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Ten Years After. Leo Lyons

Ten Years After. Leo Lyons RiCo for ClickZoomBytes (CZB): The name Ten Years After is related to the band getting together ten years after the Rock'n'Roll era began, or ten years after Elvis Presley won over the ears of young America?

Leo Lyons (bass player, Ten Years After): Well, I've said that many times, but in truth, I saw an advertisement for a book in a newspaper – and the book was called Ten Years After Suez, which was a book written about the Suez Canal invasion in 1956 or 1957 – and I thought ... Ten Years After ... well, that would be a good name. I suggested it to the rest of the band and everyone liked it.

It could be 10 years after Elvis and number Ten is quite a special number in the Tarrot and it's the beginning and the end in the Greek alphabet ... you know, Alpha and Omega ... so, yup – read into it what you will. A lot of people ask that question of course – I think it was a good name.

RiCo (CZB): Thank you for the different answer.

Leo Lyons (Ten Years After): Well. We've answered it in so many ways along the years, but that's the truth.


CZB: You started playing with The Atomites in 1961?

Leo Lyons (Ten Years After): Yes, that is correct. Well, that is the band that I turned professional with. I played with what you would call now a garage band. We rehearsed one or two times a week and played two or three times a year... but the first real band I played with was The Atomites, which became The Jaybirds band that became Ten Years After, with personnel changes.


CZB: How did you hook up with Alvin Lee?

Leo Lyons (Ten Years After): Well I joined The Atomites and about a week after we needed a guitar player there and we put an advertisement in the paper ... and Alvin Lee answered the advertisement and joined the band.

CZB: Was it a music paper?

Leo Lyons (Ten Years After): No, a local paper in Nottinghamshire.


CZB: You played in Hamburg, in the same club that The Beatles started out in.

Leo Lyons (Ten Years After): That's correct, at the Star Club.

CZB: In the same time frame?

Leo Lyons: The thing was that they finished the week that we arrived, so that was at around the same time but not exactly at the same time... just a week ahead.

CZB: Why did British bands play in Hamburg? Was it just because it was the British occupied area in Germany?

Leo Lyons: No, I think basically that it was because Hamburg is a Port and a lot of American sailors that came into the Port were bringing Race records with them ... Rock records, Rhythm & Blues, so there was a very strong interest in that kind of music in Hamburg, just as there was in Liverpool. That was for the same reason, which is why you had a lot of Liverpool bands that went over there ... and the reason Alvin and I got out there was because a piano player in Tony Sheridan's house band saw us playing at a gig in the UK and invited us over – a guy called Roy Young. That's how we got over there. So they were looking for bands that played Rock'n'Roll. 

It was a big Rock'n'Roll town but pure and simple because of the fact that it was a Port and a lot of records were coming in, which you couldn't buy in the UK or anywhere alse at the time. It was a specialists music and it wasn't popular at that time.


CZB: I don't know if this question is relevant for you anymore but did Alvin Lee quit or did he leave and have you tried to get back together at one point?

Leo Lyons: No, I wouldn't want to do it. Alvin doesn't want to work – so I wouldn't want to do that, no (smug laugh added). He's quite happy doing what he does, which is being retired ...

CZB: I'm sorry I asked you that question.

Leo Lyons: Oh, no, it's no problem at all. Alvin is probably the closest thing I have to a brother, it's just that we don't work together. I actually decided to do something NEW. Apart from this band I have another band. I wouldn't want to work with Alvin again. I don't have a problem with Alvin; I think he's a great player – but I like to do something different all the time. So, it's appealed to me more to do this with a new guitar player than with Chick Churchill or Ric Lee in the line-up.


CZB: The new band you have – is it a side-project?

Leo Lyons: Oh, I think it's a parallel project. The band is called Hundred Seventy Split. I spend as much time doing that as I do with Ten Years After.


CZB: What was it like the day you played at Woodstock? Were you expecting to have the success you did with that appearance?

Leo Lyons: I don't think anyone expected anything. The whole period was great during the late 60's, early 70's. There were lots and lots of festivals. That was just one festival that we played at. We've even had one American tour which lasted about seven weeks. It became something special because it was filmed and it came out as a movie and a lot of people went to see it, particularly in Eastern Europe, where the kind of music that we were playing and other bands such as ourselves was not allowed to be listened to. It was kind of a beacon of light to people, or so I'm told, so that was the significance of it but to me at the time when we did it, it was just another gig.

In some cases there were quite a few problems. There was rain, there was a storm, the stage was slipping down the hill, guitars were going out of tune, there was the risk of being electrocuted (constrained laugh) ... there were a lot of things that weren't quite right.

It captured the feelings of a generation I guess. You know, people today are always saying: ow, I wish I was there, I wish I had been there.

CZB: I was born that year... What was Euro-Woodstock in Budapest like?

Leo Lyons: Where?

CZB: Euro-Woodstock in Budapest in 1994.

Leo Lyons: Oh, I didn't do that. That may have been Alvin (Lee). They might have called it Ten Years After but I don't think it was.


CZB: You've been working in the industry since the 60's. It's been 50 years now. What would you consider would have been the best time frame for someone to be an artist?

Leo Lyons: Yes, that's a difficult question because it depends whether you're a successful artist or not... The business has changed; it's no easier and it's not harder – I don't think - than it was, it's just changed. There's always been good music about. There's always been mediocre music about and often the mediocre music is right in the forefront of the media and the good music is not but occasionally it wins through.

