Be Llŷrious

Shortly after Llŷr passed away in 2019, I wrote what I guess you could call my eulogy to him (although I’m sure he would have loved to have read it for himself, I’m equally sure he would have thought it a tad premature had I written it any sooner). I wrote these words:

“See that “There’s No Such Thing As A Guilty Pleasure” tagline? It simply wouldn’t be there were it not for Llŷr.

I’ll go further. Without that little seed sown, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.”

And now I’ll go further still, for it was Llŷr who first introduced me to the wonderful world of music blogs. He knew how much I loved a good cover version (the ratio of How To Do A Cover Version posts here against the number of How Not To Do A Cover Version is testament to this) so he sent me a link to a blog, now also sadly deceased, which featured nothing but cover versions. And then he directed me to the sidebar, to the list of other music blogs, and that was me off, following numerous other blogs. Friends: always check the sidebar, for although mine is woefully in need of an update, you’ll find some lovely surprises there.

Anyway, when I was younger, as soon as I got home from school, the first thing I would do would be to run upstairs, plug my guitar in and play VERY LOUDLY for half an hour or so. My mum used to describe it as me “getting my fix”, and for a time that’s how blogs grabbed me too. The moment I got home from work, I disappeared into my room, fired up my PC and spent a good couple of hours roaming around various blogs, seeking out tracks I’d loved and lost over the years, before finally emerging, gushing to Llŷr about what my haul for the day included. He would nod, offer the occasional “that’s cool”, the even more occasional “I don’t think I know that…”, which was usually reserved for some late 80s jingly-jangly twee-pop record.

Although I would undoubtedly have loved them anyway, my love for cover versions manifested itself in a love of what I guess many would consider to be a joke band: Goldie Lookin Chain.

You won’t be surprised to hear that, after Super Furry Animals, they are probably the band that Llŷr and I saw the most together.

I will always remember that on my birthday one year, we found that Super Furries were playing in Port Talbot, with GLC supporting them. Llŷr got a group of us together, hired a minibus and driver, and we set off to the gig. At the venue, a sports centre, if I recall correctly, and a few beers down, I popped to the gents, only to find it absolutely rammed, queue out the door. As I returned, Llŷr spotted my face, white in shock.

“You alright, Jez?”

“Just been to the bogs. It was rammo. I never thought I’d see three men sharing…”

“A cubicle? Probably not pissing, Jez”

“No, not a cubicle…”

“A urinal?”

“No….three men pissing into the same sink.”

“Welcome to Port Talbot!” Llŷr said raising a bottle (of beer) in my direction.

I can see why many people consider GLC to be a joke band – they’ve never released a serious record in their lives, and pretty much all of their songs are about being chavs from Newport, and/or (usually and) about smoking draw – but to dismiss them as “just” a joke band is a mistake, for in my book they are so much more than that. For a start, they clearly know their stuff – their musical references and samples are always spot-on – and are proficient hip-hop musicians and rappers in their own right. Yes, the individual members may have comedy names (Two Hats remains my favourite – say it quickly and you’ll see why) but that shouldn’t denigrate from how good they are.

For me, their songs fall into three categories:

1 – funny song which features a sample or samples I don’t recognise

2 – a funny song which features a sample or samples I do recognise – see Your Missus Is A Nutter (which samples – appropriately – Serge Gainsbourg’s Cannabis – and which they controversially performed before a Wales v England football match in 2005, dedicating it to “our old friend Victoria Beckham”, who seemed to see the funny side, to be fair); Your Mother’s Got a Penis (which samples Eric Clapton’s Behind The Mask); Charm School which features the Grange Hill Theme Tune

3 – a funny song which is a straight-up parody of another song, and includes a play-on-words on the original song title. I call these, with affection, their Barron Knights tracks.

One day, as they often did, a Llŷr-curated mix-CD was thrust into my hands. It contained two of the latter type of GLC tracks, neither of which, as far as I can make out, have ever had official releases. (The second has featured on these pages before, though.)

They still make me laugh whenever I hear them; more importantly, they remind me of Llŷr.

Oh, and of course, there’s a fair amount of effing and jeffing, so please don’t listen to these if you get offended by rude words.

So, here’s the original:

Gruff Rhys – Candylion

And the GLC spoof:

Goldie Lookin Chain – I’m Not Lying

And, at the risk of repeating myself, here’s the original:

Nelly Furtado – Maneater

And the GLC spoof:

Goldie Lookin Chain – Nan Rita

And that would be the end of that, were it not for the fact that when I was trying to find out whether or not the two tracks featured had received an official release or not, I stumbled across another GLC track which samples one of Llŷr’s favourite records.

