Alvin Lee the frontman for Ten Years After wrote this song and it was released on their fourth studio album Cricklewood Green, which came out in 1970. This was their only UK Singles’ chart hit, where it reached #10, but only going to #98 in the US. Alvin Lee was known for his rapid-fire guitar speed which earned him the title of being “The Fastest Guitarist in the West”. Alvin was considered to be a precursor to shred-style playing which developed in the 1980s. To shred a guitar, musicians have to push themselves to their physical playing limits to perform at faster tempos, or be able to execute ideas in a seamless and smooth manner. This level of performance requires an enormous amount of patient and dedicated practice, as building your finger dexterity, speed, and hand-eye coordination to perform quickly, cleanly, and accurately takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. In 2011, guitarist John Taylor was recognized the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s fastest guitar player. The American guitar teacher played Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ at an impressive 600 beats per minute.
The members of Ten Years After that played on Cricklewood Green were Alvin Lee on guitar, vocals, Leo Lyons on bass, Ric Lee on drums and Chick Churchill on organ, piano and harpsichord. Alvin Lee was born in 1944 and at the age of 11 he started playing clarinet. He was influenced by his parents’ collection of jazz and blues records, but it was the advent of rock and roll that sparked his interest, so a year later in 1956 when the new skiffle sound became popular in England, Alvin switched to the guitar. His mother said he practiced every minute he could and got on like crazy with it, developing a talent where nothing could stop him.
In 1957, at the age of 13 Alvin joined his first band, Vince Marshall and the Squarecaps, or Square Caps playing rhythm guitar. He answered a ‘musicians wanted’ ad and turned up with his guitar and amp in a coffee shop for an audition which was more like a test of to see how keen you were to join, because Vince was over an hour late, and some of the hopefuls went home. Thus, the ones that remained were all hired, two drummers, three guitarists, a piano accordionist, and they rehearsed for six months and only got one gig and then broke up immediately afterwards. In 1958, he was the lead guitarist of Alan Upton and the Jailbreakers, where he played a 10-minute spot between films at a drive-in movie theatre. In 1960, Alvin Lee met Leo Lyons and they both join a local Nottingham, England band called the Atomites with drummer Pete Evans. When Ivan Jay returned to Nottingham, they changed their name to the Jaymen. In 1962, like the Beatles, they managed to secure a spot at the Star Club in Hamburg. Roy Cooper played rhythm guitar, plus did vocals from 1960 to 1962.
In 1964, Alvin purchased a 1959 cherry red Gibson ES335 for 45 pounds. That guitar would go on to be lovingly called “Big Red” and be almost as famous as its owner. The Jaybirds moved to London, but after “nearly starving to death”, they returned home to Nottingham. They all shared a single room, and they had to cook their dinners in a sort of make-shift stove. They had no money and they struggled to pay the rent every month. After some bad experiences, Ivan Jaye and Roy Cooper, who were the original members of the band, decided to leave because they were completely disillusioned with the music world. Alvin and Leo Lyons stayed, along with drummer Pete Evans and they worked as a trio till Pete Evans quit and they had to return home. Almost immediately they recruited a new drummer by the name of Dave Quickmire and then returned to Hamburg as the Jaybirds. Later the same year, Alvin received an invitation from Joe Meek to join the Outlaws. but he declined citing that he wanted to remain in Germany and gain more exposure with the Jaybirds, but things didn’t quite work out and the band returned to the UK.
Quickmire quit and in August of 1965, Ric Lee was persuaded to leave his band, the Mansfields, and take over drumming duties for the Jaybirds. Their luck changed in London when they landed themselves a job as the house band for the stage production of Alan Sillitoe’s play Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. They weren’t originally sure what to do, but Leo Lyons, their bass player recalled, “The play ran for six weeks and then we were faced with two alternatives, either we return to Nottingham or accept work as a backing band and hang around in the hope we could get work on our own.” That paid off, as they managed to secure a daytime gig recording demo discs for the publishing company, Southern Music. Whilst there, they met the Ivy League who liked their sound and invited them on tour from November 1966. For that tour their roadie, Chick Churchill became their keyboard player, and they met a young agent called Chris Wright who took them under his wing, became their manager and suggested a name change firstly to Blues Trip and then to Blues Yard where they played one gig at London’s Marquee Club supporting Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. In 1968, Wright founded the Chrysalis record label and took the group with him.
Looking for a more modern name, they finally settled on Ten Years After, a name which has many stories. One story says this name change came after Lyons was reading a newspaper article that carried the line ‘Ten years after the Russian Revolution’, and another story says it came from a magazine, advertising a book, Suez Ten Years After (referring to the Suez Crisis). Some sources claim that the name was chosen by Alvin Lee and Leo Lyons to honor Elvis Presley, as this was ten years after Presley’s successful year, 1956. The new name was well received by all members and just in time for them to perform to 20,000 people at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival.
The word roly-poly has had a long and varied history in English. In the seventeenth century it meant ‘rascal’. Around 1820, it became “short and stout”, where someone could produce a rolling motion with their belly, like a belly dancer can do. In 1942, roly-poly took on the slang meaning of being an act of sexual intercourse with a roll in the hay becoming casual, carefree sex of making love in a hayloft. I see this song as being about a girl who is getting around, but she comes back to this guy when things are not going good for her. She is not getting satisfaction from these other men who she is with, and this guy is willing to let her stay with him, so he can love her like a man. To love someone as a man means that you are accepting another person in the strongest way possible, as you will be supporting them in anything and everything, even when you may not agree on the situation. You will stop looking for something better, or trying to see what else is out there, because you want to love this person to the best of your ability.
All over town
But you come on back to me
When things are down
Love like a man
Love all you can
Is growing less
If you come on back to me
Use my address and let you
Love like a man
Love all you can
You are the woman
You can’t deny
You look so good to me, girl
You make me high
I’ll tell you something
I think you know
When you flash those eyes at me
All systems go and let you
Love like a man
Love all you can
The challenge today is to focus on this song and use it for a short story, a piece of flash fiction, or a poem that you can share with the WordPress writing community. There is no need to stick with this song, as you could write about another Ten Years After song, or any song by Alvin Lee. You could also write about how it makes you feel when a girl flashes her eyes at you, or if you are a girl, please explain what eye contact means to you and what is the appropriate amount. You could write about the phrase “all systems go”, which originated in the 1960s during the heyday of space flight and referred to the launching of missiles and other space vehicles. You could write about whether you think is it OK to date a girl who has been around the block a few times. Does this make her experienced having acquired certain skills, so she will know what she is doing in bed, or do you feel that a woman who doesn’t adhere to sexual norms should be punished.
The whole point of this MM Music challenge is to get you to think, to trigger something so that you can show how creative you are, and everyone is welcome to participate. This challenge is very loose, so pretty much whatever you come up with will be acceptable. I try to throw some ideas out there for you and if they seem right, then go with it. You could write about being in a relationship where you know your significant other is dating other people and how that makes you feel. If you would like to write about being in a Friends With Benefits, or a No Strings Attached relationship, that would make a nice post. You could write a post about your feelings getting confused, when you are in an undefined relationship that becomes romantic. Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie brings you a dose of fetish, good friends and an incomparable muse and next Friday on January 14 Dylan Hughes will be here with her First Line Friday. I will be back on Friday, January 21 with another MM Music Challenge where we will discuss the song ‘Even the Losers’. You can either create a ping back to this post, or place your link in the comments section below.