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.
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?
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.
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.