Yel­low River con­tin­ues to flow

It’s 40 years since Yel­low River topped the charts, and now it’s been re­worked into a World Cup an­them. Chris Bond talks to Jeff Christie about his most fa­mous song.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

MANY mu­si­cians dream of hav­ing a num­ber-one sin­gle, but few ever have one.

Fewer still pro­duce a smash hit so big it changes their lives.

But for Jeff Christie, Yel­low River did ex­actly that. As well as top­ping the UK charts, it reached num­ber one in 26 coun­tries, sell­ing more than 20m copies and se­cur­ing a place in pop mu­sic’s hall of fame.

Now, 40 years af­ter it was first re­leased, Christie has teamed up with pro­ducer David Robert­son to re­work his clas­sic song into an un­of­fi­cial World Cup an­them for Eng­land’s foot­ball team.

Iron­i­cally, the song that Yel­low River knocked off the top spot was Back Home – Eng­land’s 1970 World Cup sin­gle.

The new ver­sion, Hat Trick Of Lions (Come on Eng­land), fea­tures Christie and ska mu­si­cians along with upand-com­ing rapper Aggi Dukes.

But when Robert­son first ap­proached Christie with the idea, the Leeds-born mu­si­cian wasn’t sure about it.

“There have been hun­dreds of cover ver­sions over the years, in­clud­ing some great ones by peo­ple like El­ton John and REM, but I couldn’t see how this one would work,” he says.

But Robert­son’s per­sis­tence even­tu­ally paid off.

“He grad­u­ally made me re­alise that it was a bit of fun and it could work, and when I heard the fi­nal ver­sion, I was re­ally im­pressed. There’s never been a ver­sion like this be­fore.”

As with all great songs, Yel­low River has that lit­tle sprin­kling of star­dust and if mu­sic is, in­deed, some­how mag­i­cal, then Christie was hooked from an early age.

“My mum used to take me to Round­hay Park to watch the brass bands and she said I’d be mes­merised. Even then, mu­sic to me was pure magic.”

At the age of eight, he be­gan pi­ano lessons and be­came be­sot­ted with fla­menco mu­sic, un­til rock ‘n’ roll came along and changed ev­ery­thing.

“A whole gen­er­a­tion was in­spired by peo­ple like Elvis, Buddy Holly and Ed­die Cochran. We all went out and bought gui­tars and played un­til our fin­gers bled, try­ing to sound like these peo­ple from across the wa­ter.”

As soon as he was old enough, he joined his first band, Three G’s Plus One, be­fore go­ing on to form The Tremors.

“Ev­ery­one talks about get­ting in a band to pull the girls, but I re­ally wanted to be a mu­si­cian from an early age and I felt it was some­thing I could do.”

In the early days, Christie just played gui­tar, but when a

I’m amazed that I came up with some­thing that had such an im­pact.

singer failed to turn up for a gig in Leeds, Christie took on the vo­cal du­ties.

“ We were play­ing at a club in North Street called the Tahiti, and some­one shouted at me to have a go be­cause I was the only one who knew the playlist, so I did and that’s how it started,” he says.

“I never re­garded my­self as a vo­cal­ist and I still don’t, but as long as you can carry a song, that’s all that mat­ters.”

By the mid-60s, the band had mor­phed into the Outer Lim­its. Christie had also started writ­ing songs and one of his com­po­si­tions, Just One More Chance, be­came a

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