Alvin Lee Concerts -
Photos and Reviews
Studios up for Sale
January 23, 2008
facility available as going concern for £3.9 million
Wheeler End, a
24-track residential recording facility in
Buckinghamshire, England, that has hosted sessions for
artists as diverse as George Harrison, Dave Gilmour,
Bill Wyman, Robbie Williams, Paul Weller and Oasis, has
been put up for sale with a price tag of £3.9 million.
The current owner, Suzanne Lee (former wife of Alvin Lee
from seminal rock band Ten Years After) is hoping the
property will be sold as a going concern.
“After 27 years of running the studio, I am incredibly
attached to Wheeler End, so selling it hasn’t been the
easiest of decisions to make,” Suzanne explains.
“But the time has come to move on. What I want more
than anything else is to see it sold to someone who
intends to carry on using it as a recording studio and
to preserve its amazing heritage and atmosphere.”
For nearly three decades, Wheeler End Recording Studio
has been providing musicians with the space, the
atmosphere and the technology to be truly creative. The
main building, which houses the studio, has been
restored to recapture the intimate feel of the 17th
century farmhouse that it once was. Across the courtyard
there is a large barn that has also been completely
renovated to provide visiting artists with an
inspirational rehearsal and relaxation area. Other
outbuildings house garages, stables, workshops and
storage areas, many of which have the potential – and
the planning permission – to be developed into more
Suzanne and Alvin Lee bought Wheeler End in 1980 after
selling their former home and studio, Hook End Manor, to
Dave Gilmour. Acoustician and studio designer Eddie
Veale was commissioned to build the recording studio.
“It wasn’t a commercial studio to begin with: more
an advanced music room where Alvin and his friends could
record in comfort and in private,” Suzanne adds.
“Artists are like that – they enjoy playing on each
other’s albums - so family friends like George
Harrison and Joe Brown would often turn up to jam with
Alvin and lay down a few tracks.”
The studio became a commercial facility in 1994 and
rapidly established a reputation as a great place to
record, especially among artists who were tired of being
in London and wanted somewhere more relaxed to work.
The rest of the complex has developed over time, mainly
thanks to the input of Suzanne’s second husband Geoff
Coupland, who has totally renovated the barn adjacent to
the main house, turning into a bright, airy rehearsal
and recording space, complete with a magnificent beamed
ceiling, oak floors and large windows.
In recent years, Wheeler End has been let on a long-term
basis to Noel Gallagher, who first came to the studio in
1999 to record a demo and didn’t want to leave.
Suzanne says: “Like Alvin, Noel has brought many
friends here to record, including Paul Weller, The Coral,
Proud Mary, Ian Brown and Liam Howlett from Prodigy.
Some incredible albums have had their genesis here, not
least a number of Oasis albums including Standing On The
Shoulders of Giants.”
Noel’s decision to relinquish his tenancy was the
catalyst that persuaded Suzanne and Geoff to put Wheeler
End on the market.
“We need a change,” Suzanne explains, “and we’ve
been doing this for a long time. I’m hoping to find a
buyer who wants to keep it as a studio, because that’s
what it is set up to be. I want many more artists to
have the opportunity to record here and I hope there
will be musicians singing, writing and generally being
creative at Wheeler End for many years to come.”
Wheeler End Studios
Bucks HP14 3ND
ALVIN LEE INTERVIEW
ROCK AND FOLK MAGAZINE, FRANCE
Does your passion for blues come from your father's
record collection ?
AL: Yes - my dad Sam had an amazing collection of
78 rpm records. He was a keen collector of ethnic music
recordings and had many recordings by Big Bill Broonzy
who my folks actually brought back to our house after he
had played a gig at a pub called The Test Match in
Nottingham. I was 12 years old at the time and my dad
woke me up and said “You’ve got to come and meet
this man.” I sat on the floor looking up at this huge
man playing my dads old 6 string guitar and I think from
that moment I knew I wanted to be a blues musician. Also
in my dad’s collection was Muddy Waters, Ralph Willis,
Lonnie Johnson, Leadbelly, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny
Terry and Brownie McGhee along with Piano Boogie Woogie
by Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis and negro spiritual
groups like The Deep River Boys and The Golden Gate
Quartet. He even had recordings under the title of
Murderers Home which was recordings of inmates in a
southern penitentiary playing and singing real chain
gang songs and the like. It was a great musical
environment to grow up in.
