AS HOMEGROWN LIVERPUDLIANS, brothers Garry, Roger and Russell Christian were naturally devastated by the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, in which 96 Liverpool FC fans died in a football stadium crush.
To raise money for the families affected, some of the city’s top musicians joined forces to record the anthemic Ferry Cross the Mersey, which hit number one.
So it was that The Christians joined the likes of Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and the tune’s writer Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers) to share the nation’s grief.
The pop-soul group, whose fourth member was coincidentally named Henry Christian Priestman, had already shown their giving side in 1988 with Harvest for the World, a cover of The Isley Brothers’ single which raised money for four children’s charities and UNICEF.
But the group didn’t just sing other people’s songs; their eponymous debut album racked up a million sales with commercially successful tracks like Hooverville and Ideal World, while their 1990 follow-up Colour reached number one and contained the Europe-wide hit Words.
Though the original line-up parted ways in 1995, Garry Christian is continuing the group’s legacy. They play Dubai and Abu Dhabi alongside The Blow Monkeys, another popular British act from the era.
The Christians are known for having strong charitable tendencies, but did your music come with a political message as well?
I think in the early days we were renowned for being left-wing, but we were only saying what most people were thinking and still are today – ‘How did these idiots get our country into this mess?’ As far as charity, obviously we’ve always been willing to help, particularly when children are concerned.
The Christians had been permanently on tour since 1987 and it felt like we’d been in each others’ pockets all day every day. It was definitely time for a break from each other. I needed a fresh environment, and Paris and other beautiful parts of France gave me the inspiration I needed for my first solo album. I came back in 2000 because I was pretty homesick by then. Henry and Russell got together and decided to go back on the road – a tour was planned and it sold out immediately.
What prompted your recent cover of Cat Stevens’ Where Do the Children Play?
Our local radio station BBC Merseyside interviewed Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf) and he actually said our version was better than his. The DJ, Billy Butler, suggested we release it so we did. It’s selling really well.
How have The Christians adapted to the changes in the music business with Facebook, YouTube etc?
I think you’ve just got to do what you can to reach your fans – it’s got to the stage where you could literally spend all day just updating all the social network sites. I don’t really get this trend, but whatever makes people happy I suppose.
How did you find the people of Liverpool responded to Ferry Cross the Mersey after the Hillsborough disaster?
It was a huge tragedy, and everybody would have literally done anything to help the families. But unfortunately nothing could bring back the people who died in that needless disaster...it was a horrific waste of lives.
Were inter-band rivalries amplified during The Christians’ first stint because three of you were brothers?
We certainly had a reputation for fighting between ourselves. Some journalists named us ‘The Beastly Boys’! I thought all brothers fought, but maybe us three took it to the limit.
Very badly. Roger was an inspiration – he had the best voice coupled with a unique sense of humour. He could literally cut anyone down with his wit. He was hugely intelligent and just took no prisoners in anything he did. He was a huge loss to the whole family.
Given that you’re called The Christians, most people wrongly assume you’re a religious band. How annoying has that continued assumption been?
It has been very, very annoying. Looking back we should have addressed the whole religious connection right at the start, but it was our name so we were naturally always called The Christians. Even when we were called Equal Temperament (although looking back Evil Temperament would have been more apt) people still called us The Christians. It’s our name, that’s all.
Are you looking forward to the UK-wide Rewind tour later this year alongside classic acts like Kool & the Gang, Sister Sledge and Go West? Were you friendly with any of them back in the day?
I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve met Go West, ABC and T’Pau a few times but I’m particularly looking forward to spending so long with Sister Sledge and Kool & the Gang. I wouldn’t say I was particularly friendly with them, just because we always kept ourselves to ourselves, and still don’t really see ourselves as part of the 80s revival thing that’s happening. But it’s great to get invited to do an arena tour, so I couldn’t turn it down.
“I like to spend as much time as I can with my children. The oldest, Hannah, is a nursery nurse and has two of her own children, Andrea is a school teacher and getting married in 2011, Pippa has just been signed to Storm model agency (the one who signed Kate Moss), Miles, my oldest son, is amazing on the saxophone and just had his Christians debut at the Liverpool Philharmonic, which stole the show, and George (who’s only six) keeps me busy with his relentless energy and sporting activities.
“Aside from that I’m finishing some writing for our forthcoming album with the band, and if there’s any spare time I might go on the odd bike ride with my partner Emma or watch an old film.”
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