Ah, the problem of still being kids when you call your band what you call your band. And then growing up and being saddled with it. Gorky’s were still at school when they released their first record, and only in their mid-twenties when they split up eight or nine albums later. ‘Gewn ni gorffen?’ – which translates as ‘Let’s finish’, or ‘Shall we give up?’ – is the work of old heads attached to young bodies. Euros Childs turned twenty the year it was released.
It’s something I rarely allow to be visible, but I often feel like giving up. Not just on this series of 45s, or that series of lipogrammatic stories, but all my writing endeavours. I ask myself what’s the point; surely I’d be happier if I let it all drop away, and lived, rather than fell into the trap of alternating between a half-life of living and a half-life of writing. Sometimes, temporarily, I do give up, especially when I’m between ideas. More frequently than anyone who knows me might imagine, and for a variety of reasons, I find myself thinking – despite the careful reading and kind words of a handful of folk – why do I fucking bother. It would be so easy to slip under the waves; it seems so seductive that I might just let myself. Or at least, lie on the beach a good long while.
But no sooner do I think that, no sooner have I turned my back on words, than the initial relief of letting go dissipates, and the urge to express myself again creeps over and scratches away at me, and unless I succumb to it, unless I itch it, I feel irritable and unhappy and not myself. For good or ill, I have habituated myself to living as a writer, just as a musician gets accustomed to the daily need to pick up a guitar or settle their fingers on the keys of a piano, and make or make up music.
Some of this tendency of mine – both tendencies perhaps, the writing and the giving up – may well come from the Welsh part of me, though of course Wales doesn’t have a monopoly either on melancholy or writing. But there are Celtic genes and blood in there, and I like to believe that they govern both my need for song and the need to express myself in words. I don’t speak Welsh, so I can’t be sure exactly what Euros Childs’ lyric means, but I think it’s clear enough from the mood of the music, the tone of his vocal. In and of itself, the Welsh language gives the song an appealing air of acidic-druidic mystery which is also suggested by the group’s cover art, drawn by producer Alan Holmes. It’s as if Gorky’s had tapped into something ancient or even preternatural, a call which preceded (or even prompted) the human need for sorrowful music and for language which attempts to capture the ineffable.
So ‘Gewn ni gorffen’ is a feeling I’ve often felt, but somehow each time I rally, and the way I rally is to write, with music providing support and giving solace. I’d wager that Euros Childs has always played and written his way out of his lows too; certainly he’s been prolific enough as a solo artist to suggest that he just can’t help it, that it’s what he was born to do.
After this song and Bwyd time, the LP on which it appeared, Gorky’s did not in fact give up. Instead and improbably, they signed to a major label, got dropped, signed again, and soldiered on a while, but to my ears could never quite recapture the youthful heights they scaled with the wonderful Llanfwrog EP. As well as self-penned melodies for which others would kill, the EP also contained their cover of Soft Machine’s ’Why are we sleeping?’ and so served as my introduction to Kevin Ayers – a lead I followed up and have often since felt grateful to Gorky’s for. Now there too was a man who I suspect often asked himself why he bothered, but having given up, couldn’t quite ever stay in that beached state. Once developed, the will to say or sing what’s on your mind is an irresistible one.