Ten Years After Newcastle City Hall 16th September 1971

Ten Years After Newcastle City Hall 16th September 1971 tyatix71Back in the late ’60s we carried our lp sleeves almost as badges of honour. I looked up to the sixth formers who would come to school wearing their great coats or afghans, proudly clutching their latest albums under their arm for all to see. It was a way of showing everyone exactly what sort of music you were into. The coolest of the sixth formers would walk around carrying Cream’s Wheels of Fire, Tyrannosaurus Rex’s Beard of Stars, Led Zeppelin 1 or 2, The Mothers’ We’re Only in it for the Money or Lumpy Gravy (very cool), or Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica (even more cool). Two other albums which featured were Ten Year’s Afters’ Stonedhenge and Ssssh (which had a great red fuzzy blurred semi-psychedelic picture of Alvin Lee on its front cover). The sixth former’ had a record club where they played these lps on an old Dansette player. As a younger student, I wasn’t allowed to bring my own lps, but they did let me sit in once or twice. They all sat cross-legged, listening intently, nodding their heads, looking knowingly at each other. I was totally in awe of them and of the magic sounds which came out of their old record machine. Some of that music was the sound of Alvin Lee’s guitar, and it just blew me away. tyaposter71aOne of the first times that I heard Ten Years After was the track Speed Kills which appears on a sampler album The World of Blues Power Volume 2. The track, as the title suggests, features some amazingly fast fretwork from Lee. I was trying desperately to master the guitar at the time, and Alvin Lee was one of my idols. I tried, usually without success, to learn those licks. I would play the lp at slow speed and try to work out what Alvin was playing and how he did it. I then had to transpose the key because of the difference in speed; it hardly every worked, much to my frustration. I guess it was never really meant to be. I ended up going to see my guitar heroes, always secretly wishing I could have been one of them. My other early experience of Ten Years After was the hit single Love Like a Man, which was a big favourite of all my friends. The other event which sticks in my mind when thinking of Ten Years After, and which I have to mention, is of course the Woodstock film. We all trooped down to Studio 1 cinema to see Woodstock on the first day that it was shown in town, wearing our best weekend hippy gear. Now the film has many great moments, but the one that had the greatest impact on me was Alvin Lee performing I’m Going Home, which was simply breath taking. The performance, the speed, the energy, the crowd reaction, the way the images cleverly flashed from one view of Alvin to another; to a young teenager sitting in the third row of the cinema it was mind blowing. That was the moment that confirmed me as a big fan of Ten Years After, and in particular, of Alvin Lee. TYAposter71The first time I got to see Ten Years After in concert was in September 1971. Support came from (pre massive fame) Supertramp (the cover of their album seemed very rude to a young guy) and folk singer Keith Christmas. Both supports were excellent. Those were the days before I discovered the temptations of the bar, and watched ever minute of the support acts. But I was there to see the man who had amazed me in Woodstock; Alvin Lee. And he, and Ten Years After, rose to the occasion and gave us a blistering performance. TYA had just released their sixth album (they had been busy guys) A Space In Time. I think they started with One of These Days, which was also the opening track of the album, and a very powerful song. One Of These Days starts with the sound of Alvin’s guitar gradually increasing in volume, he then cuts the chord, and his lone voice launches straight into the first line “One of these Days Boy!”, Leo Lyon’s bass thunders in and away we go, Ric Lee gently touching his cymbals, and the song takes off, Chick Churchill’s swirling Hammond provides a backdrop for Lee’s guitar, which is quite restrained compared to some other songs. Great! And on stage in front of me was Alvin Lee, playing his famous red Gibson 335; yes it was the same one he played at Woodstock. tyaprogI don’t remember exactly what they played; I think it included the moody, lurching and doomy I Can’t Keep From Crying, Sometimes, their great cover of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, and of course they played Going Home; I watched Alvin’s fingers intently, trying to pick up some tips. But there was more to Alvin Lee than speed and technical guitar flash, the guy understood the blues, was a master of light and shade, used dynamics of sound and speed to great effect, and could play rock’n’roll just like Chuck. And he had a perfect rock voice. One song, I don’t know which, featured Alvin scat singing along with his guitar, showing his jazz influences. And Ten Years After weren’t just Alvin Lee. Lee Lyons pounded away at his bass, head hung over his instrument, speeding along with Lee. Chick Chruchill provided that classic ’60s swirling Hammond sound, and drummer Ric Lee understood the light and shade of blues drumming. I next saw Ten Years After when they headlined the Sunday night of the 1972 Reading Festival. I stood in that field, as close to the stage as I could get. They played Going Home and I thought I was at Woodstock 🙂 Happy days. We will never ever see the like again. I saw Ten Years After a few more times and I’ll spend the next few days reflecting on just how great they were, and how sadly missed the great Alvin Lee is. Many thanks to John and Mitch for their images of posters from the City Hall gig.

