It has been 25 years, but The Christians are still going strong.
It has been 25 years, but The Christians are still going strong. We speak to their frontman, Garry Christian, at his home in Frodsham. WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
Garry Christian has always had itchy feet. The velvet-voiced singer who shot to stardom as The Christians’ frontman in the 80s admits he’s never been very good at staying in one place for long. He left home at 16 and has been on the move since, including time spent living in Paris.
But this rule has never applied to his music. The Christians, who sold millions of records, have just marked 25 years in the business and are touring again, including a date at The Lowry at Salford Quays on January 20th.
The 55-year-old said: ‘I always wanted to get away from Liverpool when I was younger and see the world. I didn’t want to stay in one place all my life. I wanted to explore. I ended up working at The Dorchester in London with a friend. We were hidden in the basement doing things like the laundry but we had a great experience.
‘Looking back, I can’t believe it’s been 25 years of The Christians. It’s a long time. But then you look at bands like the Rolling Stones and they keep on doing it. There is no reason why we can’t too.’
During the peak of their success The Christians – named because it was the surname of Garry and his brothers Russell and Roger, as well as the middle name of fellow band member Henry Priestman – enjoyed incredible fame. Their cover of The Isley Brothers’ Harvest for the World was a top ten hit and many will recall major singles like Forgotten Town, Ideal World and Born Again. One of their albums was in the charts for 55 weeks.
The band, often likened to The Temptations, also contributed to a reworking of Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey with Sir Paul McCartney to raise money for victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
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‘That was a memorable time for me,’ said Garry, who lives in Frodsham. ‘Not only because it was a privilege to be involved in such an important project but also because we got to meet Paul McCartney.
‘We heard him in the other room asking Pete Waterman if he could meet us. We couldn’t believe it. He actually wanted to meet us. That was a real high point.’
It was as a boy growing up in Liverpool that his passion for music was first ignited. He is one of 13 children and the family who would often sing together at home. Garry listened to records from The Mills Brothers and other artists’ records that he used to steal from his brothers and sisters’ collections as well as his parents, Ted and Aida. But when he saw his older brothers, Dennis and Roger, leaving the house to do gigs it made Garry want to pursue a professional career.
He said: ‘We loved entertainment at home and there were four of us brothers who used to pretend to be The Four Tops. We had a great time but I really wanted to be able to go out there like my brothers. They were performing in front of actual audiences. I thought it was amazing and I really wanted to be there with them.’
Sadly, the family were struck by tragedy. Dennis took his own life, aged just 26 and Roger, who was in The Christians for the first six months before going solo, died of a brain haemorrhage, aged 47.
Garry said: ‘They were very awful times. Dennis was my eldest brother, he was my hero and I’d looked up to him my whole life. It was very difficult.
‘It was the same with Roger. I was living away from Liverpool at the time and I got a call from my manager telling me what had happened. There is not a day that goes by when I do not think about them and feel sad about it.’
The Christians recorded together on and off for many years. They had a break when Garry lived in Paris for five years, where he recorded a solo album, and the original line-up finally called it a day around seven years ago. The original line-up may have changed – Garry is now the only founding member – but this has not dampened the public’s enthusiasm.
Garry said: ‘When we finished I wondered whether I should retire. But that itchy feet feeling returned. I got together with the new guys to keep the flame going but then I realised that people were still keen to see us. It was exciting.
‘We have a lot of fun. We have got several tour dates coming up and we’re 1987 hoping to add more later in the year. There is just nothing better than being on stage, it’s the place I feel most at home.’
Garry lives with his partner, Emma Roberts, and his eight-year-old son, George. The singer no longer feels the need to be constantly on the move and loves feeling settled in Cheshire. He has lived in Frodsham for two years and is thrilled to have put roots down.
‘I’ve moved up in the world,’ he joked. ‘Cheshire is a wonderful county. I love the countryside, the people are so lovely and you always get friendly smiles. I can’t think of anywhere better to live.
‘I have always been a person who has itchy feet but now I feel like I have a place where I can enjoy putting down some roots. You reach a certain age and you want to come back. I can’t think of a better place than here.’