4
Oct 06

CHRISTIE – “Yellow River”

FT + Popular42 comments • 11,037 views

#287, 6th June 1970

Ugh!“Yellow River” has a story if you’re looking – man coming home after a war – but content is supremely irrelevant next to the song’s urgent march-time bounce. What I like most about it, beyond its more-than-serviceable hook, is the rapid-fire fingerpicked guitar threading through the second verse and the coda, a trace memory of the folk or country song it might have been in some parallel world. It’s rare that a slow acoustic cover version might suit a song (not improve it, mind), but “Yellow River” might be one such case.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    wwolfe on 4 Oct 2006 #

    I love this little record. I can’t mount a huge argument against a six, given your definitions of the rankings, except that I do own a copy. And, coincidentally, played it yesterday evening, without knowing it would be today’s entry.

    Having linked to Robin Carmody’s wonderful essay on early 1970s British bubblegum pop, I can’t improve on this critique:

    “Such bounce to “Yellow River”, such determination to get where you need to end up! Such drive!”

    With its references to suviving a war, this managed to convey a smidgen of socio-political oomph for me as an 11-year old immersed in the Vietnam disputes on the home front in America, circa 1970. Much of it was in that terrific finger-picked guitar, a little was in the exhileration in the singing, and the rest was in the drummer, who wants to get home so badly, he can’t help but speed up the beat in a couple places.

    One of the better one-hit wonders of the era and a record that’s preserved its spark over three-and-a-half decades – probably because it doesn’t get overplayed on oldies stations. I’d probably give it a 7, just because I do own a copy. And someday I’ll track down a copy of the flop follow-up, “San bernadino,” if only to find out how a person tackles the problem of writing a song about San Bernadino.

    It’s really nice to see a modest, enjoyable record like this get its due – not overinflated, but not dismissed too easily, either.

  2. 2
    bramble on 4 Oct 2006 #

    In some ways this was a poor man’s Creedence Clearwater Revival, with some oblique references to what could be Vietnam. This was actually recorded by the Tremeloes first. Christie took their backing track and put new vocals on top, so I guess its the Trems drummer anxious to speed it up.

  3. 3
    Doctor Mod on 5 Oct 2006 #

    I must revise what I said in the Edison Lighthouse thread–“Rosemary” wasn’t the last single I bought, as I also bought “Yellow River.” (I’m now thinking that the last single might have been Dusty Springfield’s “Willie and Laura Mae Jones” in 1971).

    I never realized until the past few days (doing my Popular homework in advance) that Christie were a British group. For some reason I thought them Canadian. But wwolfe is right–to an American audience in 1970, the sentiments seemed to express some of the war-weariness encompassing the country.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I admit a great fondness British bubblegum that I simply can’t find for the US variety. Robin Carmody’s essay goes along way in explaining my own thoughts, but I’ve always found this sort of British pop much less infantile than its US counterpart. It wasn’t trying to reach a sub-teen audience, it spoke of feelings and events that could very well be part of teen or young adult experience, and it wasn’t sung by children (as in the case of some #1’s coming up soon).

    “Yellow River,” for what it’s worth, is a fine piece of unpretentious, well-crafted pop. I, too, would probably give it a 7.

  4. 4
    Tom on 5 Oct 2006 #

    Great post wwolfe.

    It was almost a 7.

  5. 5
    jeff w on 5 Oct 2006 #

    One of the better one-hit wonders of the era … someday I’ll track down a copy of the flop follow-up, “San Bernadino”

    Not such a flop – made the top ten in UK and reached #1 in continental Europe!

    Some more info about Christie here: http://rant58.tripod.com/id481.htm

    I have their fourth single “Iron Horse” on a K-Tel comp. That really was a flop (in UK at least) and indeed is a bit rub IIRC.

  6. 6
    wwolfe on 5 Oct 2006 #

    Thanks, Tom.

    And thanks for the link, jeffw. I won’t swear to the exact chart number, but I’ve seen a listing for “San Bernadino” in my “Bubbling Under the Charts” book, meaning it placed no higher than #101 in the States. I’m tempted now to order a Christie CD from amazon, just to see if he had anything else good to hear.

    (Christie’s brother was in the Tremeloes and they turned down this song? There must have been some interesting conversations around the dinner table that Christmas at the Christie house.)

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 5 Oct 2006 #

    The Tremeloes didn’t turn down the song; they recorded it. It was CBS’ decision to go with the Christie version as the single.

  8. 8
    wwolfe on 5 Oct 2006 #

    And I realize I mis-read the bio: it wasn’t Jeff Christie’s brother who was in the Tremeloes, it was Christie’s drummer. Ah, well – so much for my career as an editor.

  9. 9
    rosie on 5 Oct 2006 #

    There was a French-language version of this circulating in France that summer – it was called L’Amérique and I can’t remember who recorded it but although I remember Christie’s version very clearly it was the French one that immediately leaps into my mind as part of the soundtrack to that unforgettable summer!

  10. 10
    Dadaismus on 6 Oct 2006 #

    There’s some connection with Ruby Wax which I can’t prove so I’m not going to pursue here in case of legal action

  11. 11
    Marcello Carlin on 6 Oct 2006 #

    When Ruby Wax first came to Britain she shared a flat with Jeff Christie.

    She’s mentioned this in numerous interviews so I doubt she’ll sue.

  12. 12
    Dadaismus on 6 Oct 2006 #

    As I said to someone at Poptimism last night, I’d heard she was to Christie what Nancy Spungen was to the Sex Pistols

  13. 13
    intothefireuk on 6 Oct 2006 #

    I can’t remeber what the joke was at school at the time but it linked this song to relieving oneself. Oh how we laughed.

  14. 14
    markgamon on 7 Oct 2006 #

    More drivel. Surely there’s something REALLY good coming soon?

  15. 15
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Oct 2006 #

    insightful

  16. 16
    Chris Brown on 9 Oct 2006 #

    There is a point there, though – we’re more than half-way through 1970 as I write this, and there have only been two Number Ones by long-running acts, both of them past their peaks (three if you count England!). For once, Popular seems to be bearing out the accepted history – ie that the Sixties had ended but the Seventies had yet to start properly.

  17. 17
    Patrick on 16 Oct 2006 #

    That French-language version that Rosie mentions above was by Franco-American crooner Joe Dassin (a man whose pop genius was at times almost Abba/Boney M/Moroder-worthy, if, uh, somewhat more sedate) and that’s the one I grew up on. I love the Christie version, it’s got one of those great melodies that are early 70s K-Tel pop’s great gift to the world. It’s worth at least a high 9 to me.

  18. 18
    legionnaire on 17 Oct 2006 #

    Hi all, I just wanted to inform everyone that everything you wated to know about Christie is at their website:

    http://www.yellowriver.0catch.com

    To verify some facts commented on:

    1) Christie were an English band
    2) 99% of their songs were written by leader Jeff Christie, after whom the band was named
    3) The band has three big hits, Yellow River, San Bernadino and Iron Horse, but had many more hits across Europe, South America and in Mexico
    4) Jeff did share a flat with Ruby Wax
    5) The French version of YR was L’Amerique, a huge hit for joe Dassin
    6) The entire Christie canon is available on two superb remastered CDs from repertoire Records
    7) The article on the rant website was written by yours truly

    If I could help anyone with more information, please don’t hesitate to ask. There was a reason why they were known as the English CCR; all their songs were catchy and commercial country pop.

    Best wishes

  19. 19
    legionnaire on 17 Oct 2006 #

    A couple more things … the photo posted at the top of this thread by Tom is from the cover of a Russian CD. The image was pilfered by the Russian manufacturers from a photo on my site. I know this because several other exclusive images were also downloaded and reproduced in the booklet of this Russian product. Oh, those Russians!

    You may also be interested to know that the city of San Bernardino last year adopted the Christie song as its official anthem.

    So long, boy …

  20. 20
    mike wilkerson on 27 Oct 2006 #

    I’v loved this song, for a long time!!!!

  21. 21
    Doctor Casino on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Just now heard this for the first time and it’s not exactly bowling me over but it’s not unpleasant either. I find the pace a little annoying – anything this thin-sounding played this fast has a tendency to feel like a children’s TV theme song or something. The hook’s not bad but it’s a little too omnipresent. Like bad folk songs, we’re stuck in a fairly uninteresting chord progression and just waiting for the chorus to come back around again. The instrumental breaks aren’t bad though. I should probably come back to it after a while – I piled hate on “Blackberry Way” and while I certainly still don’t like it I have to confess that it is head-sticky in a way I didn’t give it credit for.

  22. 22
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Re. children’s TV theme song: “Yellow River” was for many years used as the theme to the TV ads for the Yellow Pages in Britain.

