect," Jeff said. Jeff plays all instruments, helped by Ted Platt on bass. A nice rocker.

Politician man
A hard-edged rock song with a cynical look at politicians, and a strong catchy refrain: "Vote for me, vote for me". You can almost see John Fogerty screaming this one out. "I was always fascinated how charismatic figures and populists get people to vote or endorse them by appealing, often to the lowest common denominator with promises of utopia," Jeff said. "I think there are many whose ambition is ‘to build a new and better world’ but inevitably power corrupts."
     Ted Platt sings on harmony and Jeff's brother Mark plays drums, which he did on several demos. "He was to improve in time and plays still today in a covers band," Jeff said.
bryan ferry     There's also an interesting part of the song where Jeff sings in a Bryan Ferry warble. "When The Outer Limits used to play Newcastle’s famous Club a Gogo in the 60’s, Bryan used to sit down at some kind of record desk on stage in the jazz lounge and quietly put the records on and announce the bands on start up," Jeff recalls. "Nobody took much notice, he was just a quiet chubby local boy with a world domination plan in his pocket, and hard to know he would morph into Lounge Lizard King and international sex symbol in a few short years. A fan from Newcastle called Caroline and some of her pals came to see me in Christie when I did a charity gig at Leeds Grammar School in ’72 or ’73 and told me this backstage afterwards. I was surprised to realise that we had rubbed shoulders and would’ve communicated albeit on a small level before we were both successful later."
     "I was also friendly with a guy called John Porter from Leeds who was in Roxy Music for a while and my last recollection is chatting with him on some suburban street corner in Leeds sometime around the late 70’s and then he fell off my radar until I watched a documentary on BBC a few weeks ago, and up pops John boy being interviewed on the program. I jumped out of my chair! I’d love to make contact again, we got on well."

Fantasy World
Jeff and Mark feature on this trio of semi-autobiographical songs, which share a common theme.
     Fairy Tale has a lovely chorus and includes lines such as "I’ve always been a dreamer, chasin’ after the sun". "I suppose I’m talking of my struggle with accepting reality versus the escapism of dreams," Jeff said. "I think I write much of dreams and wishes, hopes and fears as well as mini-commentaries on everyday life and what I see and react to."
     Fantasy World has a similar structure, and another nice Jeff Christie melody. "Let me live in a fantasy world .. Reality is not for me, and so I need a sanctuary."
     Hollywood expands on the fantasy theme and is a tribute to the movie capital of the world. A pleasing but short piece, and would certainly sound great in a finished form.

Long Grass
This is one of Terry Fogg's favourites. A country pop song evoking images of lazing around on a hot summer day. Jeff uses a harmonica to give it a bit of extra texture.

When I Was Young
A commercial song that would have made a good single, with a catchy refrain. "I must have been thinking that I was getting a bit long in the tooth, as I was looking back with nostalgia at my youth, and the inevitable loss of innocence that comes to us all on life’s journey," Jeff said. "I like the poignancy of it and even my guitar solo tail-out." Jeff and Mark play on this demo, which would have sounded perfect with electric guitar embellishments.

Strong power ballad, featuring Jeff, Mark and more harmonicas. Almost plodding away, this piece demonstrates Jeff's versatility at writing different types of songs.

Living Is Giving
Another wistful slow and really lovely ballad by Jeff in philosophical mood, with lots of acoustic guitars. "I liked the sweep of the middle eight and how it takes off on a little melodic detour before coming back to the refrain," Jeff notes.

Troubled Times
A slower pop tune with trademark melodious top line, and sadly, a message still as relevant today as it was back then. "I still like this after all these years. It’s a reality for many, and some things never change," Jeff said.

Lots of wah wah peddle used in this driving, bluesy rocker. Jeff and Mark again, with slide guitar from Billy Clarke, the owner of Box Studios. Bill is a talented country music guitarist and used to be George Hamilton III’s doctor in the 70s.

Jeff combines two of his favourite recurring themes (US towns and westerns) in this out-and-out rock song. "Mark on drums, Billy takes the solos and an overall good kickass vibe," Jeff declares.

Melancholy Man
Mark on drums kicks off the song, followed by Jeff's electric guitar. Philosophical song about another man of many faces .. this time a man of many moods, a melancholy man. "I like the words to this and I like the word melancholy, it has that indefinable quality of broodiness about it," Jeff said.

Cannery Row
Jeff: "Well, obviously I read Steinbeck, a good title deserves a song as well as a book!" A thumping song with rocking piano, and mean harp in between.

Similar sort of frenetic song as Cannery Row, which grabs the listener at the start. Jeff throws in a great guitar solo in between, a la Ritchie Blackmore. "Punchy little bugger this; disregarding obvious flaws, it still has a kind of inspired urgency that just rocks out," Jeff said. "It settles down nicely as the song gets underway."

While Christie were famous for their country pop, Jeff always challenged himself to write different styles of songs in the pop/rock/country/ballad styles of the times. This is almost a 60s-flavoured doo-wop/harmony/pop song about waiting for mail from the girlfriend ... "clichéd with borrowed snatches of other songs of its type, consciously or not, it still makes me smile listening to it," Jeff recalls. "I think all these different types were inevitably helping me define and hone my own style of song writing somehow, whatever that is." Ted Platt helps on handclaps and sings on backup with Mark and Jeff.