R&F: Which guitar players would you consider
as your main influences ?
AL: When I started playing at 12 years old I was
listening mainly to the great jazz players like Charlie
Christian, Django Rheinhardt and Barney Kessel etc but
when Rock & Roll came into my life I was a big fan
of Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore along with the usual
guitarist’s favorites like Chet Atkins and Merle
Travis from the country field.
R&F: What do you remember of the Hamburg days,
what was a typical set-list then ?
AL: Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and early Elvis.
Hamburg was a crash course in sex, drugs and Rock &
R&F: What was Chris Wright's role on your road
to success ?
AL: Chris did a great job. The band was well
capable of playing the top blues clubs but Chris took it
a step or two further and secured us the residency at
the Marquee which led to the Windsor Jazz and Blues
Festival and eventually America. He never interfered
creatively and gave me the freedom to do whatever I
wanted to do. I remember once he said “Which would you
rather be like, The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” I
said the Rolling Stones, the rest of the band said The
Beatles. Fortunately TYA was not a democracy
R&F: When you started to play at the Marquee,
did you realize things were about to get bigger and
AL: Well, playing the Marquee was pretty big for
a kid from Nottingham. The roller coaster was already
rolling and I was pretty much ready for anything.
R&F: Did you feel like a pop musician or more
like a "serious" musician ?
AL: If ever I feel like a pop musician I’m gone.
R&F: What was it like playing the Fillmore and
feeling America was starting to really love the band ?
AL: That was a dream come true, even better than
a dream. The band was hot and well trained from a
thousand club gigs and it was just so great to have
those gigs and those people to play for. We were still
an underground band and the Fillmores, the Kinetic
Playground, the Boston Tea Party, the Grandee Ballroom
in Detroit were just great gigs to play. I loved every
minute of it and to me they were the very best of times.
R&F: How would you describe your music at the
time ? Prog blues ?
AL: It’s as good as anything else. They are all
just tags to put music in pigeon holes. It’s been
called blues-rock, heavy rock, underground…it’s all
just music to me.
R&F: What was the audience reaction at a TYA
concert at the time ? Were they "stoned? listening
to Stonedhenge ?
AL: Not as stoned as I was.
R&F: Until 1974, most of the band's activity has
been touring, do you think you spent enough time on your
studio albums ?
AL: No I was always fighting for more time for
songwriting and recording. I actually finally put my
foot down and stopped for six months to chill out and do
some song writing during which time I wrote the songs
for A Space in Time.
R&F: Eventhough you were a blues boom act, songs
like "Hear Me Calling" were huge in the pop
charts, how did you live with that ? Did you consider
yourself serious musicians?
AL: That wasn’t a problem as it was a good song with a
good groove. It was not a pop song therefore it was not
R&F: That special song, "Hear Me Calling",
has been covered by Slade, what do you think of their
AL: I only heard it recently. It’s quite good, but
I’m not a Slade fan.
R&F: Most journalists of the 60's, consider
Woodstock as THE TYA's crucial concert. Do you agree
with that ?
AL: It was the movie which brought TYA to the attention
of a wider audience. Some say it made TYA but to me it
was the beginning of the end. I missed the underground
venues like the Filmores and I did not enjoy playing the
huge sports arenas and ice hockey stadiums. Woodstock at
the time was a great experience only nothing really
changed for a year until the movie came out. What do you
remember of it today ? Was the hippie thing your thing ?
Was TYA a political band as such ? No Politics at all. I
was pretty much an idealist at the time. I really did
think the young people could change the world and I
believe we did. The only trouble is it changed back
again while nobody was looking. Too stoned I guess.
R&F: Would you describe WOODSTOCK as a traumatic
AL: No, it was a lot of fun.
R&F: You played Woodstock again in 1994 with TYA,
what was it like ?
AL: Rubbish, apart from being allegedly in the same
field it was nothing like the original. The 1994
festival was a Total, commercial bullshit event.
R&F: "Produced by Alvin Lee" mentioned
for the first time. Production has always been important
to you - do you consider the artist should "produce"
his music rather than leave it to someone else ?
