Leo Lyons :: I think British blues music boomed in the mid
by Stanislav Malyarchuk
Photo by Zmicier Padbiarezki
During preparation of my essay devoted to the great British
blues-rock group TEN YEARS AFTER I had a chance to do an interview
with Leo Lyons, the bass player of the famous team of 60-70s of
the last century.
Stanislav Malyarchuk: Mid of 60s of the last century (millennium)
is believed to be a boom for appearance of many blues-rock teams
in the UK. I’ve been reading a lot of explanations of that. What
is your opinion?
Leo Lyons: I think British blues music boomed in the mid 60’
alongside and because of the Hippie culture and the peace and
civil rights movements. We all wanted to change the world. Blues
music, psychedelic rock and protest songs fitted into the spirit
of the time.
S. M. You belong to the post-war generation but being born at
the height of that terrible time. The Russians do know pretty well
what was the 2nd World War. On the 9th of May 2005 we were
celebrating 60th anniversary of victory. All world leaders came in
Moscow to tribute all those who helped us to survive. Regretfully
your Prime-Minister could not come to Mow, explaining he was busy
with the election in your country. How do you estimate his
position towards celebration of that great holiday, keeping in
mind that UK were are allies. (I do understand it’s a rather
political issue and it’s up to you to answer or not)
L. L. Yes, I was born towards the end on the 2nd World War and in
fact my father was killed on active service during the Normandy
landings. I’m saddened for all the people on both sides who were
killed and even sadder that the world is still at war sixty years
later. I wish we could celebrate the end of all wars. That would
truly be a victory celebration.
Tony Blair is a politician and has his own agenda like all
politicians. Enough said.
S. M. Could you kindly explain why TEN YEARS AFTER & who
was an inventor of this name?
L. L. The band needed a new name. I read in a magazine about a
radio program called ‘Ten years after National Service’. The
show was about the end of Conscription into the armed forces in
I thought ‘Ten Years After’ would be an interesting band name.
Many things could be read into it. For example the number10 is an
important number in numerology. The rest of the band liked the
name and so we became ‘Ten Years After’.
S. M. Alvin Lee was performing in Mow in 1995. There were 2
gigs in the Mow Youth Dome on March’24 & 25 It was superb,
unfortunately it was not the best time in our country. It was
rather unstable after the Gorbachev’s perestroika. The
advertising was very poor, tickets rather expensive and the Dome
was full only by 1/3. I’ve chanced to be present at that great
event and was greatly impressed. Have you ever been to Russia (Mow,
St. Petersburg) and if so what were your impressions?
L. L. I’m sorry to say that Ten Years After have never played in
Russia. We were offered shows many times but Alvin Lee always
refused to do them. There was no logic to it and at the time it
made me very angry with him. It’s makes even less sense when he
eventually played there with his own band.
It is a longstanding ambition of mine and the rest of TYA to tour
in Russia. Now with Joe Gooch in the lineup it will be possible
S.M. Being in Moscow with his gig in the Red Square in 2003,
Sir Paul McCartney had a unique chance to meet the Russian
President Mr. Putin
Walking around the Kremlin Squares and Cathedrals with his wife
and being accompanied by the President, he was greatly impressed
by the seen. But the question asked by him shocked me a lot:
“Was Rasputin here in the Kremlin in his time?” As if the
Great Russian culture and history come only the activities of that
extremely disputable person.
If you chance to meet the Russian President during your tour in
Moscow & St. Petersburg, what points of interest would you
like to be highlighted by him? And have you got any ideas about
the Russian history, culture and music? A lot of people living
abroad are proud to have the Russian ancestors and roots! What
L. L. I’d ask the President if he’d show me what points of
interest he felt personally I should see. I’d also like to meet
people from different backgrounds and get their impressions of
Russia and what it’s like to be Russian.
