I knew David as a childhood friend. I was involved with Datblygu before they were famous.
David was an intense friend given to extremes. We were both leftist and exchanged youthful ideas about how the world should be. He was younger than me but we shared ideas and that was it. He was an unpredictable and reclusive friend, given to extremes, some of which were troubling and cruel but be was kind.
While I was at University in Bristol, my taste in music veered towards punk and radical, so when I came home for the summer I reconnected with David.
I was encouraged by David’s kind and gentle Dad who always found time for me. By this time David was doing his A levels. David was smoking and drinking and indulging a developing addictive personality. He had a Tascam mixer and was producing cassette tapes. I was impressed and started spending time with him sharing our taste for John Peel.
His mother was encouraging. I got the impression his parents were hoping my friendship would be positive. We discussed God and vegetarianism. I am not sure David’s wounderful mum understood what he was getting into and was the normal indulgent mam.
By the time I had graduated and was embarking on doing my PGCE in Cardiff, David was functioning with alcohol and trying drugs. I realised this while at a concert in St Dogmaels where the likes of Edgar Allen Poet and Malcolm Neon played. David was unreasonably angry and drunk. It was a different David.
Malcolm was an inspiration and we spent time in his makeshift studio in his bedroom where he tortuosly mixed synthetic sounds frequently interfered with by the local Taxi firm behind his house with their short wave radios. He was a perfectionist and ahead of his time.
I was worried by his behaviour but David’s creativity was astonishing and there was a buzz in Cardigan where every rebel had an idea. I am not sure this was good though layerd over a cultural void.
David was able to make his guitar say anything; it was an extension of his voice. We discussed deep things and spent the summer at the nascent Fflach studious in the derelict basement of a Chapel on the Mwldan, trying to produce a tape for BBC Cymru, who seemed to be very antagonistic and not understanding of what was going on.
David produced a magazine called Mae’na Dân Yma Beth Bynnag. He only produced one but managed to convince the BBC it was significant. During the summer I met Pat and she sung on a made up band we got together as a laugh called Mah Blah but never performed only recorded as a way of experimenting in the studio. It was named because every rubbish Welsh rock Group in David’s analysis had the sound “mah” in their name.
We did a song about born again Pharisees, Prophets that profited, called Paid Cynllwyno Fy Marwolaith, and a lament on Bhopal. We also wrote a play for a BBC competition called Pan Mae’r Lleuad yn Llyfo a mad attack on organised religion including a very violent murder based around a full moon. We didn’t win.
David became a sparring partner as my religious sensibilities were growing. Me being a Catholic, he quizzed me finding the life sized wooden carving of the crucified Christ outside the Catholic Church a troubling image, having to go past it each morning and evening to get to and from school. I remember one evening of deep discussion when we spent time at Pat’s cottage overlooking Bala lake, I think, where I struggled to present a coherent cosmology, but failed. The cross is an image David found perplexing, appearing in some of his lyrics as something that was failing him.
David seemed desperate to include me but I was abstemeous, averse to drugs and dogidly Christian. David asked me to come with them to the Eisteddfod to perform in the alternative scene organised by Anhrefn. I agreed. I had been on a Jesuit Silent retreat in Loyola Hall Liverpool and been confronted with the hate in my heart and the cruelty of the world. I was in a mess emerging from a devastating experience of University which left my self esteem in pieces. I also knew and found out how antagonistic Anhrefn were to Christianity. The Christians picketed one of the venues we played at which I found disconcerting. But again I was challenged as I found myself understanding both sides of the argument; being an un- invested outsider I could see contradictions in Welsh culture and its investment in a failing faith.
David and Pat were lovely people and so kind. I had agreed to go but I didn’t last. I played 3 times, once without an audience, once in a pub where someone threw a telephone at us and once where we silenced an audience for the BBC in a tent.
People came up to us afterwards and were incredibly complementary. I think they had seen something new they did not expect of Welsh music. I was terrified as the fact that I was second language Welsh and very shy, was exposing me: an imposter. The song I played on was Dafydd Iwan yn a Glaw which wasn’t making us popular. However I became so frightened of the drugs and alcohol I decided to leave, got on a train and went miserably home. All I earned was a mention on the Anhrefn album Cam o’r Tywyllwch as a friend which was removed it seems subsequently. My next stop was Corymela where in the Croi I shed my republican opinions.
David became a stranger to me. When I did occasionally meet him, he was clearly sad. I couldn’t cope not knowing how to reach him. I found the recent videos of him and some of the songs he wrote very sad though incredibly poetic. Pat as ever though was a delight and clearly loved and valued him.
