Ten Years After
With the current TYA lineup champing at the bit to get out and gig around Europe, this second conversation is with original and present drummer Mr Ric Lee – a man with great recall, as you will discover as he chats with our man and longtime fan Pete…
JLTT: The idea of this, Ric is to have a two-parter with Marcus in one issue and you in the next, so thanks for stepping up, I appreciate it
RL: Sounds good, Pete
- I remember a great TYA show in Alvin days at the Toby Jug where a long set was played as you off to play ‘some festival in America…’
Well yes, I remember where it was on that corner..and have vague memories that far back…on the A3 ?
- Yes, and as regards Woodstock, some friends of mine in the American group Spirit had turned it down..’ some pig farm in New York??’..but that was the big-time for TYA
We’d had a very grim night before. A mini-riot. We had been part of the Newport Festival, you see and George decided to take it on the road. That night we were playing with Nina Simone. Who was actually not the most pleasant of people. On that particular occasion, anyway. But anyhow we were closing the show and what they’d done is they’d put some barriers up by the stage, it was an indoor gig. I can’t remember the name of the venue and at the end of the set, Chick and I used to work on the audience to encourage them to walk up to the stage and join in with us. When they did that, the bouncers on that place got nervous. It was a predominantly black audience and one of the bouncers – stupidly – threw a chair into the crowd! Quite why, we never found out..and after that there was absolute madness. One of the crew got hit with a brick. It was a nasty blow and he was bleeding but it didn’t do him any serious damage, luckily. We had to stop playing and vacate the stage so we headed for the dressing room. In the hope it would die down. In fact we ended up making a run for it. To get to the hotel as fast as we could. The next day we were up very early about six o’clock to get through to New York and then we got two cars, to drive us up to the Holiday Inn which was about six miles from the Woodstock site. When we got there we had nowhere to kip, all the rooms were taken, sold out. Only day rooms available and even they had people in them !Then we heard via our manager that we were wanted on the site and going on in the afternoon. So we went to the helicopter pad and the chopper came in and we were about to board when some American guys pushed in. Crosby Stills & Nash. I was about to protest but the guy said not to worry another one was coming in. So we get the next helicopter and a medic was with us and he warned us not to drink anything there. And not to eat anything that wasn’t cooked, because hepatitis was breaking out. So we got there and it was a really nice day, y’know..so I sat on stage and watched Joe Cocker’s set which was fantastic.
We were trying to find something to eat as we hadn’t had anything for hours. When the storm came up, it knocked out all the power and we couldn’t use the stage for quite a while. Country Joe went on and did a bunch of stuff to keep things going. So we ended up going on about ten o’clock at night. Johnny Winter snuck on before us which delayed us playing. The Joe and the Fish…they had played with us at The Fillmore and they swore they’d never go on after us, again! We finally got on, the atmospherics were still pretty grim and it was still raining, we played a number and then had to start Good Morning Little Schoolgirl about four times because the guitar wouldn’t stay in tune. No Tuners, so Alvin would tune off Leo’s bass and put the headstock right by his ear. We got through it eventually and I’m sure you know the rest…
- Yeah I’ve seen the footage
It put us on the World stage from that moment
- The film took you around the world and everyone wanted to book you
Indeed! This year I hope to be putting out my own book – From Headstock To Woodstock. Headstock? Well …
- It’s a mining term for the large tower with the wheel on the top
Correct – so the miners would be in the bowels of the Earth, getting the coal up to the surface via cages lowered down by the headstock. Michael Lang’s book was helpful, for research
- What struck me about the Toby Jug gigs – especially looking back on it now – was how many of the acts eg TYA, Jethro Tull Mk 1, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation all had jazz drummers, or drummers who had absorbed jazz
Absolutely right! I always wished I had been born earlier so I could have been around for the Big Band jazz era. That was very where I was at, in those days certainly.
- Louis Bellson?
Yes and Buddy Rich.. Philly Joe Jones..they were the guys we listened to as they had gone just before us AND not only did they swing, they were great technical players
- Hence these groups were far more versatile than they might otherwise have been
That’s correct. And there were a lot of fine Liverpool drummers in the groups, too. Rick in The Mindbenders. Tony, with Billy J…er
- The Dakotas
Yep….Bobby Elliott, The Hollies…one of my heroes and also Bunker’s hero..I used to go round to Clive’s when he lived in Kentish Town and every time he’d put The Hollies on and say ‘Have a listen to this !’. So we had all that going on, it was a really good era, it was.
- Let’s talk about the current lineup – Chick is one of those keyboard players who doesn’t blot out the guitar and bass frequencies, with block chords.
Jimmy Smith was his hero and inspiration but also he is a big fan of Oscar Peterson – great technical players but also as you say able to make a group work. For the last dozen or so years we have had a really good German sound man who works with Chick to get the sound exactly right. If you listen to the track I Wanna Know from the first album – and that was written by Paul Jones – the keyboard playing on there is just terrific
- And you now have Colin (Hodgkinson) who I used to see in the trio Back Door from up North and latterly with Spencer Davis..
It is amazing playing with Colin, his timing is incredible. Someone commented yesterday on Colin ‘He’s a black man in white man’s clothes’
- Well yes he’s heard Herbie Hancock as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, you could say
He just loves all the early stuff, like we all do – and we used to run into him when we met up with Spencer. I never heard him in the Back Door days though
- He would do Robert Johnson tunes just on the bass, three parts at once! 32-20 and all that
He was first choice for us and we got very lucky as Spencer has disbanded the group and Colin was looking for a more permanent gig. I saw Alan Pearce at Skegness and was talking about guitar players and he suggested a list of quality players and coincidentally a PR contact knew Marcus as a singer, so…..
- Well Marcus just loves it…the way to approach TYA I venture is as a contemporary creative band with a history..not a nostalgia act, as you write new material..and that’s what people like me respect. I wondered whether you chaps might lean on Marcus to use gear like Alvin’s, but apparently you didn’t?
(Emphatically) That’s right – we wanted his own sound. Obviously to play the key riffs on the well-known numbers, that’s integral to the songs BUT for solo’s it’s do yer own thing, mate..make it yours
I thought you as players would be good for Marcus, as he’s at that level where he needs the adrenaline
To a degree, but he’s so good in his own right and..it works. We get on. We have a lot of fun…..
The new Ten Years After live album ‘The Name Remains The Same’ is out now. For more information visit the band’s official website here: http://bit.ly/2aH5lIe
(Photos courtesy of Kultopolis. Many thanks to Sabine for all her help in preparing the piece)