It’s always nice to combine work and play, and last week was no exception, as I flew to Leeds to rehearse and perform with Christie. We’d been invited to headline and close the J fest at The Carriageworks theatre complex in Leeds city centre, and it gave me a chance to catch up with guys who aren’t just band mates, but good mates: Jeff, Simon and Fos. Add into the mix our old mate from our 80’s band Tubeless Hearts, Trevor Midgley, who popped into the rehearsals on Wednesday and it was full-blown nostalgia! I also got a chance to see my son Corey, currently assisting at Chairworks Studios near Leeds, and my daughter Hollie and grandson Cohen, so I was well-pleased everything came together in such a timely fashion.
The Christie set rarely alters down the years, it’s a tried and tested formula that surrounds the hits with ‘complimentary’ pieces that are either of the same style, the same era, or both, and for the most part it works well enough around the world. This night though, Thursday June 6th, as well as being the birthday of my late Mum (never mind the anniversary of D-Day!) was an anniversary that impacted upon the gig. As we prepared to launch into the famous upbeat riff of Jeff’s multi-million selling worldwide number one, he announced to the crowd that it was exactly 43 years ago to the day that ‘Yellow River’ had topped the UK singles chart. Unbelievable. The crowd went mental, and as we brought the night to a close with a 100 mph version of Johnny B Goode, the crowd gave us a standing ovation, which was in no small part an acknowledgment of a local boy made good, returning home, 4 decades after taking a Leeds band to the top of the charts for the very first time. Although we’ve been with Jeff for a mere 24 years (!) – It was nice to be part of that last week.
Still on a bit of a nostalgia trip, I suggested to the lads as we left the venue, that we take a trip down memory lane and head for Redbeck’s transport cafe just outside Wakefield, where, back in the 80’s we would regularly meet up with other working bands and compare gigs and have a laugh. Those days are long gone, but Redbeck’s amazingly, is still there, and still serving the same all-night/all-day breakfasts that you could live on for a week! Good times.
Forty -one years ago, the people of Estonia, a Baltic state then trapped behind the Iron Curtain, witnessed something very strange indeed via Polish television. They saw their first ever long-haired Western pop group in the shape of Christie, at the Sopot festival. And last week, for the first time ever, Christie played two live shows in Estonia – in Tartu, and the capital Tallinn. Over the decades, a host of Estonian bands have covered Jeff Christie’s songs, as evidenced by the reception all of the singles received when we played them, Iron Horse almost on a par with Yellow River.
Getting there was interesting, involving flights from Alicante for me, bound for Leeds-Bradford, but diverted to Manchester due to fog! -then we all flew from Manchester to Tallinn via Munich (where we had a five hour layover) – and a mere 2 and a half hour layover in Frankfurt on our return. (although we were in danger of having to stay in Germany overnight as we very nearly fell foul of their noise restriction curfew.)
Our promoters in Estonia looked after us splendidly, with the ever-helpful Laurie making sure everything ran smoothly. It was fascinating to visit a new territory as always, and we were actually very lucky with the weather. Mid-November, Estonia is usually blanketed with snow, but we had clear blue skies for the most part, and cool, thought not bone-chilling temperatures.
We explored the old town of Tallinn, which was a mixture of Russian and German architecture, and quite beautiful. Some of the buildings dated back as far as the Fourteenth century, and the architecture alone silently told the story of Estonia’s chequered history as an occupied people.
On the morning after our arrival, Jeff was interviewed in the lobby of the hotel by Estonian television, such was the interest in all things Christie, and in particular what we are discovering is the increasingly significant landmark televison appearance in 1970.
The first show entailed a three hour drive through the heart of the country to Tartu, where we played in the town concert hall to a wonderfully appreciative crowd.
It was a long day, as we had to drive back to our hotel in Tallinn that night. The following night saw us headline at The Rock Cafe in Tallinn – a great gig and a great crowd. There was already talk of us going back in the summer to perhaps play a festival, and we really look forward to that. A great country, and great people.
We still had some time on the final day for another wander around Tallinn, and Jeff and I along with another guy introduced to us by Laurie – I believe his name was Andre – apologies if I have it wrong – gave us an interesting insight into the Estonian mindset, culture and history.
