The Road [demo]

Early version of a song from the projected album ‘Ten Percent Blues’. And no, it’s not autobiographical: my own short spell on the road ended in the 70s, and I’ve no particular wish to resume that particular phase of my career at my age.

Words and music (c) David A. Harley

It’s late and the driver has nothing to say
One more stop ahead on an endless highway
One more place to be, and nowhere to stay
For the road was the ruin of me

The tour bus, the tranny, the fluffed chords of fame
The days in the airport, the runaway train
You don’t care for my songs and you don’t know my name
For the road was the ruin of me

I was never a drifter, I’d no urge to roam
But somehow the tour bus became my home
The scenery fades and the scene is long gone
And the road was the ruin of me

The smoke and the pipe dream, the whisky, the beer
There’s nothing to treasure and nothing to fear
There’s no one here now to send out for some gear
And the road was the ruin of me

The call of the wild, and the song of the road
The end of the game and the call of the void
There’s no one to meet and there’s nowhere to hide
The road was the ruin of me

The heroes and villains, the bait and the switch
The hole in my sock and the travelling itch
I’ll never be famous, I’ll never be rich
For the road was the ruin of me

I drank much too deep at the wishing well
I knew what I wanted but never could tell
Now I’ve only these dreams and these few words to sell
For the road was the ruin of me

All that I’ve learned is how little I know
All I’ve come home to is a new place to go
And it’s never a place that I wanted to be
For the road was the ruin of me

New Paul Cowley CD

I’m actually taking a break from music reviewing right now. However, it seems a pity not to mention good music when it comes my way:  hence my mini-review of Sarah McQuaid’s current releases – Sarah McQuaid – The St. Buryan Sessions.

And now I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Paul Cowley’s upcoming CD Long Time Comin’, a collection of his own blues-soaked songs plus his versions of songs by Blind Boy Fuller (‘Lost Lover Blues’, a favourite of mine since the 60s), Charlie Patton, Mississippi John Hurt, Ray Charles and Blind Willie McTell. It’s another fine set of accomplished but unpretentious country blues from someone who has a deep knowledge and love of the genre. Paul’s web site is here, and he’s been reviewed several times (twice by me, with enthusiasm!) on And here’s a video by way of a taster: ‘Don’t Need Too Much‘.

David Harley

The Game of London (album)

It seems perverse to have released an album on Bandcamp and not even mention it here, though I did put up a demo of the title track a while back. So here’s a belated link to the album and a terse rundown of the tracks. I really ought to get around to promoting this…

1. The Miles Between (the City and the Heart)
2. The Game of London
3. Coasting 2023
4. Same Old Same Old
5. Walls
6. 17-Year Itch
7. London 1983 (Heatwave)
8. Cooling Out 02:52
9. Paper City 05:25
10. The Weekends (are the Worst)
11. Diving Butterfly (Air and Slip Jig)
12. Death of a Marriage
13. Silk and Steel
14. Coasting 1983

‘London 1983’ (the song formerly known as ‘Heatwave’) was recorded at Hallmark Studios W1, and features James Bolam on piano.

Tracks 9 and 11-14 were recorded at Centre Sound, Camden. ‘Diving Butterfly’ features Peter Wilkes on fiddle and Gail Williams on bodhrán.

All vocals and all other instruments are me.

I’ll put up a page with links to my other recordings Real Soon Now.

David Harley




Sarah McQuaid – The St. Buryan Sessions

As one of the hardest-working musicians on the scene, Sarah McQuaid was hit hard by the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 lockdown. While many artists have tried to keep the flame alive by live-streaming, Sarah opted instead to crowd-fund an album of live tracks taken from video performances recorded last summer at the Cornish church of St. Buryan. The album will be released later in 2021, but in the meantime it has been supported by a series of singles taken from the album, supported in turn by the video performances of those songs. Martin Stansbury’s sympathetic production/engineering, the lovely medieval venue, and Sarah’s own musicianship more than make up for the absence of a live audience.