  23. 23
    Doctor Casino on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Please tell me they changed it to “Yellow PAGes, Yellow PAGes!”

  24. 24
    Doctor Casino on 8 Nov 2006 #

    Another problem with this is I keep wanting it to morph into “Goin’ Mobile” by the Who.

  25. 25
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2006 #

    “Yellow PAGes, Yellow PAGes!” it was…I’m sure Jeff Christie enjoyed the royalties!

  26. 26
    Neil Rice on 15 Nov 2006 #

    Hello
    A timeless classic. i remember listening to it when i was a senior in high school. I bought the 45 single. The lyrics about finding a place of contentment after the war are great.
    I think we are all searching for a YELLOW RIVER.

  27. 27
    Jan W on 1 Jun 2007 #

    What were the names of the group members?

  28. 28
    legionnaire on 10 Jul 2007 #

    Check out the Christie videos at:

    http://www.youtube.com/yowieray.html

  29. 29
    Anne Murdoch on 4 May 2009 #

    Regardin comment 25 I know the guitarist who played on the yellow river song and he told me that yellow pages bought the rights to the tune and therefore don`t recieve any royalties. Incidentally the gutarist name is Tommy Waugh. He is the father of Martin Waugh who has played with the likes of Sopie Ellis Bextor, Mika and Lily Allen. Talented family indeed.

  30. 30
    legionnaire on 7 Jul 2009 #

    Never heard of Tommy Waugh and he NEVER played on Yellow River.

    I am the webmaster of the Christie website: http://www.yellowriver.0catch.com

  31. 31
    AndyPandy on 10 Jan 2010 #

    The melody before the chorus of this is very similar/the same(?) to the bits where the orchestra sing in Albert Ketelbey’s light classical standard of mid-20th century radio “In A Persian Market”. Possibly a subconscious influence? Some of his stuff is well worth checking out if you can get into nostagia for a time for an England before you were born – going by the entries in You Tube it seems a few of people can.

  32. 32
    Billy Fulton on 23 Feb 2010 #

    Hi, I lived in the same village as Tommy Waugh and there was a story going round that he was playing as a session guitarist with Christie around the time Yellow River was a hit. The village was Drongan in Ayrshire, which produced many good players and lots of strummers like me!

  33. 33
    Scratchy on 20 Aug 2010 #

    I believe the song was wrote to say about an American Soldier in Vietnam war and the war was won and he was going home to a place called Yellow River, if there is a place in the USA? But that’s how I see this song as it was made about the time I believe about the Vietnam War that finished.

  34. 34
    Doctor Casino on 5 Jun 2012 #

    YELLOW PA-GES! YELLOW PA-GES!

    Marcello, you’ve left me stuck with that one forever…

  35. 35
    wichita lineman on 5 Jun 2012 #

    “Let your fingers do the walking
    Yellow PA-GES, yellow PA-GES”

    The ad took over the song as completely as the Nimble ad took over the Honeybus’s lovely I Can’t Let Maggie Go.

  36. 36
    Patrick Mexico on 1 Dec 2013 #

    Nobody’s mentioned how much this cribs from Waterloo Sunset? If it is cribbing, it’s still using the finest ingredients. 7.

  37. 37
    Mark G on 2 Dec 2013 #

    mmm, as per #2, I’d have cited Creedence as being the primary source. “Proud Mary” specifically.

  38. 38
    Patrick Mexico on 1 Oct 2014 #

    May I call this record “the Mumford and Sons it’s OK to like?”

  39. 39
    Alan on 20 Mar 2017 #

    I love this song takes me right back to the 70ies
    Easy to play on accostic but not so easy to sing ha ha

  40. 40
    lonepilgrim on 30 Oct 2017 #

    There’s a fascinating doc about this song on youtube which serves as a lens on the change and continuity in UK Pop/Rock as the 60s rolled into the 70s. Jeff Christie comes across a little bit like the guy from League of Gentlemen’s ‘Creme Brûlée’. You can see the doc here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyza1A00AxA
    It’s a pleasant song – very much in a CCR style if less compelling

  41. 41
    janeksp6 on 30 Nov 2020 #

    Mineło 5 dekad 1970-2020 utwór zawsze na czasie gdziekolwiek jestem

  42. 42
    Gareth Parker on 18 May 2021 #

    Enjoyable pop song in my view. I like this single, so 7/10 for me.

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