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I'd Love To Change The World by Ten Years After

Album: A Space In TimeReleased: 1971Charted:
  • This song was written by guitarist Alvin Lee, who was the centerpiece of the group. "I'd love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do and I'll leave it up to you. I'm just saying the world does need changing," he said of the song in Vintage Rock. "I'd love to do it, but I haven't got the talent. I don't think I'm a world changer."
  • The song is a good look at what were considered the big problems in the world in 1971: overpopulation, economic inequality, pollution, war. Alvin Lee often said in later interviews that the song remained just as relevant despite the passage of time.
  • The first line in this song throws out a few slurs:

    Every where is freaks and hairies, dykes and fairies

    "Freaks" and "hairies" are terms that detractors used to describe the band - after all, they did play Woodstock. The dykes and fairies are likely a reflection on how others might see the world, and it also creates a memorable rhyme. Later in the song, Alvin Lee pulls out a rhyme of convenience in the lyrics:

    Life is funny
    Skies are sunny
    Bees make honey
    Who needs money?
  • Formed in Nottingham, England, Ten Years After made a huge impact when they played the Woodstock festival in 1969 - their performance of "I'm Going Home" made the film. They released two albums in 1969, two more in 1970, and one in 1971 - A Space In Time, which contains "I'd Love To Change The World." Their albums sold well, typically charting in the Top 25 in America, which was their stronghold. Hit singles were not a concern; Alvin Lee had almost a disdain for them because he didn't want his songs edited down and then talked over by a DJ. "I'd Love To Change The World" was by far their biggest hit and most enduring song. Their other charting songs in America were "Love Like A Man" (#98, 1970), "Baby Won't You Let Me Rock 'N Roll You" (#61, 1972) and "Choo Choo Mama" (#89, 1973). The group stopped performing in 1975 but regrouped every now and then. Alvin Lee died in 2013, but the band had been playing without him for about 10 years by that point.
  • The group was formed in 1966. They took their name because it was 10 years after what they considered the birth of rock and roll.
  • The band didn't play this song live while Albert Lee was a member, as he felt trying to re-create it on stage would be "too restricting."
  • This was used in the trailer for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Matt Stone and Trey Parker then used it in the trailer for Team America World Police to lampoon the "Fahrenheit" preview. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - Philadelphia, PA
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Comments: 55

I'm sorry but disagree will all who said this was not a "conservative song" to use ones previous words. This was 1971, most who have posted their opinions of the real meaning of this song weren't even born (1952 me). The country was far less progressive, less tolerant of gays (dyke reference), mention of hari's (Hare-Kristnas were everywhere panhandling), populations breeding ( third world countries) and so forth, I'm not going to reference all. This was a song about the degeneration of our world in 1971.Martinj - Pennsylvania
What music genius, what unfathomable talent! As for the lyrics to ILTCTW, I like the "get off my lawn" theory and I wish I had thought to share this one with my John Bircher father before he died... maybe we could've listened to it together! I'm not sure I understand the gripe I'm hearing about taxing the rich "til there are no rich no more" (though if it is indeed written in the voice of a McCarthy-ite Archie Bunker that would make sense as part of the in-character rant... (and I totally agree with the 'haris' being the Hari Krishnas). But in any case, just as a matter of principle, I imagine he meant the phrase to involve an alternate interpretation that if we fix the tax structure then there will be more 'sanity' (eliminating the obscenely-rich, not completely redistributing all the wealth). In other words, Gloria and Mike could find their perspective in the lyrics as easily as could Archie.

Oh, that reminds me... Bernie Sanders (cough Elizabeth cough Warren cough) 2016!! (You know he'd love to change the world, and as you can see at www.BernieSanders.com he DOES know what to do!). Sorry - couldn't resist!! :-)
Yarnspinner - Us
"Tax the rich, feed the poor, 'till there are no rich no more."

