Ten Years After
Ten Years After
British blues-rock band Ten Years After are most famous for their enigmatic lead singer and guitarist, Alvin Lee, and for the more than ten-minute jam of "I'm Going Home" they played at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. After the quartet's appearance at Woodstock and subsequent appearance in the Woodstock film the following year, Ten Years After gained significant popularity in the U.K. and the United States, yet their album sales and notoriety were fleeting. British blues-rock had already been done by the likes of the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones, so by the time Ten Years After came along, fans wanted something more. Formed in 1967, the group disbanded in 1975. A few reunion shows were held in the 1980s, but the original members never fully reunited. In 2001 the three remaining members of Ten Years After hired a new, much younger, lead singer to replace Alvin Lee. They recorded an album and continue to tour, much to Lee's chagrin.
As a child in Nottingham, England, Alvin Lee's first instrument was a clarinet, which he started playing at the age of ten. At 11 he learned guitar, and at 12, in 1957, he joined his first band. Three years later he joined a band with bassist Leo Lyons, Pete Evans, and Ivan Jay. The band played British pubs, changing their name to The Jaybirds by 1962 (lead singer Ivan Jay had quit the band). In 1965 The Jaybirds' drummer was replaced by Ric Lee, and a year later (after moving to London) they recruited keyboardist Chick Churchill. By 1966, after several lineups and band names, the quartet of Alvin Lee, Rick Lee, Churchill, and Lyons began calling themselves Ten Years After. The following year the band locked down a residency at London's famous Marquee Club and signed a U.K. deal with Decca.
Ten Years After was released in 1967 with little fanfare. The band continued to play in small clubs around England, and in 1968 recorded and released a live album made at Klook's Kleek, a small London pub. The record, titled Undead, contained five new songs, the longest being the almost ten-minute "I May Be Wrong, But I Won't Be Wrong Always," and the six-and-a-half-minute hard blues-rock cut titled "I'm Going Home." In June of 1968, by request of U.S. promoter Bill Graham, Ten Years After packed up and headed for the United States, where they toured for seven weeks. In September the band started work on a new album, this time without an outside producer. They wanted to be the ones in charge of their musical sound, which was a learning process for everyone, considering that Decca's recording studio was small, with only a four-track machine.
"We realized that rather than doing what somebody else suggested, who wasn't really interpreting our music the way we wanted it interpreted … it would be best doing it ourselves," Lee told New Musical Express. "Even if you make a mistake, I believe that your own mistakes are better recorded than someone else's." In February of 1969, Ten Years After released Stoned-henge, which hit the U.K. top ten. In June they recorded their third studio album, Ssssh, which came out that August and made its way onto the U.S. Top 20 charts. While the band was mostly playing to 2,000-3,000-seat venues, in August they were a surprising hit at 1969's legendary Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. "Charisma and blind speed made guitarist-singer Alvin Lee a standout at Woodstock," wrote Paul Evans in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide.
Woodstock was not only an infamous concert and pop cultural event; it was a turning point in Ten Years After's career. The documentary film of the festival, released in 1970, included the band's rousing extended jam of "I'm Going Home," which quadrupled Ten Years After's fan base. "It wasn't until the movie came out that it all changed for us. Some people say it was the start of Ten Years After, but in another way, it was the beginning of the end," Lee confessed in an interview with the BBC. "We started playing ice hockey arenas and baseball stadiums which was not as good as the underground circuit," he continued. "I didn't enjoy it as much. Suddenly we were pop stars, and I didn't see myself as that. I saw myself as a blues musician with jazz leanings!" That same year, Ten Years After spit out two more albums, Cricklewood Green, with its popular single "Love Like a Man," and Watt.
After Watt finished out their contract with Decca, Ten Years After signed to Columbia for the 1971 LP A Space in Time. Its single "I'd Love to Change the World" cracked the U.S. and U.K. Top 40, and the LP became the band's first and only platinum-selling album. It would be three years until the band's next release, 1974's Positive Vibrations. The next year the band stopped touring and recording together. Lee began a solo career that would continue for the next 20 years.
