Long Stand [remastered]

A few years ago my wife and I were watching a TV programme about Sting’s ‘The Last Ship Sails’ project. When they played a track called (I think) ‘Sky Hooks & Tartan Paint’, she said “That’s your song!” It wasn’t of course, but the first verse did have a startling resemblance to the first verse of ‘Long Stand’, both starting off with the ‘hazing‘ of a lad on his first day at work, though mine went on to make a political point. However, mine was written back in the early 80s for a revue directed by Margaret Ford, and subsequently released on a cassette album, so I’m pretty sure it came first…

This version was remastered – as best I could – from a damaged master tape, and while there’s still some noise, it’s made the transfer better than most of my tracks from CentreSound. All rights reserved.

Backup copy:

The day I started work, the foreman said to me,
“I’ve another job for you when you’ve finished brewing tea:
Go down to the stores and when you find old Stan,
Tell him Harry sent you for a long stand.”

I got a long stand all right: I stood an hour or more,
Till Stan got tired of the joke and sent me back to the shop floor.
Well I didn’t think it funny, but I laughed and held my peace,
Even when they sent me back for a tin of elbow grease.

Still I did my bit, till I was pensioned off in ’69
From apprentice to foreman, all down the production line.
Many’s the lad I’ve sent myself when things were getting dull
For a can of striped paint or a pound of rubber nails.

But the joke they’re playing now, I just don’t think it’s fair:
Even when you get your ticket, the work just isn’t there.
The safest job in England is handing out the dole:
For every man that gets a job they turn away a hundred more.

For now the work is scarce, again, the queues are building up.
The streets are full of lads and lasses looking out for jobs;
But when you’ve just left school, you hardly stand a chance
They’re sending every lad in England for a long stand.

They say that if you’ve got the gumption you can do just as you please.
They say you’ll do all right with a bit of elbow grease;
But with a hundred out for every job, it’s few that stand a chance
They’re sending every lad in England for a long stand
They’re sending every lass in England for a long, long stand

Back in the days when Britain had industries, it was customary for the older blokes to send apprentices to fetch curious items such as a can of striped paint or some rubber nails. The lucky lad who was sent for a long stand was liable to be left standing at the counter for a half an hour or longer while the storeman went off for a cup of tea and a chuckle. This song was written for a revue called “Nice if you can get it” directed by the actress Margaret Ford in the early 1980s. The guitar was tuned to D-modal, to give it a folksy Martin Carthy/Nic Jones feel. But it still sounds more like David Harley to me… 

I once had exchange of snailmail – it was before my internet days) – with the former Labour MP Joe Ashton, who mentioned the sport of apprentice-hazing in his column for one of the tabloids, describing some similar japes and a particularly vigorous retaliation involving tacks and doggy-do.  I bet you don’t get that kind of hazing in merchant banks and call centres. 

David Harley: Vocal, acoustic guitar

Blues for Davy

One of several tracks recorded (mostly) at CentreSound in Camden in the 1980s and released on cassette at the time. The mastertapes were seriously unwell with ‘sticky-shed syndrome’ when I had them transferred to CD – an issue that affected a number of tape brands from that era. Baking the tape helped more with some tracks than others.  This is rougher than most, but I have a lot of trouble wrapping my fingers round this guitar piece nowadays, and I keep trying to tweak it into something bearable because I think there’s a decent scrap of music in there somewhere. I think this is as good as it’s likely to get now. Maybe I need to keep trying to relearn it…

As the title suggests, it was me trying to sound like Dav(e)y Graham in jazz mode. He never told me what he thought of it, which I suspect meant that he wasn’t impressed. 😀

David Harley

True Confessions [remastered]

backup:

A track from the ‘Diverse Brew’ sessions. This is a song co-written with Don MacLeod (he wrote the melody), and the mix is actually pretty good. But again, I don’t have the mix tapes or master to work from. Still, I’ve tweaked it as best I can.