Since I’ve never heard it before, I can only assume he hadn’t either, because no two ways about it, he would have told me about this:

Cliff Richard – Devil Woman

And the GLC version:

Goldie Lookin Chain – Devil Woman

He’d have bloody loved that.

Happy Birthday dude. Love ya, miss ya, always.

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

Tonight, a song which remind me of two of my besties: Dum-Dum and, of course, Llŷr.

Firtsly, Dum-Dum, because I remember we’d gone to see Pete Tong play at Cardiff’s much missed Emporium nightclub; it was, if I recall correctly, an anniversary of local club night Time Flies. Also if I recall correctly, Tong’s set was really rather dull until he dropped this tune.

Dum-Dum and I spent many nights dancing alongside each other, and I’m sure he won’t mind me describing our dancing style as conservative (with a small c); we both belonged firmly in the shuffle-from-one-foot-to-the-other school of dancing, with the occasional wagged-finger in time with a tune, sometimes the whirling index as we attempted to count in the crash-back after the breakdown. Perfunctory without doing anything which especially caught the eye.

But on this occasion, Dum-Dum went for it, proper moves on display, and I’ve never seen a man so lost in the moment, so deliriously happy as he was then.

The song in question went on to be an absolute smash hit, but when Tong dropped it that night it was months before that; we knew it of course, but that was because we were so goddamn supercool.

This tune:

And although he was with us that night, it reminds me of Llŷr for a very different reason.

Months later, we were at home mid-week watching some football, when the ITV commentator suddenly compared the half-hearted actions of one particular footballer (sadly, I don’t recall which) to being “like the man in the Lazy video!”

Llŷr and I found this hilarious, sounding as it did like when a politician pretends to like a cool band because they think it might earn them a few votes (it won’t, it never will), or when your Geography teacher implores you “Hey! Don’t call me Mr Sullivan, I don’t call you by your surname. Call me Dan” (subtext: please like me, please like me, please like me).

This phrase – “like the man in the Lazy video” – soon became our stock phrase for when someone wasn’t trying hard enough in our books, and although it really doesn’t seem like much now, it was one of our little jokes that nobody else got, which would have us both in side-hugging fits of giggles when it got mentioned.

Here’s the man in the Lazy video, being exactly like the man in the Lazy video:

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

Today, it is two years since my best friend Llŷr died.

Since he passed, as I’ve tried to cope with, understand and process what has happened, I’ve read many articles offering advice on the subject of grief and loss. Some of them have helped, some…not so much. But I thought that posting a pertinent quote for each year that has passed since he left us seemed a good way to mark the anniversary.

So here goes:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved.

But this is also the good news.

They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up.

And you come through.

It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott

Whilst I think that every word of that is true, I wanted the second quote to be something a little more personal, something which I hadn’t gone looking for, and for a good while I was struggling to come up with anything. Obvious things, like the lyrics to Cliff’s Wired for Sound or Phil’s Sussudio, didn’t seem appropriate, somehow.

But then the other day I caught the end of The Shawshank Redemption, a film I’m sure you’re all very familiar with (if not: spoiler alert!).

It was not a film that Llŷr and I watched together, but one monologue by Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, made me think about my departed friend, and it reminded me that a memory of him will often appear from nowhere, just when I’m least expecting it.

And once I’ve wiped the inevitable tear away, I can smile at the memory, even though I wish there could be more moments to add to it:

“Those of us who knew him best talk about him often.

I swear, the stuff he pulled. It always makes us laugh.

Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice…but still, the place you live is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone.

I guess I just miss my friend.”

*****

Whenever I write one of the posts in this series, I try to take a step back, and I think: Am I doing him a dis-service by trying to remember him this way? It helps me to be able to write about him, but is that enough of a reason to keep doing them?

And then I read the compassionate, caring comments that these posts tend to generate, and my doubts dissipate. And I think of something my boss – and friend – Kay said to me: “I never knew Llŷr, but I feel as if I do because of what you’ve written.”

That’s all I want really; for those who knew him to never forget him, and for those that didn’t to understand, well, they were unlucky. Had they known him, then they would have loved him just as much as we all did.

*****

Of all the hundreds, no thousands, no millions of tunes Llŷr loved, this, I believe, was his favourite, and I will wager there’s not one person who knew him that doesn’t think of him whenever they hear it:

Miss you, dude.

More soon.

…and Hello 2021!

