Whatever happened to Alvin Lee?

I was watching Woodstock last night (the director’s cut, which is too long … don’t bother, unless you’re interested in a series of interviews with callow hippies), and was riveted by Alvin Lee’s performance. When I first saw the movie as a teenage girl, I was mostly struck by the ugly faces he made – but last night, gee-zus, that is some hellacious guitar he was playing there.

According to All Music, that performance was a career high point, but he has put out albums sporadically since, and performed, presumably. Was he a druggie, or did he just completely mismanage his career, or what? With his chops, he shoulda been a contender.

Does anyone know anything?

He split with Ten Years After after in '74. They had a pretty good run. His solo career wasn’t so successful, then punk hit, blah, blah. The rock n roll roadside is littered with talent.

He’s still playing the occasional gig (and he still has a peace sign on his guitar). Here’s a video from last year:

Slow Blues In C

One fan’s thoughts after a 2008 show:

I think he had a great career. He released about 20 albums, 10 before 1973. Maybe he was before your time?

I’m 55 – er, 56 – so no, he’s not before my time. Ten Years After was reasonably popular during the early '70s, but Alvin Lee never reached guitar god status. It looks like he plays the occasional small gig in Europe and that’s it. A satisfying career, perhaps – even a solid career – but I don’t think I’d call it a great career.

It could just be changing fashions in music, as An Arky suggests. Sad, though. Anyone know anything about any of the albums of the last 10 or 20 years?

Gibson came out with an Alvin Lee model a few years ago. I’m sure Lee got a nice pocketful of change for the licensing.

He still managed to have a career. Most likely his career arc would have been roughly the same if it wasn’t for Woodstock. Ten Years After was on a popularity level of, say, Savoy Brown. and Woodstock gave them a major, though temporary, boost.

It also hurt him because people expected everything to be “I’m Coming Home.” When they discovered otherwise, those who knew of him only from Woodstock left.

Conventional wisdom was that Mr. Lee played ordinary licks lightning fast. A one-trick pony.

A big factor in success is good songs. (Yeah, big surprise.) I haven’t listened to 10 Years After albums, but I don’t think they had a hit apart from “I’d Love To Change the World.”

“Going Home” from Woodstock was an ordinary blues song, hyped up by the lightning fast riffs. Oh, and if the OP thought Alvin made “ugly faces” that’s another possible explanation for lack of superstardom.

I saw him on Midnight Special, or something similar around 74-75. His performance pre-saged Yngwie Malmsteen-may be fast and furious, but, boring…

Best wishes,

I’ll never forget seeing his Woodstock performance for the first time. But I can understand his not wanting to have to do that every time he performed.

From what I remember of actually listening to a couple of his albums like “Undead” and “Stonedhenge”, they weren’t very good and they weren’t like “I’m going Home”. I don’t think wither the original 3-LP album or 2 LP followup had anything else by TYA which says something.

I’m pretty sure it was TYA’s drummer had drum solos (standard in that era like Iron Butterly “In-A-Gadd-da-vida”, Cream “Toad”, Derek and Dominoes “Let it rain”) that rock promoter Bill Graham hated. Graham once had him watch opening act Buddy Rich to learn how to play drums.

As some others have said, “Woodstock” was one of those things were everything went right for fame…a concert near New York City that was headlines over the weekend for traffic jams. A movie that came out that was reasonably well made. Having your performance included in the film (some popular groups of the era that refused to be included are forgotten like Blood, Sweat and Tears). If he made faces, there were lots of problems with delays and I think some groups such as the Grateful Dead had electrical problems. John Fogerty of CCR blamed his bands bad performance on following the Grateful Dead who put everyone to sleep.

When network tv (NBC?) actually put “Woodstock” on TV around 1981 in the era of three channels, “I’ Goin’ Home” was edited to about three minutes, to the praise of “TV Guide”. They also removed the words and put crowd cheers in when Country Joe McDonald said the F word.

I don’t know if Lee had any substance problems but it wouldn’t be unusual for musicians of that era if he did.

Cricklewood Green and A Space in Time were FM favorites in the early 70s. Alvin & Co. got a good producer and came up with a couple of pretty good space-blues-rock albums.

I saw the Lee-less Ten Years After last year. A good show. I also saw them Lee-ful in '73, a better show.

Just listen to Deep Tracks on Sirius/XM satellite radio. They seem to play him about every 20 minutes.

You know, he’s not someone I tried to keep current with - I found him to be a solid journeyman lead player who did well in a few key moments, i.e., Woodstock.

Now, Albert Lee, on the other hand - he’s a monster. :wink: