Alvin Lee: Fastest Guitar in The West.

Alvin Lee (1944-2013)
Alvin Lee: Fastest Guitar In The West.

– Alvin Lee – Ten Years After – Helsinki 1969 – Finnish Radio

Most people think of Alvin Lee and the images from Woodstock come to mind. How his performance electrified that festival, and in doing so, catapulted his career from playing clubs and small venues to playing stadiums literally within weeks.

Alvin Lee and Ten Years After’s performance at the Woodstock Festival was captured on film in the documentary of the event, and his ‘lightning-fast’ playing helped catapult him to stardom. The film brought Lee’s music to a worldwide audience, although he later lamented that he missed the lost freedom and spiritual dedication of earlier audiences.

Lee was named “the Fastest guitarist in the West”, and considered a precursor to shred-style playing that would develop in the 1980s.

Ten Years After had success, releasing ten albums together, but by 1973, Lee was feeling limited by the band’s style. Moving to Columbia Records had resulted in a radio hit song, “I’d Love to Change the World”, but Lee preferred blues-rock to the pop to which the label steered them. He left the group after their second Columbia LP. With American Christian rock pioneer Mylon LeFevre, along with guests George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Mick Fleetwood, he recorded and released On the Road to Freedom, an acclaimed album that was at the forefront of country rock. Also in 1973, he sat in on the Jerry Lee Lewis double album The Session…Recorded in London with Great Artists recorded in London, featuring many other guest stars including Albert Lee, Peter Frampton and Rory Gallagher. A year later, in response to a dare, Lee formed Alvin Lee & Company to play a show at the Rainbow Theatre in London and released it as a double live album, In Flight. Various members of the band continued on with Lee for his next two albums, Pump Iron! and Let It Rock. In late 1975, he played guitar for a couple of tracks on Bo Diddley’s The 20th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll all-star album. He finished the 1970s with an outfit called Ten Years Later, with Tom Compton on drums and Mick Hawksworth on bass, which released two albums, Rocket Fuel (1978) and Ride On (1979), and toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States.

The 1980s brought another change in Lee’s direction, with two albums that were collaborations with Rare Bird’s Steve Gould, and a tour for which the former John Mayall and Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor joined his band.

Lee’s overall musical output includes more than twenty albums, including 1987’s Detroit Diesel, 1989’s About Time (the reunion album he did with Ten Years After) recorded in Memphis with producer Terry Manning, and the back to back 1990s collections of Zoom and Nineteen Ninety-Four (US title I Hear You Rockin’). Guest artists on both albums included George Harrison.

As a reminder of what Ten Years After and Alvin Lee were like around that time, here is a concert recorded live in Helsinki on December 3, 1969. Luckily preserved by YLE, the Finnish Radio Network. This features Alvin Lee right just as his career is exploding. The audience is just starting to get rowdy. That would only continue and escalate over the next few years. But this concert is an interesting example of the changes a band goes through, the transition from being a working, struggling group of musicians to superstars.

And for Alvin Lee, the fame was more than well deserved.

As you know, we’ve suspended indefinitely our ads in order to make Past Daily a better experience for you without all the distractions and pop-ups. Because of that, we’re relying more on your support through Patreon to keep us up and running every day. For as little as $5.00 a month you can make a huge difference as well as be able to download all of our posts for free (news, history, music). You’ll see a banner just below. Click on that and become a subscriber – it’s easy, painless and does a world of good.

Liked it? Take a second to support Past Daily on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
%d bloggers like this: