'Yellow River' singer's World Cup bid

Christie hopes his song will become a football anthem

Christie hopes his song will become a football anthem

A top songwriter hopes to spur on England's footballers by adapting a version of his classic 70s hit as a World Cup anthem.

Jeff Christie's Yellow River topped the charts in 26 countries, including three weeks in the UK.

Now it is being re-released under the title Hat Trick of Lions on Monday, refreshed with a ska beat, a rap and a new chorus: "Come on England".

There may be no official English theme song, but Christie hopes the team will remain in the tournament long enough for the song to catch on.

He was first approached with the idea of redoing Yellow River by producer David Robertson a few years ago. "He thought it would make a great World Cup song for England and asked me to give my blessing, but I kept putting him off.

"I was concerned about the possibility that the song would lose its integrity. It's still played all over the world and I was reluctant to mess with it.

"Football songs can also be a bit naff - you'd get demos of World Cup songs which were less than impressive with lines such as 'let's make sauerkraut out of the Germans'."

But Mr Robertson's persistence paid off. As the song took shape, Christie began to warm to it, even the rap - a modern form with which he generally struggles. But rapper Aggi Dukes's contribution to the new version "put a smile on my face".

The original Yellow River actually knocked the official English World Cup anthem Back Home off the No 1 slot back in 1970 before being displaced by Mungo Jerry's In the Summertime. Christie went on to have hits with San Bernadino and Iron Horse.

He first began playing in a group with friends from the Judean Youth Club in Leeds - "one of the best clubs in the north of England", he recalls. "They would have dances on Sunday night. You had to be 13 but I would sneak in when I was 12 and dance with all the girls."

Two fellow Judeans, drummer Stan Drogie and rhythm guitarist Gerry Layton, later joined him for a time in another band, the Outer Limits, which supported Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd among others.

Yellow River was subsequently covered by artists as disparate as Elton John and REM, and, spurred by the band's success, Christie moved first to London and then West Hollywood until returning to Leeds a few years later after the death of his father.

Although his band broke up in the mid-70s, he reformed it in 1990 and even did a residency at the Tel Aviv Hilton some years ago, a venue that proved "fun but a bit chaotic".

Regarding his Jewishness as cultural rather than religious, he sums it up by quoting the line from a Shlockrock song Ani Yehudi, "Not better, not worse, a little bit different".

    Last updated: 2:07pm, June 3 2010