50 years of Rock n
Alvin Lee and Scotty Moore
by Robert Silverstein
fifty years agoon July 4, 1954 in Memphis, Tennessee to be exactthat
guitarist Scotty Moore met a budding singer named Elvis Presley. The
very next day, on July 5th 1954, Scotty and Elviswith Bill Black
on bass and Sun Records founder Sam Phillips in attendancerecorded
Thats All Right and the rest is rock n
roll history. Celebrating 50 years since the first Sun Sessions and
the birth of rock n roll, RCA Records has released Elvis
At Suna nineteen track 2004 CD containing some of the great
tracks Elvis made with Scotty Moore and Bill Black at Sun including
Thats All Right. Coinciding with Elvis At Sun,
RCA has also released Memphis Celebrates 50 Years Of Rock N
Roll, a 21 track CD combining a range of early Sun classics
from Elvis, Scotty & Bill, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison
and Jerry Lee Lewis. Flash forward 50 years, from 1954 to 2004, and
the release of a new recording celebrating the glory days of 50s
rock n roll. Released on Rainman Records, Alvin Lee
In Tennessee features British blues-rock guitar icon Alvin Lee
joined in a musical reunion with original Elvis band members Scotty
Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana. Showcasing Alvins songs and
vocalswith key contributions from Scotty and D.J.Alvin
Lee In Tennessee merges the finest elements of 50s rockabilly
with the blues-rock power Lee successfully brought to bear with his
60s band Ten Years After. Honoring the 50th anniversary of rock
n roll and the 2004 release of Alvin Lee In Tennessee,
20th Century Guitar and mwe3.com music editor Robert Silverstein
spoke to both Scotty Moore and Alvin Lee in early June 2004 on a range
of topics. Scotty spoke about recording with Elvis at Sun Records,
Alvins CD and the 2004 DVD reissue of the Elvis 68
Comeback Special. One of the original architects of 60s
British blues-rock, Alvin Lee was eager to point out how influential
Scotty and D.J. Fontana were during the making of Alvin Lee In
Tennessee while also sharing musical memories of Ten Years After,
the 69 Woodstock festival and much more.
RS: Hi Alvin, how are you doing?
AL: Im doing fine, thank you!
RS: Youre living in Spain?
AL: Thats right.
RS: Do you still spend time back in England anymore?
AL: Oh yeah, I just did a huge tour in England. Well, huge for me
RS: Spain has a rich guitar tradition.
AL: I know, the flamenco guitar is fantastic.
RS: I heard you were supposed to come over to the States for some
shows this June but they got canceled because of work visa problems?
AL: Yeah thats right. I went to the American embassy for me
work visa and it didnt pan out. My name wasnt on the list.
Its getting tough these days.
RS: I spoke to Arnie Goodman and he said its a sign of the times.
AL: Oh, yeah. I like Arnie. Hows he doin? I havent
spoke to Arnie Goodman for years!
RS: Hes Mr. Blues Expert.
AL: Well, he always has been, yeah. (laughter)
RS: Hes a nice guy...
AL: Hes great, yeah...
RS: Youre going on to tour in Italy and Sweden next summer?
AL: Thats right, yeah. I did this seven week tour of the United
Kingdom with Edgar Winter and Tony McPhee, which was great. I havent
done it in while and its actually got me back into playing regularly
again which is great.
RS: You finished the UK tour with Edgar Winter on May 27 at the Royal
Albert Hall? Thats an amazing place...must have been a great
AL: That was a great night actually. It was a great end to the tour.
We had a good time. We had a good party afterwards too! (laughter)
RS: Starting off asking some questions about the 2004 release of Alvin
Lee In Tennessee, can you reflect back to when you were 14 and
you joined the Elvis Presley fan club in order to get pictures of
Scotty Moore and his guitars.
