not technically a Blues band, Ten Years After is known for being in the
original generation of British invasion bands who re-interpreted the
blues and introduced this music to white audiences in America for the
To this day, the band's passion and spirit continues to entertain
audiences across the globe and keeps driving the members to even greater
In the beginning, the band's core formed in Nottinghamshire, England as
Ivan Jay & The Jaycats. Soon after, Alvin and Leo formed Ten Years After
with Ivan Jay singing lead vocals. Ric joined in August 1965, replacing
drummer Dave Quickmire who had earlier replaced original drummer Pete
In 1966, the group moved to London and were joined by Chick Churchell.
After a short time using the name Blues Trip, Blues Yard, the band
became Ten Years After for good in November.
Leo remembers: “The origin of the band's name has been a point of
interest for many years and we have given many reasons for it. The truth
is, when the band was looking for a name I saw an advert for a book
called “Suez Ten Years After”. It was about the closure and invasion of
the Suez Canal. I thought 'Ten Years After is a thought-provoking name'.
I suggested it to the band and we all agreed. A point of interest is
that the number 10 is a magical number in the Tarot and mystical in many
“That's right. Leo found the name by going through the Radio Times which
is the UK equivalent of your TV Guide. It was a t TV documentary about
'Ten Years After The Suez Canal Crisis in 1956' ”, adds Ric.
1967, they released their self-titled album “Ten Years After”, and their
second album came in 1968, the live “Undead” featuring their legendary
“I'm Going Home”. Then in 1969 came the studio produced “Stonehenge” a
British hit that included another well-known track “Here Me Calling”
which was later covered by glam-rock band Slade.
In July, 1969 the group appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival, the first
event rock bands were invited to. And in August they appeared at
Woodstock and their rendition of “I'm Going Home” with Alvin singing
lead was featured in the coming movie and soundtrack album and
catapulted them to fame and fortune. They still appear regularly at huge
festivals but there are differences between now and then.
“No matter where I am or how big or small the crowd I always look
forward to playing” Leo notes. “That's where I find I have the most
energy. It's what I've done for over 50 years and I can't imagine
Ric remembers: “In 1968 we were still playing venues like the Fillmore
East and West, The Electric Factory in Philadelphia and similar venues.
Today, in Europe, a lot of the places are similar. But we also play
large festivals too. Anything from 3000-5000 if we're headlining on our
own, to much bigger ones if we are on an international bill. And every
crowd has its own personal nuances but as long as we're playing well
most crowds treat us very well”.
“How have things changed since 1968?” Leo continues. “First of all, I'm
a lot older. I think if I was 18 years old again I would not mind
traveling in great discomfort”, he laughs, “and sleeping on other
people's floors. Nowadays, I rarely look forward to the traveling
involved. It's been said many times that “musicians are paid for travel
but play for nothing”; and that statement gets more poignant as the
years go by with the increased expenses, deregulated airlines and
security queues. Many people say I'm always smiling onstage. That's
because I love playing music but maybe a small part is the relief that,
once again, I've actually made it to the gig”.
are also differences between the way the band is treated while in Europe
and the U.S., and in who comes to their gigs today.
'We get a fair share of baby-boomers at our gigs but certainly in Europe
we get a good percentage of younger people too. We're finding that a lot
of the older folks are bringing their sons and daughters along to our
shows and these kids are loving what we do.”
In 1970, TYA released “Love Like A Man” and it was the first record ever
issued with a different playing speed on each side; a 3 minute edit at
45 rpm and a nearly 8 minute live version at 33 rpm.
Leo laughs: “I think in retrospect it was a “Spinal Tap” moment. The
studio version in its edited form, was a hit in several countries. We
all felt the extended live version was better so we put it on the
B-side. Of course, when the single hit the jukeboxes, the B-side sounded
like The Chipmunks. I remember Ric and I were in a bar in France and
someone played the B side on the jukebox. At the end of the song, the
people in the bar applauded. I was embarrassed. I don't think the idea
has been used again.”
“It was done so that our true fans could have the full length version of
the track. We didn't want them to feel ripped off by the drastically
edited A side” , Ric relates.
In August,1970 TYA played The Strawberry Fields Festival near Toronto,
the Isle Of Wight Festival and The Budokan, in Tokyo. The band was
constantly touring; playing important music events and huge venues.
“The Tokyo gig was at The Budokan and held 10,000 people. The supporting
act was Procol Harum. John and Yoko were not at the Toronto Strawberry
Fields show but I met them briefly at the filming of The Rock and Roll
Circus, and me and my first wife Ruthann ended up looking after a very
young Julian for part of the time while John was filming” Ric recalls.
In 1971, the band switched labels to Columbia Records and released the
hit album “A Space In Time” which marked a move toward more commercial
material and featured the group's biggest hit “I'd Love To Change The
World”. With lyrics : “Tax the rich feed the poor till there are no rich
no more” and “I'd love to change the world but I don't know what to do
so I'll leave it up to you” this song is as relevant today as it was 40
“I think”, Leo says, “that “I'd Love To Change The World” is the best
song Alvin wrote. Most people can relate to the song's sentiment and I'm
not surprised it is still popular today. Alvin always refused to play
that song live, but I'm pleased to say, with Joe in the band, we've been
playing it for the past 10 years. Some of the lyrics are perhaps a
little ambiguous but I really enjoy playing the song”.