We left the hotel around 3pm, fairly civilized compared to our usual touring standards – which often entail us leaving at 3 am! But it was still a long day ahead, stopping off in Frankfurt for a three hour layover as it turned out, just escaping the noise restriction deadline and being grounded in Germany for the night. But it was certainly worth all the effort, and we hope to return to Estonia in the Summer.
In 2003, a Dutch TV station aired a documentary in the mould of the ‘Classic Album’ series, documenting the history behind Jeff Christie’s worldwide Number 1 hit phenomenon. I feel privileged to be part of the “Christory” – and look forward to shows with Jeff throughout Europe again this year!
Watch the documentary here:
It started off simply enough. Leaving the house at 9am on Friday morning, I made my way to Alicante airport (with a brief stop in IKEA Murcia to pick up some picture frames).
My first flight was to take me West, to the Spanish capital, Madrid, where I would have a 3 hour layover awaiting a connection, improbably, to Blibao on the Northern Coast. Kicking my heels in Madrid, I had my fingers crossed that the Bilbao flight would be on time, as I only had 45 minutes with which to connect with my final flight of the day to Frankfurt. Nobody can say our promoter doesn’t have a sense of humour.
Luckily, that plan seemed to come together, and I arrived in Frankfurt around 10 o’clock at night, with the other guys flying in from the UK around a half an hour later. Had we arrived at our destination? Well, not really. A 3 hour drive awaited us, which rapidly turned into a 4 hour drive due to autobahn closures. The hotel didnt have 24 hour reception, and luckily our driver had had the presence of mind to check in advance, and asked them to leave a key outside. It would have been amusing if it hadn’t been so late, as we stumbled about in the dark, once we’d enetered the hotel, trying to find the other keys, after having failed to find the light switch. My head hit the pillow around 2.30 am – and left it again around 9 as we had to get up for breakfast and move to another , admittedly more opulent, hotel for the second night.
Salvation was at hand in the form of a whirlpool and sauna in the basement, which the management kindly opened up for our exclusive use. Time that perhaps would have been more prudently spent running through the numbers was instead spent wallowing in the waters!
We also managed to spend an hour or two out in the town of Plauen, a charming, well kept place with trams running through it, and some nice sidewalk cafes – full of Germans braving the autumnal chill. Although it was pleasantly sunny, my defences are low after having lived in Spain for so long, and I persuaded the lads that we should take our coffees behind protective glass!
Plauen had its share of interesting buildings and monuments, and I was glad I’d brought my camera along. 5 o’clock saw us heading for soundcheck. We were opening the show, and were therefore the last band to check, which was perfect, all the settings would remain as we left them! I was debuting my Dan Electro semi-acoustic bass with Christie, and was running it through my Hartke bass attack pedal, so I was reasonably confident of maintaining my signature sound. So often, these multiple bills with hired backline prove to be more an exercise of battling against the odds than anything else, but tonight was a dream, crystal clear monitoring, a sweet bass sound, and a great onstage mix. The crowd must’ve sensed we were enjoying ourselves, too, as we really seemed to storm the show! As this is probably the last Christie show of the 2010 season, it was great to go out on a high.
After our performance, we relaxed backstage and had dinner, courtesy of some excellent catering, and swapped stories with our mates who were waiting to perform. Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, Sailor’s Grant, Henry, Phil and Nick, and Eric Faulkner of the Bay City Rollers. It was also quite funny to see Pete from my other band BC Sweet – he was standing in for Eric’s drummer, and did a great job, with no rehearsals! I’ll be seeing Pete again in a couple of weeks for a BC Sweet show in the UK. One of our fans, going by the name of sweetyglitter(!) who follows all the glam rock era bands, offered to film our set, so hopefully I’ll have a clip up from the show in a couple of weeks.
We were ferried back to the hotel following the show, with only The Dozys left onstage, and continued our conversations in the hotel bar. We were set to leave the hotel at 3 am, so sleep seemed a little pointless. I relaxed a little in the room and then had a shower to try and boost my energy!