AL: Always. I would rather work with a good engineer
than a producer. If the artist knows what he wants to
achieve then he does not need a producer. They just get
in the way.
R&F: Great cover - was the visuall aspect
important to you ?or was it more like a record company's
AL: The very talented photographer John Fowlie and I
worked on it together in Copenhagen. He took the photos,
then we processed them in the dark room using a
secondary light exposure technique called solarization.
We even followed it thru to the printing to make sure
the colors stayed true. I thought it was a fantastic
cover and really captured the feeling of the time.
R&F: I guess at the time money was starting to be
good being in TYA. Did it change your perception of
things or anything at all between the members of the
AL: There is only one thing that is inevitable and that
is change. Money didn’t change anything much. We all
had nice cars and big houses by the early 70’s but my
apparent personal success brought out the egos and
jealousy within the band which eventually lead to my
R&F: "I don't know that you don't know my name"
enhanced the folky side of your music - can you tell us
more about this different musical color (as opposed to
blues and rock'n'roll) ?
AL: It was a folky influence. Possibly from Ralph McTell
and Pentangle. I have a very open mind when it comes to
music…. as I like to say “it’s all music.”
R&F: Same for "The Stomp", rather funky
? - can you tell us more about this different musical
AL: I could go on for weeks about that but basically
it’s in the feel and the groove. The Stomp was
inspired by John Lee Hooker who is a master of the
groove. I don’t care too much about the song, the
chords or the structure as long as it’s got the groove.
Cricklewood Green 70
R&F: More and more hit records and singles - Did
the success of tracks like "Love Like A Man"
overshadow the work of the band ? I mean did you feel
obliged to play the hits more ? Same for "Going
Home" - was there a time when you were sick of
playing it ? Do you sometime leaves the stage without
playing it ?
AL: Yes - I did rebel against the songs I felt obliged
to play but in the end it’s how you play them and how
they evolve that gets interesting. For a while I dropped
them from the set, like when I did the In Flight album
and tour I did not do any TYA songs at all. I played all
new songs in an attempt to get away from what I called
“the traveling juke box syndrome” where you play the
same songs over and over again and it gets tedious. When
Rock & Roll gets boring it’s time to move on to
However, around that time I went to see Jerry Lee-Lewis
in concert and he did mainly country songs and he did
not play a lot of my favorite rockers and I came out of
the theatre feeling really disappointed and I vowed I
would never leave my audience feeling that way, so I
came back to my rock roots with Ten Years Later, a real
hard hitting energetic power house trio with Tom Compton
on the drums and Mick Hawksworth on the bass.
R&F: How did you cope with the fact of being a
touring band (on the road most of the time)
AL: It was great in the beginning but after the first
million miles it can get a bit tedious.
R&F: This one 's produced by TYA - Does that mean
the whole band was more implicated in terms of
AL: Not really, I just didn’t want to take all the
R&F: Great production I think (one of my favorite
albums of yours) - but no mention of who produced it on
the cover - does "no mention" mean Alvin Lee ?
AL: It certainly was not produced by Chris Wright as it
says on the Chrysalis re-issue.
R&F: Can you tell us more regarding the
contribution of Andy Johns?
AL: Andy Johns is the younger brother of Glynn Johns and
was an excellent engineer. He did all the record
engineering and when it came to mixing and putting the
album together I brought in the links and sound effects
that I had made at home and he really enjoyed that
process. I always like to make an album into an entity
of its own from beginning to end, rather than it being
just a list of songs. We used to spend hours
experimenting when everyone else had gone home.
R&F: Great cover (once again) ! Does it mean
anything special ? Very psychedelic ! Did drugs play a
role in your musical inspiration as they did with
Hendrix or The Beatles ?
AL: Can’t remember….so YES
A Space In Time 71
R&F: No production mention again but enters Chris
Kimsey (mispelled on the original cover actually) - Was
he to play an important role in your sound or was he
just an engineer ?
AL: Chris was a very good creative engineer. One of the
best I’ve worked with. I learned a lot from him. If
anyone produced the album it was Chris but I never
bothered with production credits. The band would produce
their own individual performances and I would work with
the engineer and tie it all together and mix it.
