On Tuesday it was announced that David R Edwards, frontman of influential post-punk band and Peel favourites Datblygu, had passed away. Simon Tucker pays tribute.
Where do you even begin when talking about Mr David R Edwards? A man bigger than life and someone who even knowing the health issues and the close calls you felt would always be here with here being his adopted home of Carmarthen where David had relocated to as a place to get well and to live his life the exact way he wanted to. Something he definitely achieved. An early riser and an afternoon napper, David would often be seen in town going for his daily shop, doing his laundry, placing a flutter on the horses or visiting the record shop Tangled Parrot which is where my relationship with him and Datblygu began.
If you live in or around Carmarthen and have a keen interest in music it is somewhat inevitable that you will at some point take the steps up to Tangled Parrot Records. As a customer and then employee the place has been an important part of my life for many years and it was thanks to a recommendation from the owner, and friend of David’s, Matt Davies that I heard Datblygu. I resisted at first as I am a non-Welsh speaker and had developed a rather large chip on my shoulders towards the language thanks to attitudes of some people I had encountered in West Wales who were dismissive of me as soon they found out I couldn’t speak Cymraeg. However Matt managed to convince me by suggesting a CD box-set that Datblygu’s label Ankst had released which contained the bands first three albums Wyau / Pyst / Libertino. This collection also had the added bonus of an English translation of the lyrics. I took the collection home and did what I always used to do and scanned the words as the albums played. I simply could not believe that someone with this much of a gift with lyrics and someone whose band made such wildly diverse music lived a street away in a little flat with the curtains half closed. I had become a fan…
I soon hoovered up what I could with a particular favourite being the Peel Sessions compilation (highly recommended) which soundtracked Tangled Parrot’s first ever Green Man Festival. I would also start coming in to contact with David who would pop in to the shop or have a drink downstairs in The Parrot where he would also attend gigs. It’s important to remember that Datblygu had been inactive for quite a while at this point due to David needing treatment for his mental health so when he and Patricia Morgan first announced a one-off single ‘Can y Mynach Modern’ and then a mini-album ‘Erbyn Hyn’ Matt decided to arrange an in-store where we would play songs from the album via CD and then David and Pat would do a Q&A and lyric reading. The event was a great success and it was lovely seeing the pair reconnecting with an audience. It was also around this time I decided to ask them if they would do an interview for this very website in support of ‘Erbyn Hyn’ which they both agreed to. Both were extremely gracious and supportive putting a first-time interviewer at ease whether that via e-mail (Pat) or in person (David). Throughout the interview David was extremely candid and we found we had a lot in common with our musical tastes as David was a huge fan of Joy Division, Captain Beefheart, Public image Limited, Sinatra, Lennon, Leonard Cohen and The Pogues. It was, however, The Fall that would be David would be forever associated with whether that be the somewhat reductive “Welsh version of The Fall” label, similarities in David and Mark E Smith’s lifestyles, or just the fact that he did really just admire that band and could talk for ages about them.
Over the years David and I developed a friendship and it is these moments I spent with him that I will treasure. David would never fail to ask me how my son and wife were whenever I bumped in to him and he was pleased my son was in a Welsh language school because whatever arrows he threw at Welsh language culture he loved the language itself. I will treasure the hours spent in his flat with the clinging smell of tobacco and pieces of paper with works in progress scattered around his chair and on his table where we would talk about the Liverpool and Leeds football teams of the 70s, projects we were both working on (David did a couple of English language poetry / spoken word collections which are available via Recordiau Prin and which again I would highly recommend). I will miss our talks about the music media and I like to think of him having a wry smile at certain publications carrying tributes to him now when for years his music or poetry was ignored by the same publications. The irony would not be lost on him. I will miss seeing him pop into Tangled Parrot just to chat with me or Matt who would put out a great solo single by him via his own Ffynnone Recordings. I will miss not being able to have more album launch parties with him, Pat and Emyr from Ankst like the ones myself, Matt and the three organised. The one we held for the bands proper full-length comeback album ‘Porwr Trallod’ in 2014 was one of my favourite ever nights at what was The Parrot especially seeing the rapport they had with their friend Gareth Potter. I will miss not seeing him and Pat together. When you were with them you could not help but fall for the obvious love they have for each other. When events like this happen it is easy to slip into regret and what-ifs but Pat did everything she could for David and he was never in doubt about her love for him.
David will never be truly gone. For me he is as Carmarthen as Quins rugby and the Plume. His echo will always be walking these streets, nipping to the shops and to the bookies. He will eternally be in his flat listening to the radio for the football scores on a Saturday afternoon. His shadow will always be cast on the pavements of Carmarthen, Cardigan….the whole of Welsh culture. I will miss my friend but if I ever want to speak to him all I have to do is put on his music and there he is, in the room with me smoking a roll-up cigarette and drinking a red wine.
Thanks for being my friend David x