Playing The Fillmore East 1970 By Ric Lee

Who better to tell the story than the drummer who was there. Ric has an excellent story telling style, and even in retrospect, his tales never seem sugar coated, romanticized or glorified in any way, “it just is, as it was”. The following is from Ric himself, from the liner notes of the missing “Ten Years After Live at the Fillmore East” tapes, that Ric discovered hidden in the back recesses of the record company vaults. To steal a line from Humble Pie: They were, “As Safe As Yesterday Is” these tapes recapture the band at their height of popularity and commercial success. What follows now, is directly from Ric, with minor editing from me, but in no way changes the content at all.



Ten Years After Fillmore East – February 26th , 27th , and 28th  of  1970.

The Fillmore East, opened after the fin nominal success of the Fillmore West, in San Francisco, California, owned and operated by concert promoter Bill Graham. The Fillmore East was located on Second Avenue and Sixth Street, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA.

It officially opened on March eighth 1968 and closed forever on June 27th 1971.

 Ten Years After’s first performance at the Fillmore East was on the second and third of August 1968, this was during our very first tour of America. We opened for Big Brother and the Holding Company which featured their female singer Janis Joplin and The Staple Singers. The Staple Singers were magnificent, but the awesome Janis Joplin completely blew the audience away.

 Our next appearance there was on September 27th and 28th of 1968, this was sandwiched in between Country Joe and the Fish and the openers Procol Harum, who were friends of ours with the same management.

 February 28th and March 1st of 1969, saw our first headline gig, supported by John Mayall and Slim Harpo. It was at this gig that I got into trouble with our managers for going on stage in the first set to jam with John Mayall and Mick Taylor, the guitarist that replaced Peter Green in John’s and who would leave again very soon, in order to join The Rolling Stones.

Although, this was in a time of spontaneous jamming between members of different bands at assorted venues, I was told in no uncertain terms, that on this occasion, that it was not appropriate for a member of the headlining act to jam with the support bands, this in spite of the fact, that the entire audience went crazy when I did that, and my actions didn’t jeopardise our status later in the evening in any way. There were other jam sessions at the Fillmore too.

After hours, Bill would supply some food and drinks and the bands, along with some invited guest, would get together and jam until dawn, when everybody staggered out into the cold morning light, and hoping to be able to find the way back to their hotels without too much grief.


The English Invasion was next on April 9th and 10th, 1969 with our mates (friends) The Nice and Family. Family and Ten Years After had enjoyed a friendly (and healthy) rivalry, since the early Marquee Club days in England, when both bands were booked by separate agents from the same office. A wager was taken as to which band would first receive a sixty pound fee for an engagement, at any club in the UK during the 1967 period. We won!

On the second day of this engagement at Bill Graham’s burgeoning venue, all of us were pleasantly surprised and flattered when Jimi Hendrix turned up to watch the show.

Alvin, Leo, Chick and I had met Jimi on a couple of previous occasions; the first of which happened when we played support to The Experience at Sussex University, in Brighton, England, early on in our careers, and later when Jimi, drummer Mitch Mitchell and guitarist Larry Coryell came to sit in with us during our residency at Steve Paul’s Scene Club, which was the first New York venue that we played back in 1968.

 In 1970, we headlined on February 26th with John Hammond and Zephyr (featuring Tommy Bolin on guitar) and on the 27th and 28th with John Hammond and Doug Kershaw. Luckily, the shows on these dates were recorded, and have been re-mastered, in their entirety for this double CD set. None of the tracks here have been released before, this the exception of: “Love Like A Man” which was the B-Side of a vinyl 45 single that was released in April of 1970 on the Deram label, and gave us a Top Ten hit in the UK, in the summer of that same year. 

The Fillmore East was a cosy theatre with a seating capacity of 3564, and unlike it’s brother venue, The Fillmore West in San Francisco, which was previously known as the Carousel Ballroom, it had very limited seating arrangements. Before the shows, the street outside would be teeming with hippies, stone freaks, groupies, fans and street people from the East Village. Sometimes, we entered the gig through the front door and were immediately bombarded by all of them, requesting “Spare Change”, and do you have any spare change?”

