Leo Lyons :: I think British blues music boomed in the mid 60’s
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 the UK.

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 about you?

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 offer.

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 expiring?

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 years?

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 week.

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 cutting edge.

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.

published 24.09.2005 jazz news :: jazz news home page

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