…and all the other fanclub members (whether they know they are or not) who’ve just earned my undying love and respect (which you already had anyway, but shush! Don’t spoil it…) by running a bloody long way for something so incredibly worthwhile:
It’s another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tune this time, but you know me, that’s enough to get my dander up.
Picture the scene: a tastefully shot blonde lovely frolics on a beach sniffing a flower. Into shot come a bevy of other beauties, all either wearing the same sort of flower – a daisy, I guess, from the name of the product – in their hair, or sexily kicking the waves up, or writing their name in the sand.
What better way to soundtrack such a wet dream of an event than a song called Teen Age Riot?
Except, it isn’t. Obviously. Those are no normal teenagers. For a start, they’re on a beach having fun and not moping in their bedrooms, sulking in their misery.
Except, the ad-men have selected the quiet, start-doesn’t-sound-like-the-rest-of-the-song bit of the song in an effort to throw us of the scent.
But I smell you and your not particularly cheap whiff.
Me buying the album this is on was the closest that Llyr and I ever came to a second argument.
I returned from the now defunkt Fopp in Cardiff, clutching a little plastic bag with Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation nestling inside.
Proud of my purchase, I showed Llyr, and, non-plussed, he said:
“Oh, Another album you’ve bought that you think you ought to own.”
I looked at him quizzically. I knew he was trying to get me to bite.
“Have you ever bought an album that you didn’t think you ought to own?”
“Fair point. Can I have a listen after you?”
“Course you can.”
Warning: utter tune incoming.
I’ll dedicate this to Greta Thunberg, architect of the school strikes for climate, whilst also waving it in the apopleptic faces of the likes of Toby Young, who have this week sought to undermine Greta by announcing to the world that as her mother was a singer, then Greta must be privileged (this from the man whose father rang up Oxford University and persuaded them to let little Toby in) and therefore her opinion on climate change is somehow irrelevant:
When we went to Glastonbury in 2010, Llyr, Hel and I watched a mesmerising performance by Willie Nelson on the Pyramid Stage.
Last night I looked back and realised I’ve never posted something by Willie on his own (without prompting via The Chain): it’s always been with someone, be it Merle Haggard or Kris Kristofferson or…erm…Snoop Dogg.
So here’s something which I know is quite predictable, but still…it’s magnificent:
I should have posted this long ago in my Sunday morning Country series, but whilst it’s undoubtedly a Country record, I don’t think it really sits there.
Rather, if ever there was a song that could make me grimace, mull over my mistakes and weep, it’s this one, a simply told tale of love lost, which makes it much more suited for late night introspection:
All that talk of meat earlier reminds of me of one of Llŷr’s other passions: laughing at, and often (in a piss-taking way) joining in with the meats doing The Meat Dance.
Okay, this is going to be really tricky to explain.
So: Meats, to us, were blokes who danced in clubs with their tops off, to expose what they perceived as being their ripped bodies, something Llŷr and I both knew we could never aspire to, even if we wanted to. “Them’s the Meats” was our clarion call.
And, regardless of whether they had fellow Meats with them or not, they always did the same Meat Dance: *Handclap…and to the left* dance, which Llŷr used to mimic so well.
Here’s how The Meats viewed themselves:
Our mates Jo & Ian visited us in Cardiff one weekend, back in 2006, to go to the horribly named Get Loaded in the Park and oh my there was some prime meat – Valleys boys with their tops off – on display that day.
Jo took loads of meat-worthy pictures on the day, but annoyingly she had her laptop nicked along with all her photos – except this one, which does rather neatly illustrate the disparity between the perceived and the reality, the difference between a ripped torso and a thumb in shades:
But I digress.
When I finally got into clubbing, Llŷr, wary of me being a big old fat fish out of water, made me a load of mix-tapes (which dates this somewhat) to help me crib up.
I still have a couple of them, and last year, since I had no means to listen to the sodding things, I bought a second hand stereo which had a tape deck on it, specifically so I could hear them again.
So here’s (almost) all of the tunes on one of them, which he entitled Losing It, a title inspired by my reaction on one night out when a tune by Faithless was dropped (I’d love to say it was Insomnia, but truth be told I think it was probably We Come 1).
Anyway, my explosion that night definitely influenced the tunes on this mix-tape, which is probably a bit more trance-trousers than he would care to be associated with.
But he even made a proper sleeve for the cassette, God bless him, so here it is:
Look, there’s the sleeve, all “I am front page news and I have a message”, all self-important pomposity.
Which would be fine, in a 20th century history lesson kind of way, which the song essentially is.
But then, come the words which make Bono’s “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” on Do They Know It’s Christmas? seem positively humanitarian.
I should give some background for my mentioning it: this is a song and a lyric which Hel and I always thought to be hilariously inappropriate, to the extent that whenever one of us hears it and the other isn’t there to bask in it’s iffy-glory, the one feels compelled to let the other one know a moment is happening.
Hence one night last week I got a series of texts from Hel, telling me that the DJ in wherever she was had just played this, and that nobody else enjoyed her singing along with mucho gusto to the line in question.
My take home message: everyone misses living with me at some point.
So this is how I spent last night, in honour of Llŷr’s birthday:
I popped on a playlist which combined pretty much all of the songs which remind me of him – that’s everything you’ve heard so far on the Be Llŷrious series, plus all of the songs I sent to Hel as suggestions to play at the reception (note: not a wake) along with all of the stuff I’d given him on the iPod shuffle I presented him with last year.
I opened a bottle of red wine and then, when I was a teensy bit pished, I resolved to clean the one thing which I own that reminds me of Llŷr more than anything else.
No, not the record player. Nor the sofa, nor even the TV remote control.
Oh no. I speak of none other than (drum roll)……………
…………….the George Foreman Grill.
Llŷr’s parents had bought him one for Christmas just after we’d moved out of the flat of filth and into the house of no-housework, and we had bloody loved it.
Suddenly – and no, I’m not getting any sponsorship for writing this – practically every meal had some element of it prepared on George F’s warm ridges. Consequently, each evening meal-time was also accompanied by one of us announcing that “the meat sweats are coming” or that we had to go and put our “meat pants” on.
And as surely as the washing-up piled up in the vague vicinity of the kitchen sink – “Dude, we’ve run out of forks again. And plates. And cups. Is it my turn it to do the washing-up?” – so more and more fatty gunk built up on poor old George F.
And so last night I thought I’d combine two things which reminded me of Llŷr, only one was something he absolutely hated doing. Call it the crappest birthday present ever if you must, but had I done this when we still shared a place he’d have been delighted.
I’ve trawled through my music collection to try and find a song which ticks the boxes in terms of vaguely appropriate tunes to play this morning, but have plumped for this from the Radiator album (see what I did there…? Radiator/Grill? See?), and so with absolutely no apologies at all for featuring them in two consecutive posts, here’s:
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.
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):
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: