Tuesday 17 January 2017

Obituary: Dale Griffin

Drummer with the early 1970s glam-rock band Mott the Hoople

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

Steady drive: The drummer Dale Griffin. Photo: Redferns
Steady drive: The drummer Dale Griffin. Photo: Redferns

Dale Griffin, who died last Sunday aged 67, was the drummer and a founder member of Mott the Hoople, the group best known for the glam-rock anthems All the Young Dudes (1972) and Roll Away the Stone (1973); he later joined the BBC, where he produced some of Radio 1's most admired John Peel recording sessions by bands such as Pulp, The Smashing Pumpkins and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

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Described by one music journalist as "so gentle, articulate and thoughtful a man that he disgraces the very title of 'rock drummer'", Griffin and the other original members of Mott the Hoople, all from Herefordshire in England, started the band as an R'n'B group in the late 1960s. (Their name was taken from a 1966 novel by Willard Manus.)

By the early 1970s, however, Mott the Hoople were better known for their shameless embrace of the absurdity of glam rock - platform shoes, glitter and poodle perms. They may not have been innovators - Rolling Stone accused them of "musical thievery" - but they managed to create several memorable tracks and had, in Ian Hunter, a charismatic lead singer, backed by the steady drive and occasional thunder of Griffin's drums.

Their most enduring hit, All the Young Dudes, was written for them by David Bowie in 1972, when Mott the Hoople - for whom Bowie had a particular fondness - had reached an early rocky point in their career. Morale was low after a depressing gig at a disused gas holder in Switzerland followed by a tour called "The Rock and Roll Circus" that included Max Wall and a performing dog.

All the Young Dudes, on which Bowie sang backing vocals, revived the band's fortunes and was hailed by the NME as "one of that rare breed: rock songs which hymn the solidarity of the disaffected without distress or sentimentality". The lyrics - "Lucy looks sweet 'cause he dresses like a queen" - also led it to becoming something of a gay anthem in America.

The band achieved five more Top 40 hits but broke up in 1974 after Hunter suffered a physical and nervous breakdown. Griffin went on to form MOTT, along with Pete Overend Watts, Morgan Fisher, Ray Majors and Nigel Benjamin, before moving into music production, eventually setting up his own company.

Griffin was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2009, the same year it was announced Mott the Hoople would reform for a reunion tour. He was not well enough to play but joined them for encores during their five nights at the Hammersmith Apollo.

Terence Dale Griffin (known as "Buffin" to his early band mates) was born on October 24, 1948, in Ross-on-Wye. He began his musical career gigging in local bands, including the Silence and the Charles Kingsley Creation. In 1966, his drumming was heard on two songs by Yemm and the Yemen, and that same year he, Watts and Mick Ralphs performed as the Doc Thomas Group. In 1968, the keyboard player Verden Allen joined them and they became Shakedown Sound, and then Silence.

Griffin and the group moved to London the following year, when Hunter took over as lead singer. It was around this time they adopted the name Mott the Hoople.

After two years with MOTT and a spell with a group called the British Lions, Griffin set up a recording company and produced albums for bands such as Hanoi Rocks and The Cult, before joining the BBC, where he worked on Radio 1's John Peel sessions from 1980 to 1993.

He is survived by his long-term companion, Jean Smith.

Telegraph.co.uk

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