The Jailer/The Train (demo) revisited

Words and music (c) David Harley 2017


There’s a video version here:

And here’s the audio capture from the video:

The train will soon be leaving
And the man says ‘all aboard’
But you never leave the platform
And you never cut the cord

Most days you think of leaving
But he’ll always talk you round
His words will talk you into silence
And his arms will hold you down

You need so much to leave him
But there’s no one you can phone
There’s no ticket in your pocket
And you’ve no money of your own

Sometimes he tells you that you’re stupid
Sometimes he tells you that you’re ill
You dream of breaking free
And yet you don’t believe you will

He knows just where you are
Every moment of the day
He hears the thoughts inside your head
He owns the very words you say

He says that you’re his lover
And that’s all you’ll ever be
But you know he’s your jailer
And he’ll never set you free

Sometimes he’ll loosen your shackles
But you’re locked inside his head
And you’ve never found the way
To leave his arms or leave his bed

There’s nowhere you can go
And there’s nothing you can say
Because he knows you’ll never leave him
And that’s exactly why you stay


The train will soon be leaving
And the man says ‘all aboard’
But you never leave the platform
And you never cut the cord

Most days you think of leaving
But he’ll always talk you round
His words will talk you into silence
And his arms will hold you down

You need so much to leave him
But there’s no one you can phone
There’s no ticket in your pocket
And you’ve no money of your own


Song of Chivalry revisited

There will probably be a more ambitious version of this here at some point, but at the moment I like this one-take version.

Words and music (c) David Harley

Originally published as a poem in Vertical Images 2, 1987.  I waited 30+ years for the melody to turn up, and finally did a make-it-up-as-you-go-along job earlier this year. The vocal here needs work – and I need to learn  the words – but the arrangement is much better.

And yes, I know that it’s unlikely that M’Lord fought both at Crécy (1346) and Agincourt (1415). While the Black Death subsided in England from about 1350, outbreaks continued beyond the first half of the 15thcentury. I’m not sure how likely it was that M’Lord slept on silk sheets, but it’s a metaphor, not a history lesson…

When M’Lord returned
To his sheets of silk
And his gentle lady
Of musk and milk

The minstrels sang
In the gallery
Their songs of slaughter
And chivalry

The rafters roared
With laughter and boasting
Goblets were raised and drained
In toasting

The heroes of Crécy
And Agincourt
Or the madness
Of some holy war

The hawk is at rest
On the gauntlet once more
Savage of eye
And bloody of claw

Famine and fever
Are all the yield
Of the burnt-out barns
And wasted fields

The sun grins coldly
Through the trees
The children shiver
The widows grieve
And beg their bread
At the monastery door
Tell me then
Who won the war?

David Harley

Blues Cruise (Harley)

A blues-ish improvisation on acoustic guitar to which I added a slide guitar part.

A blues-ish improvisation on acoustic guitar to which I added a slide guitar part. I like it as it is, but I might come back to it.


David Harley

Castles & Kings/Vestapol [demo]

A sort of West Midlands train blues.

A sort of West Midlands train blues. And yes, the title refers to GWR locomotives. How sad is that? I’ve put up versions of this before, but I like the blues-y feel of this dropped-D arrangement. I’ll be redoing the vocal, and probably putting a second (resonator) guitar over  the top.

Vestapol isn’t mine, of course. But it seemed a logical place to go when the song finished… The tune is probably distantly related (in name, at least) to a parlour guitar piece published by Henry Worrall in the 1880s which is actually in open D, but the many train blues-y versions of the tune don’t resemble Worrall’s piece. Nevertheless, open D is often referred to as Vestapol tuning. My version is loosely based on an imperfectly remembered version I heard from Stefan Grossman in the 70s.

David Harley

Faithless Sally Brown [demo]

Words by Thomas Hood, tune a variation on ‘Andrew and his cutty gun’. Oddly, putting the two together was an idea that came out of a security workspace discussion. 🙂

Something rather more whimsical than the last couple of songs posted here.  Strictly a demo: when the lightbulb lit up, I just sang it straight into the microphone.

I’m not sure yet how well it works without the printed words: I’ll have to try it live, I suppose, and maybe consider some editing. Might fit as light relief into a press gang set with darker songs like ‘On board of a man of war’ or ‘All things are quite silent’.  The lyric is a poem by Thomas Hood (1799–1845). The tune I’ve used is (more or less) the A-tune to ‘Andrew and his Cutty Gun’ with a twist of ‘False Sir John’.