Everybody would come back to approve the final mixes so
it was a joint effort in which everybody played their
R&F: The back photo is credited to you - Were you
into photography as you are into painting now ?
AL: Yes - I have thousands of slides from those days as
I always carried my trusty 35mm. Nikormatte
R&F: Does that photo mean anything ?- I mean
broken guitars strings = tired of the band in a way...
AL: No - I was fixing it.
R&F: Great songs here ("I'd love to change
the world", "Over The Hill") - Do you
realise "I'd love to..." has turned into a
peace anthem these days ? The peace sign was on your
guitar - were you into that "make love not war
thing" ? Had it anything to do you with the fact
you were playing the USA a lot at a time when the
anti-Vietnam war thing was going on ??
AL: Yes, Yes and yes. I was totally involved in all that
and very frustrated that I could not do anything about
it hence the words I’d Love to Change The World but I
don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you……
and the best of luck.
R&F: Were you surprised the album was bigger in
USA than UK ?
AL: No - America is bigger than the UK and by now Chris
Wright had the big guns at CBS records involved. The
corporate finger was on the corporate button. It was
great at first but I came to hate it after a while. It
was all bullshit and nothing to do with music.
Alvin Lee & Company 72
R&F: Your name on the front cover for the first
time - Were you starting to escape from the band ?
AL: This album and title was actually nothing at all to
do with me it was put out by Deram records as a
compilation of singles and out-takes.
R&F: As it always happens, a new music style emerged
at the time - You were playing blues and rock'n'roll
when the whole glam thing exploded ? How did you fit and
live with it ?
AL: I don’t change my music to fit in with fashions.
My music is real and from the heart Glam rock was crap.
R&F: How did you get involved in the movie
"Groupie" ? What do you remember of this
AL: The producer said the movie was going to be called
Rock 70 but I saw which way it was going and told him.
“You know if this movie ever comes out it’s going to
be called The Groupies” to which he said “Oh no
it’s Rock 70”. Sure enough when it came out it was
of course called The Groupies.
R&F: This record is some kind of compilation of
non-album tracks. Are there more unreleased TYA/Lee
tracks left in the vaults that would be worth releasing
as some rarity anthology for instance ? Were you pleased
with the recent Fillmore concert release ?- did you get
involved in this process (Ric has written the liner
AL: No, the story to this is very sad. Ric Lee decided
to re-release all the TYA albums behind my back with
bonus tracks that were never intended to be heard by
anybody. I had to get lawyers to stop the release and
take off the offending tracks.
Rock'n'roll Music To The World 72
R&F: "Choo choo Mama" live favorite, again.
How do you prepare a set-list today with so many great
songs to play ?
AL: No problem, I just pick the songs that are fun to
R&F: At the time some critics started to use the
word "old-fashionned" in their reviews - how
did you live with that ? Did you think blues and
rock'n'roll were more relevant than anything else ? Do
you think the same today ?
AL: Fashions come and go but if you believe in what you
do, you stick with it no matter what. If Rock&Roll
and Blues became the most unfashionable music in the
world I would still play it because I love it.
Recorded Live 1973
R&F: One of the greatest live rock albums of all
AL: You are obviously a man of good taste.
R&F: Do you think your music was meant for the
stage rather than records ?
AL: Definitely. They are two different mediums and the
live stuff always came naturally to me.
R&F: Do you realize generations of guitarists
have learnt (or tried) to play guitar with this
AL: Nice thought
R&F: "Official TYA Bootleg" mention on
the cover - How did you live with the bootleg situation
at the time ? What to you think of the pirate
downloading situation today ? Do you think recorded
music should be free ?
AL: Free music is fine. It’s not whether it is free or
not. The point is the artist should be able to control
what goes out. Quality control is very important.
R&F: Is "Recorded Live" the real deal - I
mean no overdubs at all ?
AL: Absolutely no overdubs. It’s a pure recording of
what actually happened on the night.
Positive Vibrations 74
R&F: Ironic title as this album meant the (first)
split of the band ? Well, why did you finally split ?
AL: Strangely enough because of negative vibrations
On The Road To Freedom 1973
R&F: Not a "solo" album as such, but
not TYA anymore - How did you meet with Mylon in the
first place ?
