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New Musical Express, March 13,1971

Richard Green Flew To Germany To Discover That Following Lay-Off

Ten Years After Much Better:

 
A Voluntary lay off for a quarter of a year has not done Ten Years After the slightest bit of harm. If the three concerts of theirs I witnessed at the weekend---one in Munich, two in Dusseldorf--are anything to go by, the group is even better than before, and they were good then...
 
Since a date in America in mid-December, each member of the band has been "own thinging" everywhere but on stage. The official statement was that the group wanted to re-think its policy and get a new act together. I was soon to find that this just isn't true. After a tedious flight from London where, having boarded the Lufthansa jet, all the passengers then had to get off and be searched because of a bomb scare, I was more than pleased to be met at the airport by two models who drove me to the hotel.
 
Alvin Lee was sitting in the bar with manager Chris Wright and Leo Lyons. "I hope you haven't come here expecting to hear our new bag" he commented. "We were misquoted, we didn't have the three months off to do a new thing, I spent it getting everything that went on before out of my head, I don't know what difference you'll notice. " We can hear each other more now, before we'd play our hits and then think 'right he's going to play such and such now.' It got very automatic, there was no spontaneity any more".
 
The concert was to have begun in a Munich circus hall at 11:00 pm but at quarter to twelve, Chris announced: "Someone's stolen the stage!" It transpired that a famous 95 year-old clown had been appearing earlier that evening and the hall staff wanted half a day to erect a stage, but there was no time. Mick Abrahams group, Wommit, wouldn't go on as "things are getting hairy down there," so we drove through the snow-laden streets to see for ourselves.
 
There were bad scenes at the hall, with a massive crowd getting very uptight at having been kept waiting for three hours.The group decided to go on anyway. It says much for their appeal that with the first chords of "Love Like A Man" all was well.
 
Later on Ric Lee played his amazing drum solo on "Hobbit" and brought forth cheers from the formerly antagonistic audience. By the next number, which included one of Alvin's solos, the kids were on their feet cheering and clapping for more and at the end of the number there was an uprising of joy.  Alvin went into "I'm Going Home," with its rock and roll snatches, and that did the trick, the battle was won! 
 
Plans to go clubbing were abandoned as the time was well after four in the morning by the end of the act. On the way back through the near-deserted streets to the hotel, Leo told me: "We had to go on down there, even if it was only to go on and talk to them to let them know we were there. "You have certain responsibilities to be aware of....if we hadn't gone on, people would have been hurt on a riot.It's always better to go on, no matter how late. Most of them seemed to think it was our fault they had to wait three hours, there was no one to explain to them." 
 
We flew to Dusseldorf on Saturday morning and found the Inter-continental Hotel was all we had hoped for--splended opulence, good food, comfortable rooms and friendly staff. In fact several of the staff attended the concerts later and were very complimentary the next morning.
 
The Dusseldorf dressing room was as grand as the Munich one had been miniscule. Suddenly the air was rent with the yell "Silence" stopping the incessant chatter. This, it seems is standard procedure when Alvin tunes up, because he does so by listening acoustically to Leo's bass through the end of the neck. Fifteen minutes to go before the start of the show there was still no sign of Wommit who,because of Mick's anti-flying phobia, drive everywhere. They never got to Dusseldorf.

Ten Years Afterwent on early, Ric playing with protective finger-stall since he had a wart removed. His wife sat by the sound mixer, clapping each number. As Ric went into "Hobbit" again Chick picked up his drink and went to sit at the back of the huge stage, his feet resting on a trunk.

"Coming On" was followed by "Claptrap." during which Alvin and Chick Churchill play conga drums, it's a new number with loads of oomph and went down extremely well.

      

Alvin's announcement, "this is I'm Going Home" was the signal for everyone to stand up and stamp, a few getting on to the stage. At this point the house lights went on and remained glaring until the start of the next show. There were the inevitable demon bootleggers with their tape recorders and mikes on make-shift booms in the sixth and seventh rows, and the equally inevitable encore of "Sweet Little Sixteen" which rocked in true fifties style.

Back in the dressing room. I complimented drummer Ric on his solo and he replied: "I don't like making solos too long, they get boring unless you're Buddy Rich and I'm not! That's why I don't like Ginger Baker, his solos are always too long, they go on and on. "I liked it out there tonight though, sometimes you can just go on and play, tonight the spark was there".     

   

Some bright idiot decided to lead a communal singing of "Robin Hood" because of my name being the same as the film actor's, then Roadie John announced "I've got five birds outside, can I bring them in? Not to be outdone, Roadie Jack proclaimed: "I've got a crate of beer here if anyone wants any."

While Chick, who had blisters on his hands through not playing for so long taped up his thumb, Leo spoke about the break in their activities, "I live in the country I've got horses so there was plenty for me to do," Leo revealed, "I've spent a lot of time thinking about what the group would like to do, whether to go out doing a lot of concerts and taking the money or record more, or what. "You start playing because you enjoy it and don't give a darn about the audience and after a time it becomes so you get your enjoyment from your audience, it's like putting the cart before the horse. Now it's getting back to the way it used to be....We've gone way beyond what we ever hoped for, we never thought we'd be this big, we thought we'd get gigs and enough bread to pay the bills, after a time you find yourself consciously trying to live up to your reputation."  About recording Leo says: " We spend three weeks on an album and that's it, it's over and done with" he confessed, "some groups, even new ones take months over it, I think we ought to take more time out for recording, we've done six albums and about sixty thousand gigs, the trouble is we're lazy......He didn't get a chance to finish as Alvin yelled good naturedly across the room "who's lazy? I'm not lazy."

Chick crept off to bed and left the rest of us to find Lovers Club on our own.

Before the group drove off to Frankfurt the following afternoon, we gathered in the restaurant to catch up on the football results and discuss of all things the Industrial Relations Bill with which Chick is in full agreement. When the coach arrived to cart them away, they finished  their orange juices and shook hands with me. "Try to make it to Rome at the end of the tour, we'll need someone to keep the lions at bay," cracked Chick as he drove off

Alvin who is now sporting a beard.

 

TEN YEARS AFTER

in Düsseldorf, Germany

5.3.1972

 

 

 

 

Photos taken 

by 

Hans Hübner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEN YEARS AFTER in Düsseldorf Germany 1972 
From Disc Magazine 9/23/72   

  DÜSSELDORF: Day two in Ten Years After’s German tour. Having flown in from Bremen, driven from the airport to hotel; to backstage the long wait continues to get onstage, and actually fulfil the purpose of the whole exercise.

  Until you go on tour the word “wait” doesn’t really mean too much-on the road it takes on a whole new significance. You wait in airport lounges, outside airports for the coach, in hotel lobbies, in draughty backstage corridors or backstage in a world of wires and harassed roadies. Then after the gig you wait and wait until the crowds clear and the band can escape safely.

  The arrival at the Essen gig from Düsseldorf was nothing short of spectacular when the bus bearing us all swished in to the stage door, all lights blazing so that every kid outside the building swarmed round leaving you to swim for your life through a sea of people. But Ten Years After are seasoned tourers and nothing seems to worry them; after fifteen tours of America and still sane they obviously can’t allow anything to.

  We arrive at the Essen Grugahalle as the band Stray reach the end of a good set ( they’re on tour with TYA). The bands five tons of equipment has mostly been set up by their small army of roadies who dance by the side of the stage at their more ecstatic moments. The band is fairly wary of Essen – last time they played there, a crowd of 3,000 outside the building, broke in through the windows to see the gig for free and TYA had to foot the glass bill. Already one of the crowd outside has broken a window, but rumour has it he was apprehended shortly after the heinous offence.

  Part one of the long dressing room vigil begins, sitting around in a monastic cell of a room on hard plastic chairs drinking beer and coke. Down below the window, a  rousing sing-song is in progress by those who refuse to pay to get in.

The German audiences are currently on a big free gig kick, and although the promoter lowered his original ten marks a head to ten marks per couple to entice the final few in, they remained adamantly singing in perverse two part harmony down below, handing out showers of Jesus Freaks literature.  

  Back in the dressing room Ric Lee—who by any normal human standards should be throwing up his phenomenally large supper, is reminiscing about the two gigs the band did a great many years back when Ric tied sparklers to his drumsticks and Alvin played his guitar with one when the lights were down. Although it was very effective in practice, they couldn’t get them lit on the night and were left to play in total darkness.

