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You are in: South Yorkshire > SY People > Profiles > Tony Christie: Made in Sheffield

Tony Christie

Tony Christie

Tony Christie: Made in Sheffield

Tony Christie is the man who put the town Amarillo back on the map - and it's the song which shone the spotlight back on to him again. He has now collaborated with Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley to produce the album 'Made in Sheffield'.

:: November 2008

If you were around in the 70s you’ll remember ‘I Did What I Did For Maria’ which is the song that made Tony famous, reaching number two in the charts.

‘Is This The Way To Amarillo’ was originally released in 1971 but it didn’t have the desired impact. Tonys career highlight in the UK lasted throughout the 70s but it dwindled and he went to Europe. Germany loved the sound of Christie if no one else did.

Tony Christie's album, Made in Sheffield

Made in Sheffield

Over 30 years later Tony reached the top spot [#1] with 'Amarillo' in the UK single chart after Bolton comedian Peter Kay adopted the song in the TV series Phoenix Nights.

The re-release of ‘Amarillo’ brought Tony back home. 2008 could possibly be the year for Tony who is now back in that spotlight which he once held. Why? Because he’s recorded an album with a difference, named ‘Made in Sheffield.’

This time it’s business, with a twist of nostalgia and a passion for music which he thought he had lost. An album of songs created at Yellow Arch Studios [S3] by Sheffield's singer-songwriter Richard Hawley, the man to bring rawness, passion and love back to the old crooner...

Pulling it together

“I heard Coles Corner by Richard Hawley on the radio one evening and I said, ‘This is the kind of material that I want to be recording, great songs and great production. And my son who was sat next to me said ‘Richard sent you that song three years ago and you listened to about 20 seconds of it and didn’t want to know.’ It was during that Amarillo madness and I was being sent 10 or 20 songs at a time, most of them were garbage.

“I was still very interested in recording the song despite that and I was recording an album at the time and thought it would maybe make that album. My son rang Richard Hawley's manager and we went to see Richard at a gig in Oxford for a chat.

“When I met up with him I told him that I wanted him to produce my version of Coles Corner and he said, ‘Tell you what; I’d like to produce the whole album. Ditch what you’re doing at the moment and let’s produce an album full of Sheffield people, writers and bands.’

“I did doubt if there was enough material, but Richard reassured me and said there was enough to make 10 albums! We sat down and listened to a lot of stuff and blown away by the quality, especially from unknown writers.”

Tony Christie

What makes this album different from all of the thousands of albums released every week? Well, this album is pure Sheffield. It does what it says on the tin, Made in Sheffield. The album is 100% Sheffield, right down the original writers. Tony has recorded tracks from the Arctic Monkeys right through to the not-so-known Martin Bragger.

“Sheffield has always had its own innovative sound. For example, The Human League when they started, no one else sounded like them, Phil Oakey did some great stuff. I’ve actually covered one of his tracks ‘Louise’ but nothing like the original. I’ve done it my way, it’s stripped down to just a piano, voice and Guy Barker on trumpet and that’s it! We did it as a sad song, which it is lyrically.”

:: Click here to listen to Tony Christie v the original version which are taken from the album ‘Made in Sheffield.’

The album

“Made in Sheffield is something that I’ve been waiting to make for 35 years. It’s finally got me singing stuff I want to sing. Not trying to chase chart success and looking for hits. It’s an album of great songs on their own merit. It doesn’t matter if the BBC, DJ’s or radio stations don’t like it.

“Touch wood I think we’ve made an iconic album.”

You are very proud of the fact you have made your music in Sheffield…

“I’ve made a lot of albums and I’ve been satisfied and done a very good job with them. They’ve not always been the songs that I would have chosen to have recorded. I’ve had to some times go with the market flow because of circumstances. I have a family to bring up and pay for things. You have to earn money so you do things not necessarily things that you want to do. I’ve made music that I’m proud of and some music that I’m not so proud of.

“My contribution is always 150% and this project is a way of getting rid of that perception of me.”

Richard Hawley singer, songwriter and the producer behind Tony’s album ‘Made in Sheffield’ has stamped his sound on the album and perhaps brought an edge of ‘cool’ to the man who once faded out of the spotlight…

“I really have to give a lot of credit to Richard. He brought a lot of the table. He pushed me in a direction which nobody has done before. First of all I’ve always been recorded by producers who have used the top end of my voice [high notes]. He’s the first person who said, ‘Listening to you talk, I hear you have a very deep voice. I like that, I want to bring that out in your recordings. I’ve not heard that sound from you before.’ He started dropping the keys and explored the bass sound in my voice.

Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield

Yellow Arch Studios, S3

“I have to say thank you because I don’t have to scream and shout because that really is not the best quality in my voice.”

Is this the way…?

You have to be a brave person to sing 'that' song in front of Tony Christie. What does the man who asked for directions to Amarillo think to the song that revitalised his career?

“When people think of me, they think of ‘Is this the way to Amarillo?’ It’s a great song but it’s not what I’m about. To hear an artist you have to forget about the singles and listen to their albums and dig a little deeper to see what they do. You can only really do that by listening to albums. In this album I’ve been given freedom to do stuff that I wanted to do because I would’ve been told that it wasn’t commercial enough. This is complete un-commercial and the surprising thing is, it’s getting the best write-ups and hype by the music press that I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve obviously been doing the wrong thing, this is the way I should’ve gone and hopefully the way I should carry on.

“The song brought me back to the UK. I was living in Spain, I’d moved away, I was disillusioned in the late 80s. I couldn’t get a record deal. Nobody wanted to know and the work wasn’t very good. The work was better away around Europe and popular. It carried on even when it was dead in the 70s over in the UK. It kept me working and kept me going.

Tony Christie outside the former Fiesta Club, Sheffield

“I’m thankful to Amarillo in a round-about way. It was the excuse I needed to say, ‘Right that’s it I’m putting my continental career on the backburner.’

“I went over to Amarillo in Texas, it’s a real mid-western town where Route 66 goes through it, an old cowboy town. I was given the freedom of the town.

“They’d never heard of the song over there unbelievably. I listened to all the radio stations there and it’s pure country music. How can a song that has made the town so famous be unheard of? The website suddenly started receiving lots of hits and wanted to know what Amarillo was and that’s how it happened.”

What does Sheffield mean to you?

“I spent my early apprenticeship around the clubs in Sheffield, in the 60s. It was a great learning curve for me. I married a girl in Sheffield, my kids were all born and brought up in Sheffield [they were even ‘Made in Sheffield’ too!] I spent the happiest years of my life in Sheffield before I moved away. It is a big deal to me that I made this album and maybe made a few people turn their heads. I thought I would be here for life but things didn’t turn out that way.”

:: Click here to listen to Tony Christie v the original version which are taken from the album ‘Made in Sheffield.’

:: The album was released November 2008

last updated: 12/05/2009 at 15:20
created: 28/10/2008

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