Ten Years After: Strong with NOW – without Alvin Lee’s Know How !

 (With kind permission of GOOD TIMES MAGAZIN and Uli Twelker)  

Ten Years After without Formula-1-guitarist, singer and songwriter Alvin Lee?!
The potential enduring subject.  The band, with new young front-man Joe Gooch, countered  just like that - in the true sense of the word. How did this come to pass? That tour gigs are building up? Their new album called “NOW” is what’s persuading, America into motioning to them to come back to the states once again. So with Ric Lee, original member of Ten Years After, we will try to answer all of these questions with Uli Twelker:  

GT:  Let’s not talk around it: What really divided Ten Years After and Alvin Lee?

RL: This has been an up and down thing throughout the years, since 1975 or so. Alvin wanted to do his solo projects, which lead to the following: I was fed up that the reissues that were being released and nothing new or interesting was being offered to the fans, so I went and dug into the archives at EMI and Universal. At EMI we found “LIVE AT THE FILLMORE EAST”  and at Universal we put together an anthology, that unfortunately was not released, but 3 albums with bonus material were released. So in order to promote them I called up Alvin, but he wasn’t interested. “I have sort of retired and I enjoy my life in Spain” were his words.  

Then a promoter offered us to play as “warm up” for Kim Simmonds as Ten Years After, at a club jubilee in Hannover, Germany, the problem is, how could this happen and work without Alvin? At home, I then received a fax: that 15 gigs were being booked with guitarist Carvin Jones, but his backing band Double-Trouble cancelled at the last minute. Would it be possible for Leo (Lyons, TYA bass player); Chick (Churchill, (TYA keyboard player) and I to help out?  They both agreed via e-mail, so we flew to Rome and met the guitarist in person. We rehearsed at a small studio which was situated at the Autobahn close to Milan, and the very same evening we played the first of 15 gigs.

We realized how much the band was still appreciated, although we did not play any Ten Years After songs: As Carvin Jones plays cover-songs, the way the Blues Brothers sounded. Back home again we tried some guitarists who were around our age, but it just didn’t work out as we had planned. Then Leo Lyon’s son recommended his schoolmate Joe Gooch. He was the best choice, and after 3 days of rehearsal he played with us in Germany! For the last two and a half years that he’s been a member of Ten Years After, it’s been simply  fantastic.  

GT: Where do you see the difference between Alvin Lee and Joe Gooch?

RL:  Alvin was very much influenced by Bill Broonzy and many early blues musicians, also for some time this included, George Benson and Wes Montgomery. Joe Gooch stands in the tradition of Jimi Hendrix and Joe Satriani, because he is younger. He grew up listening to the whole Ten Years After catalogue, as his parents had our records. At the rehearsals he played our standards, such as “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” perfectly note by note. In the meantime he developed his own solo style, for instance on “I Can’t Keep From Crying”. He is a very musical player, and even not wanting to step into Alvin’s footsteps, he plays damn fast. It’s in every way much easier to work with Joe, we are really more like a team.  

GT: Did you have a certain strategy with the new album NOW?

RL:  We thought about it a lot: Leo was heading for a more hard rock sound but I disagreed, as I tend to be more jazz oriented, and carried away with the bluesy-jazzy feeling. Also in the Chapel Studio in Lincolnshire, the band called “The Darkness” were recording at the same time, and we mostly worked as an ensemble together, in the same room, but without Chick’s tracks being included. We did separate tracks only, for guitar/organ solo and bass licks. We worked hard with the material. Some of the songs Leo wrote with a friend of his in Nashville, some were written with Joe, and some were composed by all four of us together, our mutual bond was felt instantly.  

In the end we recreated the sound of Ten Years After much better than we ever thought was possible. Chick Churchill plays more of a prominent role: as you’ll hear in the number called “King Of The Blues” Chick and Joe took turns trading solos, and  this is something that never happened with Ten Years After in the past. Only Country-Blues and Jazz-Shuffle are not part of it, this time, and for only one reason: we had no time because of an upcoming tour.


GT:  What about going to America?

RL:  We were supposed to tour the Eastern and Western coast in July and August, but at present, it might take an extra two months with all the immigration paper work needed.  Applications will be possible when the gigs are managed. That’s why we played only in Canada, at the “Thunder Bay Blues Festival” and two other gigs in Ontario. We are heading to the States in September/October. By then the CD will be in the shops. They want a double live CD with bonus tracks with hits for our comeback, like “Schoolgirl” and especially  “I’d Love To Change The World” will be part of it too – Alvin never played the later song on stage but we do.


GT: What was personally your best year with Ten Years After?

RL:  I like the very early times, when we dragged through the English clubs:  “Klooks Kleek” and “Manor House”,  for example 200 to 400 people were there squeezed in one room, and the atmosphere was hot and sweaty. That was the most happy period for me.  

GT: There are a few complaints on Alvin’s own website: Why not change the bands name to      “New Ten Years After”, or something like that?

RL:  Why should we?  Alvin was the one who released albums in the 90’s at EMI  as ALVIN LEE & TEN YEARS AFTER, with band songs, as well as his solo-songs being included. Also on concert posters, the name Ten Years After was publicized in this way. So he’s the one who decided to define who Ten Years After is.

Besides that, we complain to any and all promoters, who don’t present our names in the proper way.

By the way, I attended an Alvin Lee show recently in Manchester. I liked it, and after the show we had a nice chat behind the stage and got along fine with each other.

  Uli Twelker - GOOD TIMES MAGAZIN         

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