AL: Thats right, yeah. I dont know what it was. I was
just starting to pick up the guitar and fool around with it and Id
taken a few chords lessons. Id been brought up on blues. My
father was an avid blues collector and he had a 78 collection of some
very ethnic chain gang songs and Big Bill Broonzy and the like so
I was brought up on that music. I started off playing a clarinet when
I was 12. And I heard Charlie Christian playing with Benny Goodman
and thought, thats more what Id like to do,
so I swapped the clarinet for a guitar. And till I heard Chuck Berry
I was kind of pretty much into jazz chords and things. I used to listen
to Barney Kessel and Django Reinhardt and early George Benson. But
I first heard Chuck Berry and I thought, this is the blues all
rolled into rock and roll as well. I loved the way Chuck Berry
played two notes at a time when he solos. And of course, the other
great guitarist was Scotty Moore. The Heartbreak Hotel
solo was the first one I ever heard. And the second Hound Dog
solo, which is a classic till this day. And just his talent and his
style and the way he made things work. And I was just inspired by
that. I never actually copied these guys. I used to copy their style
but not their notes. You know what I mean? So I would play in their
style...its what kicked me off. D.J. Fontana too...who I think,
still is one of the greatest drummers in the world.
RS: Can you recall the first time you met Scotty Moore and how
that evolved into the making of Alvin Lee In Tennessee?
AL: I first met Scott, I was in Nashville as a fan in 1995. And somebody
took me round to meet him. I got my photograph taken with him and
got his autograph. All the fan stuff, yknow? Asked him all the
fan questions and we kind of struck up there but it wasnt until
four years later, 1999 it was that Scotty was launching his guitar
for Gibson, the Scotty Moore model. And it was a jam on stage at the
AIR studios in London. They invited me down and I got up and did a
medley of Elvis songs with Scotty and D.J. I just loved it. I mean
it was great. It was magic and I thought, Ive got to take
this further. So I asked Scotty, Any chance getting you
guys in the studio sometime?, and he said sure thing.
So the idea was born there and then.
RS: Its interesting that some of those early Elvis sides like
Thats All Right didnt even have drums on it!
AL: No drums. The very early first sessions had no drums at all, yeah.
RS: What was it about Scotty Moores early rock and roll guitar
style with Elvis that intrigued you most?
AL: It was a mixture of...he played melodies for solos rather than
kind of noodling. I play from the hip generally. I play kind of stuff
all over the place. But Ive always admired guitarists, people
like George Harrison too, they can construct a solo which is singable.
But Scotty would do that too whilst exploring interesting runs and
he had a little bit of jazz stuff going there, which is quite unique
RS: What did you think of Elvis as a guitarist?
AL: Didnt think of him as a guitar player. A damn good singer.
(laughter) One thing I thought when I went to play with Scotty at
that jam, I said, well look, I dont want to be up there
as Elvis for the night, yknow? Cause thats a tough
act to follow and I cant fill his blue suede shoes. He
said, oh, no...just get up and have a bit of fun. And
that was basically what it was about. But for the recording, I wanted
to record original songs. I went over to Nashville. I had, I think
twenty seven songs and I even had a stash of about fifteen songs...all
Elvis like Shake, Rattle & Roll, in case my songs
didnt work. But fortunately I didnt have to use those.
I went over to record for three weeks and in two days we got down
eleven tracks. So, I had a lot of time to spare. Those guys are very
good and know what theyre doing in the studio. They go for the
feel and the groove in the pocket. It was beautiful.
RS: Youve called D.J. Fontana the best drummer in the world.
How cool is that to have two key Elvis band members backing you up
on the Alvin Lee In Tennessee album?
AL: (laughter) I know. It was great. I was still like a fan when I
got there. You know what I mean? In Scottys studio, hes
got pictures of him with Elvis, trophies and gold guitars...stuff
all around. I mean, like a school boys dream. It took me back to being
a school boy. I felt like a young kid, but they made me feel like
one of the boys, which is a great compliment. They could have kind
of treated me like an upstart but they made feel really at home and
like one of the boys, which was great.
RS: Interestingly, youve said about making the Alvin Lee
In Tennessee that it was time to put the roll back in rock
AL: Thats right! Its been missing for a long time. The
English style of rock music came from rock n roll but
it was always kind of done with kind of more aggression and more adrenaline.
And of course the English rock music turned into the stadium rock,
which became louder and even turned into heavy metal. So the roll
in rock n roll, which D.J. Fontana is the master of, kind
of got lost somewhere. And I thought it was possibly the best bit,
cause its the swing, its the groove, its the
finesse. And when you hear those old Elvis records, which you think
are really loud and raucous...theyre not so loud and raucous.
In fact, theyre steady. Theyve just got that swing groove
which makes them rock...and roll.