Many years ago, when I lived in Cardiff, there was an annual free music festival held on the lawn in front of City Hall. It probably still happens, I have no idea, since I’ve not lived there for almost as long as I did live there.

Spread over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you’d find a real mish-mash of bands playing. Some up and coming – I saw Super Furry Animals there for the first time back in 1996 – and, to give you some idea of the rich tapestry of acts who performed, The Spice Girls and Pato Banton were also on the bill that year. I know, you’re jealous, right?

Generally, there would be one evening of current music; one of acts with genuine cultural significance, and one slightly cheesy, 80s-centric night. If I tell you that over the years, I saw Chas’n’Dave, Ray Davies, Gene, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and The Proclaimers there (other acts to appear include The Lightning Seeds, Catatonia, The Zutons and Camera Obscura) you’ll get the idea. Bands either on their way up, on their way back down again, or so highly revered that they would light up any night.

The weekend would generally be over-run by lads from The Valleys, agog at city life. You might not know it, but this is exactly what this song is about:

One year, Llŷr and I (and a bunch of friends) gathered together one Friday night to watch the legend that is Howard Jones perform.

Yes. That Howard Jones.

Like me, I’m sure you can maybe remember two or three of his hits from his brief time at the front of British pop music. But this night stayed in mine and Llŷr’s memory for a long time afterwards, for two reasons.

Firstly, because he played a keytar. You know, one of these:

Held like a guitar, played like a keyboard, is there anything which embodies 80s music as succinctly as this?

Secondly, Jones introduced his backing band, and, before announcing their name, he described what turned out to be (another) keyboard player as “on music manipulation!”

Llŷr and I found this hilarious, and from that moment on, whenever at a gig where a band was being introduced, or where we were watching something which just seemed so pompous, so over-blown by its own self-importance, one of us would bellow: “And now…on music manipulation…..!”

As with many of our in-jokes, nobody else would have the slightest clue as to why we were falling about laughing.

Anyway, as the curtain rises on what will hopefully be a better year than the last, this – with Howard on music manipulation! – seems appropriate:

It was this or some Labour politicians singing along to D:Ream. Shush.

Happy New Year to you all. Truly, more than any other year, I hope this is better than the last for us all.

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

One of the most joyous things about mine and Llŷr’s friendship was that we both knew how to make the other one laugh. A lot. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to make somebody laugh as much as Llŷr, and I’m damned sure nobody ever made me laugh as much as he did.

Making Llŷr laugh was one of my favourite things to do, because he was so funny to watch when he laughed, especially when I’d said something a little close to the mark and he tried to suppress it. You could see his face going bright red, his eyes bulge, his shoulders would begin to shudder as he clutched his sides and attempted to hold them in check. Usually, he would cave in, and would literally roll on the sofa laughing; other times he’d just have that great big grin on his face as he giggled away to himself. If I managed to time it just right, I could make him spray whatever he was eating or drinking out of his mouth.

As I mentioned in a recent post, when we lived together – mostly before he got ill, but we endeavoured to keep it going after that too – it was a constant, if unspoken, quest between us to get the other to crack up. We had honed it down to a fine art, sometimes not even needing to speak, a quick glance in his direction at the right time let him know exactly what I was thinking and that was enough to set him off. Often this was done purely for comic effect, but it would be true to say that Llŷr was a very patient and accommodating chap whilst I, on the other hand, was quicker to take exception to someone. And when we were watching TV, this was often based on nothing more than the way they spoke or dressed.

I was reminded of this on Sunday morning, when I woke on the sofa having nodded off after watching Joe Biden’s victory speech (falling asleep on the sofa was in itself a very Llŷr thing to do). The TV was on, and through half-open eyes I located the remote and flicked through the channels to see if there was anything to watch rather than go to bed. I landed on a repeat of an old game show, and as the quizmaster greeted each contestant in turn, it only took one of them to say “Hello” and I found myself arching one eyebrow upwards and turning to my right, to where Llŷr would have been sitting in the Flat of Filth (he always sat to my right at home, a bit like Ant and Dec). It was a glance which I knew if he caught, he would be able to interpret and hopefully a fit of giggles would ensue.

Only to be reminded, yet again, that he has gone, and that I’ll never be able to make him double-up laughing again.

*****

Llŷr bloody loved Prince, rightly so, so this seems appropriate:

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

It’s funny. When you lose somebody, you expect that there will be certain dates where you miss them more than other days, when their absence is suddenly all the more noticeable.

I’m talking about their birthday, Christmas, the anniversary of their passing.

What I didn’t expect and which hit me really hard last year, was how much you miss them on your own birthday.

