Rock Revisited presents an exclusive interview with...
of 10 Years
I'd Love To Change The World... Right Now!
by Ron Bozich
Leo Lyons labored through the early sixties in the heart of the British
rock alley between London and Hamburg
Germany. As an original member and founder of Ten Years After he has the
illustrious credit of performing at the first Woodstock festival in 1969. He is
a producer, engineer, worked as a studio manager, staff writer and song
Within the last year Leo, along with former band mates Ric Lee and Chick
Churchill have reformed Ten Years After. Their legacy began back in the late
60's and the group was jettisoned into stardom after their appearance at
Woodstock. Minus the legendary guitarist and front man Alvin Lee from the
original line-up the remaining members still maintain the spirit the group had
back in the early days. Filling some large shoes is a 25 year old guitar player
named Joe Gooch who has joined the group in the next generation of TYA. A fine
compliment to rock-n-roll in that it lives in the hearts of present day
generations long after its arrival. Read on as Leo tells his story about the new
TYA, his professional rock career and shares his insight as to what's happening
in the ever changing world of rock-n-roll.
--Ron Bozich, January 2003
Ron: Tell my what you been up to these days.
Leo: I live here in Nashville, I've been here for 5 years and I've been
working in country music. About two years ago, I went out on the road with a
blues guitar player named Scott Holt. I think it was the male menopause
actually, you know, traveling up and down America! (laughs). I enjoyed that and
then in April of last year Ric Lee of Ten Years After called me and asked if I'd
like to get together with a blues guitar player named Calvin Jones back in
Europe and I said yes. We went over to Europe and what actually happened was a
lot of Ten Years After fans came to see us play and they were asking us to play
Ten Years After songs.
Ron: This sounds like the start of the reformation of TYA.
Leo: Yes we thought long and hard about it and we're always being asked to go
play shows. After 27 years of waiting in the wings we decided to go and do
Ron: You just got back from England where you were recording the next TYA CD
Leo: Well we just did a short tour of Europe just before Christmas and went
in the studio straight after Christmas. We got three tracks finished and Ric
unfortunately was ill in the middle of it and we didn't get as much done as we
hoped. But everything sounds great!
Ron: Is everything OK with Ric?
Leo: Yes, oh yes he's fine. He had an infection of some sort, he didn't know
what it was but he's recovering from it.
Ron: Are you getting back into the studio soon?
Leo: Yeah, people are asking us to do shows all over the place and basically
what I like to do is go out and play live and fit the recording in around our
show commitments. Initially we were hoping to release the record in May of this
year in time for our U.K. tour. But it may be a little later now. What we are
going to do is play the new material on stage.
Ron: What is the new TYA line-up now?
Leo: It's the same three guys, Chick, Ric, myself and the new guy, English
guy, Joe Gooch.
Ron: I haven't heard of Joe, what caliber of guitar player is
Leo: He's phenomenal. He was recommended by my son, funny enough, who's a
friend of his. Only not wanting it to sound like nepotism, I asked Joe to send a
tape to Ric and let Ric check it out.
Ron: Joe's a youngster then.
Leo: Yeah he's 25!
Ron: How does the new TYA compare to the original line-up?
Leo: The new TYA, I think, has captured the spirit that Ten Years After had
in 1969. 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
Ron: I wanted to talk to you about your early career, The Jaybirds, did you
do any recording with that
Leo: Yes we did and I couldn't tell you if any of it was released or not. As
far as I know they could be sitting in a box somewhere.
Ron: You played in a house band with Tony Sheridan and during that time you
crossed paths with The Beatles several times.
Leo: Alvin was a friend of George Harrison's and I've met them a few times.
Every band was doing pretty much the same thing in the 60's, living in the north
of England, trying to break into London and traveling up and down. The big thing
was, you know, the Star Club opened up in Hamburg and so did the Top Ten and
several others. Bands went out there and The Beatles or the Liverpool bands were
approximately the first bands to go out there. Alvin and I were playing a show
somewhere up north and the piano player from Tony Sheridan's band, Roy Young,
was looking for bands to go to Hamburg and that's how we got over
Ron: Let's fast forward to 1967, TYA is formed, you release a couple albums,
you're invited to perform at Woodstock in 1969 and that performance jettisons
TYA into stardom.
Leo: Yes it did. It opened all the minor markets, you know, some town that
neither of us has heard of and has a 10,000 seater auditorium and we could do it
on a Wednesday night and fill it.
Ron: A few bands got good visibility at Woodstock CSNY..
Leo: Yes and Santana.
Ron: Speaking of Carlos he admitted to taking Acid and tripping during his
Leo: I think Carlos took it voluntarily but I mean there was so much Acid
floating around. When we got there, Pete Townshend came up to me and said "don't
eat or drink anything unless it's from a sealed can". (laughs)
Ron: Did you guys enhance your performance any?
Leo: I certainly didn't, no. I think if I'd have taken Acid I'd have never
Ron: Leo my favorite Ten Years After album is A Space in Time probably
because it was my first but what would you say is your favorite
Leo: It's difficult to say; maybe the next one. I always thought a good
representation was the Recorded Live album, because it was the band
without the restrictions of the studio. I think an innovative record at the time
was the Sssh record where we were doing all kinds of sound effects and
weird things, so I'd put that one down too.
Ron: TYA split in 1975, then reunited for the 25 year anniversary of the
Leo: We did three or four shows...
Ron: And then reunited again in 1988 and then again in
Leo: It happens every ten years more or less...