“For some strange reason, although he wrote it, Alvin would never play
it live,” Ric contributes, “and I agree, a lot of the lyrics have
remained relevant, and I'm very happy to be playing it nowadays. I'm not
surprised by the legs this song has had as I think that most people
relate to the sentiment expressed. Also, it's helped that the song has
been in several movies over the last few years.”
1972 brought the release of “Rock and Roll Music To The World”, and in
1973 came the double album “Ten Years After Live”. The band subsequently
broke up after their final 1974 Columbia album, “Positive Vibrations”.
went solo in 1975 and the group ceased touring and recording. Demand for
TYA over the next 25 years never waned, and there were 3 short-lived
attempts at reformation, and one new studio album “About Time” Each time
Alvin quit to return to his solo career.
According to Leo: “the reformations were always for the same reason.
When Alvin needed TYA we did a few gigs. When he didn't; he quit. All
bands have their problems and TYA were no exception. I don't think Alvin
became increasingly more difficult to deal with, he just didn't want the
pressure of being in the band. And I think, I , for one, pushed him
further than he felt comfortable with.”
“We worked together since he was 15 and I was 16. We wanted to take on
the world. In the early, pre-TYA days, we'd have a disagreement, stop
the van, have a punch-up, get back into the van and continue on to the
gig. We always resolved our differences. We could not have played
together for so long if we didn't have a mutual respect for each other.
Alvin was like a brother to me and I was very upset by his death.”
Even after EMI and DECCA, in conjunction with Ric, digitally remastered
the band's complete catalog, complete with bonus tracks, in 2001, Alvin
would not get back together again and tour to promote the new releases.
“When I spoke to him about it”, Ric says, “he told me “it's not what I
want to do” and “I'm more or less retired. It wasn't frustrating because
we were able to put our energies into the current line-up with the
fabulous Mr. Gooch.”
In 2003, the other band members replaced Alvin with Joe Gooch and
recorded the album “Now”. Material from the following tour was used for
the 2005 double album “Roadworks”. Now with Gooch, they are still
recreating the music, energy and excitement they've been known for over
the past 5 decades. He is fully conversant with all of Alvin's licks and
he has a distinct personality of his own that breathes new life into the
“Joe is my son Tom's childhood friend”, Leo speaks. “I have known him
since he was a baby although I never kept up with his musical progress.
TYA was looking for another guitar player, Tom suggested Joe. I thought
we needed someone with more experience but Tom shamed me by saying “if
no one gives Joe a chance he'll never get any experience.” I was living
in Nashville at the time and I asked Joe to send an audition tape to Ric.
Ric played the tape to me over the phone. I thought Joe sounded great
and Ric went to hear him play. When I got back to the UK we arranged an
audition and Joe got the job. I think we were very lucky to find him. I
would never have thought it possible to find a replacement for Alvin”
Ric continues: “Joe sent me a tape with “I'm Going Home” on it. At
first, I thought someone was “taking the piss” as the guitar intro
sounded exactly like Alvin playing. However, when Joe began singing the
difference in the voices was quite apparent. What knocked me out most of
all though, was Joe's version of the classic Hendrix track “Red House”.
That really blew me away. I played the cd to Leo over the phone and then
arranged to check out Joe live. Again, I was very impressed. We then
tried out two different guitarists who didn't work out for us. I called
Joe and asked him to come to a rehearsal with us, and all three of us,
Leo, Chick and myself, were hugely impressed with the young man and
asked him to join us.”
Alvin Lee mostly played and recorded under his own name following his
split from the band. He died from complications during a routine medical
procedure in March, 2013
Leo: “I feel very sad. He was the closest thing I had to a brother. We
had our differences but we shared so many great experiences
together......Our main difference was musical ambition. I was creatively
frustrated. As I mentioned earlier, when we started out we wanted to
take on the world. When we reached the point when the world was at our
feet, and we could do anything we wanted, Alvin decided he didn't want
to go any further. I wanted to do more. I learned to accept that we all
have a right to make our own choices in life and I will carry on
pursuing our dreams as long as I have the energy to do so”.
Can we expect new music from TYA? “We have nothing planned right at the
moment, but I would imagine that we will do something new in the very
near future,” teases Ric. The intensity of the band is legendary and it
is a testament to their passion and spirit that Ten Years After is now
teaching a new generation the music lessons they learned from listening
to the masters.”
Photos by Arnie Goodman © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer A. J. Wachtel is a long-time entertainment journalist in
New England and the East Coast who currently writes for The Boston Blues
Society and The Noise Magazine. He is well known in the Boston and N.Y.C
areas for his work in the Blues for the last two decades.
For other reviews and interviews on our website