In 1983, 16 years after the release of their first album, Ten Years After reunited to play for the twentieth anniversary of the Marquee Club, as well as the U.K.'s Reading Festival. Six years later the band recorded the new album About Time. In 1997 they regrouped again to play a few festival shows here and there, including some in Scandinavia in 1997 and a few smaller club dates in 1998. The band went their separate ways again after the tour ended. In 2001 EMI and Decca began to digitally re-master and re-release the entire Ten Years After catalog. Keyboardist Lyons became inspired after finding some unreleased recordings, and wanted to regroup the band and tour in support of the re-released albums, but Lee was not interested.
For the Record …
Members include Chick Churchill , keyboards; Joe Gooch (joined, 2002), vocals, guitar; Alvin Lee , vocals, guitar; Ric Lee , drums; Leo Lyons , bass.
Group formed in Nottingham, England, c. 1967; signed to Decca, released Ten Years After, 1967; released live album Undead, 1968; Ssssh, 1969; Stonedhenge, 1969; appeared at Woodstock, 1969; released Cricklewood Green, 1970; Watt, 1970; signed to Columbia; released A Space in Time, 1971; Rock & Roll Music to the World, CBS, 1972; Positive Vibrations, Columbia, 1974; disbanded, 1975; reunited, 1988; released About Time, Columbia, 1989; disbanded; reunited with singer/guitarist Joe Gooch in place of Alvin Lee, 2002; released Now, Ten Years After, 2004; released live album Roadworks, Ten Years After, 2005.
Addresses: Management—Dynamic Artists Management, 2163 Meeker Ave., #219, Richmond, CAE94804, telephone: 510-558-4000. Web site—Ten Years After Official Web site: http://www.tenyearsafternow.com.
Lyons, who was living in Nashville in 2001, recruited a young American singer and guitarist named Joe Gooch to regroup Ten Years After. Lyons and Gooch were joined by Churchill and Ric Lee, and they were ready to tour in 2003. Many of the fans who came to the shows were not disappointed that Alvin Lee was not singing, but it was clear that without Alvin Lee, Ten Years After was a completely different band. According to Lee's BBC interview, he was not happy that his former bandmates would continue to tour as Ten Years After without him. "I'm afraid we've [had a] falling out," he said. "They have decided to tour under the name of Ten Years After, which I don't think is very cool," he told the BBC. "To be honest, they have had to do that as it's the only way they can get work." Lee has continued to record solo albums since the 1970s, his latest being 2007's Saguitar. Resentment has hit both sides of Ten Years After. According to Lee, he will never reunite with his old bandmates and does not endorse the Ten Years After that tours today. Lyons, on the other hand, thinks the new lineup is just as good as it ever was. "The New TYA, I think, has captured the spirit that Ten Years After had in 1969," Lyons told Classic Rock Revisited. "We got something to prove, we want to go somewhere and we're having one hell of a time doing it. We're not a bunch of old farts who have gotten together to see if we can earn a bit of money. That's never been my intention." In 2004, with Gooch on lead vocals, Ten Years After released a new studio album, aptly titled Now. The following year, after a worldwide tour, the band released the double-live record Roadworks.
Ten Years After, Decca, 1967.
Undead, Decca, 1968.
Ssssh, Decca, 1969.
Stonedhenge, Decca, 1969.
Cricklewood Green, Decca, 1970.
Watt, Decca, 1970.
A Space in Time, Columbia, 1971.
Rock & Roll Music to the World, CBS, 1972.
Positive Vibrations, Columbia, 1974.
About Time, Columbia, 1989.
Now, Ten Years After, 2004.
Roadworks, Ten Years After, 2005.
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Simon & Schuster, 2004.
New Musical Express, May 6, 1972.
Alvin Lee Official Web site, http://www.alvinlee.com (February 9, 2008).
"Alvin's Going Home," BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/music/2004/04/alvinlee_interview.shtml (February 9, 2008).
"Leo Lyons of 10 Years After," Classic Rock Revisited, http://www.ten-years-after.com/_private/interviews/classicrock-leo/classicrock_leo.htm (February 9, 2008).
Ten Years After—Now Official Web site, http://www.tenyearsafternow.com (February 9, 2008).
Ten Years After Official Web site, http://www.ten-years-after.com (February 9, 2008).
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