Heartbreaker

No, nothing to do with Dionne Warwick or the Gibb brothers.

Written back in the 80s, and turned up in my box of half-written songs today. The tune needs work, and the words have already changed a bit since the recording. And yes, it was intended for a female singer, but I don’t have one handy right now.

Backup:

Alternative take:

Backup:

Heartbreaker (Harley)

Look at you – you’re such a heartbreaker

You’ve not yet said a word that anyone has heard
You know that all you have to do is smile
To capture any male – I’ve never seen you fail
To captivate every man in miles

Look at you – you’re such a foxy lady

Your table manners won’t win prizes; it’s really not surprising
That you’ve got broth all down your bib
But all your male relations are stood at battle stations
With the Kleenex to wipe down that greasy chin

Look at you – you’re such a heartbreaker

I can’t turn my back for a minute and a half
Without your creating mess
You’re taking years off my life – your dad says “Leave her, she’s all right”
But if he cleaned up I might be more impressed

Look at you – you’re such a heartbreaker

If I’d as many men as you to give my kisses to
I wouldn’t have much reason to complain
You’re a pain sometimes, it’s true, but I’d be heartbroken too
To be without you now, it’s so plain

PUT THAT DOWN, YOU LITTLE… heartbreaker…

All rights reserved.

David Harley

For Phil Ochs

Backup:

For Phil Ochs: copyright David Harley, 1977

Rough demo: vocal needs redoing completely when (if) my voice recovers from present croakiness, and guitars could be improved. But at least the tune is now out there.

Groping through the wavebands for a time-check
On a local music station I caught the tail end of the news
Of a singer in New York who’d committed suicide
Too late to catch the name, still I knew that it was you

The way that bad news comes as no surprise
Though till you hear it, you can’t think what could be wrong
In fact I thought of you just the week before
For the first time in years when someone asked me for a song
I’d learned from you

I don’t know how to define what you mean to me now
I never met you, of course, and I don’t sing your songs
Though I did long ago and even now, in a way
There are things I learned from you in songs of my own

I first heard your songs second-hand – the sweeter ones, of course
and bought an album on spec that raised blisters on my soul
In an era where ‘protest’ meant ‘hey man, it’s all wrong’
You were raising real issues and aiming at real goals

And I heard that you’d dried up, or did you just let it pass?
Did you find songs weren’t the weapon we were told that they could be?
No doubt someone has some answers but I’ll never really know
If you just decided snapshots don’t alter history

I’ve been thinking for hours there should be better songs to write
But thinking just makes circles in my head
There’s just a vague ache where my conscience ought to be
And a sour conviction that something true is dead

Only time will tell if I’m repeating your mistakes
Perhaps you’d have survived turning redneck like your peers
The romantics seem to be the real cynics after all:
Could it be the escapists really have the right idea?

And did you just decide living was a bind?
Slops for the body and musak for the mind?

Phil Ochs hanged himself in April 1976, after several very troubled years. Michael Schumacher suggested in his biography that “By Phil’s thinking, he had died a long time ago: he had died politically in Chicago in 1968 in the violence of the Democratic National Convention; he had died professionally in Africa a few years later, when he had been strangled and felt that he could no longer sing; he had died spiritually when Chile had been overthrown and his friend Victor Jara had been brutally murdered; and, finally, he had died psychologically at the hands of John Train.” [The strangling took place when he was travelling in Tanzania – the assault left him with his vocal range seriously reduced. For some months in 1975 he told people that he was John Butler Train, saying that he’d killed and replaced Phil Ochs.]

The lyric is fairly literal. I did hear the ‘tail end of the news’ on a local station in Berkshire, where I was living at the time. The ‘song I’d learned from you’ was Ewan MacColl’s Ballad of the Carpenter, which I still sing from time to time, and the album I bought was “I ain’t marching any more“. (I often sing the song of that name and go straight into this song – or did when I performed regularly.) At the time I bought it, I was only aware of a couple of his songs sung by others, notably Joan Baez – whose version of ‘There but for fortune’ had made the UK top ten – and ‘Changes’, which I think I first heard sung by Julie Felix. The album actually has a wider range of material than the topical/’protest’ label might indicate, with a couple of the verse settings he did so well and the descriptive song ‘Hills of West Virginia’, as well as the searing ‘Talking Birmingham Jam’ and the darkly comical ‘Draft Dodger Rag’.

