Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee dies
He already had the money, the showbiz cars and the nice house in the Rockbroker Belt. “And I still woke up dissatisfied. Luckily I met Mylon LeFevre from the band Holy Smoke and we made the On The Road To Freedom album, mixing my English with his country and Atlanta southern rock stuff.”
LeFevre was a consummate hustler whose gospel song Without Him was covered by Elvis Presley when Mylon was 17. He spent his royalties on fast cars and heroin, and had just come through a withdrawal programme when he teamed up with the equally frazzled Lee in 1973. Decamping to George Harrison’s home studio, the unlikely duo gathered together a superstar cast.
“Mylon went to the Speakeasy and came back with Steve Winwood, Mick Fleetwood and Ronnie Wood. He blagged them. ‘Hey, man, come and play. You don’t need any money, you’re musicians.’ And they fell for it. That’s when I met George [Harrison]. It was quite a band. We did a gig at Biba’s in London, and on the way down from my house in Hook End in Oxfordshire, Steve Winwood and me got smoked up in his Ferrari in the middle of a downpour, during which his windscreen wipers fell off. He was so stoned he wanted to stop on the A40 and find them.”
With his royalties flooding in, Lee made sure he enjoyed the rock star life, living in a 17th-century mansion complete with minstrel gallery, near to the Prime Minster’s country residence, Chequers.
“I became part of the Thames Valley gang of musos: Jim Capaldi, Jon Lord, Mick Ralphs, Dave Edmunds… and George Harrison. He became the friend who would drop by and play slide. He contributed the song So Sad (No Love Of His Own) – Harrison’s only known break-up lament for Patti Boyd after she left him for Eric Clapton – which I think is one of his best ever songs. He’d call me at 1am just to jam. I was his after‑hour’s friend, rather than the showbiz or racing car pals. He had all this equipment that Jeff Lynne gave him, and we’d sit around playing Shadows tunes.”
While the idea of a permanent supergroup didn’t appeal to Lee, he was happy to be part of the Pishill Artists, an impromptu bunch of wealthy rockers who would turn up on the quiet to play at the Crown Inn in Pishill for delighted locals. “George and I spent five days a week together, at mine or at his in Henley, Friar Park. A lot of it was just cracking jokes. He asked me what I thought of Eric Clapton. I told him: ‘Too much blood in the drugstream.’ Which cracked him up. We wrote songs like The Bluest Blues, but mostly we just hung out.”
Years later, Alvin sold his Hook End house and studio to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and moved to a spread at Woodcote in Buckinghamshire, but the two maintained their friendship. For his own reasons, Lee didn’t attend Harrison’s funeral. “I don’t do funerals, they’re too depressing,” he explains. “It was awful when George was stabbed. We called that the Friar Park Murder, because although he died of cancer, after that incident [on December 31, 1999, when Harrison suffered near-fatal wounding at the hands of a knife-wielding intruder], he was never the same again. The last time I saw him he had SAS men patrolling the grounds. It was horrible. When I left Britain to live in Marbella, he accused me of deserting him. He broke down and said: ‘I’ve only got Jim Capaldi left!’”