Adventures in Video (4) This Guitar Just Plays The Blues

Audio captured and mastered to raise the volume a little:

This Guitar Just Plays The Blues

A trace of your scent still lingers on my pillow
And raises echoes in my memory
And I believe you’re missing me almost as much as I miss you
But I wish to God that you were here with me

The sun will surely rise on another soft blue morning
And lying in your arms is where I’ll be
With sweet dreams still in my eyes, I’ll wake and kiss your hair
But it’s a long cold night while you’re not here with me

This guitar once played for keeps, but since you changed my life
This guitar just plays for you, if that’s OK?
This guitar rang bells for losers, but there’ll be no more songs of losing
Though this guitar just plays the blues while you’re away

Words & Music (c) David Harley

Adventures in Video (3) The Chuck BeriBeri

The Chuck BeriBeri – words & music by David Harley

Strangely, this started off as a poem called The Walsall Concerto, then started to evolve into straight rock and roll, then suddenly turned into something altogether darker…

I don’t feel very much like dancing
No song worth singing but the blues
I used to feel like some kind of sex bomb
Till you absconded with the fuse
I think I need a holiday
So I’m out here on a midnight cruise
I’ve got the Chuck Berry-beri
Got to get a shot of rhythm and blues

I guess there’s no time left for loving
Looking into your backyard
Dissatisfaction guaranteed
But back to you was just a step too far
The waves are blowing higher
And we’re shaking at the end of the cruise
It’s a fascinating rhythm
But I need a shot of rhythm and blues

I thought I saw your nightlight flicker
But I don’t think there’s anyone at home
Maybe I’ll call you from the middle of nowhere
While I’m stranded by the side of the road
I still need a holiday
But I can’t afford another midnight cruise
Still I can’t break the habit
I need another shot of rhythm and blues

Adventures in Video (2) Scratch One Lover

How does it feel to be proved right
When everything just fell apart?
Does it buy you sleep through long cold nights?
Does it ease your aching heart?

Score two points, scratch one lover:
You said it’s too good to be true.
Why don’t you run back to your mother?
She always knows what’s best for you.

All those black moods and jealousies,
Now you know they were justified.
She looks so happy, holding hands with someone else:
Was it worth it, being right?

Hold on to all that righteous anger
But don’t forget who set it up for her.
If she’s easier in someone else’s arms,
She might be telling you you were unfair.

Score two points, scratch one lover:
Let it ride, it’s just the gypsy’s curse.
But people tend to give you what you ask for:
Maybe you only got what you deserved

Words & Music (c) David Harley

Adventures in video (1) – Two Is A Silence

I’ve had this long-standing love-hate relationship with performing live. Now I can’t go to clubs/sessions/open mics, I really miss it. Of course, there are loads of sites and Facebook pages springing up where people in the same position can fill that gap in their lives, but most of them seem to want videos rather than audio. I’m not sure this suits me temperamentally: producing a decent audio recording is hard work, but I have access to reasonable gear, it doesn’t matter how bad the light is in the studio, and don’t need to start from scratch every time I fluff.  To generate a video, I either have to compromise on sound quality and forgo serious editing, or spend time and money on mastering (pun intended) a new medium. Still, I’ve put out a few quick and dirty videos, and people seem to like them. So now I’m going to try to rationalize my video output, though not necessarily in chronological order. All songs are mine unless stated otherwise.

Here’s the first – Two is a Silence.

There are two audio versions here, one with double-tracked vocals and bouzoukis.

And because I’ve slightly changed the lyrics since the more sophisticated version was recorded, here’s the lyric as I sing it now.

Two Is A Silence (Harley)

Two isn’t company, three is a crowd
Two is a silence, three is too loud
Two is a silence gets harder to break
But three always leaves one left over

Three into two isn’t good for the head
It’s no problem in math, but it’s bad news in bed
And it’s one for an ace and two for a pair
But three always leaves one left over

When we’re alone somehow he’s always there
You say it’s the same when you two are the pair
So it’s one for sorrow and two for joy

But three always leaves one left over

All the shouting is over and dead
Somehow there’s nothing much else to be said
And it’s one for the money and two for the show
But three always leaves one left over

Two isn’t company, three is a crowd
Two is a silence, three is too loud
Two is a silence gets harder to break
But three always leaves one left over

Wrekin (The Marches Line) [remastered]

Words & music by David Harley. All rights reserved.

