A short while ago, in my series “The bass it don’t lie” I posted a piece on, my old bandmate. Little did I know that some days later, the interest in Christie – the band, would resurface…….
Some songs are simply hits, others worm their way into the collective consciousness, and a few, a very few, become synonymous with an event, a memory, and to the listener, the two are inseparable. The pop classic Yellow River – an unlikely slice of British country rock – falls very firmly into the last category. It was adopted by American servicemen as their rallying tune, a celebration of the end of their tour of duty in Vietnam. “Yellow river” was in fact the name of one of the bases in the U.S. from which soldiers were initially deployed to fight in Vietnam.
The ex-servicemen have never forgotten the song, nor the memories it brings back. Here’s just a few anecdotes from America’s finest:
And now, after several years hiatus, following a resurgence of interest, Christie are back – touring Europe anew in 2009. Who knows? perhaps the impetus will carry the band over the pond for some long overdue dates in America.
Yellow River — a Vietnam War classic – ex-servicemen share their views (courtesy of Ray Chan)
Bob Sullivan, Maryland, USA, wrote:
YELLOW River came out as I was being released from active duty in the US Navy. It brings to mind exactly how I felt as I was set free,some 36 years later (plus or minus) … it remains my favorite song of all time. Thanks for the memories, Mr Christie.
Dave Wilkinson, USA, wrote:
MY name is Dave Wilkinson. I’m a Vietnam Vet and my unit, Whiskey Battery 1st Battalion 12th Marine Regiment, are in the process of putting a website together.
We hope to use Yellow River for the background music on our site. GREAT SONG !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ross Tuttle, Texas, USA, wrote:
I HAVE been a BIG fan of Jeff and the group since I first heard Yellow River in 1970. That song is still my all time favorite after all these years.
I carried Yellow River with me as I traveled in the Army and Navy for 30 years!
How can I get compilations of your songs? The music stores that I shop here in Dallas do not have anything.
This geriatric rocker is still hangin’ in…
Boondogle, Florida, USA, wrote:
YELLOW River was unlike any other . While others had strong messages, they were couched in equally grim and gritty melodies, like the anthemic , or Eric Burdon’s Skypilot.
But Yellow River was bright and bouncy and echoed the feeling of happiness we had when we knew our tour of duty was over. It remains a song that continues to bring back so many fond memories for me .. the joy of going home.
It should have been the first song featured on the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack.
Ob Bop, Nebraska, USA, wrote:
ON Christie’s first album was a song for the times. Vietnam was still going strong and a lot of vets coming back from overseas related to Yellow River.
Yellow River had a great impact on me when it hit the air in 1970.
I was drawing closer to the age when the draft would affect me personally. I saw returning vets grooving on the song .. a rockin’ song with basic drums, guitar and vocals.
A basic lead guitar riff bounces in and out but never dominates. The main power is in the words … words that affect me and others to this day.
When that plane dropped me off in San Francisco after bringing me back from southeast Asia, the kin were there with the pick-up I had left in storage.
As I left to go visit Berkeley as a civilian, looking for a pretty hippy chick to welcome me back … I threw Yellow River into the cassette deck. Sigh …
If you want to perhaps envision what the guys of that time were thinking as they returned from overseas … give Yellow River a try and, as you listen to the lyrics … visualise returning to a fond time and place you have been away from.
Yellow River is one of my personal top 25 songs of all times, even after all these years.
Larry Matthews, California, USA, wrote:
I ALWAYS really liked Yellow River, especially the guitar work.
It’s a good illustration of the rotation situation in Vietnam. Individual soldiers served for a year (or in the case of marines, 13 months) and then were rotated back to the states — unlike other wars where you were stuck in combat for the duration of the conflict.
I can guarantee the song certainly is NOT about the Yellow River in China. That is one place Americans were definetely not welcome at that time.
But it could have been either of the Yellow River areas in either Georgia or Iowa.
All I know is that it is a great song and, like Galveston, it shows that most soldiers were more than ready to do their time and go home.
So we prepare to take Christie on the road again in 2009, and give a fresh airing to this pop classic. For now, check out this version we recorded live in Antwerp sports stadium , Belgium in 1990.
I’m unashamedly plugging my mate on this one! It’s not generally realised, as Jeff played guitar in the Christie line -up in which I featured on bass for over 15 years – but from his 60′s pop roots with The Outer Limits (who toured with Hendrix) through to the multi-million selling”Yellow River” hitmakers Christie, Jeff was a successful bass player/lead vocalist – not to mention a great songwriter. The U.K. pop band Tremeloes ignored Jeff’s songwriting skills to their cost however, as they turned down the chance to release Yellow River and Jeff proceeded to take it to Number One all over the world himself.
The initial Christie line-up was in fact a trio with Jeff providing the pumping bass lines underneath his distinctive vocal. A victim of their overwhelming singles success with “Yellow River” and “San Bernadino”, the band struggled to recreate those sales on subsequent, more experimental releases. But a look back at the album “For all Mankind” illustrates just what a great band Christie was, particularly with regard to Jeff’s writing. The title track of the album is still a great listen. Sony recently re-released the entire Christie canon on remastered CD’s and the fantastic artist-friendly UK label Angel Air have just released a double set featuring all Jeff’s early Outer Limits recordings, plus a previously unreleased solo album from the early 80′s entitled Floored Masters.
Jeff is a great example of a bassist as an all-rounder, singer – songwriter – bandleader – hitmaker.
Check out Ray Chan’s excellent Christie site HERE.