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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 08:59 GMT
Crooner Christie savours comeback
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Crooner Tony Christie is heading for his first UK number one single with (Is This the Way To) Amarillo after being championed by comedian Peter Kay - 34 years after the song was first in the charts.

Tony Christie (left) with Peter Kay
(Is This the Way To) Amarillo is being re-released with Peter Kay
After three decades of feeling largely unloved in his home country, Tony Christie is finally remembering how it feels to be a star in Britain.

Thanks to Kay, who used Amarillo in his live shows, hit TV comedy Phoenix Nights and a Comic Relief video, the 61-year-old singer is back in the spotlight.

His greatest hits album is near the top of the chart and audiences on his first UK tour for 20 years are going as crazy as crowds in his early 1970s heyday, he says.

The renewed interest has come as a relief and vindication for Christie, who has remained a big star elsewhere in Europe after fading from view in Britain.

"It's brought me back to where I feel I belong," he says.

"I've had enormous success in places like Germany, selling huge amounts of singles and albums.

Tony Christie on German TV
When punk came in, it was the death knell for singers like myself
Tony Christie
"I've been kept busy. But it's not where I would have liked to have been kept busy.

"I would have liked to have been here, where my homeland is."

(Is This the Way To) Amarillo was first released in 1971, six months after Christie reached number two with I Did What I Did For Maria.

But Amarillo only got to number 18 in the UK - because, Christie says, everyone bought it while on holiday in Spain, where it spent almost six months at number one.

So its current popularity, backed by a star-studded video fronted by Kay, is belated justice, Christie says.

"I felt it should have been a number one record when it was released," he says. "So did everybody else."

Tony Christie in the early 1970s
Tony Christie had a string of hits in the early 1970s
Amarillo was followed by two minor hits before the course of British pop took a sharp turn and left him stranded in 1976, he says.

"When punk came in, it was the death knell for singers like myself," he says.

So he concentrated on the continent, "where I was wanted" because "the whole punk era just passed them by". He has lived in Spain for 15 years.

Re-emerging briefly at the end of the 1990s, he teamed up with electronic group The All Seeing I to sing a track written by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker. Walk Like A Panther '98 reached number 10 in the UK.

'Full circle'

But now, he says, music has "gone full circle" and the time is right for a full comeback. "It's all back to singers and good songs and big bands and strings," he says. "Proper music's back again."

It's got a very '60s feel about it, the whole music trend
Tony Christie
Singers like Norah Jones and Michael Buble and bands such as Busted and McFly remind him of the days when he was starting out, he says.

"It's got a very '60s feel about it, the whole music trend," he says. "It's cool to play that kind of music at your dinner party - to have Norah Jones in the background."

His original fans are coming back out in force to see him, he says - joined by students, possibly attracted by the kitsch factor, and others discovering him for the first time.

"We're getting a whole new fan base that never existed before they watched Phoenix Nights," he says. "But they seem to have latched on, and dug around and dug out albums."

I'm not getting any younger but I'm fit - I do a hard show, I don't pull any punches
Tony Christie
At a recent university gig in Liverpool, he was surprised to see the student crowd singing along.

"They knew all my songs - they knew all my album tracks and everything. It's very gratifying."

Concerts still involve what he describes as "an hour and 25 minutes of absolute power".


"I'm not getting any younger but I'm fit. I do a hard show. I don't pull any punches," he says.

"Then I'm absolutely exhausted when I finish it. That's the way I sing. I don't take prisoners."

His current 30-date tour, which includes a stint taking in Swansea, Weymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and the Isle of Man in just four days, is "gruelling", he says.

"But it's worth it because of the response I'm getting from the audience."

See clips from the video starring Peter Kay



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