Ochs didn’t exactly ‘go redneck’ but his later concerts did reflect an urge to get the attention of the public by mixing his own material with covers of older rock and country material, and I certainly preferred at that time the straightforward topical material of ‘Marching’ and ‘All the news that’s fit to sing’ to the more self-consciously poetic material like ‘Crucifixion ‘. But there may be a hint there that I was already aware that the very English school of socially and historically aware singer-songwriter that I was loosely aligned to (Bill Caddick, Peter Bond et al) was already outgrowing its one-voice-one-guitar roots.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow

Drunk last night

Drunk Last Night: Words and Music David Harley, 1976

Old version, but in reasonable shape considering it fell off a cassette:

Backup:

Video:

I was drunk last night / drunk the night before x2
I’ll be drunk again this evening / but I won’t be drunk no more

I don’t mind coffee
Milk or even tea
But water without whisky
Is just too strong for me

I was drunk last night / drunk the night before x2
I’ll be drunk again this evening / but I won’t be drunk no more

Feeling tomorrow
Like I do today
I’ll break your hard rock head
And make my getaway

I was drunk last night / drunk the night before x2
I’ll be drunk again this evening / but I won’t be drunk no more

If you quit me baby
Tell you what I’ll do
I’ll drink a quart of whisky
And let it out all over you

I was drunk last night / drunk the night before x2
I’ll be drunk again this evening / but I won’t be drunk no more

Odd Job Man

Words & music (c) David Harley

Backup:

I haven’t actually done this with slide guitar in decades, but I found this version on a cassette and quite liked it. Even though it leaves out my favourite verse.

Words & Music by David Harley: all rights reserved

I’m an odd job man, I work by day and night
I’m an odd job man, I work by day and night
I’m a handy-doodle-dandy and my dovetails fit just right.

I’m a Do-It-Yourself demon, got the tool for every use
I’m a D-I-Y demon, got the tool for every use
I’ve got an A1 set of drivers when your screws are working loose

I’ve got the brace and the bit to drill just where you need
Gotta brace, got a bit, I can drill just where you need
I’ve the angle and the rhythm, satisfaction guaranteed

I’ve got the switches and the cable and my fuses never blow
Gotta jack for every socket and my connections never blow
When I overhaul your wiring just lay back and watch her go

I’m an odd job man, on the job just when you please
I’m an odd job man, fix it anywhere you please
If your hardware’s getting rusty, just let me slip you some grease

A 12-bar reflecting my long-standing interest in Do-it-Yourself. Though I hear it’s more fun if you don’t have to do it all yourself. Ahem.

Diane (Going Out)

Backup:

Recent recording for Ian Semple’s show on Coast FM:

[/audio]

Backup:

 

So much of her life she’s spent on wards like this
With panic locked behind her eyes and dressings on her wrists.

But last time I saw Diane, she was beating a long, long drop:
I like to think it’s not only the scum that makes it to the top.

They feed her love in millivolts, and faith in plastic spoons
Sometimes it all washes out, and she has to rush out of the room
Sometimes she hits out; mostly, she turns on herself
And in rage and desperation she seeks out the razor’s edge

But last time I saw Diane, she was beating a long, long drop:
I like to think it’s not only the scum that makes it to the top.

There’s an old man in her mirror with his own tale to tell
He has words like “communicate” and “socialize” to sell
He’s promised her that she’s learning how to crawl out of her shell
She says “He’ll get my head together, on the next cool day in hell…”

Salvation comes expensive, by the litre or the gramme
But she holds on to her anger, if that’s all that comes to hand
It’s a sword that has two edges, but she’s learning to survive
And when she’s closest to dying, anger tells her that she’s alive

But last time I saw Diane, she was beating a long, long drop:
I like to think it’s not only the scum that makes it to the top.

