This is the series where I try to honour my recently passed best friend Llŷr by posting songs which remind me of him.
Something which really annoys me is when I see on social media someone posts something along the lines of “Today is X’s 350th birthday.”
No it wouldn’t. Nobody lives that long.
Just say “Today is the 350th anniversary of their birth”, nobody will mind.
That said, today would have been my recently lost best mate Llŷr’s 42nd birthday.
Every day, I still struggle with the injustice of his passing. There’s an advert for Macmillan Cancer Support which is airing on UK TV at the moment which sums things up:
I wrote here recently about how I thought I was moving into a “Good Grief” phase, about how I was starting to feel that I could remember Llŷr with a smile rather than a sob, but I only really told you half the story.
Back then, I wrote this:
The thing about grief is that there’s no rules. Time is a great healer, people say, but nobody tells you how long that period of time is.
Here’s the thing: I’ve resorted, once a week (at least), to read what I wrote about Llŷr shortly after he died, because I worry that I’m forgetting him and I was to check whether I still feel something.
And it gets me every time.
Weirdly, that brings me comfort. That I’m still sad, that I haven’t forgotten him.
Because I don’t ever want to.
If ever there were a band that Llŷr and I truly bonded over, it was Super Furry Animals.
I cannot even begin to count the amount of times that we went to see them together.
Once, they announced a gig in Cardiff where tickets would only be sold at Cardiff’s wonderful independent record store, Spillers Records; Llŷr took the day off work to buy us tickets, and came back not only clutching two tickets but with lots of stories about lovely people (and a few less lovely people) who he’d met in the queue.
The last time we saw them together was at Glastonbury in 2015. They were playing The Park Stage, and although there were probably other bands we wanted to check out on the other stages, there was no way we would ever miss them. Not when we were together.
Because of the mud which enveloped the site at the time, it took us a long time to get there, and even longer to get out (I remember practically dragging him, caveman-like through it) and back to our tents.
Consequently, by the time we arrived, we were a long way from the stage, much further away than either of us would like, but them’s the breaks. We got chatting to people around us, and not only was I immensely proud – as I always was – of the way he just carried on, refusing to acknowledge or be cowed by his condition, but I also realised what I had missed by not being in the queue for tickets at Spillers Records that day. I’d missed a day of Llŷr being loveable Llŷr. I already knew there was only a finite amount of those days left, and much as I loved being in his company that day, as with any other day, I knew that none of those people realised just how lucky they were to have met him.
In 2004, Llŷr, me and a couple of friends drove up to Brecon, for Super Furry Animals had been announced as a pre-Jazz Festival act.
There had been some resistance to them playing, namely a local MP – possibly their Mayor, I can’t quite recall – who had been very vocal in their oppositon to the band appearing at the Jazz Festival, even if it was the day before the whole shebang was due to properly kick off.
This was a band, they argued, who were very open about their use of recreational drugs, and as such had no place at this most austere of musical festivals. As a result, the gig was moved from one of the Festival’s marquee tents to an indoor market hall.
Unbeknownst to me, Llŷr had written in to the local newspaper, deriding the insinuation that a) just because you took drugs it didn’t mean that you couldn’t make great music (history definitely tells us that’s not the case, especially when it comes to jazz), and b) that he was personally affronted by the insinuation that the town would be invaded by drug-addled reprobates; he loved the band and neither wanted nor needed to be taking anything illegal to enhance his enjoyment.
We parked outside his parents house, popped into say hello, then strolled down to the newly re-arranged venue. And as we walked, people were calling across the street, shouting hello to him, telling him they’d read his letter, giving him the thumbs up, thanking him for speaking out. I’ve never felt as in the company of a genuine local celebrity as I did that day. He just smiled and laughed it off, mildly embarrased but loving it.
The gig that night was – as every Super Furries gig I’ve ever been to has been – glorious.
Sian was with us that night, sort of – she was with some of her friends, but every now and then would bounce over to us, a grin spread from ear to ear, in a way that it seems an SFA gig inspires all of the the Williams’ siblings to beam.
And, as they were want to do at the time, rather than having a few moments silence after the last song of the main set and the inevitable encore, they did this (which, apologies as I have posted this before, but quite a long time ago):
Super Furry Animals – The Man Dont Give a Fuck (Live Hammersmith Apollo)
We weren’t in attendance when that was recorded, but I’ll never forget the look of absolutely unbridled joy on Llŷr’s face – that SFA-inspired Williams beam again – when they did the same thing at Brecon and went into the extended techno-workout in the middle.
And yes, it’s an anti-capitalist record, but there’s more than just a little bit of me that thinks of Llŷr whenever I see that title: cancer didn’t give a fuck about him and he didn’t give a fuck about cancer and, for as long as he was able to, he refused to allow it to be “a thing” which would prevent him for doing exactly as he would have done anyway.
Reading that old post I wrote shortly after Llŷr had passed, I’m always struck by one sentence that I wish I’d either not written, or at least had written differently.
This one: “Selfishy…that I didn’t get to say goodbye to him properly.”
I see this now as nonsense; when I went to visit him I made sure to tell him I’d be back soon – there’s no way that I would have ever have left him thinking that would be the last time I saw him, that I thought a last goodbye was warranted.
What I meant, of course, was that I never got chance to tell him what I thought of him.
And then recently, something pinged in my head and I found myself scrolling through some old text messages between us.
And I found what I was looking for; this, from 2017.
I’ve thought long and hard about posting this, worried that it might be just a bit too personal to share here. But it’s an example of how, just as he was about to go through yet another round of radio and chemotherapy, he would shrug things off, how he refused to show anything other than nonchalance, that he would take it in his stride, that he wouldn’t let on about how difficult it was because he didn’t want you to worry.
And that, implicitly, everything would be back to normal soon enough.
But I’ll take it as a confirmation that he knew how much he meant to me:
There. It’s done, it’s said, let’s move on to the social engagements.
Happy birthday Dude.
This Sunday, Llŷr’s younger sister Sian is running the London Marathon to raise funds for The Brain Tumour Charity. Her original target was to raise £5000.00 and – having already smashed that – Sian recently tweeted that it would be amazing if she could break £9000.00.
At the time of writing, she’s already done that, so with just a couple of days left, let’s see if we can get her over the £10,000 mark.
As always, thank you to all who have contributed after reading stuff I’ve written here about Llŷr; I’m truly humbled to know that you’ve put your hands in your pockets for such a worthy cause as a result of something I penned. I’m too fat and old to run the marathon myself, but knowing that I – through you – have helped in some small way fills me with so much pride. Thank you thank you thank you.
So one final push folks: here’s the link – it’s payday for a lot of people today, so if you can afford to spare a couple of quid, your help would be very much appreciated by all concerned: