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.)