I mean, I still get the same thrill of playing as I did when I started or as I've said earlier, I'm always looking to do something new. So, with that particular project (Hundred Seventy Split), I get a real thrill out of it.


CZB: With Joe Gooch? He's the same vocalist for Ten Years After as well.

Leo Lyons: Well, we wanted to do something that was outside of the Ten Years After box because the thing with Ten Years After ... we've made so many records but people want to hear the OLD songs. A lot of the time, we try to do as many as we can but then every night someone will come up to me and say: You didn't play THAT song tonight. If we had eight or nine hours to play ... we could do that but it's physically not possible. Generally you compromise; you can do two hours and less talk.


CZB: Cricklewood Green ... one side of the album was 45rpm; the other side was 33rpm. What was the reason for doing that?

Leo Lyons: On that single we did one of those hippie things. We had a hip single with a track called Love Like a Man and it was decided to put the Live version from (Bill Graham's) Fillmore East on the B Side so the A Side was 45rpm and the B Side was 33 and 1/3... and of course when it got on the Jukeboxes, it didn't work ... I remember walking into a bar in France and people recognized us. They put the B Side of Love Like a Man at twice the speed and everybody applauded at the end. It was a really embarrassing moment. That's the reason ... we couldn't get it on. When you're dealing with vinyl, you're limited with the length of time you can do something. Put something at 33 1/3 and you can get 7 to 8 minutes on a single side; with 45rpm you can probably get four to five minutes of music...


CZB: But do you find the limited length vinyls more valuable than the 80 minute CD?

Leo Lyons (Ten Years After): Oh, God, Yes! I love vinyl too. In fact, with this band Hundred Seventy Split we're going to do vinyl. That will be the next phase. So, we're going to have to cut something off...

You see, there are two ways that people listen to stuff now. They'll take a vinyl record and they'll put it on and they'll sit down with a glass of wine and they'll read the inside covers and enjoy the evening. Either that or you'll stick your headphones onto your i-Pad and listen to music while you're doing your exercises or walking the dog and I'm happy with both people, so what we're going to do is give a download card, so you can download straight to your mp3 player or whatever it is and you'll have the vinyl as well ... that's the plan anyway...

Well, I don't think it's coming back, I know it's coming back.


CZB: How did you meet Joe Gooch?

Leo Lyons: Joe went to school with my son, so when we were looking for a guitar player, Tom suggested Joe Gooch ... I live in Nashville and the rest of the Ten Years After guys live in the UK, so I suggested that Joe contact Ric (Lee), our drummer - and he did. He sent a tape and Rick played it over the telephone and I kind of liked it, Rick checked him out and he came down and played with us and within a couple of days he was in the band.


CZB: And how did you two then decide to go on and start a new project?

Leo Lyons: Well, it was a roundabout thing really. I was on tour in America with Ten Years After and these guys from a label came along and asked me if I could do a solo record ... and I'm not really a solo person, so I thought I could put a record together with a guest artist, a guest guitar player - and so on and so forth – and I asked a few people and then the record company would try and sort it out – but I asked Joe (Gooch) because Joe and I write together. Joe liked the idea of being a guest on the record and maybe even write some songs for the project. Mainly, I thought about this because I thought it would be good for him to do too.

It's outside of this Ten Years After ... is he as good as Alvin Lee, is he not as good as Alvin Lee ... you know ...

So we started writing stuff and the record company was still talking about stuff like who's going to do the distribution and what the budget was going to be and one thing led to another and they were suggesting people I really didn't want to work with ... so I got a bit bored and we went into a studio and recorded four tracks – and after that we decided we'd do the whole record and it ended up being Hundred Seventy Split instead of a record with guest players (he says this with a broad smile on his lips)...


CZB: Why Hundred Seventy Split?

Leo Lyons: Well, because 170 Split is the name of a road junction in Nashville... and it's the diversity in music too, I suppose, if you want to look at it that way – but I actually live on Highway 70.


CZB: So you've moved to the States?

Leo Lyons: I have lived there for 13 years. I was songwriting until I came back on the road seven years ago. I worked as a staff writer for a Nashville music publisher.



CZB: I read on the internet that Ten Years After did one gig in 1983 at the Reading Festival ... in 1988 the band reunited for a few more gigs and then the band started playing more and more after 2004.

Leo Lyons: Yes, that's right. I think the writing thing was due ... I think it was The Marquee Club in London that you might have heard of, had their 25th Anniversary and they asked us to play ... so we reformed just to play that – and then we got involved with what used to be the Windsor Jazz and Blues festival, which is now the Reading festival, and so they asked us to do that – and I think we did two other shows as well, so there were four shows. Specifically, that was what we reformed for in 1983.

In 1989, Alvin Lee called me up and said he'd like to do some more gigs. He said he really wanted to do it and I agreed but it didn't really work. The problems that were there when we decided to finish were still there and they ran from one record until ... I don't know... 1991-92 and then that was it, until we regrouped again, with Joe (Gooch).


Ten Years After are:
  • Joe Gooch (guitar, vocals; born 3.MAY.1977, Highbury, North London) - joined in 2003 
  • Leo Lyons (bass; born David William Lyons, 30.NOV.1943, Mansfield)
  • Chick Churchill (keyboards; born Michael George Churchill, 2.JAN.1946, Ilkeston)
  • Ric Lee (drums; born Richard Lee, 20.OCT.1945, Mansfield)


  • The first vocalist was Alvin Lee (guitar, vocals, harp; born Graham Barnes, 19.DEC.1944, Nottingham)








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