A Rainy-Day Blues revisited

Words and Music (c) David Harley

A cleaner recording than the previous audio version.


And here’s a video, this time played on electric guitar.


Earlier versions:

This is a version with just basic guitar:

This is the same version with some overdubbed bouzouki: an instrument I’ve only recently added to my arsenal, so not very well executed, but I think it might go quite well with a bit of work. Maybe different lead instruments for each break…


And here’s a more recent version, slightly rearranged.

David Harley

Security Theatre: a Front Row Seat

[This is a piece I wrote in 2007 following a trip to New York to publicize the AVIEN book at Infosec, courtesy of ESET. I can’t remember who I wrote it for, but they didn’t use it. When I found it lurking on my laptop, I figured I might as well put it up on my Dataholics blog before I lost it again. This version, obviously, has been updated slightly. I will be attempting to gather more of my miscellaneous prose here in due course: only if copyright and other considerations permit, of course.]

In 2007 I took my first flight to the USA since before 9/11 (unless you count looking across at the American Falls from the Canadian side of Niagara). It was a much edgier experience than I remembered. The restrictions had tightened (again) since my last foreign jaunt in 2006. At check-in, my somewhat oversized camera (listen who’s talking about being oversized!)  had to go into my suitcase, since I could only take one item of hand luggage, and I’d rather my camera was mislaid than my laptop. I had to tell the airline at check-in where I was going to be staying, too. It’s as well that they asked, since it turned out that the folder of travel information that normally sits in my hand luggage was lurking in my suitcase. I was going to need it at the other end of the flight, for the immigration form, so it was just as well that I was able to retrieve it.

The long, long queue to go through security at Gatwick didn’t help, snaking through the entire terminal. I found myself in conversation with another middle-aged Limey who was, he told me, in New York on that very day – 11th of September – in 2001. It turns out he was also in Paris when Princess Diana was killed and geographically close to several other history-defining tragedies of the past 20 years, so I was secretly slightly relieved (pleasant chap though he was) that he was going to Las Vegas, since I was going to New York.

Still, the length of the queue gave me plenty of time to transfer everything that might upset the metal detector to my fleece pocket or laptop bag. Possibly for the first time ever, nothing sounded an alarm, and I reassembled my worldly goods: pens, coins, belt, shoes, cell phone, keyring: all present and correct. Even my camphor stick passed without comment. However, my laptop was randomly selected to have its DNA tested. The swab revealed no toxic or explosive substances, and I passed on to Departures, fully metalled once more.

But did I feel safer for it all? Cryptographer and security guru Bruce Schneier coined the phrase “security theater” (well, he is American), and many people apply the phrase to airport security. I think he means by that term security measures that don’t actually add significant security (and may even reduce it), but make us feel safer. Or perhaps make the authorities feel as if they’ve performed a useful PR exercise.

To put it crudely, we may feel that since airport security restrictions are so inconvenient to us, they must be inconveniencing terrorists and criminals too. I suppose some of the precautions I’ve observed over the years may reduce the risks from shoe bombs, for instance, but even I can think of ways to smuggle a significant threat onto a plane in less than 100 ml of liquid, and I’m fairly sure it’s possible to turn a laptop into a weapon without leaving traces that can be picked up by a cotton bud. No, I’m not going to offer suggestions.

We could, of course, draw some parallels with some of the lockdown measures imposed in various countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’ll leave that for another time…

What I will do, though, is leave you with a classic example of security theatre from 2001: just after the attack on the Twin Towers, the UK government forbade aircraft to fly directly over London. Obviously, air controllers and pilots did as they were told. However, would that instruction have deterred a modern-day Guy Fawkes from making a kamikaze attack on the Houses of Parliament or the City of London? Of course it would. Just as surely as sheep are deterred from grazing by “Keep off the grass” signs.

David Harley

Highway Fever (alternative demo)

Backup copy:


Words and music (c) David Harley

Those easy-action formulae lie easy in my mouth
Down streets I walked for ever while my head was blowing South
That same old highway fever keeps burning up my socks
The river keeps on running, I’ve been too long on the rocks

All along the waterfront the chance is lost and found
I’m halfway back to nowhere but my head is outward bound
I’m on the run, my head is free, my cover has been blown
And still I hate to sing these backstage blues alone

Out beyond the fences windswept trees lay down to die
But I’m staring into limbo as the 19.10 rolls by
And I’m weary to my bones of scavenging for dreams
I’d give my second-best guitar for an unread magazine

I’m weary to my soul and home is far away
Racing into sunrise and another Northern day
I wish I’d half a chance of another drink or two
This train moves too fast, and it’s bringing me to you

Here’s an earlier version that goes straight into the old blues standard ‘Vestapol’.

Backup copy:

And this version experiments with a rather different arrangement.

Backup copy:

David Harley

Marking Time [demo]

alternative take/backup:

Marking Time (Words by Fiona Freeman, tune by David Harley): (c) 1976

Sadly, I lost touch with Fiona Freeman decades ago. If she or anyone who knows/knew her happens across this page and cares to get in touch, please do. Sorry, no reward, not even royalties (there aren’t any, so far….)

We both know the lines
And we both know the score
And we sit drinking scotch
With no time for one more

And the time shuffles past
Like a drunk in a bar
Our hands meet and lock
Trying to cover the scar

And just like a sundial
The shadow moves round
Helping to darken the good news
We just found

Outside our four walls
There’s another day’s rain
Inside our two minds
Another day’s pain

Now down the road walking
Our footsteps in rhyme
It seems for so long
We’ve been just marking time

David Harley

Adventures in Video #9 – “Can’t Sleep”

This actually goes back to 2016: after that I went very quiet on the video front, but looking back at this it’s actually not bad. It’s a product of my obsession with songs about obsession.

Here’s a better audio version.

The guitar is a cheap and cheerful Yamaha 3/4 guitar, high strung – that is, the three lowest strings are restrung to allow me to tune them an octave higher than normal. This is sometimes called Nashville tuning, though I prefer to distinguish between Nashville tuning and high-strung tuning by using Nashville tuning to refer to when the four lowest strings are tuned an octave higher. (Either way, don’t try this at home if you only have a standard 6-string set to hand even if it’s an ultra-light set: that would be very bad for the strings and for the neck!) Just to add to the confusion, I’ve actually used the high-strung version of DADGAD.

This reminds me that I have yet to complete the article I started last year on Nashville/high-strung tunings. Tomorrow, perhaps…

Meanwhile, here are the words to “Can’t Sleep”

Words and music copyright David Harley, 2017.

I don’t need this jangle
In my nerves
And in my head
I don’t need
These lonely hours
Here in my weary bed
But I can’t sleep
I can’t turn her off
I can’t get her out of my head

The night hours
Are bleeding away
Till the light runs away with my time
The shadow fades
And I’m so afraid
My words are refusing to rhyme
But I can’t shut her up
I can’t shut her off
I can’t get her out of my mind

I can’t shut her up
I can’t shut her down
I can’t get her out of my head

I can’t pick her up
I can’t put her down
I can’t get her into my bed

I can’t find the path
I can’t do the math
I can’t get it into my head

And I can’t break it down
I can’t break it up
I can’t get you out of my head

Copyright David Harley, 2017


Adventures in Video (8) ‘The Jailer’

A song I wrote some time ago, but may have acquired particular resonance during the Covid-19 lockdown. I’ve put up an audio version here previously, but I’ve changed the structure slightly, and more or less learned the tune now. I’ll have to take another run at the audio version anyway: the levels are a bit low on this video – I’m still trying to find the best setup for video in my tiny office/studio.

The Jailer (Harley) 

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

(All rights reserved)

David Harley

40-70 blues

If you listen to the bass, this is essentially a 12-bar with aspirations, not to mention pretensions. While at the moment I’m concentrating on getting more-or-less one-take versions of my songs onto the site, I think there might be more unexpected synth incursions in the near future. And I think I might come back to this one.


Backup copy:

Empty Sunday [remastered]

Words & music by David Harley

A very old recording (from cassette, not a studio recording). Remastering has raised the volume level, but degraded the guitar slightly. One of my bluesier songs. I ought to re-record it, but it’s harder than you might think on the fingers!

Remastered version:

Backup copy:


Empty Sunday
Raining down on me
Empty Sunday
Raining down on me
You’re gonna drive me back
To the arms of my used-to-be

Empty Sunday
Sure can’t feel no pain
Empty Sunday
Sure can’t feel no pain
Just those blues pouring down
Like those 19 showers of rain

Empty Sunday
What d’ya come here for?
Empty Sunday
What d’ya come here for?
There’s no-one but the rain
Tapping at my door

David Harley