None of those demands were ever threatening to our safety in any way, and Leo’s initial response was, “Thanks, how much have you got?” Which later would become our stock answer to all panhandlers. Wisely, we never gave in to these constant request, and later on some of these same protagonist who were protesting poverty, would be seen in Chicago and Los Angeles making similar request outside of the gigs in those cities.

 Shows at the Fillmore East were twice nightly at eight and eleven thirty. But, no matter which time you went on stage, with three other acts on each night, there was always a long wait until your second set. So in order to relive the boredom of sitting in what were pretty basic and somewhat dismally (grim) dressing rooms, we would often go out front and watch the other acts perform for awhile, and then if it was going to be a long evening, we would venture next door to Ratners. Unlike its English namesake, in later years, Ratners was not jewellery chain, but a superb Kosher dairy restaurant. Their nut cutlet was fabulous. This was a dish of mashed potatoes and mushrooms with an outer crust of bread-crumbs. It looked very similar to Chicken Kiev, but the taste was strikingly different and inimitable. (Indescribably Delicious).

 Backstage was Spartan. The bands performed on staging built out over the old orchestra pit. The area behind the light show screen was stripped of wings, flies and backdrop to facilitate quick changes between acts. It was very stark (barren/empty) and even though the old theatre was very well heated, it always seemed cold on the main stage; surrounded only by three bare brick walls. (Hi Ric, most likely if you drilled a hole in those walls, you would find the outside right behind those bricks. No insulation, and a never ending draft from one end of that stage to the other.

All of the heavy back-line gear; Drum Kit, Hammond Organ, Marshall Amp Stacks, and the like were set on low, mobile risers. When the first act finished, the light show screen was raised and the equipment was rapidly rolled in and out of position. Beneath the stage was a grim, mucky basement, but more about that situation later. The stalwart engineer of the tracks on this CD package was pucker Englishman Edwin H. Kramer, better known to us as Eddie.

He is perhaps, most famous for recording all of Jimi Hendrix’s hits, and is the master-mind behind the building of Jimi’s New York Recording Studio called “Electric Ladyland”.

 For these Ten Years After recording sessions, poor Eddie was consigned to the grim mucky basement, with: “What was probably a rented, handmade, console and a Scully eight track tape machine, which I believe, I also used at Woodstock 1969 for recording the festival.

The desk was probably made by Bill Hanley who supplied all the PA systems around that time. There I was in that dingy cellar, cans (my headphones) on, crouched over the desk, surrounded by enormous heating pipes and although I never actually saw one, I’m convinced that there were rats within spitting distance. As soon as the band on stage right above me leapt into action, I was showered with dust and had to dash to cover the sensitive recording gear with sheets, polythene and anything else directly at hand. Not the easiest (or the most ideal way) way to record”.   

 The atmosphere up top side however was electric. As Bill Graham introduced us individually and the minute you hit the stage, the hot air from the overhead lighting, the air thick with the smell of dope, instantly warmed you, and set you up for the show. The audience at once seemed like best friends, just wanting to share whatever we were going to give them with tremendous involvement and appreciation. In addition to the usual stage lights, was Joshua’s fabulous light show. Behind my low drum riser was an enormous screen which filled the whole of the proscenium arch, providing a kind of living backdrop / background to the band, which was projected, from a gallery at the back of the stage, the most amazing psychedelic images; forming, then disintegrating / then re-forming again and again in sympathetic

(unison / synchronicity)  with the music.  


A quick note about some of the rare gems that are included here:

“Spoonful” – has been an intrical and principal  part of our stage act in the early days and was incorporated in our very first studio album for that reason. By the time this Fillmore East concert came along, it had unfortunately been dropped  from our set list, in favour of new tracks from the bands forthcoming; “Cricklewood Green” album. This studio album produced such powerful / memorable hits such as – “Love Like A Man” – “50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain” – and “Working On The Road”.  This is most likely why it shows up here an an encore. 


Ric Lee:

“We seemed to be playing quite spur of the moment stuff in this period as witness, “Help Me Baby”, about which Alvin comments, “I might add, that’s the first time we’ve played that number for about nine months. Yeah, was a good trip, wan-nit?” (great / perfect)!

“Roll Over Beethoven” – the Chuck Berry classic, has to my knowledge, never before been released  on any Ten Years After set, which makes this track extremely rare”.