RS: Scotty only played guitar on a couple tracks, but youve
said he kind of masterminded the sessions.
yeah. Well he put the band together to start with. He got Willie Rainsford
on the keyboards. I didnt know Willie before then and he was
perfect for the job. And the bass player, he brought in Pete Pritchard.
Hes actually from London. And I just used him on my last tour.
Hes great. He plays double bass and he plays electric bass as
well. And Scotty brought him in from England so I figured he must
be good, cause (laughter) theres a hundred bass players
in Nashville! But this guy, hes kind of brought up on Bill Black.
And he know all Bill Black licks and he can slap the bass just like
that. Hes great too. Hes a great character. We put about
four tracks down in the studio and Pete turned to D.J. and said, hey
D.J., youre pretty good at this, have you ever thought of taking
it up for a living! (laughter)
RS: Pete at one time played with Chuck Berry and even Bill Haley.
AL: Thats right. Hes an English stand up bass player and
he knows every American rock and roll star whos come over here.
He used to get the gig.
RS: Youve said that nothing comes close to your Big Red
Gibson 335. Did you mostly use the 335 on the Alvin Lee In Tennessee
AL: No, I didnt use that one. Actually (laughter), I borrowed
a guitar in Nashville. (laughter) I figured taking a guitar to Nashville
is like taking, what we say, coals to Newcastle. I suppose youd
say, taking sand to the desert. Also, I got fed up with carrying guitars
on airplanes these days. Its great if you can pick up a guitar
and play it. I mean, its a bit risky really. When I do my touring
and stuff I take my own guitar but its great when you can pick
up one. And in Nashville, the guy at Valley Arts Guitars...hes
got about six hundred Gibsons and just said, help yourself.
RS: So which guitars did you use on the album?
AL: It was a 335 type of guitar. It was a sunburst version. It was
a prototype of a different pick-up situation, but it was pretty much
a 335. Im playing it on the album cover, you can see it so...the
RS: So you still have your original 335?
AL: Yeah, unfortunately thats got so valuable, I cant
play it anymore, which is very sad. I mean the last thing I ever wanted
was to have a guitar stuck in a vault somewhere. Some guy offered
half a million dollars for it last year, which kind of makes me want
to not take it on an airplane and not leave it in the back of a van.
You know what I mean? I turned it down because I wrote this song once
called, There Once Was A Time...an old Ten Year After
song (with) Id never sell my guitar because that would
be a sin. Its not the money, I mean its a great
guitar. The sad thing is, Im not playing it. I just dont
take it on the road. If it got broken or stolen Id be...devastated.
RS: Are there any other vintage electrics or archtops youre
using on the CD?
AL: I always use a 335 when Im getting serious. Ive got
a nice Strat that I fool around with. Ive got a Steinberger
which I use for sessions. Im jamming alot. We have these jam
afternoons over in Morbello. Boz Burrell lives out here, Bad Company
bass player. And Trevor Marais, hes got a studio here, which
is where I actually mixed the album. He used to play with a band called
The Peddlers in England and he went on to run professional studios
all his life. Hes a drummer, hes a great drummer so we
have these jam sessions over there. In fact, I take this Steinberger
and I take this tiny little box, called Pandoras Box and plug
it straight into the desk and its great, its great for
jams. Its a toy but its great. You can get damn close
to...its like having about fifty amplifiers with you. So I enjoy
mucking around with that. Im doing another project with Trevor
cause I think I can see Africa from where I am here. So we go
over to Africa and were recording with a load of African drums.
So its going to be like heavy rock guitar, full distorted rock
guitar with stacks of Marshalls and stacks of African drummers. Its
going to be a jungle-rock fusion. (laughter) It sounded very good.
Weve done a few runs, a few tests on it. It sounded great. Cause
it lets me get back to my mad guitar style. Cause the style
I play with Scotty on the In Tennessee, Im kinda playing...when
you play with D.J. Fontana and Scotty Moore, you play tidy, you know
what I mean? And of course with the jungle drum project, then I just
go mad. Just attack the guitar with fervor. I think I need to do that.
Thats the next thing I want to do. (laughter)
RS: So that style youre playing with Scotty you call keeping
it in the pocket... can you expound on the definition of that
AL: Thats right and Ive adopted it for this album. Im
not going to follow that style from here on in. Thats what Ive
pretty much always done on most of the albums that Ive recorded.