And so here I am, turning another year older tomorrow, and very aware that the day will not be blessed with any contact with my friend Llŷr. No spontaneous phone call, no text, WhatsApp message, no nothing.

My mind floats back to happier times.

The problem with having your birthday so close to the end of the month, is that more often than not, it falls just before payday, so everyone is too skint to do anything to mark the occasion.

Worse still, when it lands on a pre-payday Monday, as it did one year when Llŷr and I were living in The Flat of Filth in Cardiff. Post-work, I was slumped in my recovered-from-the-street-washing-up-bowl-for-a-seat chair, idly flicking through the TV channels, when Llŷr barrelled into the living room.

“Happy birthday dude!” he chirped, and I was aware that he was standing next to me, holding something out for me to take.

My coat.

“Cheers,” I said, before adding, rather confused, “why have you got my coat?”

“We’re going out. Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“Out. Come on.”

“It’s Monday. There’s nowhere to go.”

“Yes there is,” he persisted. “Come on.”

Still befuddled, I got to my feet, took my coat from him, followed him out the door. Confused as I was, I knew it wouldn’t be anything bad or that would cause me pain or embarrassment. I trusted him.

We walked into town, him still refusing to give me any clues about what the night held for us. Arriving in the city centre, we called into The Rummer Tavern for a pint or two. He kept checking his watch all the time we sat there.

Then, eventually, he necked his pint, encouraged me to do the same, and beckoned me outside again. “Come on, time to go.”

And off we set again, this time stopping at the doors of Clwb Ifor Bach, where he pulled two tickets from his wallet and handed them over to the indie girl at the desk. Next thing I knew, I was following him as he bounded upstairs, heading to the top floor, with it’s tiny stage and even tinier bar (this is not a criticism, by the way. It’s precisely because both are so tiny that Clwb is such a special venue.)

Another pint thrust into my hand, Llŷr led me through the sparse crowd to front left of stage, where he finally turned to me and, when I asked, again, who we were here to see, he grinned the words: “Art Brut”.

This would have been a few months before the release of their debut album in 2005, but we had both fallen in love with their debut single Formed a Band which we’d caught, and he’d doubtless recorded knowing him, numerous times on one of the many music channels we subscribed to.

Here’s the original single version which came out in March 2004; it’s a little scuzzier, less polished than the version which ended up on the album, which fits the lyrical content better to my mind:

They played an absolute barn-stormer of a set that night, playing pretty much every song which would end up on their brilliant Bang Bang Rock & Roll debut album. We danced and drank and whooped and clapped and cheered and joined in with songs we didn’t know, most memorably the chant of “Art Brut – Top of the Pops!”

After the gig, we made our way back to the bar, where I waited as Llŷr popped to the gents. Sensible lad, it’s along walk home. I did what I always do in such situations: looked around and thought how much older I looked than all the bright young things milling about me, speculating whether they thought I was there to collect my offspring, or whether I was security. I wasn’t sure which was worse.

As I stood there, like the biblical parting of the waves, a lanky man with a side-parting, moustache and skinny black tie, sweat dripping from every pore, forced himself through the crowd: Eddie Argos, lead singer of Art Brut. I instinctively offered my hand, which he took and shook. “Great gig!” I heard myself saying, which earned the reply: “Thank you. Thank you very much. Is this the way to the dressing room?”

I don’t have adventures like this anymore.

So, yeh. What I mean is: miss you dude.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #25

There was going to be a ranty post here this morning, but somehow I can’t summon up the energy.

I think it’s probably because at the time of writing there still hasn’t been an official announcement to confirm Gareth Bale’s return to the Tottenham Hotspur squad after seven years away playing for some team called Real Madrid, so I’m…distracted.

I haven’t been this excited about a “new” player arriving at the club since we signed Rafael Van Der Vaart, also from Real Madrid, back in 2010.

I was sharing a flat with Hel at the time, and we would spend many a happy weekend watching football. Hel, bless her, had to get used to me making the same jokes and, occasionally, singing a theme tune I had attributed to a certain player. I think I eventually ground her down enough that she actually enjoyed it in the end, but I wouldn’t bet much money on it. To the uninitiated, I fear it might come across as a tad on the Colin Hunt from The Fast Show-side:

My behaviour when watching football then, and now when I live on my own if I’m honest, was very much rooted in the time when I lived with Hel’s brother, Llŷr. Oh-so-many of our hours were whiled away watching TV and making stupid jokes, each trying to make the other laugh, and this was never more true than when watching football together. We thought we were like David Baddiel and Frank Skinner when they used to do Fantasy Football League, only funnier (we thought) and less well paid (we knew).

