It’s fashionable now to dismiss the classic rock musicians – they’re old now, some have retired and, truth be told, others should have long ago. Ten Years After flared like a solar event for a brief period after their explosive breakthrough at Woodstock (and their immense good fortune in having Michael Wadleigh capture Lee’s iconic rock star turn on the 11+ minute “I’m Going Home” for the epochal film of the same name).
After a string of uneven albums, some superb (Cricklewood Green, Ssssh), some mediocre or worse (Watt, Rock and Roll Music to the World) Ten Years After fizzled by the mid-seventies and Alvin Lee, like many of his brethren from the Woodstock moment (Country Joe McDonald, Arlo Guthrie, John Sebastian) faded from the public consciousness: they could still draw fans to shows, but they had become, fairly or unfairly, nostalgia acts.
Still, it is important to understand why they became stars in the first place. As a musician friend of mine noted in his Facebook post about Lee’s passing, the Ten Years After segment in the film Woodstock (with Lee wailing on that Gibson 335, Leo Lyons beating the shit out of his Fender Jazz bass, and Ric Lee keeping time on drums through an incredible performance of the song mentioned above – all while keyboardist Chick Churchill wishes it weren’t so damned hot and tries to keep his hair out of his face) is one of Rock’s Grand Moments. Here it is in full, with Lee sharing the stage with a watermelon as a finale:
Rock on, Alvin…