I play in the kind of the style of the year as it were. My own style
is between blues and rock. Early on, I suppose I was a blues player
with heavy metal leanings. Ive always been trying to push the
boundaries a bit and kind of get out of being ordinary and average.
Not that theres anything wrong with that. B.B. King is good
enough or Freddie King is good enough, so who needs two of them. I
figure I should do something which comes from within me.
RS: Early Ten Years After albums like SHHH! and Cricklewood
Green were ahead of their time.
AL: I thought so too! (laughter) They were great days. It was the
time for breaking barriers in those days. I mean, if you made an album
without breaking a few barriers then it was passe, wasnt it?
Ive got this anthology album out, its called Alvin
Lee Anthology and I did this interview which the guy used for
the liner notes. I dont know if you heard that one cause
its a good mixture of all the stuff Ive done over thirty
years. It might only be out in Europe at the moment. I think its
due to be released in America this year, come to think of it. In the
interview I said, those were the days when we thought we were
changing the world, and I went on to say, and Id forgotten
I said this and when I read it I cracked up. I went on to say, in
fact we did change the world back in those days, the only thing is,
it changed back again while no one was looking. And its
kinda true, yknow? Its like...all that, the underground,
which was so great, I loved being part of the underground. We used
to play Electric Factory and The Boston Tea Party and The Fillmores.
Those kind of gigs with light shows and kind of very stoned audiences.
And it was called music for heads in those days and it was called
underground. And the early days of underground you know youd
do a show with a rock band, a poet and a string quartet or something.
And it was really kind of arty. That was a great involvement. It was
very bohemian and I really enjoyed being part of that. And that kind
of evolved into what later became the peace generation I suppose.
RS: Before the 70s malaise? Sort of before punk and soon after
AL: It all kind of went inwards rather, didnt it? That was the
RS: But some of the music you were making with Ten Years After back
then...I call it baroque blues or something.
AL: Thats an interesting description, yeah.
RS: The lead off track on the In Tennessee album, Lets
Boogie kicks off the CD in style with its Berry meets
Elvis bounce. It sort of sets a solid tone for the album.
AL: Yeah, I like that one, yeah. That was the obvious direction because,
I mean to me, that jump-jive stuff is where rock n roll
comes from. And I think thats what D.J. and Scotty were listening
to when they were learning. This is whats great about music,
cause every time you find an innovator of music, you find out
what he was listening to. And rock n roll goes back to
the early 40s, or even earlier but if you go to the jump-jive
bands in Harlem in the 40s? Theyre playing rock n
roll. With a lot of swing.
RS: The song Tell Me Why has a cool kind of Ten Years
AL: It does have a little bit, doesnt it? Its interesting
you should notice that.
RS: Scotty played on only a couple of songs....
AL: He only played on the two...he had this ear problem. He actually
went totally deaf in one ear, which was quite devastating and he was
very worried if he was going to mess things up so he sat out on the
others. But his input was phenomenal though. I mean, just him being
there...hes a lovely man, a wonderful guy. Hes been there
and done everything I can think of.
RS: Another highlight on the new album featuring Scotty, Lets
Get It On was reminiscent of the spirit of some of your work
with George Harrison. Is that a valid comparison?
AL: I wouldnt have actually thought of that myself. George didnt
do much boogie-woogie stuff. He was more of a chord man and a melodic
man. When you get that anthology album, theres The Bluest
Blues on there, which is one of Georges best guitar solos
ever. He plays this slide guitar solo, which just sends shivers down
your spine. And hes great for that. Hes just got the feel
and the touch and the sensitivity. And he keeps me in line too, cause
if I start to overplay, and then George comes in and he plays in such
sweet, pure tones. And he brings me back down again to being melodic.
Thats one of my favorite tracks of all time, The Bluest
RS: Can you remember the first time you met George?
AL: I met him through Mylon LeFevre. Mylon came over to record my
first solo album in 72, which was On The Road To Freedom.
Mylon came over, in fact Mylon came on a Ten Years After tour.
We used to hang out together and write songs after the gigs and things
and became kind of rock and roll buddies on the road. Then he came
over to England and we wrote some more. And then I built my first
studio, Space Studios, in England and Mylon said, Im going
to go out and get us a band now!, cause the studio was
finished. He said, where do all the musicians hang out?
