Cover Versions

(Is This the Way to) Amarillo

Is This the Way to) Amarillo

Song: (Is This the Way to) Amarillo?
Artist: Tony Christie
Original writer/artist: Neil Sedaka

This is the song that British comedian Peter Kay helped get to No 1 in the UK without
singing a note. More on this shortly.
First let’s deal with the original writing. The song was penned by prolific songwriter Neil
Sedaka in collaboration with Howard Greenfield. The latter wrote hits such as Oh Carol!
and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen for Sedaka.

I should point out that Christie’s version was released as a single before Sedaka’s. On
initial release in 1971 Christie’s rendition reached No 18 in the UK charts though it hit
No 1 elsewhere in Europe. Because Christie’s song didn’t chart in the US, Sedaka
decided to release his own version there six years later and it peaked at No 44 in the
Billboard charts.
Below Sedaka is shown playing the song live in London’s Royal Albert Hall before
calling Christie on to duet with him.

Apparently, the Sha la la la la la la la part of the song was put in by Sedaka until he
could work out some lyrics to insert. It stayed in thanks to Christie’s manager Harvey
Lisberg who had gone to New York to ask if Sedaka had any songs suitable for
Christie’s voice. The Sha la las are certainly more memorable than some of the other
lyrics. Not many words rhyme with Amarillo, so we get very cringeworthy lines such as
“every night I’ve been hugging my pillow” and “I’ve been weeping like a willow”.
Christie’s version was rereleased in 2005 hot on the heels of it gaining a new audience
thanks to Peter Kay. It went to No 1 in the UK charts and stayed there for seven weeks.
Kay had earlier featured the song in his Phoenix Nights TV series when he did sing it…
with Paddy McGuinness. So, when asked to take part in the Comic Relief fund-raising
programme of 2005, Kay decided that Amarillo would form his contribution.
The comedian, accompanied by numerous celebrities, mimed to Christie’s original
recording. Among those who joined Kay were chat show host Michael Parkinson,
comedians Ronnie Corbett and Jim Bowen, and Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor.
In the original video shown below another of the celebrities seen is the now disgraced
TV performer and DJ Jimmy Savile. From 2012 onwards any re-showing of the video
has Savile edited out and replaced by a clip featuring Christie himself.

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