Album: A Space in Time
. . .
So, I had this whole headcanon for this song where Ten Years After was one of those bands whose career was boosted by the Woodstock film because of Alvin Lee’s guitar playing on “I’m Going Home,” and that boost was what made “I’d Love to Change The World” a massive hit, and made its parent album, A Space in Time, into the chart peak of Ten Years After’s career.
Wrong, and wrong!!
As it turns out, “I’d Love to Change The World” barely grazed the U.S. top 40, and didn’t chart at all in the U.K, where their only hit single was 1970’s #10 “Love Like a Man,” and in the U.K. their previous four albums before A Space in Time were all top ten while it only made #36 there and #17 here. Which wasn’t their best showing.
However, that #17 was a bit deceptive, as A Space in Time — based upon the continuous airplay of “I’d Love To Change The World” long after its expected sell-by date — ended up going platinum in 1986, as at least 999,999 other people besides my brother Joseph had purchased it at some point in the previous 15 years.
While the politics of the guy singing the song — who may or may not share Alvin Lee’s politics, I have no clue — are muddled, especially by today’s standards, “I’d Love to Change The World” still gets by because of three things: its dynamic music, the ghostly chorus, and Lee’s guitar playing.
So lets start with that dynamic music: throughout the entire song, “I’d Love to Change The World” alternates between Lee’s gently picked acoustic guitars and roughly strummed ones, the latter of which are spurred by Ric Lee’s funky, roll-infused drums, which tumble through the verses where Lee is listing (some of) the ills he sees plaguing the world.
Tax the rich
Feed the poor
Till there are no
Rich no more
Well, that seems it would have been a helluva idea, at least, because a half-century later, it’s the very rich who are still fucking everybody’s lives up, but Lee does kinda make it seem like he thinks that’s a dubious idea, at best. What isn’t a dubious idea is making the verses the fast parts and the chorus the drumless part, where Lee sings in a spacey falsetto — possibly run through a Leslie speaker — of his overall powerlessness over everything.
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you
Oh, it’s also on the first chorus where his lead guitar enters the song, floating and flittering about the chorus, both augmenting and distracting from the chorus. And because it’s the early 1970s, it’s mandated by law that there has to be a long guitar solo, and Lee uncorks a tremendous one, as the song picks up again, and his leads tumble and tunnel through Ric Lee’s tumbling and tunning drums and the whole thing is an inevitable as a cartoon snowball rolling downhill full of legs and heads and arms and that solo somehow escapes the snowball and flies about it in circles after which Lee pulls out his blues voice and screams:
Is no solution
Spread them wide
Rich or poor
Them and us
Stop the war
All through this, his lead guitar has never stopped even for a second, and so when the snowball finally crashes back into the drumless parts that characterize the choruses, it literally almost escapes the song, like it’s surprised that everything has come to a halt because it was just getting going, so they delay the final chorus until Lee can get his guitar solo under control.
Fifty years after, “I’d Love to Change The World” is pretty much the only song people know from Ten Years After: it has over 100,000,000 plays on Spotify, and the next most-popular song has a little over 3,000,000. That said, it’s not even the most popular version of “I’d Love to Change The World,” as in 2015, British singer Jetta — a car I used to drive in the 1990s — had a version that was then remixed by Matstubs, and that version currently has more than 180,000,000 plays, because it turns out that at least in some ways, the world has changed.
“I’d Love to Change The World” (Official Lyric Video)
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