A Six-Pack of Ten Years After

Note – If you’re expecting me to post “I’d Love to Change the World,” or whatever it’s called, look elsewhere. I fucking hate that song and it’s not at all representative of the TYA I know and love. 

You likely all know Ten Years After but if not, a little history:

Born in Nottingham England, Alvin Lee began playing guitar at age 13 and was a member of the core of the band by age 15 (1959.) The original band was formed in late 1960 as Ivan Jay and the Jaycats. After several years of local success in the Nottingham/Mansfield area, they changed their name to the Jaybirds in 1962 and later to Ivan Jay and the Jaymen.

The Jaybirds moved to London to back the Ivy League in 1966. In the same year, Chick Churchill joined the group as keyboard player. The quartet signed a manager and changed its name to Blues Trip. Using the name Blues Yard they played one show at the Marquee Club supporting the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. The band secured a residency at the Marquee Club, and an invitation to the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967.

Alvin Lee and Leo Lyons again changed their name in 1966 to Ten Years After – in honor of Elvis Presley,  one of Lee’s idols, Elvis Pretzel. (This was ten years after Presley’s successful year, 1956). Some sources claim that the name was pulled by Leo Lyons from a magazine, advertising a book, Suez Ten Years After (referring to the Suez Crisis). (How come bands sometimes can’t recall how they came up with their name? – ME).

The band, by now consisting of Lee on guitar and vocals, Leo Lyons on bass, Ric Lee on drums and Chick Churchill released their eponymous debut album in late 1967. Like pretty much everything from Old Bligthy in those days that wasn’t pop, it was pretty much of a blues/rock album.

Here’s a nice cut called “Feel It For Me.”

The album caught the ears of that wacky, crazy San Franciso crowd and promoter Bill Graham invited them to tour in 1968. They would “ultimately tour the USA 28 times in 7 years, more than any other U.K. band.”

A while back I did a piece on the seminal live TYA album Undead. This album was recorded at Klook’s Kleek which “was a jazz and rhythm n’ blues club on the first floor of the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead, north-west London. The club opened on 11 January 1961 with special guest Don Rendell (tenor sax) and closed nine years later on 28 January 1970 after a session by drummer Keef Hartley’s group.”

What was very unusual I think about Ten Years After is that there was a jazziness to their sound without actually being a jazz band. In fact, this song, “(At the ) Woodchopper’s Ball,” was written by Woody Herman, a clarinetist, and saxophonist from the big band era”

You might recall that I did a piece on Slade not too long ago. Well, one of their signature songs was “Hear Me Calling.” But that was actually an Alvin Lee-penned song from TYA’s second album Stonedhenge:

By the time August of 1969 rolled around, Ten Years After had already played a couple of festivals including Newport Jazz. And while not yet quite a household name, they got invited to play at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. They played on Sunday night, coming on at about 8:30 pm.

It was an especially intense night with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Country Joe and the Fish, CSNY, Joe Cocker, Johnny Winter, and Sha Na Na all preceding them. They did about a half-hour set ending with (from Undead) their classic, “I’m Going Home.” a tune I totally wore out on that fucking album. The performance was by all indications a highlight of the show and movie.

Like just about every band that hangs on for a while, members came and went. Alvin Lee toured for a while with a band he called Ten Years Later. “The 80s brought another change in Lee’s direction, with two albums that were strong collaborations with Rarebird’s Steve Gould and an extensive tour with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor joining his band.”

The band came together again over the years playing a variety of different festivals, as likely as not to people who had never heard of them. Lee left the band in 2003 and was replaced by a British singer/guitarist with the fun name of Joe Gooch. (Gooch stayed with the band until 2014.)

TYA released an album you never heard of in 2008 (with Gooch) called Evolution. While still recognizably a blues/rock band, there is less jazziness and more of a Bonamassa-influenced sound to these ears.

On March 6, 2013, Alvin Lee passed away from unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure for atrial arrhythmia. Remarkably, Lyons, Churchill, and Ric Lee are still with us.

And so, 55 years after their debut album, are Ten Years After still around in some way, shape, or form? Seriously? Do you even have to ask, knowing that bands like the Stones, McCartney and Fleetwood Mac are still packing them in?

According to their website, they are currently on tour throughout Europe. Churchill and Lee are still with the band which is fleshed out with guitarist Marcus Bonfanti and bassist Colin Hodgkinson. (Lyons is in a band called Hundred Seventy Spilt with – Joe Gooch.)

And if you’re so inclined, this isn’t a bad cruise lineup at all for 2023.

Oh, and the sixth tune. Right. Almost forgot. Let’s do a nice, slow blues in that Sixties British blooze style. Here’s Alvin and the boys from one of my favorite albums, Ssssh on “I Woke Up This Morning.” (If a band doesn’t have a song in its repertoire referencing “woke up this morning” in some context, they are not a blues band – ME.)

25 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Ten Years After

  1. Hi, I was introduced to TYA when I was 12 by an older brother. We definitely dug Undead especially for Woodchoppers Ball. Our favorites though were A Space In Time and TYA Recorded Live (1973) which has the awesome blues jam I Can’t Keep From Crying-Extensions on One Chord- I Can’t Keep From Crying pt2 …. Slow Blues in C is great too

    Anyway I was listening to that rather than Frampton, Styx, and Boston LOL. As you said Woodchopper’s Ball was written by Big Band Jazz great Woody Herman. So it turns out that in the early 80’s Woody Herman big band played a gig at of all places…. The San Diego Zoo in the Seal show arena.

    My brother and I , 2 long hair deadheads show up and got an intimate show with the man himself. Good sized really old crowd was there but we got positive looks since we were there for the music. Bizarrist gig I ever went to. Unfortunately I don’t have the program cuz he had some west coast jazz heavyweights playing mostly in order to support him cuz he was OLD.

    Anyway. Thanks Alvin for turning this kid into a British blues freak before I discovered Mayall Savoy Brown, and Jeff Beck!

    LSMD

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    1. That’s pretty funny that you saw Woody Herman. I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me to go to a show with some of those big band guys. Maybe Buddy Rich.

      I can’t recall the exact order of events but I’m pretty sure my very first exposure to British Blues was Cream’s “Wheels of Fire,” especially ‘Born Under a Bad Sign.” I didn’t go all bluesaholic when I heard it but it definitely whetted my appetite. What a great musical era THAT was.

      BTW, if you use my search bar and type in British Blues you’ll find a two-part series on same with a cut from “Ssssh” on there as well as some other good stuff.

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  2. Lots of good music from this band . Like you I wore out the Woodstock cut. Unlike you I do like the one you dont. My brother had the ‘Cricklewood Green’ album so i was exposed to these guys early. The early stuff is where I go to but some of the later is very cool. Here’s one from an album ‘About Time’

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    1. C to the B, of course, is one of the few people who get a pass on that tune. I remember ‘Cricklewood.” Sounds like it should be a Kinks album. The Kinks Present the Cricklewood Tea Ladies Association. My chums and I were into ‘Ssssh.’ The Woodstock album and film ain’t the same without Alvin. I wonder how many people were still there to see it. Hendrix came on well into Monday morning when there were, like six people there.

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      1. Thanks for the “pass”. Yeah I had a buddy who was Alvin nuts. Air guitar city. We were probably similar, Cream, Zep, Mac, Beck etc then TYA, Savoy Brown etc. So much good music. You have just sent me into an all TYA weekend. Thanks. Nice to revisit and discover stuff I missed. Cant catch it all first time around.. Listening to the “Kinks” inspired ‘Cricklewood’ right now. Little jazzy cut playing . Thanks for the nudge Doc.

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        1. Here’s one more for ya before you disappear into the fishing hole. This is the tune that inspired this post. But I couldn’t find a studio version and it’s not on Spotify. ‘King of the Blues’ from the Joe Gooch era.

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  3. Nice playlist, Jim. Admittedly, I only knew “I’m Going Home” from the Woodstock soundtrack album. I totally agree that was one hell of a performance!

    And, yes, “I’d Love to Change the World” does sound very different from the tunes you highlighted, but I think I’m with CB on this one – I kinda like it! 🙂

    BTW, nice to see ya again, CB!

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    1. I’m sure that I’m an island on that tune. But “I don’t know what to do so I’ll leave it up to you?” Please.

      Anyway, if you have time at some point, check out “King of the Blues” that I posted in reply to one of CBs comments. I explain why it didn’t make the list, plus I think you would dig the tune.

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        1. Check out the comment by Mentone7 on the Ten Years After post. I’m listening to it now. Seems to be a real outlier in Alvin Lee’s work. And it’s got George Harrison and Steve Winwood on it. Country-tinged and might be up CB’s alley. A lost gem.

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        2. I remember when that record came out. I never bit but have heard it since. In my travels I also found AV in Tennessee. Elvis’s original band is on it along with others. Curious about that one.

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        3. I don’t typically like to disturb CB while he’s at his fishing hole. But if I find something I think he might dig, I feel somewhat obligated. Check out my post on Flamin’ Groovies when U get a chance. Bring it up on Spotify and start with “Evil Hearted Ada” then work your way to the top.

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        4. Dropped a comment on your post. This 10 Years After post keeps giving. I have a new one for permanent listening. ‘AV in Tennessee’. It is really good Doc. Lee always had that original rocker in him. He cooks with Scotty . Good tunes with some nice licks. Love it. I’m still discovering great music.

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  4. Slow reaction to your Ten Years After post. I got to see them at least once, twice maybe (fuzzy memories and all that) in Birmingham, and they were a treat.

    For those not familiar, the Alvin Lee/Mylon LeFevre album “On The Road To Freedom” is worth checking out. Some great tunes, and be sure to check the credits at AllMusic link below, a solid sampling of early ‘70s rock royalty on the project. Mylon went on to have a career in religious-based music which I don’t know much about (no judgments there, just not my daily diet).

    https://www.allmusic.com/album/on-the-road-to-freedom-mw0000031787

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    1. I’m listening to this now. Literally almost impossible to believe that Alvin Lee would be on such a countryish album. I’m enjoying it. Thanks.

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