Nearly 40 years after its formation, Ten Years After continues to stand tall among the greatest blues-rock bands ever. The band caused a sensation at the legendary Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969 thanks to their incendiary encore "I'm Going Home," and the dreamy "I'd Love To Change The World" was a huge hit single in 1971. These two songs only tell part of the story of a band whose tireless touring and recording have generated a solid body of work as any in rock 'n' roll history.
Keyboardist Chick Churchill, bass guitarist Leo Lyons, drummer Ric Lee (no relation to Alvin Lee) and new vocalist/lead guitarist Joe Gooch are showcasing their considerable talents for audiences all over the world. The quartet's double live album 'Roadworks' -- recorded at concerts in France and Germany in 2004 -- was first released in Europe in late 2005 and it's the follow-up to the studio album 'Ten Years After ...... Now' issued earlier in the year.
Ten Years After was re-energized with the addition of Gooch, a 28-year-old stick of singing and playing dynamite.
"Joe was recommended to us by Tom Lyons, our bass player Leo Lyons' son. I went to see Joe and was blown away by his playing. I was not surprised that somebody so young was that talented. We were concerned about the age gap, but that proved not to be a problem," says Lee.
The Ten Years After story begins in Nottingham, England, in 1967 when already seasoned veterans Lee, Churchill, Lyons and original vocalist/lead guitarist Alvin Lee joined forces and hit the London club circuit in earnest. 1967 will always be remembered as a pivotal year in rock'n' roll, especially the "Summer Of Love." At this time -- and for the next few years -- a blues-rock movement exploded in England. American blues artists often earned greater success and respect in England than at home, and their influence was massive. The Rolling Stones, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds, Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, Free, Foghat, Savoy Brown and others carried this musical torch. Ten Years After was also such a blues-rock disciple and the band released its self-titled debut album late in 1967.
"There was an obvious blues-rock 'movement' in the U.K. before we came to the U.S. After we all started playing at the Marquee Club, the music press dubbed it as the U.K. 'blues boom,"' remembers Lee.
The albums 'Undead,' 'Stonedhenge' and 'Ssssh' were released between 1968 and 1969. 'Ssssh' hit the stores just around the time of Woodstock. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people attended this three-day festival, held on Max Yasgur's dairy farm near Bethel, NY, on August 15-17, 1969. Ric Lee remembers Ten Years After's August 17 performance and its career-boosting aftermath quite vividly.
"We left St. Louis at 6:00 a.m. the morning of the gig. We arrived in New York City, jumped in two limos and drove for three hours to Bethel. The Holiday Inn -- now a Days Inn -- was the base camp as all the roads for six miles around the festival site were blocked by abandoned cars. We went to the site by helicopter. We realized playing to 300,000 people at one time was very special. The magnitude of it really became apparent when the film was released in 1970, one year after the festival. There were standing ovations in the cinemas after Ten Years After's portion and mass hysteria outside gigs following the film's release. The tour after the film release was Ten Years After's biggest grossing tour," Lee says.
'Cricklewood Green,' 'Watt' and 'A Space In Time' were released between 1970 and 1971. 'A Space In Time' featured "I'd Love To Change The World." Despite a reference in the "I'd Love To Change The World" lyrics to "dykes and fairies," there was no backlash or radio airplay bans and it became a U.S. Top 40 hit single.
"I don't recall it causing any controversy at the time. Earlier 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' received some radio bans because of the 'I want to ball you all night long' line. We were also known as 'degenerate hippies' in certain parts of the U.S. due to our long hair," says Lee.
Ten Years After's relentless recording and touring pace continued with the studio, live and compilation albums 'Alvin Lee And Company,' 'Rock & Roll Music To The World,' 'Recorded Live,' 'Positive Vibrations' and 'Goin' Home! Their Greatest Hits' between 1972 and 1975. Alvin Lee decided to pursue a solo career and Ten Years After disbanded. Over the next 20 years, the original lineup re-formed briefly three times, yielding one new studio album, 1989's 'About Time.'
Ric Lee, Churchill and Lyons all pursued a variety of successful music and business ventures during their time away from Ten Years After. Fortunately, it wasn't difficult to come together again.
"I had worked with EMI and Universal in 2001 to repackage the old catalog for CD and add previously unreleased bonus tracks. I also discovered the 'Live At The Fillmore East' recordings in EMI's vault and got that released too," says Lee. "I asked Alvin to go out to promote the releases but he declined on the grounds that, 'I'm practically retired and it's not something I want to do.' There was a groundswell for the band in Europe and so we found Joe and got out there and did it. We started small and built it up, just like the old days."
The return of Ten Years After has excited fans all over the world, especially in Europe.
"The audiences are terrific and we play from medium-sized clubs to large festivals, headlining some and being special guests on others. We're packaged with Deep Purple and Uriah Heep in Austria later in 2006 and doubled with Jethro Tull last year," says Lee. "There has been a resurgence in Europe. Not necessarily blues-rock, but interest in bands that can actually play their instruments as opposed to TV-created personalities that can't actually sing live when it comes down to it. I also think people got tired of seeing two guys with synthesizers just standing there letting pre-programmed instruments make most of the music. One band that I think helped the change in Europe was The Darkness."
The future is bright for Ten Years After. A DVD and new studio CD are planned for release in 2009.
For all the latest news and tour dates, visit www.tenyearsafternow.com.