Ten Years After Newcastle Mayfair 5th Oct 1973 & Newcastle City Hall 21st April 1974
Friday night at the Mayfair, 1973, and Ten Years After were playing! There was a special buzz about this gig. It wasn’t that often that we got the chance to see Alvin Lee and Co. in a ballroom setting. We went through early and joined the queue which curled right down the length of Newgate Street. Once inside we wandered around the balcony, visited the many bars and then tried to get a good spot on the dance floor, ready for when TYA came on stage. To say the place was packed was an understatement. You could hardly move. The band rocked that night, and the Mayfair crowd gave them a hero’s welcome. A great gig. Support came from a band called Ruby (?) We emerged hot and sweaty into the cold night air sometime after midnight and walked the 15 miles home. We got home in the early hours, exhausted. Well worth it; those were the days.
Come 1974 and TYA released their eighth album Positive Vibrations. It wasn’t their best and reviews weren’t very positive. Rolling Stone said of the lp: “TYA have changed musical directions so often in the past that they’ve never been able to develop a comfortable sound within any field, so now they sound as though they’re merely dabbling in various styles. …. Alvin Lee & Co. have stuck their fingers into so many musical pies that they’re now as confused as anyone attempting to follow their music. ”
Things weren’t so good in the TYA camp. Alvin was launching a solo career, and live reviews of TYA were not so hot. Reviewing a London Rainbow gig in the NME, Tony Stewart wrote: : “Competent musicians TYA may be, entertainers they certainly are not. Their stage presence was as flat as a Woolworth’s portrait reproduction. Alvin Lee’s delivery of notes at an immense speed resembled a production line worker knocking rivets into a car body: precise motions, but without any other purpose than holding something together until it’s time to go home (I’m Going Home that is). Sorry, but it was a relief when it was.”
I think Alvin was just tired of playing Going Home and of an audience who just wanted to relive Woodstock. “The stopping point came when I felt I’d written every song I could think of with Ten Years After and played every solo…all I was doing was pinching bits from this and that and putting them together differently and it was starting to get repetitive….Ten Years After aren’t functioning at the moment.” (Alvin Lee speaking to Lorna Read, Beat Instrumental Magazine, 1974).
I saw Ten Years After once more at the City Hall in April 1974. In my eyes they were still great. But it was almost over. The following night, Ten Years After played their last UK gig in Manchester. Officially the band was resting, mothballed, but there were no more TYA appearances for 10 years or so when the band reunited for some shows. Alvin focused on his solo career from then on.
Ten Years After setlist at the time was something like: Rock & Roll Music To The World, Nowhere To Run, Good Morning Little School Girl, It’s Getting Harder, Hobbit, Love Like A Man, Slow Blues In C, Look Me Straight Into The Eyes, Classical Thing, Scat Thing, I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes, I’m Going Home, Sweet Little Sixteen, Choo Choo Mama
Thanks to John for the poster image.
I saw Alvin Lee several times over the years. He remained an amazing guitarist, powerful performer, and I always enjoyed seeing him play. But there was a magic about Ten Years After in the early 70s that could never be recreated. Never the most fashionable band, and often the victim of some unfair press, on a good night (and they mostly were good nights) Alvin Lee was incredible, and Ten Years After were one of the best rock’n’roll and blues bands in the world.
RIP Alvin Lee.
Archive for the ‘Ten Years After’ Category
Ten Years After Newcastle Mayfair 5th Oct 1973 & Newcastle City Hall 21st April 1974
Ten Years After Newcastle City Hall 29th October 1972
“Who is the best guitarist?”
We would have endless discussions like that at school, debating about our personal favourites and almost coming to blows with friends. The music press wasn’t much better, with the Melody Maker polls, and articles which discussed in great detail the technique of all our idols. It was, of course, accepted that Hendrix was the master, but then what was the ranking after that? Eric Clapton was the blues “god”, the standard by which we measured blues guitar; Jimmy Page was pure rock and riffs, Peter Green was all emotional blues and “feel”, Jeff Beck was the elusive genius, and Alvin Lee? Alvin was fast, speed, technique, flash, and rock’n’roll. Alvin wasn’t into any sort of show. He strapped on his red Gibson, walked on that stage, and played. And boy how he played.
“Who is the best guitarist?”
It was silly really. All of those guys had their own style, their own brand, and they were all so different and so excellent in their own way. The debate was ill-founded, futile, and only caused arguments and bad feeling.
I saw Ten Years After again on 29th October 1972 at Newcastle City Hall. Support came from the excellent Frankie Miller who was backed by Brinsley Schwartz. This was another great gig. John reminds me that loads of us went. Everyone I knew from school who was into rock was at this gig, we ran into loads of mates; there must have been 20 or 30 of us. Ten Years After were once again, great. The setlist was probably something like this: One of These Days; You Give Me Loving; Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl; Rock & Roll Music to the World; Turned Off TV Blues; Standing at the Station; I Can’t Keep from Crying; I’m Going Home; Choo Choo Mama; Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock ‘n’ Roll You, and will likely also have included a classical guitar piece and a scat guitar jam.
