287. ‘Yellow River’, by Christie

I do like it when we get to a song I’ve never heard before. ‘Yellow River’ does not ring a bell, and I even had to check whether Christie was male, female, or band. (They’re a band.)

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Yellow River, by Christie (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 31st May – 7th June 1970

There’s been a bit of a country-rock feel to the top of the charts over the past year or so. CCR, Bobbie Gentry, The Stones went to a Honky Tonk and The Beatles even got in on it the act with ‘Get Back’. And of course Lee Marvin was a-wanderin’ under the stars…

Lyrically, ‘Yellow River’ treads the same path (gettit?) as ‘Wandr’in’ Star’. The singer has been at war, but he’s now packing up and heading out. Put my gun down, The war is won, Fill my glass high the time has come, I’m goin’ back to the place that I love, Yellow River… while an insistent, chugging rhythm carries us along. Yellow River is the place he loves, and there’s a girl there waiting for him because, well, there has to be a girl waiting in a song like this.

It’s melancholy, but it’s also catchy. I’m tapping my feet as I write and I can’t help it. It’s growing on me. At first I wrote it off as inoffensive and a tad lightweight, but there’s something there. I especially like the yearning in the bridge: Got no time for explanations, Got no time to lose, Tomorrow night you’ll find me sleepin’ underneath the moon…

I also like the yee-hah! guitars that drag us along, and the hint of banjo in the fade-out. It sounds like the poppy love-child of Creedence and The Eagles. The verdict is in: I like it, more than I initially thought. And, putting it in context, this isn’t the first ‘soldier-at-war’ themed #1 that we can perhaps attribute to the cultural impact of Vietnam. Think ‘Distant Drums’, or even ‘Two Little Boys’.

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Christie were an English band named after their lead singer Jeff Christie. He wrote ‘Yellow River’ for The Tremeloes, but they turned it down. Christie recorded it for themselves and they enjoyed their sole week at the top of the charts. They had one further Top 10, the similarly chugging ‘San Bernadino’. And, despite me having genuinely never heard ‘Yellow River’ before writing this post, it has been covered by artists as renowned as R.E.M. and Elton John.

One more thing, before we go. We’ve just reached the end of a thirteen-song stretch of one-time chart-toppers. From Zager & Evans in August ’69 through to Christie in June 1970, that’s almost a year’s worth of artists grabbing their sole #1 single. We won’t meet any of them again. I called it a record when we had eleven in a row a while back, but thirteen surely has to be a record. We shall see…

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3sSYyPEUCTyMjMlN55z8SX?si=RCA6BXhGTaC2CldHhEyb4A

5 thoughts on “287. ‘Yellow River’, by Christie

    1. Straight from the horses mouth! I can see why it connected with the Vietnam generation too though.

      Was it a big hit in the US? I had genuinely never heard it before writing the post.

      1. Yeah, war is war just like politics is politics. Time frames can be irrelevant.

        I’ve been trying to dig into Billboard’s archives on the Wayback Machine but…DAMN. It’s acting like the whole planet wants to read archives, all at once.

        Wikipedia references Joel Whitburn. It reflects #23 on Billboard Hot 100.

        Finally, it responds…yep, #23. It peaked there on Nov. 28 & stayed there for two weeks before dropping back. It actually fell in the charts before moving back up, again. It took two months before it got out of the 50s.

        Guess what was #1 for those two weeks when this peaked? “I Think I Love You”…Partridge Family. 🤮

  1. badfinger20

    I’ve grown to like the song more and more as I hear it. I would have bet the farm that they were an American band…and lost.

  2. Pingback: 346. ‘Billy – Don’t Be a Hero’, by Paper Lace – The UK Number Ones Blog

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