Forty Years of Jeff Christie

a07-christie40 Years of Jeff Christie

By John Wheelhouse, July 2010

In 1970 Jeff Christie had a massive world wide hit with Yellow River. The song sold 20 million copies and was No1 in 26 different countries and spent 3 weeks at the top stop in the UK. Jeff also had two other hits and released five albums; had a greatest hits released; and in 2008 released a new album titled Outer Limits / Jeff Christie Floored Masters Past Imperfect, on Angel Air records, which is a bit of a mix of old and new. He’s still gigging now and has released a world cup song, an upbeat ska version of Yellow River. Oh, and he’s from these parts as well.

“I knew from an early age I wanted to be a musician. My parents used to take me to Roundhay Park and I used to stand in awe at the brass bands who played there. I took piano lessons as a child but knew I wanted to do something different.”

“Then I heard Elvis. We seemed to go from my Mum still talking about ration books and her old gramaphone to Rock and Roll – Little Richard, Gene Vincent and Howling Wolf. From that point I knew I would make my living through music. I knew I didn’t want a job in a bank or office. I was fortunate to have very supportive parents. I started playing in bands when I was 13, but my first band was called Outer Limits. At about 17, we released a couple of singles which had moderate success, one of which – ‘Just One More Chance’ – was a crowd pleaser at Wigan Casino and was even covered by a couple of American bands – but the band disintergrated in ’68. I couldn’t blame the others, they’d had enough of sleeping in the back of vans and went and got proper jobs. I pressed on though, carried on writing songs and formed Christie. Yellow River was my third single.”

It’s fair to say Yellow River changed Jeff’s life. At it’s peak it was selling 80,000 copeis a day. It’s still played on the radio and has featured in film soundtracks. He toured the world and even left an impression behind the Iron Curtain.

Christie played the Sopot Music Festival in 1970 in Poland. They were the first Western band to perform and be beamed live to the whole of the Eastern Bloc: “Whenever I play in Eastern Europe I always have someone mention that gig and tell me they’ve waited years to see me. I’ve seen videos of Russian garage bands covering obscure album tracks, it’s really flattering. I’ve fond memories of Russia, even the 2001 Olympic Stadium gig in Moscow in front of 15000 hardy souls, at -24 degrees in thick snow, doesn’t spoil the memories!”

Hat Trick of Lions
“The world cup song came about through Dave Robertson a producer in London. He suggested Yellow River would make a great football song, so we put a ska beat to it, added some rap and changed the lyrics. It was a bit of fun more than anything but it seems the England team were not too keen on it succeeding!”

The track boasts a veritable who’s who of the UK’s finest Reggae and Ska performers and musicians. Mafia and Fluxy – Drum and Bass duo are the UK’s premier Ska / Reggae rhythm section, having worked on a regular basis with the Skatalites and the Ethiopians who were responsible for the Ska invasion in the early 60’s that left an indelible mark on football. The brass hooks are supplied by Matic Horn’s heavyweight Henry ‘Buttons’ Tenyue who has worked with Aswad, UB40 and Godfather of soul James Brown. Up and coming UK underground rapper Aggi Dukes adds a hip-hop kick that summarises our love for the game.

“It’s ironic I’ve released ‘Hat trick of Lions (Come on England)’ 40 years after I knocked the England team’s ‘Back Home’ off the No1 slot in 1970. I was there for three weeks, then Mungo Jerry came along with ‘In the Summertime’.”

Later, the “French Tom Jones” – Joe Dassin – recorded a French speaking version called ‘L’Amérique’ and it was a hit all over the French speaking world. It didn’t stop there.A Russian band ‘Singing Guitars’ released the song in Russian and Shimi Tavori did the same in Israel, and hundreds of cover versions have been recorded and continue to be – most famously by Elton John and REM.The song was banned in Australia due to a simmering disagreement between commercial radio stations and major record labels, which resulted in major UK and American pop songs being refused airplay on Australian commercial radio stations. But despite the ban it was covered by Aussie band Jigsaw who had a hit with it.

Floored Masters
Christie followed up Yellow River with two more hit singles but called it a day at the end of 1974. Jeff went to live in Los Angeles and only came back when his father died in 1975:

“In 1978 I was picked up by an independent company and started to record at my own pace on a collection of new songs.It was great I was really allowed to take my time, then the record company went bust and the Independent tried to sell the album on to a major company but as Punk was still such a dominant force in 1980 I couldn’t get it released. Most of the recording has appeared on the ‘Floored Masters’ album. In 1990 I started to rehearse a new band again, then tour throughout Europe as ‘Christie.’”

And that’s where Jeff is now, he played in Antwerp with 10CC last November and is off to Berlin later this month July to play with the Searchers, Sailor and the Boomtown Rats. The thing is about Jeff, he is still a true music lover. He talks like a fan when he tells of when he met Paul Mc.Cartney: “He knew my name. I’m glad he did because I was tongue tied, I mean what do you say to him? I just thanked him for opening the door for the likes of me. After the Beatles singer, song writers had become very much in vogue.”

But just as big a deal for Jeff was meeting ex-5th Dimension’s Jim Webb who wrote ‘Galveston’ which Glen Campbell made a hit:

“I met Jim and told him that song inspired Yellow River and I wanted to thank him for helping to change my life. Ironically Glen Campbell had played in the American band The Hondells – one of the US bands who covered Jeffs Outer Limits’ ‘Just one more chance’.

We could have sat with Jeff for hours, reminiscing how humble he felt when Marc Bolan waxed lyrical about the song; when he shared the bill with Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Move, The Who, the Small Faces, we could go on forever. He still gets asked by Vietnam Veterans if they can include the lyrics in their books, but to be honest Yellow River has spawned so much, it could become a book in it’s own right.

Jeff singing yellow river

‘Floored Masters’ is available from all good record shops/outlets

achristie cover


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One Comment

  1. Gillian Muirhead says:

    One of the first singles I ever bought and still stands the test of time. Great article too.

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