An interview with Tony Christie
PUBLISHED: 01:16 13 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:41 20 February 2013
Veteran singer Tony Christie is celebrating half a century in the music business with a 50-date tour. He shares the secret of his longevity with Jenny Mark-Bell
Your 2008 comeback album Made in Sheffield features covers of songs by artists such as Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker and Arctic Monkeys. How did the album come about?
I was working on another album down at Peter Gabriels studio in Somerset. I was coming back one night and I heard Richard Hawleys Coles Corner on the radio. I said to my son, who is also my manager, What a great song! I loved that production, and the beautiful strings. Coles Corner is a famous place in Sheffield, where all the boys and girls used to meet. I said I want to do this song and he looked at me and said, dont you remember this song? Richard Hawley sent it to you three years ago for you to record. I said I still wanted to do it anyway and we had a meeting with Hawley. I asked if he fancied producing that track for me on the album and he said I tell you what, I fancy doing a full album just of songs associated with Sheffield. Im from there, and he is from there and he said weve had some great talent come out of there and youre a Sheffield legend!
I said oh, am I? He said, all the young bands talk about you. So we had a meeting and we started playing songs by the Human League, ABC, Joe Cocker and Jarvis Cocker.
Peter Kay introduced Is this the way to Amarillo? to a younger audience by using it in Phoenix Nights and as the Comic Relief song. Do you ever get sick of performing it?
Not really, its part of my life, its like getting sick of your youngest kid! Its been very lucky for me that song, it was lucky for me in 71 and of course when Peter Kay used it on the video it was even bigger, because it reached a bigger audience. After he used it on Phoenix Nights all the local radio stations were being inundated with requests from young kids asking where they could buy the Peter Kay record!
As a consequence of that my son rang my old record label and asked if they fancied putting it out again. They said they didnt do singles anymore and that they specialised in TV-advertised albums. They said that funnily enough they were planning on doing a Tony Christie definitive album, but they had been hanging back. They said if you can persuade your dad to come back from Spain, where I was living, and do a promotion on it they would promote it heavily. I thought it was a good opportunity to get my foot back on the ladder in the UK, so Peter Kay did me a very big favour.
You appeared last year in West End musical Dreamboats and Petticoats. Do you have plans to do any more musical theatre?
I really enjoyed it, it was very hard work because youre on stage on and off all night. Then there are costume changesI played two different characters in the play. It was a different discipline completely from what Im used to, but highly enjoyable. I wouldnt do a touring production Ive spent my life touring. At the moment I just dont have time.
How have you prepared mentally and physically for this incredibly long tour (50 dates)?
I stopped drinking the evil alcohol nearly four months ago, which is quite a long sabbatical for me. Im too old for that now, the body wont take it. Im being a good boy and abstaining until the end of the tour.
Tell me about your Glastonbury appearance a few years ago. Do you enjoy playing festivals? How do festivals compare to normal concerts?
You dont have a lot of time we were given 40 minutes and no proper soundcheck. You just have to hope that they get it right in the first few bars of the song.
Do you have any fond memories of playing in Sussex?
That part of the world wasnt on the cabaret route in the Sixties and Seventies, so its eluded me. I think I played Brighton Dome in the early Seventies, but its all pretty new to me! I just said, book me 50 dates for the 50th anniversary, let me go to places that have never seen me live.
You show no signs of slowing down. Will you ever stop working?
No, the reason being that the voice is better than ever before, in tip-top condition. Its my life, thats what I was put on this Earth to do.