  Alvin is expecting Steve Ellis and American singer Mylon, to join the tour tomorrow. He, Leo and Ian Wallace have all been doing sessions with Mylon at Roger Daltrey’s  home studio and hope to release the results as an album sometime.

  Ten Years After’s next album is just out called “Rock and Roll Music to the World.” It is their first in almost a year and some tracks are from their experimenting in the South of France with the Rolling Stones mobile unit in February. “We hired a house just to see if it would be different from going to the studios everyday in London. “This new album is more of a rock album than any of the others, and we’ve tried to get a much more live sound. It’s worried us in the past that the albums have been very different from the stage act and it’s taken us a long time to work out why. “We used to use the stage equipment in the studio but we found it was so loud we had to turn it down so it wasn’t making any distinction, it was too clean and clinical. The secret is to have much smaller equipment turned up full.

“The last album was more songs and melodies. That was because before that it was the Woodstock aftermath that featured on “Going Home” and we thought we’d get away from that for awhile just to show we could play other stuff because a lot of people just picked up on Woodstock. So we did a structured album to show there was another side of us and now we thought we’d go back to rock again.”  

  Recently TYA came round to thinking they might do a single, because the singles market seemed so much less “poppy” than it used to, but when their record company told them it had to be two minutes long, Alvin told them to forget it. Another reason they had steered clear of singles was that they were frightened of a flash in the pan , non lasting success. “The only time concerts are threatened is when you get a hit record or are in a film or you become the darling of the “Daily Mirror.” I think Marc Bolan and David Bowie will realise it sooner or later.

  The band do their 16th tour of America shortly. They are still a dazzling success out there and don’t seem to diminish at all.  Even to the extent that Alvin was offered $3,000 to do a toothpaste ad the last time he was there. The offer he said was tempting, but the thought of getting off the plane to be confronted by his own  giant image wasn’t.  The whole group has also been offered a variety of awful film roles, one of the themes was of an English rock band going to America in search of Robert Johnson, getting busted and sent to jail. Alvin is freed by a beautiful girl in a white Cadillac, and when they turned down the script, the guy re-wrote it and returned it nine months later. “We’d do it if something good turned up, but I’m still involved with making my own movies and want to do one about my own environment.”  

  Meanwhile back in the dressing room the roadies have finally finished setting up and it is time to go on. Stray had a bit of electrical trouble with their set, and when TYA get on Alvin’s mike fails within seconds. The audience still annoyed from waiting an hour between groups, starts whistling and shouting. More trouble as the lights fuse (dim) the mikes and the circuit is clearly under pressure. They do a quick “jam” to drown some of the noise. Finally after shouting at the lights people and a worried German called Manfred Lurch (who had previously confided in the dressing room that he saw falling trees and white rabbits dancing in the road when ever he was tired ), the show got underway.

  The band played a mixture of old things, stuff from the new album, an Al Kooper number and ended with Rock-n-Roll encores. As a band they’re playing well together, these days better than when I last saw them.  The empathy between Alvin, Ric and Leo nowadays seems to be amazing especially with Alvin and Leo. Unfortunately the organ just doesn’t feature dominantly enough in most of the numbers and seems rather superfluous. When Chick does do a more featured solo such as “Standing At The Station” he’s really good. Ric Lee’s drum solo was a little too prolonged , especially with the audience in its edgy mood.

But honours have to go to Alvin and Leo for their lovely intertwined  guitar work. Alvin’s crystal clear style is still good although he does tend to shape each number rather the same---soft start, crescendo, climax, end. A heavy number  alternated with a lighter thing would perhaps be a better substitute. Leo is getting better and better as an inventive bass player.

  By the end of the show the audience is frenzied and scaling the enormous crash barrier, there are about three or four thousand in the hall. Someone about three rows back has an arm in plaster but nonetheless waves it ceaselessly. There are two encores.

  Then another endless wait in the dressing-cell for the crowds to disperse so we can escape to the hotel. Then another wait at the hotel for food at 3 am and the thought that the whole process is repeated tomorrow and the next day and the next day…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1971

 

 
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