Whatever happened to… The Christians

January 18, 2023
3 mins read
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Whatever happened to UK million-selling 1980s neo-soul group The Christians? GARY STEEL, who interviewed them in 1990, finds out.

The name ‘The Christians’ seemed like such an odd choice for a band. It turned out that the English group had merely taken the surname of the three brothers who started it, but it was an oddly polarising name. After all, followers of our Lord Jesus Christ would have been disappointed to find that they’re for all intents and purposes a secular group, while secular segments of the intended demographic would have been suspicious about their intent.

The group’s name seemingly had no bearing on their success. Their self-titled 1987 debut sold more than a million copies and made it to the number 2 spot on the UK charts. It was the highest-ever Island label album, ever. Their 1990 follow-up, Colour, made it all the way to number 1 on the UK charts and was a hit throughout Europe, though they never cracked America.

 

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I remember enjoying their slick, modernised soul sound and vocal harmonies, but there was something almost gentrified about it, an absence of grit, that made their music pall after a few spins. The hit single from Colour, ‘Words’, was gorgeous, with almost a Celtic lilt to it, but there was also something kind of tame about their music. I guess there was a thread running from The Christians to those in a similar vein who came shortly after, like Seal.

Only a few short years later their albums were clogging up the second-hand bins and going for a song, at least in New Zealand. Even today, you can buy their debut vinyl (gatefold sleeve, folks) for as little as $1.70 on Discogs.

Here’s the wee story I wrote about them in 1990 for RTR Countdown magazine, having interviewed Henry Priestman, the Christian who wasn’t a Christian, if you know what I mean.

 

THE CHRISTIANS

The devil might not have the best tunes compared to Liverpool trio The Christians. Hey, but these guys are hardly Youth For Christ: “We’re old bastards,” says chief songwriter, Henry Priestman, 34. Despite two Number One albums behind them, including the newie called Colour, they’re a down-to-earth bunch.

“If we were in London the record company would love for us to be seen in the trendiest clubs with six blondes on each arm, stuffing huge amounts of drugs up our noses. But we’re not. We’re boringly normal and we still live in Liverpool.”

A huge fan of Crowded House and an admirer of De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, music is the most important thing in his life… “apart from my wife!”

“In Spain they’re even big with the teen scene. “We did a record signing thing in Madrid yesterday and the average age appeared to be about 15. I felt like I was the father of most of them, and indeed I probably was!”

But he’s not impressed by Kyliemania. “Why do we assume that people from the age of 8 to 15 are total knobheads and have no musical taste?”

He writes most of their lovely, gospel-flavoured pop songs in “hotel rooms when I’m frustrated and I’d rather be at home… It’s a good discipline. You either go down to the bar and get pissed or you stay in your hotel room and make something constructive!” – RTR Countdown magazine, June 1990.

I assumed that the group had quietly slunk away, never to be heard again after their second album, but surprise-surprise, they’re actually still going (sort of).

It turns out that they did break up in 1995 and sadly, Roger Christian died of a brain tumour in 1998. But they made a comeback in 2003. Russell Christian decided to leave in 2005, which just left Garry from the original band, as our interviewee, Henry (the main songwriter, natch) had also left to start his solo career.

A version of the band still exists, and like so many of their 1980s contemporaries, they occasionally go out on nostalgic package tours with mates like Hue & Cry, Belinda Carlisle, Go West and Level 42.

 

  • This story was brought to you by Blast From The Arse productions.

 

 

 

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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