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Is this the way back to the top?

Tony Chrisite was watching Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights on satellite TV at his home in Spain when his singing career was brought back to life before his very eyes.

Tony Chrisite was watching Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights on satellite TV at his home in Spain when his singing career was brought back to life before his very eyes.

Phoenix Club bouncers Max and Paddy were taking the Asian elders community group on a trip when, much to Christie's amazement, they started singing Christie's 1971 smash hit (Is This the Way to) Amarillo.

Written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, the song charted in almost every country in the world back in 1971, achieving sales in excess of four million, and Christie became a global star. But those heady days seemed long gone, until a spot of channel surfing on a warm Spanish evening saw Christie stumble across Phoenix Nights.

"It was the first series of the show that Peter Kay had done and I was enjoying it when the Asian elders suddenly started singing Amarillo," recalls Christie, 61.

"I couldn't believe it . . . I was totally taken by surprise.

"My phone was red hot with people ringing up to see if I had seen it, and everything just seemed to snowball from there."

So began a journey almost as bizarre as the one that Peter Kay's characters Max and Paddy embarked upon in their hit spin-off TV series.

The journey transported Christie back into the top 10 for the first time since his collaboration with the All Seeing I on 1999's Walk Like a Panther, written for him by Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker.

And it sparked renewed interest in Christie's back catalogue, which had been gathering dust for far too long.

A whole new audience suddenly discovered hits like Las Vegas, I Did What I Did for Maria, Avenues and Alleyways, and Don't Go Down to Reno.

Christie's record company knew they were on to something, and rush released the Best of Tony Christie collection, which is currently selling fantastically well.

"I spoke to Peter Kay and we did the Max and Paddy TV theme first, and it's just gone berserk for me since then with Amarillo," says the Yorkshireman, who was born Anthony Fitzgerald. "It wasn't the official Comic Relief single but all the proceeds go to the charity.

"Peter Kay was fantastic and Amarillo did well because of its association with Phoenix Nights.

"I came to do the video and Heather Mills McCartney, Danny Baker and Jim Bowen were doing their bit, people from Queen and Coronation Street were in it, and it was just fantastic

"The record company knew the best- of collection would do well, but not this well.

"It seems to be a new audience who are buying the records, judging by the hits on my website. It's mind-boggling really!"

V Tony Christie plays Whitley Bay Playhouse on Sunday, April 10. Tickets cost £16.50 - £15 concessions - and are available from the box office on 0191-252 3505.

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