ALAN GRIFFITHS 12 April 1959 – 23 March 2017
Alan Griffiths was a songwriter, guitarist and more, singer, frontman, producer and performer, and one of the most supremely talented musicians Bristol has produced.
His life changed when he saw Television and Blondie at the Colston Hall in 1977. It was both an inspirational ‘light-bulb’ moment, and the start of a life-long obsession with the work of Television, the band, Tom Verlaine and other members.
This led to his forming Apartment with drummer, Emil Joachim, and bassist, Richard White. The track ‘The Alternative’ on the seminal ‘Avon Calling’ compilation of Bristol bands, followed by a single ‘The Car’ / ‘Winter’, both released by Simon Edwards on his Heartbeat label, showed this was a group to be reckoned with. Radio One picked up on them as well, so Alan had already made an impact, barely out of his teens.
Spurred on to get out of his day-job as an electronics technician, Alan took the band into a new epoch in forming The Escape with Emil and new bassist, Neil Action and later Stuart Morgan. More recordings in the bedroom studio – dubbed by friends as the ‘House of Secrets’ – in his parent’s house in suburban Downend took his career to another level.
The band undertook a flurry of gigs all over the country, including the ‘6 Day Nightmare’ week of shows in London, and were getting local and national press and radio exposure, which led to TV appearances on ‘RPM’ locally and the ‘Oxford Road Show’ nationally. Radio One jumped in with the offer of a session on day-time radio, and all this hard work led to a record deal with Phonogram.
Although that deal didn’t work out for the best, it led to The Escape, then Alan as a session player touring with label mates, Tears For Fears, and for him on a more regular basis for many years co-writing, co-producing and working with Roland Orzabal. In the gaps between this activity it gave him the space to pursue a new, more textured project with John Kelly that gave us the music of White Hotel.
Alan had always been interested in production and music for TV and films, inspired by his love of Hitchcock movies, Bernard Herrmann scores and Gerry Anderson animations, and his expanded studio set-up gave him the opportunity to do so. His most regular ‘gig’ was for the ‘CSI’ franchise, while also writing for and contributing to Hollywood productions and adverts.
His had a rich and varied career. But for me his work with The Escape and Apartment – with all releases available via Bristol Archive – shows that his music and songs will always live on. When he ‘listening to the rain’, he was hearing something ‘else’, and ‘waiting’ for the inspiration to come. And it did.
He never ‘waited’ when that moment came. He just got on with it, and the muse and music flowed out. He lived life where he was true to himself. And to quote the first song by The Escape that I ever heard, he didn’t ‘want to steal time that yesterday never bought.’