  • Lead and backing vocal, acoustic and electric lead guitars: David Harley
  • Acoustic guitar and piano: Don MacLeod
  • Additional backing vocals: Anna (Lin) Thompson
  • Percussion: Richard Davy

Continue reading “True Confessions [remastered]”

Heatwave [remastered 2019/2020]

Heatwave (David Harley) [All Rights Reserved]
The song wasn’t based on any particular incident, just a feeling about living in London at that time. I guess those feelings were justified, since the rioting at Broadwater Farm took place a few weeks after I wrote it. The banjo belonged to the studio (Hallmark, London): it was a five-string in conventional G tuning, but I played it (slightly) tremolo with a flat pick to suggest a folkie/Irish tenor banjo sound.  I can’t altogether like the last verse: I omit some lines when I sing it now.

Remastered: unfortunately, this one didn’t survive the transition to mixdown cassette as well as the other two tracks from the Hallmark sessions, but I’ve done what I could.

Backup copy:

There’s a heatwave in the city and the day drags on forever
The tarmac burns through patent leather
Clear through to the sole
Ice tumbles through glass as the temperature soars
And the dayshift leaves the nightshift to take over for a while

The city sings at midnight to the well-fed and the civilized
While waiters mop their faces in the kitchen, out of sight
Small change pours in torrents over counters in the bistros
And the moon hangs red and sullen in the dustbowl of the sky

The city is on heat, bare-legged girls in summer dresses
Dodge the lechery of workmen laying cable through the day
But the night turns on the body to sweet pornography
Passions feed on darkness and the body mutes the mind

The city squeals at midnight in its pain and ecstasy
The life-force surges through the veins and soaks the sheets
The couples claw and couple and feed upon each other
And still the hunger rages through the streets

I saw a refugee from Galway with a faceful of stubble
Singing sentimental songs in the underground today
He’s going back to Mother Ireland and the Mountains of Mourne
And he only needs a bob or two to help him on his way

The city whimpers at midnight in its apathy and squalor
From a bench on the Embankment, from a derry in Barnes
From a squat in Deptford, from the winos and the junkies
From the homeless and the helpless, the hopeless and the lost

A refugee from Calvary is preaching anarchy and anger
Through his 40 Megawatt PA
And when the concert’s over he packs his guitars and prophecies
And goes back to his hotel to drink the night into the day

But out there in the streets the word is out all over
The heat are out for action in New Cross and Ladbroke Grove
The temperature is dropping but the tempers are at flashpoint
And no-one lingers on street corners if they’re walking home alone

The city screams at midnight in the agony of anger
The rocksteady revolution pays its homage to its dead
Where dreadlocks meet deadlock the shock tears up the flagstones
And on their righteous anger the riot squads are fed

The Klan charts fiery crosses cloistered in an upstairs room
The architects of reaction spin their bitter webs
Entangling and exploiting the kids with skinhead hairstyles*
And no-one dares explain the chaos in their heads*

A Pakistani youth lies bleeding in the gutter*
A Jamaican girl is raped behind a dockyard wall*
Black and white scrawl their frustrations in blood across the charge-sheets
A copper clutches at his stomach where a flick-knife said it all

The city burns at midnight and the blood runs down the sewers
In the ghettoes and the side-streets where the patriots have been
Squad cars and an ambulance cut through the aftermath
And tomorrow’s front pages unfurl to set the scene

David Harley: Vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo, electric lead guitar, 5-string banjo
James Bolam (no, not that James Bolam!): piano

*I omit these lines when I sing this song now. In fact, here’s a slightly rough 2020 demo version:

Backup copy:

And here’s the 1980s version messed about with to omit the lines I didn’t like. Garageband is a blunt tool for such detailed editing, but I don’t think it sounds too awful.

Backup version:

 

One Step Away (From The Blues) [remastered] 2019

If you’re unfortunate enough to have heard a lot of me in the last 30 years or so, the chances are you’ve heard this song. This is the version we recorded in the 1980s for an album that was never released. I’ve put it up here and there before, but this is a cleaner version. Unfortunately, I only had an imperfect cassette recording to work from, so there’s more noise than I’d like. But the mix is reasonably good, and I’ve remastered it here as best I could, given my unreliable hearing and unimpressive engineering skills.

  • Vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar: David Harley
  • Acoustic lead guitar: Don MacLeod
  • Acoustic 12-string guitar: Bob Theil

Backup version:

He never wanted her love, just a piece of her time
A loving night now and then, and no loving lies
Just a tender glance from distant eyes
But he learned too late to recognize
That he was far, far away – he’d missed the alarm
Drowning far, far away in other arms
He hadn’t noticed her changing till daylight broke him the news
Far, far away, one step away from the blues

He never wanted to stray far away from himself
He never thought he’d rely on anyone else
For a light in the window, a knock on the door
Somewhere to keep warm when the nights turned cold
But she was far, far away when the blizzard set in
The door stood silent and locked, and he was soaked to the skin
He hadn’t noticed her changing till she left him with nothing to lose
Far, far away, one step away from the blues

He only wanted to give a small part of himself
But she took his heart then found someone else
She never thought he’d give her more than a thought or two
When she packed a few bags and cut herself loose
And went far, far away in search of herself
Never thinking to leave her new address
Neither of them knew he was changing
Till he woke up with nothing to lose
Far, far away
Far, far away
Far, far away
One step away from the blues…

David Harley

My Boy Jack

My setting of the poem ‘My Boy Jack’ by Rudyard Kipling: I was looking at a couple of projects to coincide with the centenary of the ending of the Great War, but this is the only one that’s actually been heard in public.

It’s often assumed that the poem refers to the loss of Kipling’s son John, presumed killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. The confusion was probably increased by the TV adaptation of David Craig’s play, which missed out the 3rd Act and finished with Kipling reciting the poem. However, while Kipling’s own grief did, no doubt, contribute to the overall tone of the poem, it was first published at the top of a series of articles on the Battle of Jutland, in which the British fleet sustained heavy losses, and it seems to me (and others) that, given the importance of ‘the tide’ in the poem, that the name Jack probably reflects the more generic ‘Jack Tar’. (While the earlier ‘Tommy’ has a very different tone, it does use the generic name ‘Tommy Atkins’ in a somewhat similar way.)

The guitar is a Nashville-strung Baby Taylor. I think the final version of this might have include some double- or triple-tracked vocals. Even if it doesn’t, the vocal needs work.

Backup:

‘My Boy Jack’
1914-18

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide. 

Kipling demos revisited [1]

After hearing Baldrick’s Plan sing (very well indeed!) ‘Big Steamers’, a Kipling poem set by Peter Bellamy to a variation on a well-known tune to ‘Henry Martin’, I thought I’d revisit a couple of my own settings of Kipling verses. (I have a rough setting of ‘Tommy’, too, but I’m rethinking that.)

Does the world really need my settings to three poems that Peter Bellamy had already added to his considerable armoury of Kipling settings? I’m not sure about that, at the moment. But here, for what it’s worth, is one of them.

I’m sure I remember at least one other setting of ‘A Smuggler’s Song’ apart from mine and Peter’s, but I quite like this tune. I could repurpose it, I suppose.

A Smuggler’s Song

 

Sarah McQuaid UK dates

Since quite a few of them are in Cornwall/the West Country 🙂

Nov 1  Teignmouth: Pavilions Teignmouth
Nov 2  Praa Sands Community Centre
Nov 3  Ivybridge: Folk On The Moor
Nov 4  Blandford Forum: Chettle Village Hall
Nov 6  Preston: The Willows Folk Club
Nov 7  Caerleon Arts
Nov 8  Farnham Maltings
Nov 9  Box (Corsham): Schtumm Extra
Nov 10  Haverhill Arts Centre
Nov 12  Felton (Morpeth): Gallery Forty5
Nov 14  York: Black Swan Folk Club
Nov 15  Ulverston: Water Yeat Village Hall
Nov 16  Buxton: The Green Man Gallery
Nov 17  East Cowton Village Hall
Nov 18  Newcastle: The Bridge Folk Club
Nov 20  Leicester: The Musician
Nov 23  Northampton: Folk By The Green
Nov 24  Hardraw: The Green Dragon Inn
Nov 25  Stockport: The Green Room @ The Plaza
Nov 28  Luton: The Hat Factory
Nov 29  Tewkesbury: The Old Baptist Chapel
Nov 30  Liskeard: Sterts Studio

(See http://www.sarahmcquaid.com/tour for details of addresses, times, ticket prices etc)

David Harley