I fail to see how anyone can interpret this as anything but good advice--unless you're fine with the minority controlling the majority. Split the pie evenly and we wouldn't need to tax anyone.
Generalthc - Fort Worth, Texas
I love the guitar in this song.Mike - Columbus, Oh
The reason I ended up on this site is because I wanted to see what the general consensus was about the meaning of the lyrics. I was afraid that I was rocking out to a homophobic song that supported capitalist greed. I was pretty sure I wasn't but I wanted to make sure TYA wasn't just a bunch of guys who grew long hair to fit in with the "freaks" and push "good christian" morals on them. After finding out they played Woodstock it is pretty obvious that the chorus refers to changing the intolerance and backwards thinking that is spoken of in the verses.Josh - Pittsburgh, Pa
This song from 1971, "I'd love to change the world" written by Alvin Lee, leader of the great rock band Ten Years After, is one of the - if not THE - greatest anthem type / message songs that were ever written. Yes there are other songs that have been written along the same lines as this But in a way none so daring as ALVIN LEE'S message. He actually names types of bad people in the lyrics, as well as mentions all the odd type people that surfaced during the period of time circa 1969-1970-1971 in what I call the hey day of great world changing music. So in a way Ten Years After did in fact CHANGE THE WORLD, just by making mention of all the bad people... bad scenes... bad things that were going on.

As time goes on I feel that this song is TIMELESS in that it has to do with mishaps that take place in life. Life really never changes no matter when it is.

Alvin Lee has finally done what he had said so many, many times before in his song: "I'm going home." Alvin Lee has gone home. He has gone home to heaven. I feel that he did change the world in that he let us hear his feelings on what was going on in the world back then in those wondrous years of sanity - and insanity - which I remember well. Well enough to say that I am glad that I was there to actually see Ten Years After perform onstage. It was incredible.
Joseph - New York City, United States
The song is universal to any political viewpoint. People who try to slant it one way or the other miss the point of songwriting genius. It is to be timeless and universal. Anyone who thinks that the song is "Anti Gay" or "Anti Lesbian" simply because of certain words used also miss the meaning by a long shot (like a distance from another galaxy). A songwriter can take on ANY personality and use any words they like. It doesn't mean they personally believe or advocate any of the lyrics. Trying to demonize the lyrics to a song (yes, even ones that have blatant hatred or racism) is akin to burning books. We have a basic human right to express our opinions, write them down, or ignore those of others, but not to destroy or nullify any of those rights...even if I cant stand an S.O.B. - they are free to be one as long as it does not PHYSICALLY hurt anyone (meaning you do NOT have any right to not be offended or have your feelings hurt. We are adults and can deal with hurt feelings).J - Galt, Ca
Ive listened to Ten Years After since I'd Love to Change the World first came out, its always been one of my favorite songs. Alvin Lee is one true rock and roller.The album " Rock and Roll Music to the World" has to be one of the best rock albums ever, almost every song on it has the same type guitar playing as on I'd Love to Change the World. You really need to listen to this album,I never get tired of the real rock guitar on this album!Dan - Lamonte, Mo
I agree with most of what Marion of Eugene said. Her analysis wins.Brian - La Mesa, Ca
A conservative song? Not!

From the Alvin Lee website:

R&F: Great songs here ("I'd love to change the world", "Over The Hill") - Do you realise "I'd love to..." has turned into a peace anthem these days ? The peace sign was on your guitar - were you into that "make love not war thing" ? Had it anything to do you with the fact you were playing the USA a lot at a time when the anti-Vietnam war thing was going on ??