From Hero To Zero
A terrific pop song that starts off with wailing guitar. Nice melody with a message that could apply to certain people Jeff has worked with. Sample verse: "You had the world right at your feet, A legend that grew right off the street, Until you started drinking it away, You might have been a hero still today."
    "How are the mighty fallen," Jeff said. "Everywhere you see those two impostors Fame and Fortune, and how we struggle to possess it and hold on to it and how hard it is to live without the buzz of it all about you." Ted Platt on lead guitar, Mark on drums and cowbell, and Jeff on everything else.

It Can’t Happen To Me
This is very typical of 60s hard pop/rock style that The Outer Limits specialised in, with a really catchy singalong refrain in between. "I put my Hendrix/Dylan/All Along The Watchtower/philosophising song writing head on," Jeff said.
    Jeff utilises a clavinet, which produces the the kind of funky sound that characterises Stevie Wonder's songs. "This was also a time for experimenting a bit with time signatures, nothing too jazzy, just some 3/4 and 6/8 tempos often found in flamenco (an old passion) and rekindled by Paul Fenton joining Carmen. Also I was envious at the (alternative) music he was making, and it helped influence some of my arrangements. The drum outro, for example, has a kind of back to front galloping feel that brings a sense of uncertainty and unease to it, which fits in with the line ‘this can’t happen to me’, but it might!"

Part Of My Life
Jeff and Mark combine on this beautiful tribute to their dad, whom they loved dearly and who was influential in helping The Outer Limits get off the ground.

Heaven Knows
Carmen's Angela doing buleriasThis is a musical form known as a bulerias and was a homage to Carmen, who took Jeff back to his love of flamenco. It's completely different to any of Jeff's songs, and features Mark on drums, Ted on acoustic lead, and Jeff on everything else, except for a melaphonium played by a session musician.
    "A challenge to play," Jeff says with a little understatement. You can almost picture the Spanish dancers twirling around with their castanets to this atmospheric, moody piece that is worlds away from the commercial offerings we would associate with Christie

This song had the potential to become a great Christie track. Very commercial, although Jeff believes the song could have been polished up further. Ted on lead, Mark on drums, and Jeff on the rest. "Loser, when are you gonna start winning? When are you gonna start grinning? You will never be a chooser, You will never be a user, but you will always be my friend."

All the King's Horses
A lilting balladish piece influenced by someone very close to Jeff who was in a terrible depression and "so much pain it was unbearable to be close to it". "I tried hard to help but the black dog wouldn’t budge, and the grief of the loss was just monumental. I wrote this with the realisation that we all need help to get through these things but ultimately we have to heal ourselves, although for some that’s not possible," Jeff said.
    "All the king's horses and all the king's men, Can't put you back together again, It's up to you now, my friend."

Jeff wrote this sad ballad in 1976 in Canada while staying with his uncle, a man for all seasons, who could walk with kings and commoners alike and make no distinction between both. He made a difference, and was loved by many.
    "This is a reflective song looking back at those preposterous five years of fame with Christie, and wondering what all the fuss was about," Jeff said. "Though disillusion had set in long before my father’s death in 1975, it seemed to bring a focus to bear and enable me to crystallise all the pitfalls, greed, backstabbing and betrayals that accompanied my journey on the good ship Fortune."
    Mark on drums, Ted on acoustic lead, all other tracks, Jeff.

I said, she said
An end-of-the-affair song: a songwriter’s credo — "all that you see, all that you touch, all that you feel, all that you observe, can be put to music and verse, and then used in evidence against you," Jeff said.
    The song has a flamenco/Spanish 6/4 feel, especially on the tail-out as the percussion kicks in. Just the Christie boys on this effort.

This is a nice up-tempo pop song and based on a real-life situation.
    "In January 1975, after the band broke up after the Mexico tour, I flew back to Acapulco to meet up with a Brazilian girl singer called Rosemary, who I’d met whilst staying in Mexico City," Jeff relates.
    "I then went on to LA to meet up with Brian Longley and happened on an apartment in West Hollywood where some booking agency girls that Brian was associated with were getting ready to go back to New York and vacate the apartment. Brian suggested that I take it and he would be a part tenant.
    "At the time, he was trying to keep Carmen from imploding and still looking for their big break, and he would try to use his contacts to help me progress my new career as a songwriter sans band!
    "I settled in to the apartment, Brian was away on Carmen’s final tour with Jehtro Tull, and a girl named Jody in the apartment below me was helping me deal with the landlord, the rent, getting the electricity switched back on and other teething problems like phone connections and guarantees.
    "But Jody disappeared for a few days on some romantic skiing trip to the mountains and reprioritised me! So I wrote a song about it —art imitating life?"
    The demo of the song includes a dynamic drumming intro from Paul. Jeff re-recorded the song a few years later with Barry Kingston for the RK studio sessions and the album that never was. The studio version featured strings arranged by Andrew Jackman, a session drummer, and Jeff pushing the envelope and giving it some overkill.

Set Yourself Free
Jeff is certainly versatile, able to come up with great country pop tunes, classic hard-edged rock pieces, or exquisite ballads. This effort is one of the latter, written for Jeff's mum, and ranks up there among songs such as If Only. Just Jeff on guitar and some lovely mellotron and Paul on percussion.

Wild Grows The Heather
Jeff revisits one of his favourite recurring themes in this mid-tempo song about getting away from the city and savouring the clean green life of the country."I love this song. Crime-ridden city dweller seeks new life somewhere over the rainbow where skies are blue, and the air is clean; let’s get away from the city!" Jeff sates. "I do love the wilds of the moors, mountains and lakes though; it puts things back in perspective."
    Paul on drums, Ted on some electrifying lead guitar, the interestingly-named Captain Nemo on trumpet, and Jeff on guitars and keyboards.

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