Heading off into the night along the autobahn to Frankfurt, we braced ourselves for a long drive. The other lads needed to fly at 8 am. Although I was with them, my flight didn’t leave until midday, so I had the prospect of four hours alone in Frankfurt airport! It’s amazing how things change though……….45 kilometers from Frankfurt, the hire car started to misbehave and our driver became a little restless. Eventually, with smoke pouring from the bonnet, we pulled over onto the hard shoulder as one of the con rods exploded through the side of the engine onto the ground. Our shiny new Renault had died. It would ‘va-va-va-voom’ no more.
Standing in the freezing cold at the side of the autobahn at 7 in the morning, wearing a hi-vis jacket and erecting a little plastic triangle 50 meteres up the road to stop a truck from ploughing into us, I pondered on the glamour of our profession……………….
Needless to say, the lads missed their flight. A breakdown truck came and dropped us at a nearby depot, from where a taxi charged us (well, our promoter) a small fortune to ferry us to the airport. As luck would have it, we’d all been booked with Lufthansa instead of one of these cheapie ‘we take no responsibility whatsover for yo’ ass’ airlines. As they have done in the past, Lufthansa came through with flying colours, and without question, bumped the lads up to the next flight to Manchester at midday. Needless to say, the promoter was happy, and we didn’t hesitate to point out what a good idea it is to fly Lufthansa for just such eventualities!
So we left Frankfurt around the same time, albeit to different destinations. I landed in Madrid around 2pm, and braced myself to spend a further 5 hours in that airport. By the time I had caught my next flight and was coming into land in Alicante at around 8pm, I was unravelling. A mild headache had blossomed into a full-blown migraine and I was fighting extreme nausea and exhaustion. I could barely get into the courtesy bus to take me to my car. A woman from a family who shared the bus with me, greeted me, and I must have looked like a drug addict or an alcoholic or something, because I could barely mumble a reply, so scared I was of offering projectile vomiting as an alternative form of greeting, which, even in the age of Reality television, is unlikely to catch on.
I stumbled out of the bus at the car park, alternatively looking for a) somewhere to throw up and b) some way to function. After getting my key and transferring my luggage, I sat in the car wondering what to do. Speaking to Miki at home, she forbade me to drive back and insisted I find a hotel. I seemed to remember that the services near the airport had a hotel attached, and prayed I was right. Driving the kilometer or so to it proved very hard indeed, and I was constantly speeding up, in order to get there quicker, and slowing down, ready to jump out and throw up. I must have been driving like a schizophrenic.
Finally, I made it. There was indeed a hotel, and the look of gratitude on my face that followed the sallow and resolute death mask of a man determined not to toss his cookies, must have convinced the concierge that I’d escaped from the local nuthouse. To his lasting credit, he allowed me to have a key and I trudged up to my room. I managed to send some kind of nondescript text to Miki to tell her to call, and I lay on the bed with the phone balanced on the side of my head, I couldn’t even hold it in my hand. When she called me, I think she was convinced I was dying!
I slept for about four hours before I had the strength to look for the two precious aspirin that I knew were somewhere in my bag, and then I slept for another six hours after that.
Even the following morning, as I drove the two and a half hours home, my headache was threatening to return. These trips, all for a mere 40 minutes onstage, are a killer.
They say that a man who repeatedly does the same thing expecting a different outcome is clinically insane.
Will I do it again? Yes.
So colour me crazy!
The penultimate gig on the Christie 2009 Tour took us to the huge Sports Stadium in Antwerp, where we performed the two biggest Christie hits “San Bernadino” and “Yellow River” to a packed house of 12,500 partying Belgians. It’s the third time we’ve played this prestigious event, and it never loses its lustre. This year the bill featured Slade and 10cc, and it was particularly great to see 10cc, creators of such classic pop, fronted by Graham Gouldman, who is surely one of the UK’s leading songwriters, with a lineage you can trace back beyond 10cc to classic 60’s hits such as “For your Love”, “No Milk Today“, and “Bus Stop”.
