TICKETS TORN IN HALF: TEN YEARS AFTER (1969-1972)
Experiencing something for the first time, as with most pleasurable things, is usually a joy and “that night” was no different. “That night” I was in the presence of Ten Years After, TYA, the band, live ,for my very first time after listening to their first three albums for months on end and after having to endure the raving reminiscences of my buddies who attended a FILLMORE EAST show a few months prior. So here I am at the FREEPORT SPEEDWAY for a “festival”, a one night event, only a few short weeks prior to WOODSTOCK. Tonight the bill was featuring CANNED HEAT, TEN YEARS AFTER, CAT MOTHER and THE ALL-NITE NEWSBOYS and ORPHEUS.
Leaving work a few hours early as I needed to go to see a doctor in hopes of minimizing the damage I did to my hand, almost cutting my fingers off while using a hi-lo and not paying attention to the machine’s power. With my fingers heavily bandaged, a shot of tetanus given to fight any infection, and a heavy shot of novocaine given directly into the back of my hand, and that sucker hurt, I rushed home to get ready for the show. Quickly I showered, dressed and left the house before my parents would notice the bandage on my hand. In the car and away we went, five strong, four guys and my girlfriend who was as excited to see TYA as anyone else in the crowd.
Their first three albums were a sheer joy to listen to. My limited vinyl collection was growing by leaps and bounds with each new paycheck, but after their original purchase those first three TYA gems made it on to my turntable quite often. The introductory collection TEN YEARS AFTER, the one with the fuzzy, out of focus photo of the band with Alvin Lee sporting an Afro haircut, was out about a year before I picked it up, the same day as I got UNDEAD, their second album.The first lp kicked off with I WANT TO KNOW, but it is with the AL KOOPER tune I CAN’T KEEP FROM CRYING, SOMETIMES that grabbed my attention. Actually, TYA’s version was adapted from THE BLUES PROJECT’S version of a BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON spiritual. AL KOOPER, fronting BLUES PROJECT, borrowed quite liberally from the original,adding a new arrangement while changing words to bring forth a newer version, one which was more profane than sacred. I had a copy of THE BLUES PROJECT collection PROJECTIONS which my dad’s friend gave me,along with a PHIL OCHS collection and a few other VERVE catalog albums. Seems these records fell off a truck in Brooklyn. Back to TYA the album, the blues tunes SPOONFUL(WILLIE DIXON) along with the Willie Dixon/Sonny Boy Williamson HELP ME knocked me silly. I was hooked.
Their second album UNDEAD was a live affair recorded in a small jazz club, KLOOKS KLEEK outside of London. The opener was ALVIN LEE penned I MAY BE WRONG, BUT I WON’T BE WRONG ALWAYS followed by WOODCHOPPER’S BALL a 1939 hit for WOODY HERMAN, the same Woody Herman tune I listened to from my dad’s record collection. Side one of UNDEAD was simply pure adrenaline,it was four guys racing,with Alvin playing jazzy note after crushing note at 1000 miles per hour,Leo Lyons pounding on his Fender bass, Ric Lee completing with the rhythm section with numerous drum fills and throw in a few organ interludes by Chick Churchill, all playing with an incredible frenzy. Whew.
Side Two was a more somber relaxed blues excursion,especially SPIDER IN MY WEB another Alvin Lee tune. Then the obligatory drum solo followed by their closer, I’M GOING HOME, a six minute rave-up ( at the time it was recorded)
STONEDHENGE the band’s second studio attempt and third overall album was released in early Spring of ’69 with mostly home grown tunes by ALVIN such as WOMAN TROUBLE, NO TITLE and HEAR ME CALLING.
However much as I enjoyed their albums, especially those three, live TYA was quite a different beast from the band in the studio. The first few times I saw the band their set list never changed,and throughout the years many of those songs remained, with only minimal changes to their repertoire. This alone, the same songs with the same hooks, might be why over time I lost interest in seeing them, but that first night…My, oh, my.
It was dark probably close to 9 O’Clock when they were announced. It was a small stage and the sound system, even to my limited concert experience, was not too powerful. Good thing the crowd was sparse and we were up close. SPOONFUL opened the set followed by GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL, then drummer RIC LEE (no relation to ALVIN who is actually born Graham Anthony Barnes) had his moment which tastefully blended into I CAN’T KEEP FROM CRYING SOMETIMES. HELP ME closed out the set before the encore, their only original tune sans the drum solo, I’M GOING HOME. This same set was performed a few weeks later at WOODSTOCK.
Over the next few weeks my buddies and I, impressed with the HELP ME and SPOONFUL tunes performed by TYA, picked up and shared a few “new” to our collection records by WILLIE DIXON, and HOWLIN’ WOLF which then led me to a version of SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING first by WOLF and then a YARDBIRDS re-make. My vinyl collection grew again.
In short order after the movie WOODSTOCK, TYA changed noticeably, Alvin who was positioned slightly to the right nearer the organist was now center stage and slightly upfront. His theatrics on guitar, such as detuning as he played his solos, the use of a drumstick on strings, the microphone stand as a slide and other shenanigans all became more pronounced and LONGER. Pretty soon ALVIN LEE was TEN YEARS AFTER and the jazzy, bluesy feel of the original quartet got lost in the mix.
After FREEPORT, subsequent encounters with the band occurred at FILLMORE EAST, the CAPITOL Theater and a few other NY venues. After that fateful weekend in August of 69 (Woodstock) and the movie depicting those muddy 3 DAYS of PEACE, LOVE and MUSIC, TYA took their rightful place in history (circa 1969),and it wasn’t long after that that movie made a star of ALVIN LEE that the boys (TYA) would hit the big time by selling out MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.
1)August 6,1969: Long Island Rock Festival at Freeport Speedway with CANNED HEAT
2)Sept.13,1969:@ Fillmore East
3)Feb. 28,1970:@ Fillmore East (late show)
4)Apr.4,1970:@ Capitol Theatre, Port Chester
5)June 25, 1970 @ Fillmore East (early show)
6)June 25, 1970 @ Fillmore East (late show)
7)July 3,1970 @ S.U.N.Y Stony Brook
8)July 17, 1970 @ NY POP FESTIVAL Randalls Island
9)Aug. 11, 1970 @ Capitol Theatre, Port Chester
10)Nov. 13, 1970 @ Madison Square Garden
11)Aug 6, 1971 @ Gaelic Park, The Bronx, NY
12)Nov. 18, 1971 @ Madison Square Garden
13)Oct. 1, 1972 @ Academy of Music, NYC
14)Jan.18, 1975 ALVIN LEE and Co. @ Academy