The first single was the lovely song ‘The Silence Above Us’ (Shovel And A Spade Records SAASDS2101): though I already knew it from her 2018 album If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, it’s been revisiting my ears at frequent intervals since. I reviewed it for here.

‘Charlie’s Gone Home’ (Shovel And A Spade Records SAASDS2102) and ‘The Day Of Wrath, That Day’ (Shovel And A Spade Records SAASDS2103) were both reviewed here.

My review of the next single ‘Sweetness & Pain’ (Shovel And A Spade Records SAASDS2104) was featured here, and a stunning unaccompanied performance it is, too. (The video, not my review.)

Two more singles were announced in April:  ‘Time To Love’, a co-write with Irish singer/songwriter Gerry O’Beirne: you can find the video on Sarah’s  YouTube channel – go on, you know you want to!    The sixth single, a delightful piano/vocal version of Michael Chapman’s ‘Rabbit Hills’  premieres on YouTube on May 14th.

The full album is due for release on October 15th 2021, and there’ll be more singles and videos throughout the year. I can’t wait for the next one. 🙂

David Harley

Vanity Press (or The Glass Bead Game Revisited)

The fact that this was written around the time Rob Slade and I were doing the preparatory work and negotiation on a book called Viruses Revealed does not mean that this piece in any sense refers to Osborne or McGraw-Hill. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t. I did think about doing something similar about my experiences with Syngress and Wiley, but got depressed just thinking about it.

I haven’t any plans to write any more books at present (and if I was, I’d be thinking seriously about self-publishing), but most of the security-related books I’ve been involved with are listed on the Wikipedia entry devoted to me, which is surprisingly accurate. 

Dear Mr. Harley

Thank you for choosing MacMidden McGrawful Simplex and Shyster to publish your book on Algorithmic Approaches to Bio-molecular Modelling, which we will be publishing under the title Shiny Bead Diagrams for Morons. We are pleased to offer you an advance on royalties equivalent to a trainee assistant copyeditor’s salary for one month. You will receive 6.25% of whatever we eventually decide to charge for it, for sales in the United States, and 4% for sales anywhere we don’t care about, such as Europe. As a European, you presumably won’t object to being paid beads, rather like the ones you bought this country with, several years ago.

You will agree never to publish any other book on the same subject, or indeed, using diagrams or mentioning beads, for any other publisher, until the book has been out-of-print for five years or you have been dead for fifteen years, whichever comes later. In any case, we operate a print-on-demand service, so the book will never be out of print unless we get bored with it. If we decide that it’s worth our squeezing a 2nd Edition out of you, you will produce it for exactly the same sum, irrespective of the amount of work entailed, the rate of inflation, and the current exchange rate.

We look forward to receiving your detailed book plan. Please ensure that it specifies the number of pages and words each chapter will contain, including tables and footnotes. We will also need you to supply us with a schedule detailing when each chapter will be submitted, and whether it will arrive before or after lunch. We realize, of course, that other commitments, family illness and so on may lead to unanticipated delays. You should therefore include details of any unanticipated delays in your preliminary schedule.

We regret that we cannot handle whatever archaic word-processor or esoteric document processing package you favour, since you have to use our house-style document template, so that our Desktop Publishing Package doesn’t fall over with its paws in the air. Go and buy a copy of Microsoft Office.

You may wish to know more about the book production process. First of all, we will keep you busy changing the book plan, so as to eliminate any risk of your starting work on the first chapter before the submission date in your original schedule. You will then need to recast the schedule. This should not take more than five or six attempts, as long as you don’t attempt to defer the submission date for the final chapter. This is because we will be arranging all manner of expensive promotional exercises with deadlines we have no intention of telling you about, but expect you to meet nonetheless.

When you submit your first chapter, we will tear it to pieces for not conforming to the Chicago Manual of Style. We do not care that you have never been West of Rhyl: we expect you to write like Jerry Springer talks. Nor have we heard of the Oxford English Dictionary or anyone called Fowler. After we have argued about this for a few weeks, we expect you to submit a style sheet incorporating the spelling and formatting details negotiated over that period. This will be used during the copyediting process to wrap bagels and dispose of gum tidily. It would be helpful if you could submit a digitized photograph of yourself at this stage, so that we have something to spit at.