AL: Yes, Yes and yes. I was totally involved in all that and very frustrated that I could not do anything about it hence the words I'd Love to Change The World but I don't know what to do, so I'll leave it up to you; and the best of luck.
Glenn - Minneapolis, Mn
I should add that blues rock musicians like them were the epitome of "freaks and hairies" and they'd scarcely be attacking themselves or virtually all their fellow musicians, in case people want to insist on a literal interpretation. In fact, the 1970s was after Stonewall and the start of glam rock which introduced lots of "fairies" as well as New Wave which had its fair share of "dykes."Marion - Eugene, Or
The chorus is not ironic, nor is the song a conservative rant. It's a viewpoint song, in the same sense that Harry Chapin neither neglected his son nor shot people from a tower, and PJ Harvey did not drown her child. The viewpoint is clearly an older person, perhaps the WW II generation, and it's addressed to the younger generation. In 1970 the oldest Boomers were 25 or so and the youngest were 10. The old person is saying "What kind of world are you kids building? I don't understand it, all these hairy freaks, men with men, women with women, drugs, wild living! It's crazy! You think anarchy is the answer? And you're always talking about taxing and redistributing, but what are you gonna do when you've gotten rid of all the rich people and we're all poor like Red Russia? Who will you have left to tax then?" But it's not all "get off my lawn!" stuff. The older person is genuinely troubled, and acknowledges there are problems in the world that seem too big and bewildering to solve. The chorus makes PERFECT sense. The older person realizes the world is being handed off to these kids, and maybe it's a good thing, since he's overwhelmed. He'd love to change the world, he thinks their solutions are simplistic and wrong-headed, but he's not entirely devoid of faith that they'll muddle through, and he's "leaving it up to you."Marion - Eugene, Or
in the song you can clarly hear two guitars. who plays the electric one with the high notes? if you like at the video in youtube you can't see who it isFrancisco - Sto Dgo, Dominican Republic
I think it is ironic that Michael Moore used this song in his movie. The true message of this song is contrary to his liberal philosphy. Just by using the word "dyke" in the song, TYA are stirring up prejudicial sentiments. ... and by suggesting that lesbians are not sane clearly puts TYA in the intollerant camp that is the territory of many conservatives. "Tell me where is sanity" ? Are Dykes insane ? I think not. As a matter of fact, Dykes are more sane than most women. If I was a woman.. I would love to have sex with other woman. Would I be insane then ? No .. I'd be a man trapped in a woman's body having sex with a hot lady....trying to pop a nut the best way I know how. Also, please consider this.... most good porno movies have lesbian scenes.. and often times, seeing two ladies make it in a movie is is the best part of the video. Insane ? I think not.Tj - Boston, Ma
"Tax the rich, feed the poor, til there are no POOR no more"... That I could have gotten behind. But hey, he knew his audiences. Socialist Hippies and Music Lovers. I used to be both, now I'm just the latter... and it's Em/G/Am/C/B7.Jimi - Seattle, Wa
This song is amazing, the guitar's sound is captivating and mesmerizing!
I wonder why it is not that famous, it really does deserve to be.
This is used as a soundtrack in the Jan. 2010's advertisement of AMC (Albanian Mobile Telecommunication). That's where I started to love it.
Alvin Lee really rocks in this song!
Mendi - Tirana, Albania
TYA was the band that opened my eyes for 'good' music. I only listened to popular radio stations, but after hearing their first album I became addcited to blues, rock, guitar solos, jazz, and later even classical music.
TYA was the gate to everything I'm still listening to now.
Thank you Alvin and Co.
Marc - Gent, Belgium
who else agrees that Alvin Lee is underrated and this solo is probably one of the best everAnthony - Morton, Pa
I interpret this song as a staunch pro-capitalism message. A very brave and controversial stance to take considering the period in which it was written. Love it.Akston - Nunyabusiness, Seychelles
Hey, pardon me or don't, I don't give a flip. But "tax the rich, feed the poor, til there are no rich no more" means Exactly what it says. No hidden message. Like the Beatles' Taxman, these people knew that the road to socialism was a road to making us all equally miserable. (And the Beatles' Revolution debunked the 'Chairman Mao BS.) ...That the greed of the have-not's could be solved if they'd get off their butts and Do Something, Like Make Great Music!Rick - Wichita Falls, Tx