And I said, at the Speakeasy in London I think. And Mylon
went off. (laughter) And he came back about four hours later with
George Harrison, Stevie Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Ronnie Wood...(laughter)
He said, man, Ive got us a band! (laughter)
RS: Not a bad start!
AL: No, it was pretty good, yeah. Mylon was good at that. He was hustling
everbody. He said, man, I just love your music. He hustled
George into... George had this song...Mylon said, any of your
songs we could do George, on this album? And George said, theres
a lot of good songs on the albums, why dont you do one of those?
Mylon said, George, you do them so good, I would never try and
follow you. We need a song you havent recorded yet. (laughter)
So George said, theres this song called So Sad,
which Ive been working on and I think it could be a hit actually.
Mylon said, Ill take it! (laughter) It was all down
to Mylon actually. He kind of got me in touch with George originally.
Having a guy from Atlanta, Georgia in the Oxfordshire countryside
was quite a trip. You take him round anywhere and as soon as he started
talking, people just fell in love with his accent.
RS: You recorded a remake of the Lennon-composed Beatles song I
Want You (Shes So Heavy)
AL: Thats right.
RS: And George played on it. How cool is that?
AL: That was very cool. Yeah. He played slide on that. And he told
me, I didnt realize it, he played that with his fingers when
he started on the original Beatles version by bending the notes, which
sounds like a slide guitar. That was great yeah. That one and Yer
Blues I think are two of the Beatles tracks which really rock.
RS: Yer Blues almost sounds like it could be a Ten Years
AL: Yeah, its kind of more my style. Thats the kind of
Beatles that I like. Strange enough, when The Beatles came out I wasnt
a big fan, Ill tell you why. Cause I was going around
doing Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry songs in the early 60s and
then when The Beatles came out people said, oh, I like that
Roll Over Beethoven, that Beatles song you did. (laughter)
I just said, thats not a Beatles song! I suppose
to my mind in the early days, The Beatles were considered a bit of
a hype-y pop band, suits and haircuts and everything else. I was more
into the blues and being a musician.
RS: The Beatles turned me on to Chuck Berry who was a few years before
AL: Thats right. First time I went to America...I told you my
father brought me up on Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy, so when
I first went to America I assumed that everybody in America would
be aware of Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy and I was amazed to
find they werent. It was like their own musical heritage. They
were into Jefferson Airplane and Woody Guthrie but the blues seemed
to get left behind somewhere. So in fact, The Beatles did do a big
favor, and The Rolling Stones for that matter of bringing awareness
back to those guys.
RS: Especially in the early days. It was great hearing George singing
Roll Over Beethoven
AL: (laughter) He had his own little version of that, didnt
RS: Its the 35th anniversary this summer of Woodstock.
AL: Is it?
RS: 35 years ago, the Summer of 69 was a huge turning point
for you and Ten Years After. The band released Shhh!, which
next to Cricklewood Green is my favorite TYA album. In 1969
TYA played Woodstock. Hows your memory of the 69 Woodstock
AL: Its pretty....Ive pieced it back together! (laughter)
It was a very special event but at the time nobody really was sure
about that. The first realization of it being anything other than
another date on the list was when we were told we couldnt drive
into the festival site cause the roads were all blocked and
it had been declared a national disaster on the radio and we had to
take a helicopter in. And to me, I thought well, this is going
to be interesting. (laughter) And it certainly was. Flying over
the audience, a very strong smell of marijuana wafting through the
roter-blades, was a good way to start the day! And had it been running
to plan, which is wasnt, wed have probably just flown
in and played and gone again and been none the wiser but as it happened
we got there and had to wait a long time and then the rain came down
just as we were about to play. So, nobody could go on stage cause
there were electric sparks jumping around and they wouldnt let
anyone play so I said, Cmon, lets play! If we get
struck by lightning, think how many records well sell.
At that age, who cared? (laughter) We couldnt play so I went
out into the audience. I went out for a walk around the whole site.
Went round the lake and I kind of joined in with the audience as it
were. Nobody knew I was anybody in particular. I looked like just
another freak. They were inviting me to have food with them and smoke
drugs with them and everything. Anything that was going, was shared.
