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Talking Shop: Tony Christie

Tony Christie
Tony Christie and Peter Kay had a huge hit with Amarillo in 2005

Four years after (Is This The Way To) Amarillo spent seven weeks at number one for Comic Relief, singer Tony Christie is back on the airwaves.

His latest album, Made In Sheffield, came out at the end of 2008 and features songs by Sheffield songwriters, including the Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, The Human League and Richard Hawley.

One song, Every Word She Said, was left off the album - but has now been released as a single.

Christie reveals why it was not on the album, what the Arctic Monkeys thought of his cover version and why he wants to move on from Amarillo.

Why wasn't the new single on your latest album?

It was supposed to be part of the album. We got 12 songs together and when we listened to them, it didn't sit. It's quite a dark album, not a poppy album.

Every Word She Said is hooks all the way through. It's a cross between northern soul and Morricone.

We all sat around and couldn't see where we could put it on the album. So we left it off and just did 11 tracks.

That was it, but then the record people said it's the obvious one we've got to put out as a single. So they've had to reprint the album.

Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner
Tony Christie covered the Arctic Monkeys' Only Ones Who Know

Did the Sheffield bands tell you what they thought of your cover versions?

I met Alex [Turner, Arctic Monkeys singer] at the Q Awards. He said 'oh, I love that version of my song. I wish we'd have done it that way'.

When he got the copy, he was on the train with his mum and he kept playing it over and over again to his mum, all the way home. So that was great.

I think Jarvis [Cocker] is a national treasure, he should be the poet laureate. And I didn't meet [Human League frontman] Phil Oakey but Richard [Hawley] said he met him in the street and he had given him the thumbs up.

What makes the Sheffield sound?

It's got an edge. Liverpool had its sound, Manchester has its sound and Sheffield has a sound that's gritty, northern and quirky.

Richard Hawley produced the album and you worked with other musicians - did you learn anything from the youngsters?

When I did all my big early recordings, I stood on a piano with an arranger and he wrote parts for the choir and trumpets, we went into the studio and it was played and that was it.

I always felt that I was a more serious singer than that
Tony Christie on Amarillo

This way, we rehearsed it, said 'let's try it this way, let's try that way' and spent days trying to get a different feel to a song.

In a couple of instances, we scrapped completely a couple of days work. We started again, got back in the rehearsal room, and everybody threw their ideas about, which was great. It wasn't an arranger, it was five or six people giving their input.

With hindsight, was Amarillo more of a blessing or a curse?

It was a blessing because it got me back in the UK. I was living in Spain at the time and doing very well abroad, but it's nice to be appreciated in your own land.

It means everything. I'll be honest, I do miss the weather.

Did the success of Amarillo have its downsides?

Tony Christie in 1973
Tony Christie was out of the UK charts for almost 30 years before Amarillo

Yeah, people pigeonhole you. I always felt that I was a more serious singer than that. Having said that, I wish I had one of those songs every five years.

With most artists, to find out what they're really like you've got to listen to the albums and forget the hits. But the pop side is what the people like you for.

I think Avenues and Alleyways is, on the whole, a better song. And it is one of the songs that I really enjoy singing on stage.

You were in the running to enter Eurovision in 1976 - would you fancy trying again?

No, not now. It's a poisoned chalice at the moment isn't it? It's political, it's nothing to do with music any more. It's all happened since the east political voting started.

When I did it, I was beaten by Kisses For Me [by Brotherhood of Man], which went on to win it. Then, it was still fun and enjoyable, and all the fun's gone out of it. Now that Wogan's left, I don't think I'm going to watch it.

If X Factor was around when you started, how far do you think you would have got?

Simon Cowell may not have liked me. I think I may have got through the auditions. But the good thing about it is you've got an instant 10 million people seeing you.

Whereas in my early days, I was playing to a few hundred people a night, travelling around the country. But I did learn a hell of a lot. I learnt one thing - I don't want to go back to it.

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