Adventures in Video – Now How Long?

The first version of this goes back to the late 60s or early 70s, but I’m not sure if I ever performed it in public. An attempt to write something blues-y that wasn’t a 12-bar.

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Heard some lonesome whistle blow
How long Lord?
I guess it must be time to go
How long?
When you get those hard luck blues
All you need is walking shoes
How long Lord?
Now how long?

Empty pockets, empty bed
How long Lord?
Empty dreams in an empty head
How long?
When you get those walking blues
Radio just plays bad news
How long Lord?
Now how long?

When you feel those cold winds blow
How long Lord?
You know the way you have to go
How long?
Thought I heard the DJ say
Got no reason left to stay
How long Lord?
Now how long?

Standing by the railroad track
How long Lord?
Heading out with no way back
How long?
Waiting in the pouring rain
Must have missed that Gospel Train
How long Lord?
Now how long?

Adventures in Video: Wearing Out My Shoes

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There’s no future in singing the blues
I guess I’ll leave, I’ve got nothing to lose

Wearing out my shoes, walking away from you
And if I can’t walk, I guess I’ll fly – bye-bye…

I went down to the depot, looked up on the board
It said “good times here, but better down the road”

Wearing out my shoes, walking away from you
And if I can’t walk, I guess I’ll fly – bye-bye…

I’m going down to the crossroads, my cap in my hand
Looking for a woman that’s looking for a man

And wearing out my shoes, walking away from you
And if I can’t walk, I guess I’ll fly – bye-bye…

Old White Lightning

Words & Music (c) David Harley

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Alternative version:

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Old White Lightning

I went down to see my lady
But someone spread the news all over town
I said “I don’t mind what you call me
But won’t you keep your sweet voice down?”
Might have been old white lightning
Might have been old sloe gin
Might have been brandy and it might have been Scotch
But it’s really done me in

[break]

If I go back to see my lady
I hope she won’t have all my cases packed
I need an ice pack for my aching head
Not an ice pick for my back
Might have been old Sal Stacey
Might have been Lucy-Lyn
It might have been Lisa or it might have been Liz
But she really did me in

Alternative version found on an old work tape, including the elusive third verse but no lead break has been added yet:

I went down to see my lady
But someone spread the news all over town
I said ‘I don’t mind what you call me,
But won’t you keep your sweet voice down?’
Might have been old white lightning
Might have been old sloe gin
Might have been barley, or it might have been malt
But it’s really done me in

If I go back to see my lady
I know just where she’s at
She’s got an ice-pack for my aching head
And an ice-pick for my back
Might have been old Sal Stacey
Might have been Lucy-Lynne
Might have been Lisa, might have been Liz
But she really did me in

I think I’ll steer my feet to the river
Marking time to the thump in my head
I think I might just die of too much wine
And it’ll save you changing the bed
Might have been smack or cocaine
Petrol or paraffin
Might have been Bostik or North Sea gas
But I swear it’s done me in

 

When the next wave breaks

Words & Music (c) David Harley

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Pretty much made up as I went along, so I’ll probably be doing more work on it.

When the Next Wave Breaks 

I’m nothing but a ripple
A stone thrown in the sea
When the next wave breaks
You can’t tell where I’ve been

There’s a change in the weather
There’s a restless angry sea
There’s no changing you
But there’s surely been a change in me

I’ll take that lonesome highway
By the light of a lonesome moon
You know the sooner you start crying
The sooner I’ll be gone

When the sun is going down
And the moon begins to rise
I’ll be so far down the road
There’s no shadow left behind

There might be just one woman
Could make me want to stay
If you were her, my bag
Would not be packed today

 

 

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.

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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

Singing in the Silence

Singing in the silence: copyright David Harley 1974

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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!.

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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

 

Scratch one lover (revisited)

Words & Music (c) David Harley

1980s studio version (2nd guitar is Don MacLeod)

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A couple of more recent versions here. 