Now she’s going out again, to meet her life head on
Hanging with the world, as it might be by her thumbs
Most of what I’d like to say sounds trite, sounds absurd
But we’ve been lovers and we’ve been friends, and we’ve never needed those words

Next time I see Diane, she’ll still be beating the drop
I wish I could be half the person she is, if only I had half the guts

Words and music by David Harley, copyright 1982

Death of a marriage

Words & Music by David Harley
All Rights Reserved

Backup:

Alternative master:

 

The blinds are down, the locks are changed,
His cases packed and sent:
Some boxes for collection gather dust.
They’re shaking hands like strangers – that’s all that either dares:
It’s just the death of a marriage and there’s no room left for trust.

Speak my heart

Speak My Heart (Words & Music by Don MacLeod)

Backup:

My love’s so many miles away
Makes it so hard to live through every day
Now I’m a watcher, a looker-on
I see my life as lived by someone I hardly know

Continue reading “Speak my heart”

Sheer Bravado (the song)

Sheer Bravado (by David Harley & Don MacLeod)
All Rights Reserved

Backup:

Look at us now, back to back
And so choked up
That neither dares to say a word.
What is this crazy game
where losing doesn’t count
As long as no-one sees you’re hurt?

Continue reading “Sheer Bravado (the song)”

Dead Man’s Alley

A heavily re-arranged version of the ‘Cocaine Blues’/’Honey take a whiff on me’ theme. I put it together in the 1970s, but then wrote a version I liked better. However, this suddenly popped into my head and I decided I like it after all. Not too bad a demo considering I haven’t played it since the 70s, and probably never in public.

Backup:

Dead Man’s Alley (Trad. arr. Harley)

Up dead man’s alley, going down Main
Dead man’s alley, going down Main
Dead man’s alley, going down Main
Looking for a woman that use cocaine

Drop back mama, won’t you let me be
Drop back mama, let me be
Drop back mama, and let me be
Cold turkey got his claws in me

Some say the cocaine habit is bad
Some say cocaine is bad
Some say cocaine habit is bad
Stone cold turkey worst I had

Drop back mama, won’t you let me be
Drop back mama, let me be
Drop back mama, and let me be
Cold turkey got his claws in me

Never miss your water till the well run dry
Never miss your water till the well run dry
Never miss your water till the well run dry
Never miss your man till he walk on by, walk on, walk on by

Drop back mama, won’t you let me be
Drop back mama, let me be
Drop back mama, and let me be
Cold turkey got his claws in me

Coming up State Street, running down Main
Coming up State Street, running down Main
Coming up State Street, running down Main
Looking for the man who sell cocaine

Drop back mama, won’t you let me be
Drop back mama, let me be
Drop back mama, and let me be
Cold turkey got his claws in me

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Everybody’s song but mine

Everyone’s song but mine
Copyright David Harley 2015

Backup:

 

I don’t own the songs I’m singing
They found me by the road
And let me come along for the ride
Sometimes they’re only wordplay
Sometimes they’re almost true
Telling everybody’s history but mine

There’s a soldier just returned
Forever damaged from the war
There’s a sailor forever lost in time.
Songs to lift your spirits
Songs to break your heart
Telling everybody’s story but mine

Maybe I was killing time
While time was killing me
Ignoring all the people in my head
Peering out of broken mirrors
To tell their broken tales
All the people in my dreams and in my head

A city sleeps in sunlight
A seascape in the storm
A town that I might go back to some time
Words I heard from lovers
For a lifetime or a night
Singing anybody’s melody but mine
Friends and lovers past and gone
Places I should be
Dreams that died and others that came true
Time we spent together
Too much time spent apart
Someone gone forever, much too soon

I was only killing time
While time was killing me
Ignoring all the people in my head
Peering out of broken mirrors
To tell their broken tales
All the people in my dreams and in my bed

I don’t own the song I’m singing
It found me by the road
And let me come along for the ride
Maybe it’s just wordplay
Perhaps it’s almost true
Telling nobody’s story but mine