YOUNG BEN he was a nice young man,
A carpenter by trade;
And he fell in love with Sally Brown,
That was a lady’s maid.

But as they fetched a walk one day,
They met a press-gang crew;
And Sally she did faint away,
Whilst Ben he was brought to.

The boatswain swore with wicked words
Enough to shock a saint,
That, though she did seem in a fit,
’T was nothing but a feint.

“Come, girl,” said he, “hold up your head,
He ’ll be as good as me;
For when your swain is in our boat
A boatswain he will be.”

So when they ’d made their game of her,
And taken off her elf,
She roused, and found she only was
A coming to herself.

“And is he gone, and is he gone?”
She cried and wept outright;
“Then I will to the water-side,
And see him out of sight.”

A waterman came up to her;
“Now, young woman,” said he,
“If you weep on so, you will make
Eye-water in the sea.”

“Alas! they ’ve taken my beau, Ben,
To sail with old Benbow;”
And her woe began to run afresh,
As if she ’d said, Gee woe!

Says he, “They ’ve only taken him
To the tender-ship, you see.”
“The tender-ship,” cried Sally Brown,
“What a hard-ship that must be!”

“O, would I were a mermaid now,
For then I ’d follow him!
But O, I ’m not a fish-woman,
And so I cannot swim.

“Alas! I was not born beneath
The Virgin and the Scales,
So I must curse my cruel stars,
And walk about in Wales.”

Now Ben had sailed to many a place
That ’s underneath the world;
But in two years the ship came home,
And all her sails were furled.

But when he called on Sally Brown,
To see how she got on,
He found she ’d got another Ben,
Whose Christian-name was John.

“O Sally Brown! O Sally Brown!
How could you serve me so?
I ’ve met with many a breeze before,
But never such a blow!”

Then, reading on his ’bacco box,
He heaved a heavy sigh,
And then began to eye his pipe,
And then to pipe his eye.

And then he tried to sing, “All ’s Well!”
But could not, though he tried;
His head was turned,—and so he chewed
His pigtail till he died.

His death, which happened in his berth,
At forty-odd befell;
They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton tolled the bell.

Tears of Morning revisited [demo]

Full version:


Remastered for volume:


Version recorded for Ian Semple’s programme on CoastFM, but not actually used.


Tears of Morning (Housman-Harley)

Another Housman setting: words from Last Poems. I’ve followed the example of Michael Raven in using two separate (but consecutive) verses that are clearly connected thematically and in form, at least as far as this stand-alone song is concerned.


The half-moon westers low, my love,
And the wind brings up the rain;
And wide apart lie we, my love,
And seas between the twain.

I know not if it rains, my love,
In the land where you do lie;
And oh, so sound you sleep, my love,
You know no more than I.


The sigh that heaves the grasses
Whence thou wilt never rise
Is of the air that passes
And knows not if it sighs.

The diamond tears adorning
Thy low mound on the lea,
Those are the tears of morning,
That weeps, but not for thee.


CD Review – Company of Players

Another of my reviews for This time of a rather nice CD by Company of Players, an assemblage of young folkies from Said The Maiden, amongst others, who’ve put together a CD called Shakespeare Songs. Which isn’t quite what you might have expected: even if you hate Shakespeare, you may well like this. I do, anyway: very much!

THE COMPANY OF PLAYERS – Shakespeare Songs (own label)

David Harley

Please (demo)

A song I wrote in the 70s but of which I finally recorded a demo in 2015. And then forgot about it until today. Listening to it now, it’s not far from how I’d like the finished version to be: I’ll have to dig out the rough tracks and maybe re-record the vocals. [Update: cleaned up existing version. Probably that’s all I’ll do with it for the present.  Other songs to write!]

Words and music by David Harley: all rights reserved


Let me go on dreaming
Don’t make me wake
To find her gone
But it’s all right
Waking in the darkness
To find her still
Here in my arms

And the nightmares come and go
But in the afterglow
The pain spills out across the sheets
If this is all a dream
Let me go on dreaming

Let us go on dreaming
Sleep away the bitterness
That poisoned our lives
Help us
Go on believing
Tuning out the threats
And the lies

Hold back the daybreak
Let there be no more
Lonely dawns
Or else
Let tomorrow last for ever
Of the night before

Words & Music by David Harley
© 1977

Epitaph for an army of mercenaries (unaccompanied demo)

Very much going back to basics. I wondered how it would sound unaccompanied. I might go back to this approach but add some harmonies.

There’s an accompanied version here. Plus Housman’s words and the background to the poem.

David Harley