A moment of flippancy – Stewball

When I was young and a lot folkier than I am today, a song about an 18th century racehorse variously called ‘Stewball’, ‘Skewball’, ‘Skewbald’ and so on was very popular in folk clubs, especially in the form in which it was best known in the US. Even if you’re not in the least folky and haven’t ever heard that version, you probably know the tune as borrowed by John Lennon for his son ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’.

There is lots of information about the US and Irish versions as recorded by various people on the Mainly Norfolk page here.

Now comes the flippancy.

Coming across a rather nicely sung rendition of the US version by Stephen C. Mendel on Facebook, I was reminded that according to many versions of the song in both its US and Irish incarnations, the horse had two unusual characteristics:

  1. It talked to its rider and/or its owner
  2. It tended to drink alcohol rather than water

According to the US version often heard, “he never drank water / but always drank wine”, while the home-grown version popularized by Bert Lloyd tells us that after a big win “horse and rider both ordered sherry wine and brandy”.

So I suppose it was inevitable that while taking my daily exercise, I found myself singing (somewhat breathlessly):

Stewball was a racehorse
He isn’t much missed
He won lots of races
But only when p****d

Let me reassure you that I do not intend to divert my writing in general into the Billy Connolly school of songwriting, and hope not to expand this into a full-length song.

David Harley

Cut-Rate Rolling Stone [demo]

I wrote this in the early 70s (or possibly even late 60s), then mostly forgot about it till today. So only demo quality at this point, but I intend to come back to it.

backup:

Cut-Rate Rolling Stone

Words & Music © David Harley

 

I never could hold down a job more than a month or so
Mostly I’d get itchy feet, and down the road I’d go

But I never meant to live the kind of life I’ve known
I guess I was designed to be a cut-rate rolling stone

There never was a woman born who could ever tie me down
Some just quit trying, some just wore me down

Somehow I always found myself back on the road again
With a backpack full of dreams and just a roadmap for a friend

I’ve tried to put down roots in some places that I’ve been
Sometimes I thought that I’d found love but it was all a dream

David Harley

Bottle (demo)

Backup:

 

Words & music (c) David Harley

Bottle

I called out softly through the darkness
Hoping someone might try the door
Hoping someone might have the key
But I don’t trust the daylight anymore

Someone knocked the bottle over
It happened once before
I suppose it might have been me
But I can’t trust the daylight anymore

I believe I’m getting stronger
Than I ever was before
But I won’t get up to look
Because I don’t believe in daylight anymore

 

Adventures in Video – Young Hunting (Trad2Mad version)

 

This is an unaccompanied version of ‘Young Hunting'(Child 68) I found when I was still at school in the 1960s, though I’ve undoubtedly changed it since. I didn’t have a tune for it, so I cobbled one together. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I found the words, though I’ve come across a fairly similar American text (unattributed) since.

I don’t always sing it unaccompanied, though.

Light down, light down my own true love
And stay with me the night
For I have a bed and a fireside too
And a candle that burns so bright.

I can’t light down and I won’t light down
Nor spend the night with thee
For I have a love and a true true love
Would think so ill of me

But he’s bent down from his saddle
To kiss her snowy white cheek
She’s stolen the dagger from out of his belt
And plunged it into him so deep

She’s taken him by his long yellow hair
And the maid’s taken him by the feet
They’ve plunged him into that deep doleful well
Full 20 fathoms deep

And as she’s turned her round to go home
She’s heard some pretty bird sing
Go home, go home you cruel girl
And weep and mourn for him

Fly down, fly down you pretty bird
Fly down and go home with me
And your cage will be made of the glittering gold
And the perch of the best ivory

I can’t fly down and I won’t fly down
And I’ll not go home with thee
For you have slain your own true love
And I’m feared you’ll murder me

I wish I had my bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would shoot that cruel bird
As sits in the briars and sings

I wish you had your bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would fly from vine to vine
And always you’d hear me sing

Audio capture:

Backup:

David Harley

Adventures in video – Paper Tiger

Audio capture:

Backup:

Paper Tiger (words & music by David Harley)

Oh, you paper tiger,
Now see what you’ve done
You made your stand on shifting sand
And now begins the fun

Your bluff’s been called at last
So what do you do now?
Now someone got the drop on you
And finally faced you down

Oh, you paper tiger… (x2)

Oh, you paper tiger
Now see what you’ve done
Every chamber emptied
And nowhere left to run

How could you forget
The only code that you lived by
To move so fast and talk so soft
And keep your powder dry?

Oh, you paper tiger… (x2)

Oh, you paper tiger
Now see what they’ve done
They’ve picked you clean and strung you up
To dry out in the sun

Oh, you bigshot bankrupt
You flamed-out flat-lined fake
They’ll bake you in the ashes
Of your latest last mistake

Oh, you paper tiger … (x2)

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.

Audio capture:

Backup:

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?

Paper Tiger [rough demo]

All rights reserved

Backup:

Paper Tiger (words & music by David Harley)

Oh, you paper tiger,
Now see what you’ve done
You made your stand on shifting sand
And now begins the fun

Your bluff’s been called at last
So what do you do now?
Now someone got the drop on you
And finally faced you down

Oh, you paper tiger… (x2)

Oh, you paper tiger
Now see what you’ve done
Every chamber emptied
And nowhere left to run

How could you forget
The only code that you lived by
To move so fast and talk so soft
And keep your powder dry?

Oh, you paper tiger… (x2)

Oh, you paper tiger
Now see what they’ve done
They’ve picked you clean and strung you up
To dry out in the sun

Oh, you bigshot bankrupt
You flamed-out flat-lined fake
They’ll bake you in the ashes
Of your latest last mistake

Oh, you paper tiger … (x2)

Till I Find You Again [demo]

Backup:

Till I find you again (Harley) © 1972

With my guitar
I have built a wall
Of alibis

To shield my emptiness
And drive away the shadows
Of faces
I try to forget

I tried to write you a song
But the words got in my way

Just a wounded sky
Bleeding moonbeams

 

Paradise Deferred [demo]

Words & music (c) David Harley

backup:

 

Wounded hearts and guilty pleasures
Walking home too late at night
Ecstatic pain and hidden treasure
Gardens in the early morning light
Ghostly in the morning light

Wanting you was all too easy
Having you was mostly pain
Yet I’m here at your back door
To make that same mistake again
That same mistake again

We never were so close to heaven
Hopes of paradise deferred
We may not meet again this side of heaven
Hoping for more would be absurd
More would be absurd