I’ll explain, but be warned, none of these will sound even remotely funny to you.

Llŷr and I would often develop running jokes or catch-phrases we would say whenever a player was mentioned. Often these would be based on some banal bon mot delivered by the TV commentator: for example, during one match, the commentator said: “Steven Gerrard, there. A Liverpool player, through and through. Cut him, and he bleeds red.” On another occasion, Chelsea and Germany captain Michael Ballack was described as “a true sporting professional. He does not like to lose!”. So whenever Gerrard was subsequently mentioned, it would be a race to see which of us could say “bleeds red” first; with Ballack it would be “hates losing.” And so on.

By the time I moved in with Hel, this had developed (I say developed…that implies some kind of improvement, doesn’t it…?) into the following categories:

i) Any player who used to play for Spurs would be labelled a “Tottenham reject” every time they were mentioned in commentary;

ii) Any player who used to play for Peterborough (my home town) would be labelled a “Posh reject” (this one cropped up less frequently, to be fair);

The “joke” here was that usually the player is question had gone on to play for a better team than either of those, if by “better” you mean “more successful”.

iii) Certain players would have their name pronounced in what I found an amusing manner. Glen Johnson would always be said in a deep, smooth voice, meant to mimic Johnson from Peep Show; Steven Pienaar would be whined “Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeynar”, like a US high school surfer dude might.

iv) Occasionally – very occasionally – they would get their name sung to the chorus of a song – you know, like they do on the terraces.

And my favourite of these – and as I write this I have a nagging feeling I may have written about this before, but I’ve come this far now I’m not going to stop and check or I’ll have to think of something else to write about – was the one I used to sign whenever – and I mean whenever – Van Der Vaart’s name came up, which was simply bellowing his name to the chorus of this tune:

God, I’m annoying.

More soon.

Be Llŷrious

I don’t really know what to do with this series, to be honest with you.

I want to keep on remembering my lost best friend, my little brother in all but name, and I will continue to do so. I’ll never forget him and all that we did for each other.

But as I said back when he passed, there are so many songs which, whenever I hear them, will trigger some little memory, a shared moment, not worth bothering you all with, but something which does and forever will, remind me.

Like this one.

No great story to tell.

Pixies – Bone Machine

I know this was his favourite song by this lot, and now, whenever I hear it played, suddenly Llŷr’s sitting next to me and I just want to grab him and not let him go again.

More soon.

*******

I wrote this post on Monday. On Wednesday, Shaun Keaveney played it as the last record on his 6Music show. I had to stop what I was doing and air-drum along to it, just as Llŷr would have done and just for a moment we were back in the Flat of Filth, he was doing the same, and making a far better job of it than I.

Be Llŷrious

This post was prompted by a message from mine and Llŷr’s old mate Martin.

“Got any old French music I can listen to? I’d usually ask Al but he’s not logged in anymore.”

Al or Alun was how many people referred to Llŷr; it was mentioned at his memorial service that he had this dual identity, and Alun was the name by which I was first introduced to him.

He used Alun at work because he couldn’t be bothered with having to spell or explain the name Llŷr, and so that’s how many people knew him.

When I last went to Glastonbury and met up with all the people he had met there previously, they all called him Alun or Al.

“Do none of you call him Llŷr?” I asked.

“Why would we call him that?” they replied.

Realising what he’d done, I didn’t try to explain either.

In his younger days, Llŷr had spent some time living and working in France; as such he was pretty fluent in French, and had, of course, jumped at the chance to learn about their musical heritage whilst he was there too. Hence him being the touchstone for those of us, like Martin, who wanted to know more.

A former friend of mine, a teacher, once asked if we could put together a CD of French music for her to play to her class. When she called me to remind me she needed it the next day, I hastily cobbled together something which included Edith Piaf, Vanessa Paradis and Kylie’s Je ne sais pas pourquoi. Llŷr was furious when I told him, and I don’t doubt for a second that he’d have done a far, far better job than I had.

Which is why Martin now has this gaping hole into which Llŷr would feed la musique Francais, and my ability to assist can be seriously and legitimately questioned.

But I do have some stuff, not least an album of the finer moments of a band called Pussy Cat called, simply, and brilliantly French-ly, Boof! The Complete Pussy Cat 1966 – 1969.

Here’s something from it which bears more than a passing resemblance to The Small Faces’ Sha-La-La-La-Lee:

Pussy Cat – Ce N’est Pas Une Vie

Careful when you Google them, Martin!

More soon.

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.