1969. Woodstock. A guy
named Alvin Lee climbs up on stage with his band Ten Years After and a Gibson
ES-335 modified with a single coil pickup between his two PAFs on the stage
of the most iconic concert in the history of humanity to give 400,000 people a
Rock and Roll lesson in passion and devilish technique. A year later, in 1970,
the film of that festival, specifically the more than nine minute long version
of I’m Going Home that is included in
it, elevates him to the category of world rock star and lands him the 'Fastest
Guitarist on the Planet' medal.
This British guitarist, completely self-educated and mainly jazz-oriented, did not really like the fact that he was given this label because he knew that this medal belonged not to him but to people from whom he had learned his trade, like Django Reinhardt. What he did not learn from his beloved jazz guitarists was the fury and the visceral way of approaching Rock and Roll, with touches or, rather, chords that were somewhat jazzy but far from the finesse of swing or manouche music; and, as the years passed, those chords became harder and heavier. It is in that music where we can listen to the incredible tones of what was his guitar for almost all his life, the aforementioned 'Big Red'; but we say almost because Alvin was another victim of a problem that we do not stop mentioning every so often in this section and that is that he realized that this piece of wood with strings, completely 'beat up' over the years, had been revalued to such an extent that he no longer dared to take it out again in his final years of touring for fear of losing a million. There you have another piece of history of Rock and Roll stored in a case, this time by its owner, due to the crazy market of collecting and ‘vintage speculation’.
Anyway, it was not all bad news for Lee since the exact replica that Gibson put on sale (the Gibson Custom Alvin Lee Big Red) honoring him was a much better guitar and had, according to his own words, better woods and pickups. Vintage 0 - Custom Shop 1.
Another of the myths that fell in his later years was the origin of the great tone of his records. In his later years not only did he not use vintage stuff when playing live (although he always used Marshall heads and speakers throughout his career without a pedal in the chain), but in the studio he added to the confusion of the collector since he did not hide his preference to record with Line 6 POD or directly through his computer card and Amplitube software. Vintage 0 - New technologies 1.
It seems incredible but that's the way it is. The majority of nostalgics spend their lives looking for the equipment that our idols used while many of them flee from it...
What is also incredible is that this titan of the guitar died in the small Spanish town of Estepona two years almost exactly to the date after Gary Moore died in that same town. The obligatory question therefore for Guitars Exchange is: But what the devil happens to guitar legends in Estepona? Eric, Jimmy, Peter, Jeff... do not even think about stepping in Estepona in winter!