I was in college when this song came out, so I've had a lot of time to think about it. I think it reflects the frustration, exhaustion and confusion felt by many at that time (1971) who really wanted the peace and equality movements to work but were disappointed that all of the energy seemed to be expended for naught. The song drips with irony but it is heartfelt.Bob - Pittsburgh, Pa
I saw Ten Years After at the Denver coliseum in Denver, Colorado in 1971. It is amazing how their music effected me then and how when I here their music today it takes me back to that place and time.Their music will truly touch your soul.It is amazing again how thirty eight years later this song fits the mess we are in today.
Claude,San Diego, CA.
Claude - Denver, Co
From the album "A Space In Time"-1971. It is pretty sad that this is their only song listed on this site. I first heard Ten Years After on a 45 single. It was "Baby Won't You Let Me Rock And Roll You" backed by "Once There Was A Time". I didn't know what to expect. I was only 12 and had read an atricle about them in a rock and roll magazine. I loved it from the start. The two songs I've listed are also on "A Space In Time'. "I'd Love To Change The World" is a very good song. A good message and great musicianship. They were a great band who could really rock out! I had most of their albums in the 70's. And now I have all of them on cd. I saw Alvin Lee in 1980. He had Mick Taylor touring with him. Most of the songs they did were Ten Years After songs. Two years ago the new group with Joe Gooch plus Leo Lyons,Chick Churchill and Ric Lee came to my town. I didn't go because Alvin Lee wasn't there. I was foolish. Because I could have said that I'd seen all of the original members. A friend of mine went. Said it was great! Plus they signed autographs. They are one of my all-time favorite rock and roll bands. I don't know if they are even in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet? I don't think they are. And yet alot of people are in,who don't even deserve to be. And Alvin Lee does not get his due credit for being one rock's greatest guitar players!Wayne - Salem, Va
Wow. This song rocks and stirs big timeDoug - Lafayette, La
I've always felt that the chorus was meant to sound like - and may have been a dig at - John Lennon and the Beatles.Glenn - Austin,
Alvin Lee rocks...!!!Geo - Altoona, Pa
Alvin Lee has a special place in my life, I saw this great guitarist in Oklahoma City in 1974 just before I was transferred to Schofield Barracks on Oahu,Hawaii. Then I got to see him in Honolulu in 1975 just before I was getting out of the Army. The guy is one of the top 10 rock'n roll guitarist ever. I'm so glad I got to live in this era, there are no guitar players these days that can even come close to Alvin Lee, Johnny Winters, Jimmy Paige, Jimi Hendrix.Larry - Norman, Ok
I grew up with TYA in the late 60's. This has always been a favorite. Alvin Lee was replaced by a guy named Joe Gooch, who is also very good. There is a video on YouTube, recorded at BB Kings in 2007, doing this song. Poor acoustics but amazing fingerwork on guitar. Check it out!Steve - El Cerrito, Ca
Great period song! Pay close attention to the opening lyrics: "Everywhere is, freaks and hari's, dykes and fairies, tell me where is sanity?" What is a "hari"? It's a reference to devotees of hare-krishna, e.g., saffron robes, shaved heads, handing out copies of the Bhagavad Gita. If you were alive then, you know what I'm talking about. Em walk up to G, A walk up to C to B7 back to Em. Repeat. A psychedelic stroll through Haight-Ashbury or Soho or a hundred other counterculture enclaves. Alvin Lee's lead guitar work in this comprises some of the finest phrasing ever put to vinyl (older fans know what vinyl was).Kevin - Syracuse, Ut
I don't think the chorus is ironic at all. He's not saying he won't do anything; he's saying he doesn't know how to go about doing it.James - Tracy, Ca
Leo Lyons (bassist) has been the driving force behind TYA...even before Alvin Lee left. I had the privilege of covering them in a photo shoot in 69 or 70. They were and still are an awesome group. Their earliest stuff is their best.Ray - Bonneville Salt Flats, Ut
I think the last line of the last verse of the song would make more sense if it were one of the following: "Senators, stop the war!" meaning that the Congress could stop the Vietnam war or, "them and us, start the war" meaning the underground youth movement should start a war against the establishment.Mark - Concord, Nh
Musically, this song kicks ass! Voice of the theater K-Horns on a sunny day. A great conservative message too!Fred - Renton, Wa
The 'chorus' in the song is pretty ironic, IMO. I'd love to change the world but, I won't do anything?Hanoi - Caracas, South America
This song is AWESOME! Heard it for the first time, maybe 3 weeks ago, I had no idea about Ten Years After, they ROCK!!Chelsea - Spring, Tx
Good song, but one part always annoys me.