I don’t have any Russian ancestry but I do know a little about
Russian history, culture and music. I think Russia has a lot to
S.M. Being nearly 40 years in concerts and tours all over the
world have you chanced to come across the most quiet place to
settle down with your family or friends after your activities are
L.L.I retired when I was 27 years old, bought a farm in the
Cotswolds, Oxfordshire, UK where for twenty years my wife and I
had the pleasure of watching our two sons grow up.
Playing live is something I find hard to give up and now I’m
back on the road again I have no intention of slowing down. As
long as people want to hear me play I’ll tour.
S. M.. What was your most memorable gig ever played?
Historically it would have to be ‘Woodstock’ but there have
been many landmarks in my career. It could have been the first
show at the Marquee Club London or playing Madison Square Gardens
or the Budokan, Tokyo. I’m lucky to be still playing and the
shows I played last week are just as memorable for me.
S.M. “Buried alive in blues!” - who these words you wish to
be dedicated to ?
L .L. A tough question. Probably ‘Howling Wolf’
S. M. Is Ray Charles passing away a great tragedy for you and the
English and what do you think about the recent feature film
devoted to him if you had happened to watch it ?
Ray death is less of a tragedy because he had a long and
successful life and left behind a legacy of great works. He still
lives in his music and no musician could ask for more than that.
I’ve not seen the film yet. I will but right now doesn’t seem
the right time for me.
S. M. Can the Britishers play real root blues ?
L. L. Yes they can if they draw on their own experiences. Everyone
gets the blues. It’s an expression of how we feel whether it’s
about love, war, oppression, booze or cars.
I think all musicians acknowledge that blues music originated in
the Mississippi Delta but it didn’t stay there. The blues has no
geographical location if it comes from the heart.
S. M. Your riff in LOVE LIKE A MAN along with D/P’s Smoke on
the Water is my favorite. How could it come into your minds? Is it
difficult to compose musical masterpieces? And why no interesting
and impressive teams are come across nowadays? Or you can name
some in the British blues – rock scene?
L. L. It was a piece of luck. The riff came out of the air and my
fingers fell on it. I played the idea to the band during a jam
session and we made it into a song. It’s not technically
difficult or an unusual musical sequence but like Smoke on the
Water I guess it hit a spot.
All the best ideas come out of the air, the collective
consciousness. I try and allow the instrument to play itself
without me thinking about it too much.
I’m sure there must be some great new riffs out there. Maybe you
should hold a competition.
S. M. Is The Woodstock still an unsurpassed event in the
history of rock music? What are your impressions now, after 36
L. L. The Woodstock Festival was memorable gig made historical by
the movie. The film represents a generation and a whole era of
music. There were many great concerts around that time, perhaps
not so large but equally as enjoyable. I was thrilled to be have
been present at many of them.
S. M. What are your sons doing now? Are they engaged in music
activities professionally or like amateurs?
L. L. Both my sons are in the music business. Tom works as a
guitar tech and Harry works for CMT radio in Nashville. They both
love music, write songs and play guitar but not professionally.
S. M. Is it difficult to play blues – rock at the age of 62?
L. L. No it’s easier. I don’t feel any older and I enjoy
playing more. Experience in life is helpful if one keeps an open
mind. I strive to be a better player than I was last year or last
S. M. Being in the UK several times it seemed to me that was
the most safe country in the world. Now after the terrorists’
attacks it seems to me there are safety places nowhere in the
world. Do you feel any fears or frights now in your country?
L. L. The United Kingdom has changed over the past twenty years
and is not the country I grew up in but the whole world has
changed too. Nowhere is the same. I’ll have to re-read George
Orwells 1984 again and see if there’s a happy ending.
S. M. . What is your impression of the latest release of RS A
Bigger Bang? Do you believe they are predicting doomsday?
L. L. I love the CD. It has the energy of their earlier work and
maybe the title ‘A Bigger Bang’ could mean just that. It’s
The song ‘Sweetneocon’ may predict Doomsday but a great number
of the songs are about relationships and ‘Bang’ is also slang
for the sex act. I’d like to listen to the CD some more before
reading anything significant into it.
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