the Lee Griffiths Band
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the Lee Griffiths Band

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Sep
05
the Lee Griffiths Band @ The Mother Bar

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

Jun
24
the Lee Griffiths Band @ Roadtripbar

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

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"This paranoia's gonna be the death of me," sings angel-voiced "Moston Shit-Kicker" Lee Griffifhs. "Putting two and two together always making five."

The penultimate time I met Lee was at a party at Tom Robinson's house. Lee, a member of Tom's band, was there with his girlfriend. I was innocently chewing the fat with him in the kitchen.

"When did you first realise you could really sing?" I asked him, bowled over by The Beatles/Motown medley he'd just hypnotised the party with; I was perhaps a little talent-struck. Suddenly, seeming shifty and panic-stricken, the hard man bolted. Though puzzled, I didn't think too much of it. The weed had been very strong. However, there was more going on than a little dope psychosis. He was locked in his own paranoid world. He thought I was talking in code about the one secret he was hiding successfully from everyone but himself. Even Tom Robinson, the Godfather of Gay Rock and long-time Lee supporter, hadn't clicked that Lee was gay. It was the last thing on my mind.

The next party at Tom's, some 19 months later, I found Lee in Tom's music room. He leapt from his chair and threw his arms around me, temporarily knocking me off balance, both physically and mentally. Seems he'd come out. Blimey.

He could look me in the eye, something he'd never been able to do before. "Imagine the person you're talking to you think is straight is actually gay, but is closeted, like, so deeply, it's his deepest, darkest... this could lead to a person tucking falling apart if they came out - or so they thought. Eye contact is something that you couldn't do. I couldn't do it before."

With an extraordinary songwriting talent, striking, hard-faced good looks - half-brickie, half-choirboy - and a totally surprising voice and round of influences, everything about Lee knocks you off balance.

"People see me and they form an opinion as to what I am gonna sound like, probably an Oasisy type or Indie Hock thing. At first, people would hear my songs and say. 'That's not you singing'. I used to be offended by it. But as I went on, I understood - it's a fucking brilliant thing ... ...d go into a room and play it up to the max - a bit thick, fucking, you know, northern knob, no real intellect, blah, blah, blah, swear my knob off. I'd get to the point where they were just about pissed off with me, then I'd pick up a guitar and sing something like You Can Close Your Eyes or Sweet Baby James [by 70s' West Coast folkie James Taylor], or May You Never by John Martyn. And it completely fucked them up every time. It worked a treat."

He sounds like Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Mc-fuck/ng-Fly (he may deck me for that, but I mean it in the most Poptastic way). Crafting intelligent, sensitive, catchy and now self-aware lyrics, Lee is a self-made man with little education but a bright intelligence.

Dragged up in a sink estate in Moston, Manchester, he had a car-crash of a childhood: singleparent family, crushing poverty, alcoholic mother, lurching from disaster to disaster.

He was a compulsive truant, troublemaker and virtually abandoned by school. "I got expelled from school 'cause I belted the Deputy Head. I punched him in the face 'cause he spoke derogatory about me Mam," he says. "She was a mess at the time, but... when I think about it now I think, 'You cunt'. I was never in school; I had about 18% attendance. I had real problems with authority."

But one teacher saw beyond the facade. "Lindsay Doherty; she was an amazing lady. I was having a nervous breakdown. I was uncontrollable, I couldn't be kept in classrooms and things like that. I was hysterical all the time. I had this mad, anxious thing that I couldn't control - I was frightened my Mam was gonna die. My teacher saw straight away that I had talent in music, and she nurtured it," he says.

She called him to the front of the class one day, and rather than delivering the usual bollocking, gave him instead a plastic bag containing mint mono copies of every Beatles' album up to Rubber Soul, every single they'd ever recorded through to I Feel Fine and all the fan club' flexidisks. "I've still got them. What a beautiful lady." Lee says. His much-loved mother made a 100% recovery shortly afterwards and Lee remains a Beatles' obsessive to this day.

Ten years ago, when he signed a deal (with legendary A&R man and journalist Paul Morley) with Trevor Horn's ZTT label, home to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, among others, to make his first album - the Horn over-produced catastrophe Northern Soul - he pushed a demo and thank-you card through Lindsay Doherty's front door. "She never prejudged me or anything like that; she just fucking nurtured me."

Sadly, the album didn't turn out to everyone's liking, least of all Lee's. Nearly £750,000 and a disastrously swampy backing track later, the relationship soured and future publishing of some of his best early songs sneaked out of his naïve hands. Lee was cut adrift. It - Gay Times July 2007


Before the interview came on, Tom told listeners they could download Lee's album from his website: lee-griffiths.com (transcribed by the bluecat webmaster, forgive any mistakes)

TR: Big pleasure to welcome my good friend and all round good bloke, excellent songwriter, fine singer, Mancunican near-do-well, Mr Lee Griffiths, hello Lee.

LG: Alright Tom, how are ya mate.

TR: Very good, lovely to have you back on the programme.
It's fantastic to be here mate.

Now the listeners have been emailing in, we have one from Steve Mundy here saying I just found out you've got Lee on the show tonight. If you're going to talk to him as well as asking him to play, ask him about Jockstock earlier this year.