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on October 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I was there. Great band and a great gig.

    The TYA set list at this show was:
    One Of These Days, No Title, Once There Was A Time, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Hobbit, Slow Blues in C, Hard Monkeys, I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes, I’m Going Home.
    Encore: Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock n Roll You.

    Keith Christmas’ set went down particularly well the Newcastle crowd. I recall that his ‘banter’ was as entertaining as the songs.
    I saw Keith at the City Hall again five weeks later as support to King Crimson.

    What is also interesting is the cost of tickets back then. The poster shows prices ranging from 50p up to an extortionate 90p.
    So you had the choice of a balcony back row seat for 50p or you could have a seat near the front of the stage for a further 40p – what a dilemma!

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on October 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Hi Mitch Many thanks and yes it was a great concert. I also have fond memories of Keith Christmas’ set. Not sure why I didn’t go and see Crimson at the gig you refer to, wish I had done so. I’ll amend my references to the set. I’m surprised that they didn’t play Love Like a Man. I used to love One of These Days and I Can’t Keep From Crying. Cheers Peter

      Reply

  2. Posted by Hockey on October 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Fantastic blog again Peter, I so wish I could have been there but I was only 12 in 1971 and I only got to see TYA once in 1990 at a free recorded TV gig at Central studios in Nottingham, and strangely enough I was only watching it last night on YouTube. I went to the gig early and got to stand right in front of Alvin and watched him play, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl being my personal fret-melting favourite. I also saw him again a few years ago at Manchester Bridgewater Hall with Edgar Winter and Tony McPhee.
    What a shame we lost him so relatively young.
    We were only saying last week how we used to walk around School with our LPs proudly displayed under our arms, with the coolest album cover on the outside. Maximum cool would be something like Court of the Crimson King, or either of the triple live albums by ELP or Yessongs. happy days indeed. Thanks agin, Mike.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on October 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Aah…The Court of the Crimson King. Yes great album and great cover. And another one I forgot to mention was Zappa’s Hot Rats. And someone at School had Lennon and Yoko’s Two Virgins. Respect. Cheers Peter

      Reply

  3. Posted by Neil Thompson on October 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I saw Keith Christmas at the Dunelm on May 13th 1977. He was supporting Heron – this was Mike Heron’s band (of Incredible String Band fame), they had a brilliant album out at the time called ‘Diamond of dreams’ and it was a great gig. Forward to 1983/84 and I was having a pint in the Latchmere pub in Battersea, London with my girlfriend of the time. I got chatting to the chap on the next table to me and he introduced himself – ‘Keith Christmas!’ I mentioned the Dunelm gig and straight away he said ‘with Heron’ so we had a nice talk about music. Then he invited us to go with him to a party he was going to after his drink but we politely said we had to go home. What a lovely, friendly bloke he was.
    While we were talking there was a bloke on this little stage with an electric guitar singing his own songs – at the end of every song his mate, who was sat in front of him at the bar would be the only one to clap and everyone else just carried on talking and ignoring him. I thought it was unusual for someone to be on his own and not use an acoustic, if he had an electric guitar why didn’t he have a band? To be honest by the end of the night he was really getting on my nerves – it was Billy Bragg!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Clive Atkinson on June 11, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I was an avid TYA fan at the time and they played a great set as always. Alvin was the star man but Leo Lyons was outstanding that night.
    What made the gig unforgettable for me though was Keith Christmas. Here was a folk singer who towards the end of his set wrapped the fingers of his right hand in thick layers of Sellotape and played a brilliant extended acoustic guitar solo. Unheard of in those days! Never saw or heard of him again until I came across a compilation album a few years ago. A real shame that he never managed to transfer that live energy into his studio recordings

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on June 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

      Many thanks Clive I was also very impressed by Keith Christmas that night, although I can’t say I can recall the Sellotape incident! Your memory must be better than mine Best wishes Peter

      Reply

  5. Posted by Ken Ormston on March 23, 2017 at 10:15 am

    My first concert and was transfixed but my memory is playing tricks and for some reason I’m convinced BB King also performed that night any info I know he tour uk 1971 and did see him but when and it was the city hall, still got programme

    Reply

  6. Posted by Ken Ormston on March 23, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Program of ten years after, also don’t recall Supertramp would bb king have substituted?

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on March 23, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      Hi I am sure the support was Supertramp. It was definitely not BB King at Newcastle Best wishes Peter

      Reply

      • Posted by Ken on March 23, 2017 at 4:54 pm

        Thanks Peter, it was a similar time and he doesn’t seem to be listed at city hall newcastle were I seen him, not to worry , ken

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