A suddenly resurrected blues-y song. First time sung in about 30 years, so a bit rough, but I like the energy.
I woke up in the night thinking about this one for the first time in maybe 30 years. Fortunately, I could still find the words, though I’ve changed them slightly here (also the tempo is a bit more upbeat than when I originally wrote it). Unusually (for me) the slide is an open G. I’ve been using an open C again recently, too.
Dying of communication: Copyright David Harley 1976
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
Please ignore this for now: I’m not offering an information list at the moment, just trying something out for someone else. And there’s a link to follow blog articles by email on the right hand side of this blog, anyway, and you can also contact me via the contact form here, of course.
Mind you, now I’ve had the idea, maybe I will. Watch this space. But you have plenty of time to blink.
A Tommy Johnson classic that suddenly revisited my head after a decade or two.
I was actually noodling around with an arrangement for Castles and Kings, which I’ve started to think of as a sort of Shropshire train blues, when I suddenly found myself thinking of the Tommy Johnson classic ‘Big Road Blues’, which hasn’t crossed my mind in decades.
The 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 the cycle I have in mind better. Still, I might rethink that. This is definitely a work in progress.
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.
I’ve recorded this several times before, including a ‘proper’ studio version, but have never been quite satisfied with it. This rough mix attempts a looser version with a jazzier guitar. Both guitars here are a Gibson jumbo with a P90 pickup, by the way, if these things are of interest to you. 🙂
I wrote this song (properly called ‘Rain’) when I was still at school in the 1960s and had just discovered folk music. And on the rare occasions when I’ve sung it in public, it’s always been unaccompanied, though I have previously recorded a version with pseudo-acoustic guitar. This, though is a very rough draft for a different vocal interpretation, and a step towards a properly electric accompaniment. More of that later.
Another (non-bottleneck) version of ‘Faintly Fahey’.
The instrumental I call ‘Faintly Fahey‘ started as a sort of fake Irish air, then got translated into a bottleneck version. This is a non-slide version closer to the original idea.. There may well be more to come on this, as I think it might go rather well with the song ‘Can’t Sleep‘, but that needs more work.
Like Long Stand and Hands of the Craftsman, I wrote this for the revue “Nice…if you can get it”, directed by Maggie Ford sometime in the early 80s, but wasn’t used as it wasn’t really in keeping with the other material. I haven’t thought about it since, but when I found it lurking among my juvenilia a couple of years ago, found that not only could I more or less remember the tune, but that I actually quite like it. Minor changes to the lyric which no-one will notice but me…
I’m through with the world and those city screams
I’ll take to the air with a cargo of dreams
All of my life I’ve been tied to the ground
Now I’m spreading my wings to take to the clouds
No more will I lay aching bones on cold earth
Reaching out for the sun now I know what I’m worth
No more shuffling around, feet nailed to the ground
My skysails are set and I’m outward bound
At one with the winds I’ll take to the sky
No longer afraid of the sun in my eyes
I’ll rise with the lark and see the world so clear
But it’s your world, not mine, and my world is here
David Harley, copyright 1986. Published in Vertical Images 2, 1987. I waited 30+ years for the melody to turn up, and finally it did after we moved to Cornwall. And yes, I know that it’s unlikely that M’Lord fought at Crécy (1346) and Agincourt (1415). While the Black Death subsided in England from about 1350, but outbreaks continued right through the first half of the 15th century and well beyond.
Conventional version, in standard DADGAD, combined with an instrumental version of The Holy Well:
Version in Nashville tuning:
Also in Nashville tuning, but live version from Ian Semple’s radio show for Coast FM:
Also on SoundCloud:
When M’Lord returned To his sheets of silk And his gentle lady Of musk and milk
The minstrels sang In the gallery Their songs of slaughter And chivalry
The rafters roared With laughter and boasting Beakers were raised and drained In toasting
The heroes of Crécy And Agincourt Or the madness Of some holy war
The hawk is at rest On the glove once more Savage of eye And bloody of claw
Famine and fever Are all the yield Of the burnt-out barns And wasted fields
The sun grins coldly Through the trees The children shiver The widows grieve
And beg their bread At the monastery door Tell me then Who won the war?