AL: I had met Mylon in America. We got on really well so
I got his band Holy Smoke on to the TYA tour as opener
and we used to hang out together after the shows and
started writing songs together. That’s how the album
R&F: Tell us a few words about the "dream
team" involved here : Steve Winwood (whom I
interviewed last month happens to have fond memories of
this album...) , George Harrison, Ron Wood, Boz Burrell,
Jim Capaldi, Tim Hinkley.
AL: I hadn’t quite finished building the studio at
Hook End and Mylon, Ian Wallace (drums) and Boz Burrell
(bass) came down and we spent about a week putting up
soundproofing and finishing off the studio. Then Mylon
said "Where do all the musicians hang out
man?" and I said The Speakeasy. He said
“Right”, put on his zoot suit and went off to
London. Six hours later, he came back and said "I
got us a band, man." He certainly did. In walked
George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Mick Fleetwood, Ronnie
Wood and Jim Capaldi. Mylon really had a silver tongue I
can tell you.
In Flight 74
R&F: This is your first solo album as such and
it's a double live album very different from TYA - Was
it like a double statement you wanted to make at the
time : a) live music b) melting-pot of influences ?
AL: It was those things and a lot more. It was Going
thru the Door
R&F: You really had a fantastic band at the time
- A band o' gypsies ? Was it like paradise artistically
at the time (you actually played "I'm writing you a
letter" at the Olympia) ? Would you like to restart
a project like this in the near future, leading a family
of musicians ?
AL: It was heaven and hell and everything in between.
When you put a band together of the best musicians, you
know something’s going to happen but you can never be
sure what! These days I much prefer playing live as a 3
piece. You are not restricted to pre-planned
arrangements and there is more room to move.
R&F: You did tour the US again in 1975 with TYA ?
Was it due to prior commitments ? How was the mood of
the band then ?
AL: It was kind of ‘One for the money, two for the
money, three for the money and go cat go’. The band
was over-toured and tired and nobody wanted it to go on
at the time. I Had a good time myself but the general
mood of the band was miserable. I used to hang out with
the roadies all the time.
Pump Iron 75
R&F: When you went for a period not too easy to
follow for your fans : recording and playing under
different names (Alvin Lee & Co, Ten Year Later, The
Alvin Lee Band...). Were you having a hard time finding
the right formula or did you wish to experiment ?
AL: They call me “confuse a fan”. Experiment is
everything to me. I only wish I could be more
experimental. Pump Iron was a lot of fun. I had found
this fantastic drummer Bryson Graham and together with
Tim Hinkley on keyboards and my all time favorite bass
player Boz Burrell we recorded this album and had a
great time doing it.
R&F: That cover has always been a mystery,
anything to say about it ?
AL: The album was going to be called “Let the Sea Burn
Down” but it was one of the few times I unfortunately
let the record company interfere. They thought it would
be a “good idea” to call the album Pump Iron after
the title of a movie at the time called Pumping Iron. I
was told they used Arnold Schwarzenegger for the session
and painted Alvin Lee on his chest and although that was
kinda fun it was a crap album title and cover and had
nothing to do with the music. Thanks to the art
department at CBS records.
R&F: There are good songs here but some tracks
sound like your muses were playing tricks with you ? Can
your personal life and things you're going thru as human
alter your songwriting ?
AL: Of course… everything artistic is a reflection of
your life, your environment and your imagination and the
imagination takes the thought one step further…sometimes
Let It Rock 78
R&F: On the cover, it looks like you're saying :
"Hey, I don't give a fuck about all this punk thing
going on ! Me, I can rock !" Was releasing an album
with such a title during punk heydays another statement
? You never followed any trend - Did you regret it at
some point ?
AL: No regrets at all. I am what I am, I do what I do.
Freefall 80 / RX5 81
R&F: The 80's were difficult for most 60's/70's act
- How did you cope with it ? Was there a time when you
thought your music was obsolete ??
AL: I never thought that. I remember when the punk thing
became popular and I was asked in an interview “Do you
feel you have to step aside for the new wave?” To
which I answered “ No I am the permanent wave.” I
just had to sit it out and wait for people to come to
About Time 89
R&F: "About time", does it mean it was
about time TYA got back together ?
R&F: Why did you decide to get back together 15
years after the first split ?
AL: We all make mistakes
Alvin Lee Concerts -