Yorkshire born Tony Christie was a successful singer of dramatic big-voiced pop ballads in the early 1970s. He achieved five top 40 hits in the UK in that period, including this song, which peaked at #18 and "I Did What I Did For Maria," which got to #2. Meanwhile in continental Europe he was even more successful, topping the German and Spanish charts with this song. Although Christie's popularity waned in his native Britain from the mid-seventies, he maintained a successful singing career in Germany.
Back home, his career began to revive when he was the vocalist on All Seeing I's 1999 top ten hit, "Walk Like a Panther." Soon after the British comedian Peter Kay started using this tune as a kind of unofficial theme song, playing it at the start of live concerts to rev the crowd up. Kay also featured it in his TV comedy series Phoenix Nights, leading to a resurgence in his popularity. Cottoning on to the revived interest in the song, the decision was made to re-release it on March 14, 2005 to raise money for the Comic Relief charity. Kay filmed a new video for the song which featured him miming to the track whilst a string of celebrities appeared marching behind him. The song and its accompanying video caught the British public's imagination reaching #1, where it stayed for seven weeks and becoming the best selling record of 2005 in the UK. The song raised over £1.5 million for charity and Christie broke the record for the act who had the longest wait for a #1 single having waited close to near 35 years from his first chart entry.
New York singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka wrote the song along with lyricist Howard Greenfield. Though he knew it was a good song, Sedaka told The Daily Mail June 19, 2009 that he is surprised at the manner in which it has endured.
He explained: "It was originally a rough demo on a cassette. Tony Christie's manager came to see me, saying he had a new singer who sounded a bit like Tom Jones. I played him Amarillo and he immediately liked it. I cut a reggae version of it myself, but Tony's was catchier and more upbeat. When they revived it in 2005, I thought it was amusing. But then Tony started sending me messages updating me on its progress in the charts. It was totally unexpected, but I guess it's a timeless song; one from the old Brill Building tradition."
Amarillo is a city in Texas, located in the north of the state. Other songs to name-check Amarillo include George Strait's "Amarillo By Morning" Nat King Cole's "(Get Your Kicks) on Route 66" and Bob Dylan's "Brownsville Girl," where it was referred to as the "land of the living dead".
This song was a Top 40 hit in Australia in early 1972, reaching #3 and spending 16 weeks on the chart.
Andy from Halesowen, West Midlands, United KingdomSome British Troops also made a spoof copy of the video which became a big youtube hit.
Another song called simply Amarillo was recorded by Emmylou Harris on her second album Elite Hotel. It is a lively song too, a comic lament about a girl who keeps her good looking boyfriend despite the attentions of other ladies, only to lose him to a jukebox and pinball machine in Amarillo. The song was written by Rodney Crowell, then a member of Emmylou's Hot Band.
Graham from Windsor, AustraliaThe rhyme of "Amarillo" and "pillow" is very creative!
Zabadak from London, EnglandIn the video referred to above, the celebrities were filmed on a treadmill with the backing added later. Comedian Ronnie Corbett fell over and this was left in the finished edit!