I do remember several encores that night, and us all rushing right down to the front, cramming the area near the stage. When it looked like it was all over, they would come on again, while we nervously looked at our watches, in fear of missing the last train, which I think we did, incidentally. However, all was not lost, there was a later bus, which took us all over the place. We then had to walk a few miles, arriving home in the early hours.
“Who is the best guitarist?”
If you had asked me that night, I would, of course, have said “Alvin Lee”. 100% and no contest 🙂 Happy Days.
Thanks to John for the image of his poster.
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.
The Reading Festival 1972
I first went to the Reading Festival in 1972 (is it really over 41 years ago 🙂 ?), and continued to go every year until 1980. I missed 1981 as it clashed with a local “Rock on the Tyne” Festival, and have never returned, although I did think of doing so on several occasions. I’m aiming to reflect on one year each week for the next few weeks, starting today with my first Reading experience.
I’d already been to the Lincoln Festival in May 1972 so I felt, as a 15 year old, I was already a hardened festival goer. I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go to Reading, so decided to go along myself. My parents weren’t keen on my idea of hitching so I agreed to go by train. The festival took place over the weekend of August 11th to 13th, 1972 starting on Friday afternoon. For some reason I decided to get the train down to London early on the Thursday night, arriving around midnight. Having nowhere to spend the night I took a tube to Piccadilly Circus and found an all-night cinema. It was showing Elvis films all night; I paid my money and sat close to the front. The cinema was quite empty, the audience was a few couples, some Elvis fans and several people alone like me, and just looking for somewhere to spend the night. I don’t recall which films were shown, I think there were six, and I’m pretty sure one was “Kid Galahad” (which, by the way, is a good movie), and I think another may have been “Fun in Acapulco” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” (not so good). I emerged, very tired, from the cinema in the early hours of the morning, and went across London to get the train to Reading. I didn’t have a ticket for the festival, so when I arrived I joined the queue and bought a weekend ticket. In those days it was all about seeing the bands, so I stayed in the queue to get a good spot in front of the stage. All I had taken was a sleeping bag; no tent; no change of clothes (I told you that I thought myself a hardened festival goer).
The Friday line-up was: Good Habit, Nazareth, Cottonwood, Steamhammer, Jackson Heights, Genesis, Mungo Jerry, Curved Air. The music started at 4pm and there were two stages set alongside each other to make for quick changeovers. I positioned myself close to the front somewhere between the two stages so I had a good view of both. There was a press enclosure right down front, and an area where the Hells Angels would encamp, so you couldn’t get that close to the stage. I got talking to a guy next to me; he was also alone, still at school and a similar age. We stuck together throughout the weekend, keeping each others place in the crowd, and sleeping there on a night in our sleeping bags. This seems crazy now, but hey I was young and just so excited about seeing the bands. You could sleep in the main enclosure in those days; you had to leave in the early morning so that they could clear up and get ready for the next day. Some clearing happened during the night; this didn’t make for a good night sleep as there was a danger that someone stood on you (this happened to me several times). The organisers stopped letting people sleep in the main enclosure a few years later; a punter was run over by a vehicle that was driving around collecting litter….The bands I recall on Friday were: Good Habit (saw them a few times, they used to were monks habits on stage), Nazareth (this was before “Broken Down Angel”; they played a great version of “Morning Dew”); Genesis (Simply amazing. I was a big fan at the time and have written separately about their set which included The Knife, Twilight Alehouse, Watcher Of The Skies, The Musical box, and The Return Of The Giant Hogweed. Classic); Mungo Jerry (got the crowd rocking), and Curved Air (also amazing; It happened today, Backstreet Luv, Sonja Kristina).
The Saturday line-up was: Jonathan Kelly, Solid Gold Cadillac, Man, Linda Lewis, Focus, Edgar Broughton, Jericho, If, Johnny Otis Show, Electric Light Orchestra, The Faces. I watched all of the bands, and also took some time to have a look around the stalls in the arena. I didn’t see any need to venture into town (that would come in later years) and spent the entire weekend within the confines of the festival. The weather was quite warm, sunny with a little drizzle now and then but nothing major, and certainly nothing compared to the rain I experienced at the Lincoln festival earlier in the year. Highlights I can dimly recall now are: Jonathan Kelly (Ballad of Cursed Anna simply wonderful), Solid Gold Cadillac (very jazzy), Man (very long guitar solos; Spunk Rock; great!), Linda Lewis (she looked so tiny on that stage and admitted to being scared), Focus (went down well with the crowd and were one of the successes of the weekend), Edgar Broughton (amazing, I was already a fan. Edgar very unspoken as always. Out Demons Out!!), If (jazzy, great guitarist), Johnny Otis Show (just blogged on them), Electric Light Orchestra (this was a very early performance and one of their first since Roy Wood’s departure. Wasn’t sure what to expect; they were good), The Faces (Rod and the guys on great form, lots of footballs kicked into the crowd, Twisting the Night Away and I’m Losing You were big live favourites of mine at the time).
