Bluebert

A guitar solo I used to play a lot when I was living in London, though I think I was living in Bracknell when I wrote it. Actually, this version has some sections that suggest I was intending to come back to it and add a second guitar, which explains why it’s so much longer (too long!) than when I played it out in the wild. But clearly I haven’t. Yet.

The title has nothing to do with Bert Jansch, by the way. I’m flattered when people tell me what I do reminds them of him, but I don’t really see a resemblance, though I did listen a lot to his first album when I first started to learn the guitar. But if anything, I was more influenced by John Renbourn. And there are bits here that sound as if I was trying to be both of them at once. But to get back to the point, the title refers to the fact that for much of my life I was known as Bert rather than as Dave or David.

Played on a cheap and cheerful Kimbara acoustic – actually, it was a very decent little guitar – and recorded on domestic equipment.

alternative version:

Backup:

David Harley

Down by the Salley Gardens

I’ve heard too many gorgeously sung versions of this to add my own indifferent vocals to the pot, but I do want to include it in a recording project, so this is a sketch for an instrumental version. It needs work, of course – it’s much too busy at the moment – but I think there are possibilities here. It fits because I’m planning to include a couple of my own Yeats settings. However, the well-known melody used here doesn’t need replacing by any tune of mine. 🙂

Backup:

After I wrote a review of the CD ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (by Michael Raven and Joan Mills), in which I specifically mentioned that Michael had set When I Was One and Twenty to the tune better known as Brigg Fair, I had a thought. I mentioned in passing in that article that the theme of the poem is not dissimilar to that of the Yeats poem (based on an imperfectly remembered folk song) Down By The Salley Gardens. The Yeats poem was published in 1889, and A Shropshire Lad was published in 1896, so it’s very likely that Housman knew the Yeats poem, though for all I know, he may have written his own poem before he came upon Salley Gardens. I’m not sure it matters all that much: I’m not doing a PhD thesis. 🙂

Down by the salley gardens
my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
with her would not agree.

In a field by the river
my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder
she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy,
as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish,
and now am full of tears.

Anyway, a quick turn around the fretboard demonstrates that the melody Maids of Mourne Shore, the one most commonly associated with Down By The Salley Gardens since Hughes used it for his setting in 1909, would also work with When I was One and Twenty. As would any of the other tunes associated with or set to the Yeats poem, I guess. Oddly enough, the melody to The Rambling Boys of Pleasure, usually assumed to be the song that Yeats was trying to recreate, probably wouldn’t work so well, at any rate without some modification to accommodate the length of the lines. According to the music historian A.V. Butcher, Butterworth‘s setting to One and Twenty was related to a folk melody, but which one is unknown. Certainly the setting doesn’t ring any bells with me.

David Harley

Talking True Blues

Words copyright David Harley 1981 (I think). As it’s a Talking Blues, there ain’t no tune. Duh. Published in the early 1980s in Folk London, and included a hat tip to Steve Bell’s cartoon series Maggie’s Farm. Included here for historical interest: I’m not likely to perform it again in this form.

If you’ve got those Monday morning blues
Lend me an ear and you can’t lose
Don’t run the rat-race till you drop down dead
Take a working vacation in the country instead
Down on Maggie’s Farm
Cleaning out the cowsheds
Up to your neck in BS

Lads if you’ve the urge to roam
Why stay on the dole at home?
Prove your manhood, score with girls
Join the army and see the world
Like Caterham, Aldershot
Downtown Belfast, Greenham Common

If you’re sixteen with nothing to do
We’ve got Youth Training Schemes for you
(not to be confused with Opportunities)
Starting out on a great career
Sticking labels on bottles of beer
And when your six months are up
You can tell ’em all about it
Down at the labour…

But if you’re getting past your prime
You’ve earned yourself some undertime
Step aside for a younger man
Enjoy retirement while you can
After all, life begins at … 35
And remember
3 1/2 million (it says here)
Can’t be wrong

Thanks for Nothing, Ephraim Clutterbox

Words and Music by David Harley, copyright 1970

This may be the most positive song I’ve ever written. Which isn’t saying much, but at least it’s in a major key. Dedicated to David ‘Mex’ Higgen, who believed it to be written about him (which wasn’t altogether the case…) Mex was actually an excellent electric guitarist with whom I played from time to time when I was at university at the end of the 1960s. The ‘beautiful Ephraim’ line is a sideswipe at Jim Morrison, who is certainly past caring.

Curiously, it’s slightly reminiscent of Peter Buckley-Hill, which is curious given that is written a good ten years before I ever heard him.

Remastered:

Backup:

This recording was taken from a work/demo cassette I recorded in the 80s. Probably using a Fostex X-15 recorder and mixed down to my ghetto blaster. I’ve used it to replace the more recent demo recording that was originally here, as my voice was in better shape on this version.