It was a great vibe. So I got into the actual other side of it. Cause
backstage, although it was supposed to be three days of peace and
love, there was quite a bit of jostling and managers there saying,
I want my band on next, all this stuff. And in fact, when
I came back, (laughter) from my trek, Country Joe had set up his gear
and had rushed on stage before me, so that they didnt have to
go after Ten Years After, which was kind of funny. So it was even
a longer delay. I actually went out into the audience to get some
cigarettes. Backstage had run out of cigarettes. So I thought, Ill
go and blag some. I walked around there for two hours, came
back with about sixteen joints but no cigarettes. In fact, they had
to drop cigarettes in by helicopter. The only thing to smoke was grass.
(laughter) It was funny, dropping food, blankets and cigarettes.
RS: Ten Years After played Woodstock on that final Sunday with Hendrix,
The Band and CSNY on the bill too...
AL: I didnt say that, and Im not sure what day we played.
What day it was, I couldnt tell you. Its in a book somewhere.
RS: Did you get to see Hendrix play there?
AL: No, he didnt play till like six in the morning. So had it
been the same day, it would have been twelve hours later. I got to
see Country Joe...who else did I get to see? I cant remember.
There was a lot of purple haze there. Difficult to see through the
purple haze. But I do remember my walk out. I dont remember
much about playing but I obviously had a good time. (laughter)
RS: Its interesting to note that the same summer of 69,
before Woodstock, TYA became one of the first rock bands to ever play
the Newport Jazz Festival.
AL: Yeah, thats right. I think were the first band to play rock
music at the jazz festival. I met Miles Davis there. He was a weirdo.
I liked him.
RS: That confirms my belief that Ten Years After were one of the first
bands to combine jazz influences.
AL: I think so...the Undead album was very jazzy all the way
through actually and that was the first live album of Ten Years After.
And when Id recorded that I thought, well what on earth
can we do now? cause thats what the band does, thats
what its good at. That says it all. So thats why I decided
to go into the kind of experimental mode of Cricklewood Green.
Well, Stonehenge I think was the next one which was quiet
psychedelic and experimental and possibly drug influenced. (laughter)
It was all cool then, wasnt it?... wait...Ive been given
a piece of paper here. We played Woodstock on Sunday, the 17th of
RS: Newport and Woodstock, how would you compare the two?
AL: There were tons of festivals around that year. I remember I did
the Texas Pop Festival, the Atlanta Peace Festival...and to be honest,
I thought they were actually better than Woodstock as far as an organized
gig went. I mean Woodstock...having played Woodstock and moved on...the
helicopter flight and the fact that it was the largest number of people
was kind of cool but to be honest, you dont notice, you dont
count the people when youre there. Any crowd over fifty thousand
is big. If its a hundred thousand, two hundred, three hundred...you
dont really see that much difference. Its just that the
sea of heads goes back a bit further. You know what I mean? When youre
on stage, you tend to relate to the people who you can see around
you. At least the faces. And the rest is like a mass that goes off
in the distance. So, it wasnt that different. It was very unorganized.
It didnt feel that big. And when we went on to play, we carried
on playing the same kind of underground gigs for a year. It wasnt
until the movie came out that it made all the difference. And the
movie was the kind of hype and thats what caught peoples
attention and band crossed over to the other lot. (laughter) Woodstock/Newport
I was keen to be kind of the rebel. Theres enough jazz there
already. Its funny, Ive always found this about jazz festivals...if
you go on late in the evening, when theyve been listening to
jazz all day. Boy, are the ready for some blues and rock n
roll. Cause sometimes the jazz gets a bit too much. Jazz is
good, jazz is interesting but often, it doesnt have that flow.
The flow of a good blues, so I think that audiences have been listening
to jazz for three or four hours are wide open for some blues and rock.
So, thats what I did. Still works today.
RS: In 1988 you recorded a track called No Limit for the
Guitar Speak label headed up by Miles Copeland.
AL: Oh, thats right, yeah. It was my first trip into kind of
electric drums and computerized rhythm sections. That was the forerunner
of what was going to be an instrumental album. It just never came
together because I ended up in the studio working with computers and
to be honest after about three months of that I kind of disappeared
up my own rear end! (laughter) It was fun but to me, its not
like playing live with a rhythm section. Its kind of interesting.