That was the end for me and I have been in England ever since, reflecting occasionally on this cathartic experience. Strangely I became part of a church that turned its back on modern culture, and the media, and though I had been an avid Peel listener and Fall fan with David, I have only recently found out about the extent of Datblygu’s fame and David’s influence.
Why am I writing now? I have to confess to being an unreliable witness and doubt my memories. Cool Cymru passed me by but even now when I look at interviews I see chronic self indulgence and deep immaturity. Alcohol and drugs have a dangerous grip on the Welsh youth psychi. It was ever so.
Indulgent mams have a lot to answer for as do emotionally absent fathers, though this wasn’t the case for Mr Edwards.
Hedonism is the perennial religion. Being foul mouthed is a badge of honour and cursing a deeply ingrained part of the language. In my time girls were dishonoured and treated as objects and racism was casual.
There was a deeply ingrained nepotistic caste system perpetuated by ruinous language streaming in the schools.
The Welsh Not might be a folk tragedy but there was no sympathy for the sons and daughters of the crime. My father was the son of a miner from Birmingham who followed the work aged 14 and learned the Welsh of the coal face. He married my Mamgu, daughter of Welsh peasant stock. In his late teens my dad converted to Catholicism and was to be an advocate for the Welsh language in the church all his life.
I came to Wales aged 7 and was a learner the rest of my days. Menna Elfyn was my teacher and was such a good, inspiring teacher, but despite her efforts I was never accepted as a Welsh speaker. But I gained a trophy for my efforts and was allowed to compete in Eisteddfodau.
Cardigan was a fragmented town divided by Chapel affiliation; the remnant seafaring community moved from the Netpool to the Ridgeway, a virtual ghetto with its own distinguishing accent; the mainly English employees of the RAE in Aberporth, and run by a Masonic Lodge. There were running cultural sores and David tried to create an audience in this milieu… a doomed enterprise.
The truth is you need an income or parents able to support you. Pat was a Chemist, I think, and David had parents who would drive to the ends of the earth for him. But where was the audience to come from, especially as David seemed to despise the people who might pay his way and was continually biting the hand that fed him. Mark Smith was not a good role model.
But when I knew the boy David, he wasn’t only able write Fy Dy and Cariad yn y Rhewlgell but y Teimlad. This is engaging poetry in Welsh and tanslates well to English, played on a Catgut, half sized guitar and recorded on a fourtrack recorder in a bedroom. David despised clean sounds, once, when we did a song, he said it sounded too good and trashed it.
Outside Cardigan the cultural problems were magnified. David hated the Welsh music industry and attacked it and his audiences with explosive ire. We are talking wrath. Did this energy consume him?
One incident that stands out, because of the documentary I saw on S4C, where they played out with Geraint Jarman’s song, Merch Ty Cyngor happened that eventful summer in North Wales.
David insisted on taking me to a Geraint Jarman concert and spent the whole concert standing in the middle of the dance floor, smooth faced, huge in his trench coat, hurling abuse at the stage. A hairy large man tried to reason with him. David smiled and carried on expecting me to join in!
Was this song sung on the documentary played as evidence of a reconciliation with the industry? I don’t think so, it sounds like irony, missed by S4C. What I saw on the documentary was a burnt out man with a boyish smile struggling with the fact that he couldn’t quite be the Fall… Thank God for John Peel. For me David is the boy who wrote y Teimlad. This wasn’t a love song, it was a reaching out for meaning, a grasping for a sparkling chink of light.
Y teimlad sy’n gyrru bobol i anghofio amser
Y teimlad sy’n gyrru ti i feddwl nad yw’r dyfodol mor fler
Y teimlad sydd yn dod a cyn sbarduno gobaith
Ti’n gweld y tywod llwch ond ti’n gweld fod yno flodau
Y teimlad, beth yw’r teimlad?
Y teimlad sydd heb esboniad
Y teimlad, beth yw’r teimlad?
Y teimlad sy’n cael ei alw’n gariad
Cariad, cariad, y teimlad
Mae hapusrwydd yn codi ac yn troi yn wir rhywbryd
Ac mae’n dangos fod yno rhywbeth mewn hyd yn oed dim byd
A pan mae’r teimlad yno mae bywyd yn werth parhau
Ond yn ei absenoldeb mae’r diweddglo yn agosau
Y teimlad, beth yw y teimlad?
Y teimlad, sydd heb esboniad?
Y teimlad, beth yw y teimlad?
Y teimlad, sy’n cael ei alw’n gariad