Ten Years After were a British blues band led by guitarist and vocalist Alvin Lee (1944-2013). The band rose to prominence by performing at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. The song discussed here is from the group’s 1971 “A Space in Time” album, which apparently received near constant plays on FM radio in this year. It was the group’s biggest and only hit, though Alvin Lee remains recognized as a stellar guitar player adept at acoustic guitar riffs and electric guitar jamming. This dualism is epitomized by “I’d Love to Change the World,” which predates the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics format of grunge songs such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” about 20 years down the road.
Tax the rich: feed the poor / Till there are no rich no more
Discussion of the lyrics are also divided between whether they skewer Republicans or Democrats! The above lyric may be referring to the coming of communism and the eradication of classes. Others suggest taxing the rich until they are not rich will leave all miserable – a critique of the equality of condition for all aim found in socialism and communism.
Dykes and fairies / Tell me where is sanity?
Is this homophobic and/or social conservative, or back then, a politically correct, liberally accepted way of referring to gays and lesbians?
I’d love to change the world / But I don’t know what to do / So I’ll leave it up to you
Lee has stated on his website the song is a protest against the Vietnam War, but that also he did not have the solutions to that situation. This line is a bold statement for idealistic and utopian “freaks and hairies” of the time, Lee included. (The acknowledgement is perhaps only usurped by Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in which the troubadour does not answer any of the questions he poses in the song).
The repetitive sixteenth-note phrases in Lee’s guitar soloing, along with the ascending chord progression of the arrangement, imply a mounting frustration. And given that questions of policy will forever remain subject to ideological variances of opinion… and given that there are limitations to finding the “truth” through social science research methods… the song builds eternally a mounting frustration without release of tension to this day.