With the bands all billeted in the Crowne Plaza hotel, and top class back stage catering in our own restaurant, there was plenty of time to chew the fat with fellow musicians. I reminded Paul Burgess, drummer with 10cc since the days of “The things we do for love”, that the last time I’d chatted backstage with them was a mind-blowing 29 years ago, when they were playing the cavernous Drammenshallen near Oslo, and we were also touring Norway.
I exchanged the usual banter with the guys from Sailor, who, as our drummer Simon pointed out, could all audition for the role of Doctor Who and be confident of getting the part! (Incidentally, one of the highlights of the evening was taking the stage for the finale with all the other bands and being led in an impromptu tango across the stage by Sailor’s keyboardist, Henry!)
All’n’all, a wonderful time was had, and as I wearily headed home, arriving in Turre just shy of midnight on the Sunday, I reflected on how crazy a business I’m in that caused me to take four flights in 24 hours to perform a total of 6 minutes on stage to 12,500 people. Statistics Schmatistics – it’s rock’n’roll!
Well, our webmaster Ray Chan has done all the hard work! go along and be one of the first friends! CHRISTIE MYSPACE
A quick weekend away with CHRISTIE allowed me to hang out with a lot of old friends, who also happen to be part of Pop history. We did 2 shows, in Eberswalde and Landsberg, and had a great time with T. Rex, Sailor, Middle of the Road, and Dozy, Beaky Mick & Tich. handling guitar duties for T.Rex was my great friend Graham Oliver of Saxon, and on the kit was the last drummer of the Bolan era, Paul Fenton, who also just so happened to be the Christie drummer from 1972-75! Jeff and I were well pleased to see our old mates, and we got Paul up on stage at the first show to play “Yellow River” with us, the first time he’d done so for around 35 years!
It was also great to see Sailor stalwarts Phil, Henry and Grant, who has just returned to gigging after a nasty hand injury. These trips can be endurance tests, particularly with the flights and road trips, but the shows and the chance to spend time with friends more than makes up for that.
My next sojourn away will be in around 10 days, when BC Sweet descend on an unsuspecting Gronau, in Germany.
Way back in’ 67, three years before CHRISTIE would hit the heights with Yellow River around the world, there was, making its way around the U.K, the last of a Sixties phenomenon – The Package Tour. Previous incarnations had thrown together such unlikely bedfellows as The Beatles, Freddie and the Dreamers and Helen Shapiro, but by the heady days of psychedelia, there was an altogether different musical board of fayre on offer around Britains venues. It would put a young Jeff Christie and his band “The Outer Limits” – signed to his Deram label by the Stones‘ Andrew Loog Oldham – on the same stage as the fast-rising guitar hero Jimi Hendrix. Oh, and in case anyone was thinking of heading to the bar anytime during the evening, the show included Keith Emerson’s “The Nice” , “The Move” , “Amen Corner ” and “The Pink Floyd“.- a band on the verge of dropping the definitive article, not to mention Syd Barrett. Not a bad line-up for your money!
The Outer Limits, after two singles – the second one banned from the BBC for being called “The Great train Robbery ” (unbelievable but true!) – disintegrated along with the Sixties, but Jeff’s tenacity and songwriting skills won through, and by the summer of 1970, he was Number One.
The tour was the last of its kind for many a year. Though Dave Robinson, founder of Stiff records and the road manager in ’67 for another band on the bill “Eire Apparent“- revived the format to promote Stiff artists over a decade later.
If it seemed like a good idea at the time, it was. Nowadays, bands adopt a similar policy. Earlier this year you could see Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Thunder all under the same roof, on the same night. Similar ventures have been undertaken featuring the bill of Deep Purple, Styx and Thin Lizzy, albeit without the late lamented Lynott.
So if you attend one of these new breed of musical package tours, pay close attention to the new bands further down the bill – they might be tomorrow’s stars!
So there I am, slaving away, minding my own business, and I’ve got Miki sneaking up behind me, taking photos. The irony here is, the poster on the wall, which has been there for ages, directly relates to the re-emergence of Christie as a touring band. Which is why I guess she imagined I was already running through the songs in my head while hammering away……
So, the walls are now virtually complete, and today I put part of the ceiling up. Perhaps I can see the light at the end of the tunnel….oh, no…it’s just a migraine.