 “Hobbit” – my old chestnut, is included here as it was an integral part of our live sets all through our career and is different to a later version that was on “Recorded Live” 1973.

I was experimenting with different forms at this stage, in the live context. Similarly, many of  Ten Years After’s classics gained development on stage, in front of our fans. I don’t mean we were getting paid for rehearsing. What we were doing was more akin to the way jazz players had developed their chops in the years before; taking a basic theme and then jamming it out.

This way, each performance would have something different, however small and the music was kept exciting for both the performers and the aficionados. A good example of this happens in, “I Woke Up This Morning”. There’s a “living on the edge” approach from the rhythm section during Alvin’s extended solo. In effect, we were all soloing and you’ll hear Leo and Chick and me all playing phrases across the beat in a jazz style to both complement and contrast with the guitar, which became one of the trade marks of a Ten Years After performance.

 In my humble opinion, these tracks are among some of the best Ten Years After live recordings. When putting this collection together, we tried hard to recreate the excitement and ambience of the gigs when mixing and although the final selection is taken from different nights, we’ve tried to present the album as near to the running order of the show, so that you the listener can sit, get stoned or whatever, and either imagine being at the Fillmore, soaking up the atmosphere if you were never there, or relive it if you were, in what was one of rock’s most famed and revered venues.


Ric Lee 2001 – Fast Western Ltd.


The  Ric Lee Drum Solo – Then and Now – Is A “Hobbit”

One spectacular event that’s never missing from a Ten Years After concert, is of course “The Hobbit” a Ric Lee special drum solo segment, that die hard fans of the band have come to expect. It’s based on the J.R.R. Tolkien book of the same name. Ric does the segment where the banging on the door is recognisable to the listener, familiar with that part of the story. It’s become Ric’s tried and true trademark over the years. So, for about a quarter of an hour, you are invited to slip into the world of fantasy, to middle earth and enjoy the sounds of a first class drummer telling a story through different sounds, coming from his kit.

Awesome sounds, weird sounds, punching sounds, quiet and delicate sounds, surreal sounds, loud sounds, strange sounds…and on and on and on. It presents itself as a kind of intense  worshipping moment, when you look side to side around you, and notice that the entire audience is as solemn and quiet as a grave yard, transfixed, not moving, and listening intently with great awe. I can hardly find the right words to describe this masterpiece done with only one instrument, but sounding like many. After all these many years, nothings seemed to have changed very much, as Ric  still plays with the same amount of passion and energy, just like in the groups heyday. Early Ten Years After fans will be drawn into thinking about great times and memories of days gone bye. The new younger generation will no doubt find this and the Ten Years After of today, just as exciting and desirable as we ourselves did back in 1969, when we first discovered the band for the first time. This is the redeeming factor and just reward, that the process starts all over again. We are now able to turn these young adults onto the music that we ourselves loved, and pass on our knowledge to them. All this in a fifteen minute, intricate and intense drum solo involving a little bit of fantasy!

Hats off to you Ric Lee



Ten Years After reformed in 1988, but after a European tour and the release of their “About Time” album, they once again parted company. They came together – minus original guitarist Alvin Lee in 2001 to promote the “Live At The Fillmore East” album from 1970, the tapes of which had been lost or misplaced. They were eventually  found, down the back of drummer Ric Lee’s sofa after 30 years. They returned to the studio to record Ten Years After “Now”, and are still touring in 2011.

Content provided by Sound-Unwound – Copyright 2008 – The Personal Encyclopaedia 

Note: I found this article on the internet, and am still laughing at its content. As I have never heard this version before, nor has Ric ever confided in us, that this is the  true tale of the lost Ten Years After Master Tapes from 1970. We'll be happy to check into this, and be sure, this will make for some good levity (jokes) the next time we see Ric in person. 






To Leo Lyons (founder and bass player) of Ten Years After – 2001

Q: Leo, what are your three most memorable Ten Years After concerts?

A: “There are so many highlights from the years of touring that it’s difficult to pick out only three. If I have to, probably the Marquee Club, London the first time we headlined there, the Fillmore’s (East and West) and of course Woodstock (1969). I think these three gigs in their own way were pivotal points when the band broke through and made a connection with the audience. I remember so many enjoyable gigs and I’m sure everyone has their own favorite.”



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