After we stop laughing, your chapters will then be submitted to a technical reviewer. You are encouraged to suggest the name of a suitably qualified expert in your field. After he or she refuses our contract on the grounds that it costs them more than the fee we’re offering to switch on their laptop in the morning, we will offer the contract to someone who has never heard of you (or vice versa), but who once had a job in a bead factory.

After you have incorporated their suggestions into your chapter, we will pass it on to the copyeditor. Our copyeditors are very careful selected, and have to meet very strict criteria. Copyeditors whose first language is English are only allowed to work on foreign language books. In this case, UK English is not regarded as a foreign language. Copy editors are not allowed a sense of humour. This is to ensure that all traces of wit and irony are removed at the pre-proofing stage. Any copyeditor with an IQ over 90 is diverted to the comics division.

These criteria are strictly enforced, being designed to ensure that the book will be comprehensible to the general public and press, who would never dream of reading your book anyway.

After the copyeditor has squeezed all the life, elegance, humour and academic credibility out of your work, disregarded all your typographical, syntactical, and grammatical errors and introduced some new ones, the proofing editor will ask you to rewrite whole chapters because one or two of the footnotes cite articles without listing the first names and middle initials of one of the contributors. Each chapter then goes to our highly-qualified proofing team, who will take time out from randomly hitting typewriter keys in the hope of writing the complete works of Shakespeare. Their task is to misplace, scramble, or mislocate whole tables and paragraphs, sabotage the formatting, and introduce yet more typographical errors. You will be sent copies of their work in the form of humungous email attachments which you will be expected to review and return within two hours so that we can get on with the indexing. Trust us, you do not want to know about the index compiler, whose fee will come out of your advance.

This, by the way will be sent to you in dribs and drabs as you reach arbitrary milestones in the production process, just often enough to stop you abandoning the project in a fit of rage. Regardless of the fact that you are not a US national, we will send you numerous forms relating to taxation, so as to give us an excuse for delaying dispatch of royalty cheques, proofs, and author’s copies. Just to inject a little humour into your tight-assed English life, we will also enter your address into our database correctly, apart from the suffix “Shetland Islands”, despite the fact that you live in Lyme Regis. This will ensure that cheques will not reach you until you have written them off and asked us to stop them and send another.

We look forward to playing – errr, working – with you.

Yours truly,
Aaron Grunge
Acquisitions Editor

[Any resemblance to any real publisher, living or brain-dead, is entirely coincidental. David Harley, 23rd August, 2001]

Trencrom – a Woolf at the Door

One of my friends on Facebook drew my attention to an excellent blog article from 2019 by The Cornish Bird about Virginia Woolf in Cornwall. While I was vaguely aware of Virginia Woolf’s connection with Cornwall and in particular with the Godrevy lighthouse, which partially inspired her 1927 novel To The Lighthouse (I’m going to have to reread it now), I hadn’t realized how large a part the county had played in her life. Nor had I realized that on a spontaneous visit at Christmas 1909, she recorded paying a visit to Trencrom hill, very close to the engine house that gives its name to this blog.

Wheal Alice and Trencrom’s Iron Age hill fort 

As Elizabeth Dale says in her article, Trencrom (or Trecobben) is indeed “a place full of history and legend”: I was very aware of that when I wrote the song ‘Cornish Ghosts’, which took shape while I was doing my daily walks around and on the hill. The next time I walk to the top, not many minutes from where I’m writing this, I’ll surely think of Virginia Woolf sitting there in the mist.

David Harley

The Game of London [demo]

The first version of this was written in the 1970s: I remembered it suddenly as a possible title for a current album project, and finally found the lyric. I did tweak the lyric somewhat to make it less gender-specific. A version will probably appear on the album.

No, it isn’t autobiographical…