LG: Jockstock - it was a bit of a strange gig shall we say. I was asked to do it so me and the guy who plays guitar with me, called Colin, he came down and we travelled down and we went down to what can only be described as a park, it was like a park tucked away with all these wooden huts. So we goes down there and we meets everybody, we felt like we were in the middle of some sort of cult, it was a bit strange. And we were due to go on but they put us on last, which was a bit of a bad thing to do, because by the time we got there, the hall was sort of pretty much half empty.

TR: They say they're going to put you on the headline slot...

LG:It's rubbish. It's the graveyard.
Honestly mate I'd rather go at the beginning because by the time you go on there's just a dog, eating a pie, on his own, sat there looking at yer.

TR: Well that's why we had you on at 8 O'clock on this programme rather than right at the end you see because all the listeners have turned off by the time... what's the first track you've got for us?

LG: It's the request...

If you've got time, will you ask Lee to play Would It Help Me?

LG: Yeah, that's the one I'm going to start with, I wasn't going to but I will do...

Just for Steve Mundy. Ok, all yours...
(Lee plays "Would It Help Me ")

TR: Performed for you absolutely live on the air by Lee Griffiths - that's Would It Help Me. Sounding in fine voice, Lee?

LG: I don't know about that Tom, a bit of a late night wunnit? Tom had a bit of a party and er... it was a bit of a late one, so if I sound like Barry White... Your friendly radio presenter is to blame.

TR:You're in no danger of that. Now the first the world actually heard of you on a mass media scale was when Trevor Horn signed you to ZTT Records and produced Northern Songs.

LG:He did indeed. Yeah (laughs)

TR: Is it true you were discovered by Paul Morley?

LG: Sort of... I was first off discovered... I was doing a 20 minute warm up gig in Manchester - I've been doing it for quite a while, you know. I was doing a gig, I was sat on the stool, and as I was playing, the manager of another band came along, and as I was playing (Lee's indignant) stuck a poster for his band on MY monitor speaker infront of me. Now most people would probably just carry on and "the show must go on" and all that. I put me guitar down, stood up at the head of the stage, and basically offered him out for a fight - I was gonna knock him out, I was so angry, that anyone could be that rude, you know what I mean? It wasn't an act, I wanted to kill him. And there was an A & R scout from ZTT in the room, Ron Atkinson and he asked me for a demo. I'd been asked for so many demos over a period of time that by this point it was like yeah, here we go. I thought nothing else of it. He went away, gave it to Paul Morley who heard it, Paul really liked it and then they played it to Trevor. The next thing is, Trevor Horn's on the phone; "Hi man".

TR: How long did it take to make an album with Trevor Horn? It's supposed to take ages...

LG: Tom, Tom, honest to god, I am sure that they'll discover life on mars quicker than it took to record an album with Trevor Horn. I obviously can't say anything because of libel but it took a while.

TR: So then, the album Northern Songs was the result.

LG:It was indeed yeah.

TR: And then you and Trevor parted company.

LG:Yes, we parted company.

TR: And you started making your second album, Armchair Anarchy.

LG:I did indeed. Well I'd started writing songs long before that. But I'd decided at this point I'll keep them in my little bag of tricks for the next album kind of thing. And I had a backlog of songs, it was a big relief to get them recorded. Another company called Grand Union, they heard them, and a guy called Ian Grimble who's a producer, he did the Manics (he assisted Mike Hedges with the recording of Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth) and Travis and stuff like that, he heard them and wanted to produce the album. So er...



TR: You've got a taste in big name producers then?

LG: Well I'm namedropping here Tom (tongue-in-cheek) I'm just subtly name-dropping, trying to big myself up.

TR: Now, while we're waiting for that album to come out, meantime, Adelphi Records - BBC Radio 6


Discography

Feeling the Strain (Single, for ZTT Records)
Sign of the Times (EP, for ZTT Records)
Northern Songs (for ZTT Records)
Armchair Anarchy (for TLG Records, 2007)

In Compilations:
SPECIMEN 1 on Adelfi Records June 2004
Lee Griffiths - song Golden Rule
OUT OF THE BLUE on Blue Cat Records Oct 2005
Lee Griffiths - song Shoes
THE NEW TESTAMENT OF FOLK Acid Jazz , June 2005
Lee Griffiths - song Hippy Dippy

Photos

Bio

"Lee Griffiths is an amazing singer songwriter who's been knocking around Manchester for years.-- I don't know why he thought I'd forget him - he's got an amazing voice and he's a very very talented man. -- He's rough round the edges, he's very definitely a Manc. If you get John Martyn, mix him up with a little bit of... well, you'll hear it in his voice. His music speaks for itself." Guy Garvey, BBC radio 6

Lee Griffiths was discovered as a youthful soul prodigy by Paul Morley in the late 90s and signed swiftly to ZTT Records. The label and the musician didn't however see eye to eye and rejecting the poster boy image Lee disowned his debut album Northern Songs and returned to civilian life in North Manchester. He began writing and recording at home - and after five years, published his second album 'Armchair Anarchy' in 2007 (Produced by Ian Grimble).

After Armchair Anarchy, Lee - older and wiser than when first signed by Horn for his astonishing voice - grew into a family and a band. The band includes Lee's right hand man Colin Ridyard on guitar and backing vocals, Sam Kelly (Groove Armada) on drums and Cheyne Towers (Jimpster) in bass.

Currently writing and rehearsing new material for the third album in London, The Lee Griffiths Band is destined for great things. Lee's undeniable talent as a singer songwriter flourishes in a band that's tight and determined and can bring the house down from the snap of the fingers. This is the band, and this is the music, that'll make you listen tight!