Ron: I know you've been asked this before but why won't Alvin stay in the
Leo: I have and basically it's because he doesn't want to. He and I have
worked together since we were 16 years old. We're like brothers in many
respects. But I want to do other things and he doesn't basically. If he works
with Ten Years After then I'm sure I'll put the pressure on him to get some new
material, lets go here, lets go to Timbuktu, lets go everywhere and he chooses
not to do things like that. So when we got back together on those periods it was
really because it suited him to do it in that particular moment in
Ron: I've always been curious about the marketing of the band name. At one
point Ten Years After became Alvin Lee and Ten Years After why was
Leo: That was a conscious decision, with Alvin's approval, I'm sure made by
our Record Company at the time. One can speculate as to why, I think it was the
era of the guitar hero. I have been told from people that worked in the label at
the time, "well it's easier to control one guy than four". (laughs). I do know
that at that particular period in time, we were told that, Alvin was going to do
all of the interviews. He was built up as a figure head. The guy is a talented
player and as a singer and guitar player you would expect it to be that
Ron: In 1975 your were hired by Chrysalis Records to manage and re-quip the
Wessex studios in London. What equipment were you using back
Leo: It was the Neve consoles, Ampeg tape machines, Neumann, Tannoy
monitoring all the usual stuff. When I was at Wessex some of Queens, "Bohemian
Rhapsody" was recorded there. Some of the Sex Pistols stuff was recorded there
Ron: How did that equipment compare to the early sixties when you were
Leo: Quite different, I mean, when we started recording it was 4-track
recording and it was mono. Bands weren't allowed to go into the control room,
the playback was through a speaker in the studio.
Ron: And now the technology changes have really put distance between now and
Leo: Yeah it's ridiculous. The last two records I've worked on have either
been on Pro Tools or Radar. I mean now for $8000 you can have an absolutely
incredible recording studio.
Ron: Leo you've produced groups such as, UFO, Procol Harum and Motorhead just
to name a few, what is the dynamic between you and the bands in the
Leo: A producer has to get the best out of the artist, make it as comfortable
as possible and help them with the material. It really depends what you have to
do. I do whatever I have to do. Some producers say these are my songs, this is
how you're going to play them and play this. I don't do that.
Ron: CRR's Shelly Harris did an interview with Pete Way not too long ago and
you've worked with Pete...
Leo: Oh yes many times!
Ron: What was the dynamic in the studio between two bass players like you and
Leo: When you're the producer you are the sounding board. I mean people are
going to take guidance from you or it's a waist of time being in the studio. I
like to hear what people are going to do before I tell them what to do. And
hopefully I've picked the right project to work on and the artist picked the
right producer. You're going to be somewhere along the lines of asking and
encouraging and getting the best performance. You're not going to be fighting
for every point.
Ron: Your solo album Tough Trip Through Paradise 1996, how'd you come
up with that title? I'm speculating, was it the rock-n-roll lifestyle or the TYA
Leo: I just heard so many rich people bitching about insuring their
paintings! (laughs) You know, I heard someone saying, "I have to keep my
paintings in a vault because the insurance is too high".
Ron: L.A. Guns and Slade covered "I'd Love To Change The World" and
"Here Me Calling" respectively, how does it feel to have groups of that caliber cover
Leo: Of course the Slade thing was years and years ago. Umm... I don't know I
mean... I guess that's great. I think it's flattering.
Ron: What's the tour schedule for TYA this year?
Leo: Jan. 29th I start another run of dates starting in Italy and going
through Belgium, Germany and Holland.
Ron: How about the U.S.?
Leo: Working on it. Obviously I'd like to do the U.S. because I live here.
We've talked to a few people about it.
Ron: You know the tribute band issue comes a lot these days and in my
personal opinion if a band is out there playing then good for
Leo: That's right. We're not a tribute band, we're Ten Years
Ron: Yeah you have 75% of the original guys, I guess when it gets down to 1
member of four then it becomes an issue of debate. But I still say I don't care
if you're out there playing with one guy, good for you, you have my
Leo: Best thing that I found going out in April was people didn't really
care. I mean up to a point, unless you were trying to delude them, which
obviously is not the interest of who's in the band, they want to hear those
songs. They want to hear those songs that they remember. But that's not enough
for us, we want to do something new because that's the spirit in which we
started out initially.
Ron: You're doing that right now seeing how you're in the studio recording
Leo: That's right. When we go out at the end of this month there will be
three songs that we've never played live before.
Ron: Where do you think rock music is headed?
Leo: It's difficult to say. When you think about the sixties it was
underground music until the FM radio stations started you never heard it on
radio. Yet there were all these bands happening. I mean, if you look at
Woodstock for example; who was the pop act at Woodstock? I guess it was
The Who and that's no disrespect to them but they were the only band at that
time that was on AM radio. I don't think any of the other bands that were there
were on AM and that changed. So it could change again. From what I see when I'm
out on the road and talking to young people, the guitar is back. Your getting a
lot of guitar bands now if you look at the alternative rock scene, there are a
lot guitar players it's not synthesizers. Bands like Nickelback for example. And
of course Aerosmith, you know, the figure head of it all they're still up there
Ron: Leo that about wraps it up for me is there anything else that you'd like
Leo: I'd like to say thank you to you and to everybody out there that's
supported us over the years. And I hope that they are going to come out and
check out the new band.
Ron: Thank you Leo. Everyone at CRR wishes you, Ric, Chick and Joe the most
success with the new CD and the current tour schedule. Please send us a copy of
the CD when its done so we can give it a review when it's
Leo: Will do.
Pictures of Leo Lyons by Brigitte and Dave
www.ten-years-after.com a fan page dedicated to Ten Years After.
Visit Leo on line at www.ten-years-after.com and drop him an
Classic Rock Revisited www.classicrockrevisited.com
Thanks to Ron Bozich for supporting Ten
Years After - Leo Lyons, Chick Churchill, Ric Lee and Joe Gooch
Thanks to Jeb and Patty Wright for their support of Ten Years After and our website (Dave and Brigitte)