The Sunday line-up was: Sutherland Brothers, Gillian McPherson, String Driven Thing, Matching Mole, Stackridge, Vinegar Joe, Status Quo, Stray, Roy Wood’s Wizzard, Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Ten Years After, Quintessence. John Peel and Jerry Floyd were comperes for the weekend. Jerry was the regular DJ at the Marquee Club, who organised the festival at the time. I spend much of the weekend chatting about music to the guy that I met on the first day and we struck up quite a friendship. I made a few friend at festivals in those days and would see some people every year but I never ran into this guy again. Wonder where he is now. Highlights of the day were: Matching Mole (featuring Robert Wyatt), Stackridge (“Slark” was a favourite of mine at the time), Vinegar Joe (Elkie just stunning), Status Quo (this was one of the shows that helped them break back. Peel was a big champion of theirs at the time; I think he introduced them as the “Finest rock’n’roll band in the world”, or something like that. They were playing amazing boogie at the time, with Francis giving it some cheeky banter. Someones Learning was a favourite), Stray (excellent, Del in mirror suit), Roy Wood’s Wizzard (pretty good, very retro rock’n’roll. Ballpark Incident had just been released), and Ten Years After (Alvin’s guitar playing was stunning, I’d just seen “Woodstock” and was a big fan). I left as Quintessence’s took to the stage as did many others (TYA were official headliners) to catch the last train to London. The tubes had stopped so I walked across London. I’d missed the midnight train so I spent the night in Kings Cross station.
Monday morning: I was stiff, tired, and scruffy. I got the first train home and went straight to bed 🙂
Wow! that took longer than I thought it would! The scans come from the newspaper style programme which was produced by the Reading Evening Post. The poster (it looks like a cartoon of Leo Lyons from TYA to me?) is from the middle of the programme. Oh and I forgot to mention the “Wally!” chants, which seemed to go on all night.
Alvin Lee (solo) in concert 1979 to 2004
The late great Alvin Lee is a hero of mine. From the moment I saw his incredible performance in the Woodstock film I was hooked. That excerpt of him playing Going Home just blew me away. His guitar playing was exceptional, so fast; it seemed incredible, almost impossible that anyone could play at that speed. I sat in my bedroom practicing for ages, playing my vinyl copy of Going Home at 16rpm to try and pick out the notes. Sadly I failed; I went back to learning Clapton and Peter Green licks. At least they were slower, although I could never get the feel right. Oh and the single Love Like a Man was also a great favourite of mine when I was at school. Today I’m reflecting on the times I saw Alvin Lee in concert as a solo artist. I will write about the great Ten Years After when I get to the letter “T” (sorry for splitting Alvin’s work in this way, but that’s the way my programme and ticket collection is organised so I have to stick with it now :)).
My first engagement with the solo Alvin, was according to my tickets, in 1979 at Newcastle City Hall. Actually I am pretty sure that he was touring with a three piece band called Ten Years Later at the time, but the promoter obviously felt it better to list the gig as an Alvin Lee concert. The place was pretty empty as I recall, and Alvin was playing some new material, some rock n roll classics, and a few Ten Years After tunes. I think he played Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Choo Choo Mama and Going Home. As always his guitar technique was excellent and his energy was boundless. The guy simply WAS rock n roll.
There was a long gap before I saw Alvin again. The next time was at Sunderland Empire in the early 90s, possibly in 1993 or 1994. By then Alvin had returned to playing many of the TYA classics and just tore the place apart. The last Alvin Lee concert I attended was when I went with a group of mates to see him, Edgar Winter and Tony McPhee on a blues package bill at Newcastle Opera House. I found a setlist from around that time which includes: Rock and Roll Music to the World; Hear Me Calling; I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes; How Do You Do It; Don’t Want You Woman; Getting Nowhere Fast; I Don’t Give a Damn; I’m Gonna Make It; Slow Blues in “C”; Skooby-Ooobly-Doobop; Love Like a Man; I’m Going Home; Rip It Up; Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Johnny B. Goode / Bye Bye Johnny. Again, Alvin was superb, much better than the other bands on the bill. Edgar Winter was also pretty good. Although I am a big fan of Tony McPhee his performance that night wasn’t too hot, I’m afraid.
When I think of Alvin Lee I picture him playing Going Home or Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, with a red Gibson guitar, super fast guitar playing and a unique mix of rock’n’roll, jazz and blues. Oh and sometimes some pretty crazy scat singing.
When I heard Alvin Lee had passed away I couldn’t believe it. He seemed so full of energy and always looked so fit. He is a big miss. There really wasn’t any other guitar player like him, and there still isn’t.