Here are the words again, and more info below.

The Abbey watches my train crawling Southwards
Thoughts of Cadfael kneeling in his cell
All along the Marches line, myth and history
Prose and rhyme
But these are tales I won’t be here to tell

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Lawley and Caradoc fill my window
Facing down the Long Mynd, lost in rain
But I’m weighed down with the creaks and groans
Of all the years I’ve known
And I don’t think I’ll walk these hills again

Stokesay dreams its humble glories
Stories that will never come again
Across the Shropshire hills
The rain is blowing still
But the Marcher Lords won’t ride this way again

The royal ghosts of Catherine and Arthur
May walk the paths of Whitcliffe now and then
Housman’s ashes grace
The Cathedral of the Marches
He will not walk Ludlow’s streets again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again
And I may never pass this way again

‘The Abbey’ is actually Shrewsbury’s Abbey Church: not much else of the Abbey survived the Dissolution and Telford’s roadbuilding in 1836. Cadfael is the fictional monk/detective whose home was the Abbey around 1135-45, according to the novels by ‘Ellis Peters’ (Edith Pargeter).

The Welsh Marches Line runs from Newport (the one in Gwent) to Shrewsbury. Or, arguably, up as far as Crewe, since it follows the March of Wales from which it takes its name, the buffer zone between the Welsh principalities and the English monarchy which extended well into present-day Cheshire.

‘The hill’ is the Wrekin, which, though at a little over 400 metres high is smaller than many of the other Shropshire Hills, is isolated enough from the others to dominate the Shropshire Plain. The beacon is at the top of the Wrekin Transmitting Station mast, though a beacon was first erected there during WWII. The Shropshire toast ‘All friends around the Wrekin’ seems to have been recorded first in the dedication of George Farquar’s 1706 play ‘The Recruiting Officer’, set in Shrewsbury.

‘Lawley’ refers to the hill rather than the township in Telford. The Lawley and Caer Caradoc do indeed dominate the landscape on the East side of the Stretton Gap coming towards Church Stretton from the North via the Marches Line or the A49, while the Long Mynd (‘Long Mountain’) pretty much owns the Western side of the Gap.

Stokesay Castle, near Craven Arms, is technically a fortified manor house rather than a true castle. It was built in the late 13th century by the wool merchant Laurence of Ludlow, and has been extensively restored in recent years by English Heritage, who suggest that the lightness of its fortification might actually have been intentional, to avoid presenting any threat to the established Marcher Lords.

Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII, was sent with his bride Catherine of Aragon to Ludlow administer the Council of Wales and the Marches, and died there after only a few months. Catherine went on to marry and be divorced by Henry VIII, and died about 30 years later at Kimbolton Castle. Catherine is reputed to haunt both Kimbolton and Ludlow Castle lodge, so it’s unlikely that she also haunts Whitcliffe, the other side of the Teme from Ludlow Castle. (As far as I know, no-one is claimed to haunt Whitcliffe. Poetic licence…) The town itself does have more than its share of ghosts, though. 

For some time it has puzzled me that in ‘A Ballad for Catherine of Aragon’, Charles Causley refers to her as “…a Queen of 24…” until I realized he was probably referring not to her age, but to the length of time (June 1509 until May 1533)  that she was acknowledged to be Queen of England.

The ashes of A.E. Housman are indeed buried in the grounds of St. Laurence’s church, Ludlow, which is not in fact a cathedral, but is often referred to as ‘the Cathedral of the Marches’. It is indeed a church with many fine features (I have about a zillion photographs of its misericords) and its tower is visible from a considerable distance (and plays a major part in Housman’s poem ‘The Recruit’).

The song was actually mostly written on a train between Shrewsbury and Newport at a time when I was frequently commuting between Shropshire and Cornwall to visit my frail 94-year-old mother, who died a few months after, so it has particular resonance for me. It originally included a couple of extra verses about Hereford and the Vale of Usk, but after the ‘Wrekin’ chorus forced its way into the song, I decided to restrict it to the Shropshire-related verses. Maybe they’ll turn up sometime as another song.

David Harley

Down to the River [remastered]

Down to the River (Harley)

If I get around to a commercial recording, I’ll probably tighten up the lyric. But doesn’t sound too bad considering it was recorded in the 80s on lo-tech gear.

I won’t go down to the river
Anyway not yet
There’s too much to do and the water’s cold
And I don’t want my feet wet
I don’t want my feet wet

I won’t go down to the river
I guess I really should
But the sand’s so warm between my toes
And you know it feels so good
I know it does me good

Come on down to the river
It can’t do you harm
You’ve got to learn sometime to sink or swim
And the sun will keep you warm
The sun will keep you warm

I won’t go down to the river
You know I can’t go down
The water’s so still, the sides so steep
I’m scared that I might drown
So scared that I might drown

Come on down to the river
The road’s so hard and rough
If you keep your head and your hands are clean
Surely you can’t drown in love?
You can’t drown in love

I can’t go down to the river
I surely can’t go down
My soul is parched but my body aches
And I just know I’ll drown
I know I’ll surely drown

Come on down to the river
It tastes so sweet and cold
Come on down before it gets too late
And wash the dust out of your soul
The dust out of your soul

We’ve got to get on down to the river
We have to learn to trust
Got to wash away all the doubt and fear
Before the whole damn’ world dries up
Before the world dries up


Summertime on Bredon/On Bredon Hill remastered

Probably the first of my settings of Housman’s verse, from the 1970s, though the recording is much more recent. This is from ‘A Shropshire Lad’.


Different master:


Not to be picky, but though this is from ‘A Shropshire Lad’, Bredon Hill is actually in Worcestershire. Housman himself was from that county, so was no doubt fully aware of that fact.You can find the words to this one on the Housman Society’s page, but this version of the words here is from Martin Hardcastle’s site Continue reading “Summertime on Bredon/On Bredon Hill remastered”

The Carpenter’s Son/Carpentry

Copyright David Harley, 1976. All rights reserved.

‘Carpentry’ is an instrumental version of my setting of a poem from ‘A Shropshire Lad’, ‘The Carpenter’s Son’. The song was originally intended to be sung unaccompanied, but it somehow developed a guitar accompaniment with a slight Middle Eastern/North African/desert lute feel, and the first section is very much based on that.

The faster second section was meant to sound more medieval, and includes  overdubbed dulcimer and bouzouki. Cittern would have been more appropriate, perhaps, but I didn’t have one to hand. 🙂 Strangely, it seems to have finished up sounding a bit like the Philip Glass Ensemble (but with much less time between pattern changes), but I like it.

Here’s the same instrumental preceded by an unaccompanied version of the song. The vocal was recorded in the 80s on domestic equipment, so a bit noisy and sibilant, and faster than I’d do it now, but the voice was in better shape then, so maybe worth a listen…

Here’s an early vocal and guitar version: it’s a bit tentative on the vocal because the guitar was quite demanding (it still is!) and I was still experimenting.

I still need to put a version together with a vocal I’m happy with.

And here are the words, since we may as well have the whole thing in the same place…

`Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.

`Oh, at home had I but stayed
‘Prenticed to my father’s trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.

`Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.

`Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So ’tis come from ill to worse.

`Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same’s the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.

`Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.

`Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.’

David Harley

Closing/suspended events

Because of the Covid-19 health crisis, a large number of regular events have already been cancelled or at least suspended. I’m afraid I can’t promise to keep on top of all the events listed here as they go offline and (hopefully) resume further down the line. Of course, I’ll remove anything I know to have stopped happening altogether in due course. Where I can, I’ll continue to repost any relevant information on the Wheal Alice page on Facebook. Whether you decide to go to events that are still running is up to you, of course, at least until the government decrees otherwise: for the moment I’m leaving the list intact with contact details – where I have them – so that you can check on current status.

David Harley

Dying of Communication [remastered]


Words & music (c) David Harley

Sitting it out at the full moon
Reading my mail from the next room
Can’t you see we’re dying
Dying of communication?

Checking it out with the radio
Late late news is ‘no place to go’
Can’t you see we’re dying
Dying of communication?

Sitting it out in the bathroom
Freaked out on ego juice
Fighting it out in the bedroom
Wondering what’s the use
Everyone knows we’re dying
Dying of communication