How does it feel to be proved right
When everything just fell apart?
Does it buy you sleep through long cold nights?
Does it ease your aching heart?

Score two points, scratch one lover:
You said it’s too good to be true.
Why don’t you run back to your mother?
She always knows what’s best for you.

 

All those black moods and jealousies,
Now you know they were justified.
She looks so happy, holding hands with someone else:
Was it worth it, being right?

Hold on to all that righteous anger
But don’t forget who set it up for her.
If she’s easier in someone else’s arms,
She might be telling you you were unfair.

Score two points, scratch one lover:
Let it ride, it’s just the gypsy’s curse.
But people tend to give you what you ask for:
Maybe you only got what you deserved

Adventures in Video – Vestopol

 

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Vestapol (even the name has variant spellings, almost as many as the tune) has a fascinating (if slightly confusing) history. Henry Worrall (1825-1902), an artist and musician who taught guitar at the Ohio Female College, composed a guitar piece apparently inspired by the siege of Sebastopol (1854-1855) and sometimes called ‘The Siege of Sebastopol’ or ‘Sebastopol: Descriptive Fantasie’, or – according to the printout of the sheet music I have in front of me – just ‘Sebastopol’.

Sadly, I can’t read music – well, maybe if it’s simple enough that I can play it on recorder, but that’s about as far as I can go, so I don’t know how close that piece is to the tune I’m interpreting in this video. Compared to this version, played by Macyn Taylor on parlour guitar, not very. That said, this version, played by Brian Baggett “interpreted from the original manuscript…in collaboration with the Kansas Historical Society” is just about close enough to suggest that my version does derive ultimately from the older piece. As does the resemblance of the naming of the later piece, and, even more, the fact that both pieces use the same open D (D-A-D-F#-A-D) tuning, often referred to by blues musicians as ‘Vestapol’ or ‘Vastapol’ (or similar) tuning.

It’s worth noting at this point that Worrall also published an arrangement of a popular piece called ‘Spanish Fandango’ – which, though it’s not without charm, to my ear resembles a ‘real’ fandango rather less than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ resembles the work of Václav Tomášek – which uses an open G tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D). While I’m not aware that Worrall’s ‘Fandango’ has had anything like the same popularity or influence among blues/ragtime/folk musicians that ‘Sevastopol’ has, it’s notable that this open G tuning is often referred to as ‘fandango’ tuning. And certainly Elizabeth Cotton, who also played ‘Vestapol’, had a very similar tune called ‘Spanish Flang Dang’.

But – returning to ‘Vestapol’ – how did a formal piece apparently intended for the genteel parlours of the US get to my genteel home office/recording studio in the Wild West of Cornwall as a blues-y, train-y, ragtime-ish, clawhammer picking piece?

Stefan Grossman, who put together a three-part video to teach his own version, kind of skates over the issue as barely explainable, though a contributor to a thread on Mudcat points out perfectly reasonably that blacks and whites worked together and blacks worked as servants in the homes of white people: “They heard, they liked, they learned.” And adapted, making the work of other musicians into something of their own. So by the time John Fahey recorded the tune he still called ‘The Siege of Sevastopol’, it had developed into something significantly different Worrall’s tune, and acquired words – Robert Wilkins’s ‘Poor Boy (a long way from home) and ‘Prodigal Son’, later kidnapped by the Rolling Stones.

In fact, I sometimes follow Grossman’s lead in combining ‘Vestapol’ and ‘Poor Boy’ – he was the first person I heard do that, back in the late 60s or early 70s – or tack it onto the end of one of my own songs as with ‘Highway Fever’ here. Or ‘Castles and Kings‘, but not available as a recording right now.

However, on this occasion I decided to quit while I was ahead and just do the instrumental. And hope that it doesn’t measure up too badly to the many fine musicians who’ve taken their own shots at this well-worn but well-loved music.

David Harley