Alvin Lee was an awesome blues-rock guitarist who had a big impact on the rock music world after his appearance at Woodstock in 1969. His band was Ten Years After (because it began 10 years after Elvis Presley’s golden year of 1956) the name of the song that killed people at the Woodstock Festival was I’m Going Home. Check it out below. When I was a kid my dad used to crank this song. He wasn’t a ROCK guy by any stretch of the imagination, but he loved this tune. He taught high school history and law classes and because his students at the time were talking about bands like Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Ten Years After, he checked them out to see what the buzz was about. I couldn’t ever convince him that the Jimi Hendrix version of the Star Spangled Banner was brilliant, but I tried…boy did I try.
Ten Years After had a string of hits in the late 60s and early 70s, all of them driven by Lee’s explosive guitar attack. He was rooted in the blues and early rock and roll, but he and his band made it explosive. I used to love listening to their renditions of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Turned-Off TV Blues, One of These Days, Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock ‘n’ Roll You, I’d Love to Change the World and The Hobbit. Over 10 years before This Is Spinal Tap Ten Years After released an album called Stonedhenge. I think Alvin and his band were the link between old-time rock and roll and those heavier bands that emerged in the late 70s and early 80s (AC/DC, Motorhead, UFO) because there was a blues and rock and roll feel to it but it was so metallic and energetic.
Shortly after the hit single I’d Love to Change the World, Lee left Ten Years After to pursue other guitar projects. A very acclaimed album On the Road To Freedom resulted from a partnership with Mylon LeFevre. The record was partially recorded at Lee’s studio with guest appearances from Ron Wood, George Harrison, Jim Capaldi, Stevie Winwood and Mick Fleetwood. In addition to guitars and harmonica, Alvin played a sitar on this record. I haven’t heard this record for a long time but I remember it being very, very good and very unlike Ten Years After and the pyrotechnic style Alvin was known for. He was a much more versatile guitarist than many people ever knew. He would form other bands, reunite with Ten Years After and embark on projects with other guitar luminaries like Mick Taylor, Scotty Moore, Peter Frampton, Albert Lee and Rory Gallagher. He played a Gibson 335 for much of his career and still had the original Woodstock 335 at the time of his death. Watch below…looks to me that Alvin plays a lotta downstrokes and swept strokes. Maybe he was into Django Reinhardt or part gypsy!
While he never achieved the same plateau of success as the early days, Alvin enjoyed a lifetime of playing bitchin’ and beautiful guitar. I’m Going Home sounds as cool today as it did all of those many years. As my dad would say and do — TURN IT UP!