Ten Years After Newcastle City Hall 16th September 1971 Back 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. One 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. The 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. I 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.
Ten Years After Newcastle City Hall 16th September 1971