I did similar stuff with the synth player from The Art Of Noise, J
J. Jeczalik. That was around the same time, doing lots of instrumentals.
Its sitting around in the vaults of Space Studios actually,
I just never got around to finishing it.
RS: Does the new Alvin Lee Anthology feature Ten Years After stuff?
AL: No, no its all my own personal stuff away from Ten Years
RS: Any other huge guitar or jazz influences?
AL: I could mention George Benson, Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery and
of course, Django Reinhardt cause I originally learned to play
rhythm, Django Reinhardt style. That was when I was thirteen years
old. Cause thats what I love. I even used to think of
my original band, the Jaybirds, which was the forerunner of Ten Years
After. And we used to do like swing, Count Basie swing stuff and stuff
like that for a three piece band. And that was very intricate but
it actually works but alot of it is that vamping guitar which George
Benson does so well, and Charlie Christian. Its a little art
to itself and it kind of disappeared after 1958. Vamping disappeared.
Alot of guitarists today, and theres some great, young guitarists
around but they dont put the time in on the chords and the rhythm.
And I think rhythm is very, very important. I mean I enjoy playing
rhythm guitar, or like chop rhythms, as much as playing lead guitar.
Thats where it all comes from and youve got to hear that
before you can hear what notes you want to put in. Once youve
got the dynamics of those rhythms, then your solo work just takes
off in a world of its own. And I think the rhythm is very important.
I see alot of guitarists today, they play Eddie Van Halen lick and
then I say play the chord of F! (laughter) and they sometimes struggle.
Alot of motivation these days is to become a rock star, which Ive
always found a bit sad because...I was looking at some adverts in
one of the guitar mags and it said, well, youve got the
looks and youve got the right guitar and the right clothes and
now you need the right sound, which is totally wrong, I mean
you need the sound first. (laughter) Thats the way to go. I
think the motivation to be a musician is much wiser because it lasts
much longer. Ive been a professional musician now for, must
be thirty five years now. And rock stars might last two or three or
four years and if youre a serious musician you can make a career
of it. And its more rewarding. Actually the stuff Im going
on to play now to me, this thing with Scotty, the African drums...its
much more rewarding musically. Im actually getting control of
what Im doing these days. Im actually really enjoying
what Im doing and enjoying trying these projects and I have
to make it a special project to keep me interested. Obviously after
how many albums...I dont know, twenty five albums? You get a
bit jaded. Im not going to go into the studio and record another
straight rock and roll album. Its got to have an angle for me.
Its got to have an interest. Its got to be a project which
has interest. And thats what Scotty and D.J. did for me. Cause
they took me right back to my roots and made what was originally exciting
to me to listen to, exciting to me to play. And its a kind of
a full circle. And I feel very honored and I thank Scotty and D.J.
for doing that.
RS: Too bad you didnt film the In Tennessee sessions.
AL: Not officially, no. Maybe a home movie of it, which is great fun.
But nothing official.
RS: Any archival CD DVD releases planned?
AL: Alot of the old stuff comes out, but to be honest I find that
its fine for the fans and collectors but alot of it is not that
good. Alot of it is taken from old video tapes. They remaster it on
DVD and to my mind, I dont know...I dont think its
really worth it myself, some of those old things. Some of em
are good, some of em are not. It seems to me theres no
quality control on it. People get hold on...old TV shows I did in
the 70s suddenly start turning up on DVD. Theyve got no
contracts to release that stuff on DVD. (laughter) It gets done anyway.
They do it and say, okay, well sue us. And theres
no quality at all. No matter how bad it is, theyll put it out.
So Im not that keen. The DVD market to me is...everybodys
cashing in on a wave at the moment and theres alot of crap coming
out. I could have recorded the Albert Hall live for DVD, but to be
honest, when I do a gig to me, whats special about a gig is
the notes I play, the songs I do, the feels I have...theyre
there for the moment and theyre gone and thats special
yknow? And once Im aware that somethings being taped
or recorded, its a whole different ball game. Youre playing
something that youre going to have to listen back to again and
again. And so you play more safe and you play with a different attitude.
I dont like that to get between me and the audience. I like
to play to the audience. So I chose not to do that at the Albert Hall.
