I opened Facebook on Sunday morning to discover a post from Y&T’s frontman and sole remaining founding member Dave Meniketti, who had yet more sad news to break. The announcement of the passing of his old bandmate, rhythm guitar player Joey Alves was the latest in a series of blows the Y&T camp have endured in recent times. With this latest loss, that leaves Meniketti as the only member of the classic line-up still with us. Alves, aged 63, had been suffering from ulceratic colitis.
The news was a blow to their many fans too, myself included, especially since I (like many others) saw that classic lineup perform at Donington Park back in 1984. At that time I knew little about the band, they came on in the middle of the afternoon (actually billed higher than Motley Crue, on a bill described by many as the best line-up that festival put together) and gave a superb performance during their 40 minutes or so on the stage. They certainly left a more lasting impression on me as a young rocker that day than some of the more famous names who followed (the bill included headliners AC/DC, guests Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne to name but three major acts). Their set was broadcast on BBC Radio One’s Friday Rock Show in the weeks following the event. At that time, they had played in the UK on several previous occasions, but unbeknownst to me that’d be the only time I’d see the classic band, indeed we wouldn’t see any incarnation of Y&T on these shores again until the early 2000s.
Y&T came to prominence in the early 1980s, with their fourth album ‘Earthshaker’ (their first under the shortened ‘Y&T’ name, they’d released three previous albums under their full name of ‘Yesterday & Today’) gaining followers here in the UK as well as in their home country. They’d kicked open the door for many other (arguably lesser-talented) rock bands in the US to follow, and subsequent albums ‘Black Tiger’ and ‘Mean Streak’ kept their profile high. The band, featuring the stellar vocal and guitar talent of Dave Meniketti, had heavy armoury and melody in their locker with heavy riffs, tasty lead solos and well-written songs aplenty. Although perceived as Meniketti’s vehicle, in actual fact both Alves and bassist Phil Kennemore contributed significantly to the songwriting.
The group really took off in the mid 1980s, a live album (‘Open Fire’ featuring one studio track) launched them into the same sort of circles as the likes of Crue and Quiet Riot, both bands who’d followed the trail set for them by Y&T. That studio track, ‘Summertime Girls’ was a hit both sides of the pond, but the group from then on started to pursue a more commercial direction with 1985’s ‘Down For The Count’ showing a more radio-friendly side to their music. By 1987 they’d changed labels, moving from A&M to Geffen and releasing the even more commercially-orientated ‘Contagious’. Drummer Leonard Haze had by then parted company with the band as they glammed up their look, and went after the same market occupied by the likes of Bon Jovi and Van Halen by aping both bands’ styles. Alves stuck around until 1989 before also jumping ship, and it was a new-look Y&T who released ‘Ten’ with new guitarist Stef Burns. The writing was on the wall however, and in 1991 the group disbanded, reconvening later in the decade with two low-key releases. Meniketti and Kennemore continued with Y&T until the latter’s passing in 2010, while Haze returned briefly in the early 2000s.
The Y&T of today is a touring entity; they haven’t released an album of new material since 2010’s ‘Facemelter’ but play every year in both the US and Europe, and both Alves and Haze have appeared with the band on selected occasions. Sadly that won’t happen again, as the classic ‘Earthshaker’ line-up has now all gone, save for Meniketti.
Joey Alves was hailed by his colleague as one of the great rhythm guitar players in hard rock, likening him to Malcolm Young no less. Meniketti, in his statement quoted fellow guitar legend Ronnie Montrose as saying: “There are rhythm players, then there’s Joey. A class of his own”. Certainly his style, preferring heavier strings for a chunkier rhythm sound allowing Meniketti to put the finishing touches on top, was hugely important to the band’s sound. The band are currently finishing their documentary ‘On With The Show’, which will feature an interview with Alves.
Y&T as they are currently will be back in the UK in October/November for their annual autumn tour; last year’s tour was tinged with sadness with the loss of Leonard Haze just before it took place, and also of long-time soundman Tom Size during the tour. This year’s will no doubt have a similar feel, but many fans will be there to celebrate the former members as the present-day Y&T perform many of their old favourites once more.