I used to think that life was for living
I was grateful for each and every day
I thought if we all tried a little harder
The world might be improved in some small way
But then you deflated my illusions
And made me see the error of my ways
You made me realize there is no black or white
Just a mediocre shade of grey

So thanks for nothing, Ephraim Clutterbox
You made me see the writing on the wall
You’ve rid me of so much of my foolish make-believe
That now I don’t believe in you at all

I used to be a gullible romantic
With a vague belief in beauty, truth and right
And a taste for lullabies and good intentions
With a sporadic urge to fight the good fight
But you told me it was all a social fiction
And I was too naive to disagree
When you exposed my neurotic motivation
And unhealthy craving for security

I’ve had enough of you, Ephraim Clutterbox
Your belief that it’s all lies and you can’t win
Your rational, so logical indifference
To anything that’s worth believing in
So this is the end, beautiful Ephraim
But I want you to know before you leave
I can kid myself your kind can be safely ignored
If enough people start to believe

The water is wide

The world is not short of recordings of this very popular song. This is a variation on an instrumental version I recently rediscovered, having performed it quite a lot in the 70s. I plan to use a more polished version in a forthcoming project.

Backup:

David Harley

 

Singing in the Silence

Singing in the silence: copyright David Harley 1974

Backup:

 

It was cold waking up this morning
Just like all the lonely nights before
But there’s hope in my heart even yet
Rising early to meet the road

My heart sings in the silence
Racing down that old white line
A sweet voice whispers in my ear
That I’ll maybe get to see you one more time

Every time the road gets longer
It gets harder to pin down that dream
Racing for the scenery
Escaping from the scene

My heart sings in the silence
Racing that same old white line
That same voice whispering in my ear
That I’ll maybe get to see you one more time

Southern Ragtime

A sort of heavy metal protest song. Words and music (such as it is) by David Harley. I always meant to launch a band called The Grating Deaf for which this would be the opening number, but I never got round to it. When I used to perform this with Rick Brandon, he used to introduce it as “Well, I feel just like a waitress but where will I get one at this time of night…”

Just an acoustic guitar with an electric guitar overdubbed. The full version will probably be completely electric and hopefully much tighter!.

Backup:

Copyright David Harley 1986

I feel just like a waitress dropping 16 antique china plates (x2)
And no-one laughing but some juggler who never made the grade

I’m a poor wayfaring stranger, a stranger at this end of town (x2)
I never knew how far I’d travelled till the vigilantes rode me down

And it’s dog eat dog when no-one can raise the price of beef (x2)
No-one bites harder than an old man with a brand new set of second-hand teeth

I’m a poor wayfaring stranger, a stranger at this end of town (x2)
I never knew that I was winning till some loser tried to slow me down

If your axe catch fire and there ain’t no water to be found (x2)
You’ll never know you’re hot till some turkey tries to damp you down

It’s front-page news, paranoia on the inside lane (x2)
They might even take your picture
But they’re setting you up and knocking you down
They’re fitting you up for the frame

 

South Wind

Also known as Southwind, The Southern Breeze, An Ghaoth Andheas, and so on. Has also attracted quite a few sets of words. Recently crossed my radar when working up some material with a ceilidh band, and I couldn’t resist trying it out. I may well vary the instrumentation for the ‘real’ version, but I quite like it with just guitar (though I’ve overdubbed here).

Sometimes attributed to O’Carolan, but I don’t believe there’s any proof of that, though Greg Clare tells me that it’s often performed along with Planxty Fanny Power (which I believe is O’Carolan) or Planxty Irwin (which is on my to-do list). The Fiddler’s Companion attributes it to Domnhall Meirgeach Mac Con Mara (Freckled Donal Macnamara) and includes Gaelic words and translation as well as much more information.

Backup:

David Harley

Stranger in Uniform

Words and music (c) David Harley

Backup:

video:

Audio capture/master:

Backup:

Quiet days / Slow march past of the minutes
Remorseless progression / of the hours
The sun burns out / in a mock tropic sky
The sands run down / and time holds its breath

Waiting, ever waiting for the stranger in uniform
To shatter the mirror-still days

Quiet days / counting falling leaves
Stripping petals / from a scrap of bush
Nights under the trees / hiding from the world
Singing wild songs / to a gypsy moon

Waiting, ever waiting for the stranger in uniform
To shatter the cut-crystal days

Quiet days / sunrise leaps from tree to tree
A small boy with a fishing rod / re-lives jam-jar days
Ripples smooth away / the wrinkled image
Waiting for history / to rewrite the page

Waiting, ever waiting for the stranger in uniform
to shatter the diamond-cut days

Quiet country days / in a honeymoon paradise
Raindrops / dancing tiptoe on the glass
Clouds hang heavy / as time and history
Hiding in each other / in autumn 1939

Waiting, ever waiting for the stranger in uniform
To shatter the looking glass days

 

Staffordshire hornpipe

I find myself in an unusual position. (Steady! Not that sort of position.) I’ve played guitar and/or bass with ceilidh bands from time to time since the 1970s, but have never rehearsed with one until recently.

Which got me thinking that one or two tunes might fit quite nicely into a recording project I’m hatching. This is a sketch only for one possibility. It includes far too many guitars (probably one part would be a bass with just one second guitar to put in some sparse countermelodies) and the actual tune gets buried at some points: it’s just that this has some bits I wanted to keep for reference. I believe the tune was originally recorded in 1909 by Cecil Sharp from John Locke in Leominster. This interpretation is based on a vaguely-remembered recording from the 60s by Jon and Mike Raven. I think this was the record (with Jean Ward): SONGS OF THE BLACK COUNTRY AND THE WEST MIDLANDS.

I’m tempted to buy it, but then I’d have to learn the tune properly. 😉

Mastered:

Backup:

David Harley