Its kind of a shame we didnt get that gig on, cause
it was really good, but Im kind of a purist when it comes to
gigs. I just want the gig for the gigs sake. I dont want
the audience to have to sit there watching these guys with cameras
squabbling around, the little guy following him holding the cable.
That, to me is a bit of an insult to the audience. Also, when I play,
as I say, I want to play live and its there for the moment.
And I hate these bootlegs. You go and do a show and you think, that
was great and then a bootleg of it turns up and its not
meant to listen to. Its a show, an experience that you actually
are at. Its the audio of it only. It doesnt usually work
RS: So Arnie says youre planning to come back to the East Coast?
AL: Oh yeah, I intend to move all over the States, when I get there.
RS: Whos in your band right now?
AL: Well, Ive got this band I work with, which is Richard Newman
on drums, which Tony Newmans son. Hes a drummer in Nashville
now but originally was with Sounds Incorporated in England. And of
course Pete Pritchard on the bass, who was on the Scotty album. But
I was going to play with The Blasters when I came to L.A. but that
was just for these three club dates, just a little kind of adventure
rather than a tour. I like The Blasters, theyre a good band.
I cant wait to speak with Scotty about the album.
AL: Itd be nice to tie in Scottys comments with mine about
the album. Because Im really proud of this album. To me, its
a rhythm section thing and I just love it as it is. Its natural,
its pure its kind of minimalism and thats what I
wanted to do.
RS: And it couldnt have come at a better time, with the 50th
Anniversary of rock and roll.
AL: (laughter) I hadnt even thought about that! It just took
me that long to get it together! (laughter) Its full circle
for me, cause Im back to my roots and kiss the ground
I started on. And as I say, I really loved every minute of it.
RS: Scotty is one of the unsung heroes of rock and roll.
AL: Absolutely. Personally I think the Elvis Presley fans base should
give him a million quid for every guitar solo he ever recorded. I
think those guitar solos were as important as the songs. More important,
some of them. Everybodys done Rip It Up and everybodys
done Shake, Rattle & Roll but nobodyd done solos
like that in them except Scotty. And if he never does anything else,
thats good enough for me! (laughter)
RS: I guess the main thing is to keep it varied because youve
done so many great things over the years.
AL: Its a matter of getting yourself motivated and excited.
If somebody says, lets go make an album. Ive got
a few songs, I think no, not really (laughter) but
if somebody says, lets go to Peru and put a band together, Ill
go Now, youre talking! Its kind of getting
yourself motivated. Getting to put my flamenco guitar down and go
and do some real work!
RS: The flamenco thing still sounds interesting.
AL: Theres alot of that happening here actually. Its strange
enough that flamenco players cant play...I mean, I saw a flamenco
band try and play blues the other night and it was pitiful! Its
weird, they cant do it. Its strange, isnt it? Theyve
got all that passion and all that feeling in their fingers for flamenco
but when they put their acoustic guitars down and picked up the electrics
(laughter) they played this dreadful blues. Sounded like a pop band.
RS: Actually I just wrote liner notes for a new DVD thats coming
out from The Moody Blues.
AL: Oh, yeah. I remember, I used to do lots of gigs with The Moodies,
around the 70s, yeah...
RS: Cause you guys were on the same label, Deram.
AL: Thats right Deram, yeah.
RS: I was always interested in how Ten Years After got signed to Deram.
was just our very first record deal. I think it was actually Decca
we were talking to. Decca had London Records, Deram Records...just
kind of names within the Decca label. It was the first major record
company that offered us a contract. It was very early days in those
days. Those days, your first record deal, they said, you want
to sign a record contract? we said, Yes! They said,
wait a minute, we havent told you what the deal is yet,
we said, it doesnt matter! (laughter) It
doesnt matter, we just wanna get our record out. I think
we were getting about six percent of the take on the earliest thing,
but it got a bit better later on. The Stones and John Mayall were
on London Records, werent they? In America. But then again,
so was Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones and...Mantovani! (laughter)
RS: And also David Bowie was on Deram in the early days.
AL: Thats right, yeah.
RS: And also Cat Stevens...
AL: Its funny, at Decca...and Deram Records...they kept having
Mantovani months and things like that. And all the guys that worked
at the record company, they were all in an older age bracket. We were
like these young, rebellious, upstarts coming in making strange records
and they didnt know quite what to make of us...till they started
to move a few units, then they liked it. (laughter)
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