Tax the rich/Feed the poor/Til there are no/rich no more

This shows that the writer is more obsessed with other people having money than making sure everyone gets fed. If everyone has enough to eat, shelter, etc, what does it matter that there are some people richer than others?
Bob - Austin, Tx
I'm glad someone agrees he is severely underrated. Their earlier live stuff ("I'm Going Home", "Woodchopper's Ball") is sick! His tone is wicked. It sounds like machine guns being fired when he plays. One of his guitars is in the Hard Rock Cafe in D.C.Matt - Raleigh, Nc
'About Time' is a great, generally unrecognized album by Ten Years AfterLester - New York City, Ny
Alvin Lee played this song live at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh back in the early seventies, the rest of the band was snowed in and did not make the show.
Alvin pulled up a stool, stuck his cigarette in the neck, played this tune unplugged by himself.
He was one on one with us that night. I love him for that.
Alvin Lee is a whole lotta jam, by himself nobody was cheated out of a concert.
They should give him the first unplugged award.
I can tell you.... that when the show was over, noboby gave a rats ass that the band did not show.
Mike - Pittsburgh, Pa
10 years after is a great band, and this is a great song to thier credit. Unfortunately it was used in farenheit 9/11 and that really makes me upset. But I can't take away the greatness of the song from Ten Years After.Alan - London, England
Another fact about this is that Alvin Lee's Ten Years After has NEVER ONCE played the song live. Alvin wasn't commercail like that. However, Ten Years After recently reformed without Alvin Lee and now adays they do a rip-roaring live version of the song.Doug - Pittsburgh, Pa
Alvin lee was a god back in the day.
"fastest fingers in rock" quoted by frank zappa.
I've had the privilege of seeing tya a few times and can say its too damn bad you kids missed it....
Slim - Champaign, Il
Yeah, I agree with pretty much everything here. Unfortunately, i am 13 and didn't see woodstock and now concert prices are so damn expensive.Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
This song to me has a lot deeper meaning then most people think. I think it has a lot to do with the underground revolution of this nation's youths during this time. I also believe it is about american society in general.Ben - Madison, Wi
Great song,pretty good album too.They jam in the Woodstock movie.Kevin - Cincinnati, Oh
This songs about Nazi's and WWII.Matt - Downey, Ca
I watched Ten Years After for the first time today on the movie "Woodstock" and they are some of the best I have ever imagined. I did not grow up with TYA so I really missed a lot.Nepps - Marietta, Ms
A completely underrated guitar masterpiece. It's there the whole time, of course, but the guitar completely rules this song from about the 2:09 minute mark (where the singer goes "Who yeah!")on. Even the vocals (usually the centrepiece of a popular rock song) take a back seat.James - Westchester, England
I think this is an amazing song with an amazing message that still holds decades later-- too bad it hasn't happened (yet?)Jane - Ann Arbor, Mi
Seen them several times...I beleave that they were one of the tightist playing...sound, timing, etc.....Alvin Lee is one of the most underrated & underplayed guitarist (besides Jeff Beck) out there amoung the "classic" rock guitaristKevin - Brooklyn...houston Last 30 Yea, Tx
10 years after is just more proof that today's music, well good bands are few and far in between!Phil - San Jose, Ca
10 Years After were awesome at Woodstock.Steve - Troy, Ny
This was pretty commerical for 10 years after, Alvin Lee is a great guitarist, check out Alvin and 10 years after at Woodstock. Great blues rock. They had some awesome albums.Phil - San Jose, Ca
What a great song, not just the lyrics. The guitar is good too.Marlon - Nyc, Ny
ten years after is a great bandJames - Minneapolis, Mn
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