My first favorite band. Alvin Lee quickly dashed my pubescent hopes of playing guitar. Anytime I was feeling confident, I’d come across some Ten Years After disc and his speed, precision, and soul would practically take the guitar from my hands and set it down for me. More young guitarists were discouraged by this guy than by any other player.
Here’s how you know him.
The below clip is special to me. My dad didn’t let me listen to the song ‘I’m Going Home’ until I could watch the definitive performance from Woodstock. I was young. In that magical age before I could date girls but after I had already become obsessed by them, that age where I could focus every second on a passion, whether it was guitar or comics, I had time for it. I was at that age, so the thought of a perfect Ten Years After performance in a movie was pretty exciting.
I’m thirteen when I watch this.
It’s also the end of the road for Ten Years After. This moment I was so excited for marked our split. I came to this movie for them but left with The Who. It might not mean much to some people, but switching allegiances meant the whole rhythm of my life was changed. Alvin Lee’s soulful, piercing guitar solos might have built a different person in me than Pete Townshend’s crunchy, scatter-shot playing did.
Lee’s plays his guitar like a lion tamer. He holds onto it like it might get loose and he’s the only one that can tame it. He sings as if Rock and Roll never died and was never resurrected by the Beatles. There was Little Richard and Elvis and now we’re playing Rock and Roll like this. The jazz in his voice keeps it cool when the blues in his fingers is accelerating to the point of almost losing control. But he never lost it. I’ve listened to all the old records and a few new ones, a few boots and any live stuff I could find. Alvin Lee always kept it together and he always kept it bopping.
I’m Going Home (by helicopter). And don’t forget your watermelon!