Old White Lightning

Words & Music (c) David Harley

Backup:

Alternative version:

Backup:

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

 

 

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

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!.

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

 

Stranger in Uniform

Words and music (c) David Harley

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video:

Audio capture/master:

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Antique electric version:

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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

 

Scratch one lover (revisited)

Words & Music (c) David Harley

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

Backup:

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

Raggle Taggle Man

Words by Alison Pittaway: tune traditional, adapted and arranged by David Harley. All rights reserved.

Backup:

He was a raggle taggle man
In raggle taggle clothes
Reaching, reaching for the stars
As he wandered down the road

Once the world was at his feet
But then it fell apart
His friends becoming strangers
Who left him in the dark

His world was all in pieces
That he couldn’t shape at last
While the wind was blowing
Through the weeds and grass

People tried to reassure him
But still he lost all hope
And looking at his life
He knew he couldn’t cope

So home alone he went alone
And all alone he died
But everyone who knew him
Now remembers him with pride
He was so beautiful inside.

Oh raggle taggle, raggle taggle, raggle taggle man
Oh raggle taggle, raggle taggle, raggle taggle man…

Alison and I (among others) ran a folk club in London (at Jacksons Lane Community Centre, Highgate) for a while, and later on lived in the same part of Tottenham for several years. It’s only recently – when we haven’t met face-to-face in decades and now live in different counties – that we’ve started to collaborate on songs, though.

The tune is a variation on a tune that Jean Ritchie used to sing as ‘False Sir John’. I don’t know why, it just seemed to fit the words.