Be Llŷrious

Whilst I’m trying to stay positive and upbeat – at here, at least – in the face of all that’s going on (global pandemics, parents in hospital, not being able to go out in the annoyingly glorious good weather), today was always going to be a difficult day for me and my friends.

Because today would have been Llŷr’s birthday, and so he’s on my mind even more so than usual.

I mean, I still think about him every day; sometimes, accidentally, I manage to forget he’s gone, or my brain tricks me into thinking he hasn’t, and then it hits me again when I remember, usually brought on by watching something on TV which sparks the memory.

Yesterday I sat and watched all of the second series of Ricky Gervais’s Netflix sitcom After Life, which probably wasn’t the smartest move, dealing as it does with the aftermath of Gervais’ character’s wife death from cancer.

It has it’s funny moments, although as with much of his comedy, it relies rather too much on trying to be shocking, or the use of the c-bomb. Some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, topics launched into with no build-up or introduction. But every now and then there are some truly heart-wrenching and spot-on observations about death, loss and bereavement that I found myself holding back at least one massive blub per episode.

One thing which I did like about it was the casting of two characters in particular, one a returning character from series one, the other newly introduced this series. I’ll not give any spoilers, but the two actors in question appeared in a sitcom as neighbours back in the 80s, where they flirted a lot despite one being married, and much to to her husband’s paranoid dismay. To reveal which sitcom I’m referring to would in itself be a spoiler, so I won’t, but if you’re a fan of British comedy then I’m pretty sure you’ll know what/who I’m talking about.

That 80s sitcom was one of Llŷr’s favourites; he bought the box-set and I would often walk into the living room and find him doubled-up on the sofa in a fit of giggles watching it.

The Office, the series which shot Gervais to fame, first aired when we were living in the flat of filth, and I remember us tuning in to watch it. Later, it was revealed that many people had watched it not realising it was a sitcom, but we knew what we were buying into.

When I wrote the post just after Llŷr had passed, I mentioned the mass of videos containing clips and full shows he had recorded; there was one show which was probably buried amongst it, but which I’d never seen or even heard of before, not until one day when we were visiting our friend Mark and the show came up in conversation. The next thing I knew we were watching hours of the stuff that Mark had on tape.

I speak of Sky Star Search, a TV talent show hosted by Keith Chegwin (thankfully fully clothed), and judged by a rolling list of UK celebrities from the 80s and earlier: Cleo Rocos, Melvyn Hayes, Sheila Ferguson, Stan Boardman, Rusty Lee, Derek Nimmo, Bernard Manning, Paul King…

You get the idea of the calibre of the show, I think, from that roll-call. As for the contestants who appeared: imagine the early rounds of The X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, the rounds where the truly terrible appear. And then imagine the contestants who were too awful to even make that round.

Actually, don’t just imagine: here’s some clips showing the standard of the contestants (and judges) who appeared:

…not forgetting this absolute classic, which for a while you watch and wonder if this is a Tommy Cooper riff, the awful magician act made funny:

And then those classic words:

“Robert, do you want a hand?”

“They’ve tied it too tight….”

A few months ago, was just after the anniversary of his passing, Mark and I were having a text conversation about Llŷr, part of which, with Mark’s permission, is here:

Mark and Llŷr DJ’d together once, in a bar the salubrious Splott area of Cardiff. It was a birthday party of someone Mark knew, I think. But it was in a bar, so I got there early enough to sneakily grab a table and get drunk offer moral support.

Here’s two of the records that I remember them playing that night; I’m not 100% sure who played which, but I could have a pretty good guess.

There was this, a favourite of mine and Llŷr’s (and probably Mark’s too; he came to see SFA a few times with us), often posted on these pages, complete with end-of-bridge to air-drum along to:

Super Furry Animals – Slow Life

And then there was this, which I didn’t know at all at the time:

The Postal Service – Such Great Heights

There’s a good chunk of that song which gets me every time, now, since he passed even more so than when he was still alive. I’ll leave you with the bits I mean:

And I have to speculate
That God Himself did make
Us into corresponding shapes
Like puzzle pieces from the clay

And true, it may seem like a stretch
But it’s thoughts like this that catch
My troubled head when you’re away
And when I am missing you to death

And when you are out there on the road
For several weeks of shows
And when you scan the radio
I hope this song will guide you home.

They will see us waving from such great heights
“Come down now!”, they’ll say.
But everything looks perfect from far away
“Come down now!” but we’ll stay

Happy birthday, dude.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Before I go any further, I’d like to thank all of you who were kind enough to leave birthday and get well soon wishes to my Dad on Thursday. He’s asked me to pass on his thanks too, and described it as “…all a bit overwhelming, to be honest”.

As I write this, he’s still in hospital, although we’re hoping that he’ll be discharged if not today, then soon.

In the meantime, another song from the rich mine that is “Songs Which Can Only Be Country Records”.

It’s very important that I say a few things about today’s choice: firstly, released in 1965, today’s tune bucks the trend slightly in this category in that the title doesn’t quite reveal the full story, not in the same way as the previously featured You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly, and How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away? do. In an ideal world, it would have the next words in the song after the title – It’s Like Having You Around – included within the title. Put them in brackets if you like, Billy, but don’t give us half a joke title, man!

Secondly, don’t be fooled by the title, it’s quite the jaunty little number.

Thirdly, whether you elect to refer to today’s selection with or without those five extra words, my decision to post this today should in no way be inferred as any comment as to how my parents have been for the past week.

Billy Walker – I’m So Miserable Without You

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

I’ve don’t really understand tribalism in music.

By which I mean announcing that you like this type of music but not that type. It’s never made any sense to me: why write off a whole music genre when there might, just might, be one or two records lurking in there that will float your boat?

The whole point of music is that’s it’s subjective, that no two people like exactly the same records, that there may be overlaps on the Venn Diagram but no two circles are perfectly aligned.

So generally, when asked to pin my colours to the mast, I’m reluctant to, partly for the reason above, but also because I’m aware that the “only guitar-based records are good” policy I pursued when I was younger led me to missing out on so much.

Looking back, I was still wary of announcing my position in any dispute even back then, although that was probably more to do with trying to avoid looking an idiot in front of my peers than anything else.

For example: why do I have to choose between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones? I don’t like them equally, but to have to choose between the two just seemed ridiculous.

Similarly, in the 1990s at the height of Britpop you had to be either Blur or Oasis. “Why?” I would ask anyone who pressed me. And, on the rare occasion when an answer was proffered it was invariably something along the lines of they very lame: “Because you have to!”

Erm, no I don’t. I liked some Oasis records, but a heck of a lot more Blur records. But I wasn’t going to stop listening to or buying one or the other through some misguided notion of faithfulness.

One way you can tell which of the two band were better is by looking at the output of the main figures after the band’s split:

Oasis: Beady Eye; Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds; Liam Gallagher.

No thanks.

And then look at just the output of Blur mainman Damon Albarn: Gorillaz; The Good, The Bad and The Queen; Mali Music; Monkey; Rocket Juice & The Moon.

And his much over-looked solo album from 2014; here’s the title track and it’s quite wonderful:

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

More soon.