Adventures in Video – On Bredon

I haven’t been doing live videos lately, for a couple of reasons, but there seems to be a backlog of things I’ve put on YouTube, but haven’t told anyone about…

This is Bredon Hill (Housman-Harley) – one of my settings from A Shropshire Lad.

Audio capture mastered to raise the volume:


In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.

Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away:
“Come all to church, good people;
Good people, come and pray.”
But here my love would stay.

And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
“Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time.”

But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.

They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.

The bells they sound on Bredon
And still the steeples hum.
“Come all to church, good people,”–
Oh, noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.

David Harley

Bedsit Blues [early demo]

The tune may change a little before I finish with it, and I need to practise a bit more on guilele, which I don’t often play. But I quite like the overall sound, where the light-ish arrangement lifts the rather sad words.


Bedsit Blues (words & music (c) David Harley)

Breeze on my body, the sun in my face
It’s a do-nothing kind of day
Laying back in the grass and closing my eyes
Letting my head drift away
But my mind rambles back to that faraway summer
Less than a year ago
12 months can be a lifetime
More than the long years before

Was it so recent, that first light kiss
That wakened my sleeping soul?
It seems so long since you laid in my bed
So many bad trips ago
But love is a whisper, an echo, a candle
Wavering in the wind
And a year can bring changes too deep to ignore
And wipe out the person you’ve been

Now it’s ten in the evening, the jukebox is playing
“It’s all over now”
I doodle on beermats, chat with a stranger
Close my ears to the sound
“I used to love her”: Lord knows I loved you
God help me, I love you still
But I talk at new faces and try to relate
I wonder if I ever will?

I suppose if I wait for an aeon or two
It’ll start to make some kind of sense
But I’ve tried for a while, and I can’t seem somehow
To think past the present tense
The fact is, it’s easy to live without hope
But once let it into your head
And time is an arrow; love is a knife;
Loneliness a single bed

Jericho (Harley) – demo

Words & Music (c) David Harley

I haven’t tried this with guitar yet, as I wanted to get the tune down before I forgot it…



 (Originally a meld of Johnny from the faintly scandalous ‘Gently, Johnny my jingalo’ and Bunny Jingedangelow from the Brian Aldiss novel ‘Greybeard’, but the character seemed to take on a life of his own.)

Breach the barrel, drain the cask
Scrambled wits behind the mask
And drink awhile with Jimmy Jericho

Sell your soul and pay the fee
The price of immortality
You pay to Jimmy Jericho

The master sings, the jester dances
Round and round the room he prances
Dancing to the tune of Jericho

And as he spins such fine romances
Disciples quarrel for the chance
To gather at the feet of Jericho

Round and round the room they go
The tears, the tears they trickle slow
Down the cheeks of Jimmy Jericho

The devil scans with eyes like coals
The broken dreams and stolen souls
Betrayed by Jimmy Jericho

David Harley


My kind of lady [demo]

Words and music (c) David Harley



My kind of Lady (Harley)

You could bite like a shark, you could kick like a mule
And sometimes I felt like the worst kind of fool
My luck ran out on the day that I fell
I always lay trapped between heaven and hell

But you were my kind of lady
Through the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs
You were my kind of lady
And I miss having you around

You were ice and fire, sunshine and rain
You used and abused me and scrambled my brain
But the nights flew by and the days were too long
When you were the singer and I was the song

You were so gentle through loving nights
You were crazy and savage, you knew how to fight
You were sharp as a razor, soft as a sigh
Warm as a kiss and as cold as a lie

Life now is easy, peaceful and calm
Long gentle nights in another girl’s arms
But sometimes I wake from a dream long gone
When I was the singer and you were the song

And you were my lady
Through the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs
You were my kind of lady
And I miss having you around

For Sarah (The Wheel) – demo

Words & music (c) David Harley

This has been a set of words with a somewhat nebulous tune for quite a few years, but today it insisted on getting some attention. I think this is essentially the finished shape, though I’m certainly going to have to practise it before I sing it in public. Anyway…



And a slightly different take (still rough…)



For Sarah (Harley)

Sleep on
Sleep sound
The world will turn without you

Sleep on
Sleep sound
Peaceful dreams will find you

Some distant morning
Your innocence
Will brighten

Better days
For someone stronger

The wheel will turn again
And you’ll come home

David Harley

Adventures in video – (Farewell to) Severn Shore

My setting of a poem by A.E. Housman from ‘A Shropshire Lad’. All rights reserved.

Mastered audio capture of the performance:


Homestudio recording



Many online sources give the first line as title, but my edition of ‘A Shropshire Lad’ doesn’t give a title to this piece, so I’ve used a variation on the second line for the song title.

A Shropshire Lad VIII 

‘FAREWELL to barn and stack and tree,
Farewell to Severn shore.
Terence, look your last at me,
For I come home no more.

‘The sun burns on the half-mown hill,
By now the blood is dried;
And Maurice amongst the hay lies still
And my knife is in his side.

‘My mother thinks us long away;
’Tis time the field were mown.
She had two sons at rising day,
To-night she ’ll be alone.

‘And here ’s a bloody hand to shake,
And oh, man, here ’s good-bye;
We ’ll sweat no more on scythe and rake,
My bloody hands and I.

‘I wish you strength to bring you pride,
And a love to keep you clean,
And I wish you luck, come Lammastide,
At racing on the green.

‘Long for me the rick will wait,
And long will wait the fold,
And long will stand the empty plate,
And dinner will be cold.’

Where you want me (demo)

words and music (c) David Harley

Version recorded for Ian Semple’s show on Coast FM:




You got me where you want me
Just one thing I’d ask of you
‘Cos you got me where you want me
Just one thing I’d beg of you
Honey, please don’t flick my switches
If you don’t want me to blow my fuse

I’ve got no plans for leaving
Nowhere else I’d want to be
No-one else is on my mind
There’s no-one else I’d rather see
But if you don’t like my peaches
Honey please don’t shake my tree

Pass me that bottle
Why don’t we drink a little wine?
I can see you’re nervous
But there’s no need to explain
I’m not here to fool you
You can take your time with me
But if you don’t want sugar
Take your fingers off my cane

‘Cos you got me where you want me
Any way you want me, any time
Any way you want me
You can have me any time
But if you don’t dig my taters
Baby please don’t shake my vine

Pass me that bottle
Don’t drink all that wine
It’s OK, there’s nothing to explain
I’m not here to use you
Take as long as you need
But if you don’t want my sugar
Take your fingers off my cane

You got me where you want me
Just one thing I’d ask of you
‘Cos you got me where you want me
Just one thing I’d beg of you
Honey, please don’t flick my switches
If you don’t want me to blow my fuse

Who are we?

Words and Music by David Kenyon and David Harley



Alternative and more tentative version:

Backup copy:


Sad victim of the overground
Talisman I wear against my heart
She knows she’s not the first to shed some light on me
She knows she may well be the last

I’ve heard some rumours of a world outside
Beyond the circle of her arms
Strange legend of a race for time
Make-believe world of false alarms

Who are we?
Who are you to tell us?
Who are we?
Who are you to tell us
Take a look at yourselves

I met Dave Kenyon at South Hill Park, Bracknell in the early 70s. We kicked some stuff around in the studio there – I don’t have any tapes at this point – and he had a fragment of a song (basically the last part of this lyric and a tune IIRC). I worked on it later in the form that eventually got recorded here, roughly, but I lost touch with him before that. If you’re out there, Dave, get in touch!

David Harley

Young Hunting

First demo with guitar and voice only.


2nd demo complete with overdubbed fake banjo and sitar for extra colour. (Actually a Variax 300 imitating a Gibson Mastertone and a Coral Sitar.)


Words traditional, somewhat arranged by me. Tune is mine.

The unaccompanied version below is much older.

This is a traditional ballad (Child 68). Nick Cave recorded a version of an American variant called Henry Lee. So Wikipedia tells me. I was never a Bad Seeds follower…

I don’t usually rewrite traditional songs, and I honestly can’t remember where I found these words (though I suspect that they’re from the US), but I liked the way they pared down most of the elements of the story without completely losing the supernatural aspect, and I don’t think I tweaked them very much. I didn’t have a tune, so I wrote one. I haven’t sung it in decades, but I suddenly remembered it when I was working up another song of mine that uses a variation of the same tune.

Demo unaccompanied (earlier) version:

Young Hunting (arr. and adapted Harley)

Light down, light down my own true love
And stay with me the night
For I have a bed and a fireside too
And a candle that burns so bright.

I can’t light down and I won’t light down
Nor spend the night with thee
For I have a love and a true true love
Would think so ill of me

But he’s bent down from his saddle
To kiss her snowy white cheek
She’s stolen the dagger from out of his belt
And plunged it into him so deep

She’s taken him by his long yellow hair
And the maid’s taken him by the feet
They’ve plunged him into that deep doleful well
Full 20 fathoms deep

And as she’s turned her round to go home
She’s heard some pretty bird sing
Go home, go home you cruel girl
And weep and mourn for him

Fly down, fly down you pretty bird
Fly down and go home with me
And your cage will be made of the glittering gold
And the perch of the best ivory

I can’t fly down and I won’t fly down
And I’ll not go home with thee
For you have slain your own true love
And I’m feared you’ll murder me

I wish I had my bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would shoot that cruel bird
As sits in the briars and sings

I wish you had your bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would fly from vine to vine
And always you’d hear me sing

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries (revisited)

Another pass at a song I’ve previously posted on this site.  I came across an alternative version I’d forgotten. I didn’t like the vocal much, but I did like the synth and guitars, so I’ve done a little splicing and remixing, though the vocal needs redoing. To be honest, I’m not altogether sure how I feel about the poem, but it does have a certain power, and may fit into another project.

Backup copy:

An older version with much better vocal:

And a backup:

Another of my settings of Housman’s poems, this time one from Last Poems.

This 1917 poem refers to the British Expeditionary Force, which German propagandists referred to as ‘mercenaries’ because at the outbreak of war, Britain’s army consisted of professional soldiers rather than conscripts or the later volunteers of ‘Kitchener’s Army‘. The BEF was practically wiped out by 1916.

A poem by Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries’ takes a very different view, regarding the BEF as ‘professional murderers’.

The setting by Geoffrey Burgon sung by Gillian McPherson on the soundtrack to the Dogs of War is much more dramatic, and very effective (even though some might doubt whether the poem is entirely appropriate in terms of this particular novel and movie). This is much simpler and fits a song cycle I have in mind better. Still, I might rethink that.

Here’s the Housman poem:

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth’s foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

David Harley