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.
Archive for the ‘Supertramp’ Category
Supertramp Newcastle City Hall 14th October 1977
I first saw Supertramp when they played as support for Ten Years After at Newcastle City Hall in 1971. It was at the time of their second album “Indelibly Stamped”. The thing I remember most was that the album sleeve was quite controversial for the time, as it featured a picture of the tattooed torso of a woman, including her bare breasts. Apparently two gold stars were pasted over the nipples for the US issue of the lp. The line-up of the band at the time was Roger Hodgson (vocals and guitars), Rick Davies (keyboards and vocals), Dave Winthrop (flute, saxophone, vocals), Frank Farrell (bass) and Kevin Currie (drums). They played a solid set that night, but I’d gone to see TYA, and the truth is I remember little about their performance. I next saw them at the 1975 Reading festival. By this time the band had released “Crime of the Century” and were starting to receive major recognition, particularly for “Dreamer” which reached No 13 in the UK singles chart. I made a point of watching their performance that weekend, and was impressed by them. The band’s line-up had changed quite a bit by then with Hodgson and Davies being the only members remaining from the band I saw in 1971. They were joined by John Helliwell who as well as playing sax, flute and singing also took on the role of addressing the audience and cracking jokes with the crowd, Dougie Thomson (bass) and Bob Siebenberg (drums). The next, and last time, I saw Supertramp was at Newcastle City Hall on 14th October 1977. By then they were a major band. They had released two more albums “Crisis? What Crisis?” (1975) and “Even in the Quietest Moments…” (1977), both of which were chart successes. They also hot the UK singles chart with “Give a Little Bit”. Support came from a new artist called Chris De Burgh. Their set is likely to have included: Give a Little Bit, Bloody Well Right, Lady, Dreamer, Give a Little Bit, Bloody Well Right, Sister Moonshine and Crime of the Century. I enjoyed the show, but can’t pretend that I was a big fan. Supertramp went on to even greater success with the “Breakfast in America” album and hits including “”The Logical Song”. I never saw them live again, which I now regret as their music has grown on me over the years, and I realise now how great a band they were. Supertramp last toured a few years ago, although the current line-up does not feature Roger Hodgson, with Davies and Helliwell now fronting the band. I really should try to see Supertramp, and Roger Hodgson, again if/when they next play.