A guitarist was driven to suicide after developing a condition that made his hearing so sensitive that he could hear his own eyeballs moving.
Kelvin Edmunds tragically lost his life after his rare diagnosis began to have a severe impact on his mental health.
Kelvin had toured the country with his bandmates as a guitarist in the 70s and 80s, but never got their big break.
But while the group went their separate ways, they remained friends, reports Wales Online.
“I’d known Kelvin since grammar school and he was such an outgoing guy who could turn his hand to anything ,” said the band’s drummer Ian Davies, 65, who now lives in Cardiff.
“We were all into the same sorts of American acts at the time, such as The Doobie Brothers, and we’d play all over the place. We’d just load up our gear and go.”
The band, named Ohibo Paronti, after some graffiti they once spotted daubed on a wall, even ended up stage at the Hammersmith Odeon for the final of a Battle of the Bands competition, judged by the starry likes of Billy Idol, Slade’s Noddy Holder and Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy. BBC Wales also featured them as ‘ones to watch’ on the broadcaster’s early ’80s talent show, Maybe Next Week, while there was even talk of a slot supporting legends Queen on their US tour.
But sadly, the big opportunities never emerged.
“To be frank, I always thought superstardom seemed a bit unlikely,” added Ian.
“We’d joke about us being big in Ebbw Vale if anyone asked, but after never getting anywhere we decided to give up.”
Ian went into the label printing business and Kelvin went to Libya to work after accepting an offer from his brother who was in the oil industry out there.
“We stayed friends though – he was always ‘Uncle Kelvin ‘ to my two daughters,” said the dad-of-two.
“But by the late ’90s he just wasn’t the same bloke. He was having terrible trouble with his hearing, but none of us really realised how bad it was.
“His balance was all over the place and he couldn’t function properly at all. He even had an operation to try and correct the problem, during which time he stayed with us at our house.”
Ian said he didn’t know much about Kelvin’s illness – a condition called Superior Semi-circular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome – and didn’t understand exactly what it was. In fact, little is known about the condition which involves the thinning, or absence, of a portion of the temporal bone overlying the superior semicircular canal of the inner ear.
It meant that Kelvin was so sensitive to sound, he could hear his own heart beating and his eyes moving around in his head.
He even resorted to putting tissues in his ears in a bid to muffle exterior sounds.
But eventually, the condition began to negatively impact Kelvin’s mental health.
Ian added: “He told me once that he’d gone out for a quiet drink and someone tipped a load of empty bottles into a bin nearby. He said the din was unbelievable. Even on country walks, something as innocent as a crow cawing would be too much. Everywhere he went he couldn’t escape it. I mean, just imagine being able to hear your own eyeballs moving from side to side in your own head.”
In October 2017, Kelvin went missing from his home in Cyncoed, near Cardiff.
His body was found a few days later in woodland near Aberdare, around 20 or so miles away, not far from where he used to play as a boy.
Ian said: “Allan, our singer and bass player, found him. He, his wife and Keith, our other guitarist, formed a search party and went up to Cwmbach on a hunch, and there he was. I can’t imagine how traumatic that must have been for the three of them. Even Allan, who was in the police force for years, said it affected him very badly.”
Kelvin had made a first, unsuccessful attempt on his life several weeks earlier.
But his partner and a neighbour found him in the nick of time and successfully administered CPR.
Kelvin was also said to have been worried about what the future would hold as both his parents had suffered from dementia.
He voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric unit in Whitchurch, but it wasn’t enough to save his life.
Now – four years after the 61-year-old’s tragic death, and nearly four decades after first forming – the remaining members of his group are to bring out their first official album in his honour – So They Say. A couple of the tracks on it even feature some never before heard recordings of his amazing playing.
Ian said: “The record was put together remotely over lockdown and it features some of Kelvin’s playing from the early ’80s.”
“It was amazing hearing it again, it was like he was back with us.”
Lyrics to some of the tracks on the album, particularly Hard To Believe, which talks about ‘the passing of time and the passing of friends’, are a tribute to Kelvin.
He added: “We were like a band of brothers and it didn’t really matter that we didn’t make the big time because we loved doing it. Chasing the dream was enough to make us all happy – the only sadness is that Kelvin’s not around any more.”
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So They Say by Ohibo Paronti is out on Monday, April 26 on CD and digital download. E-mail [email protected] for details.