Pick My Pocket [demo]

A different arrangement for an old blues-y thing. The other version here uses open D, but this one is just a dropped D tuning. By the way, the reference to ecstasy here is nothing to do with MDMA (I don’t think I’d heard of the drug at that point). I found the extra verse below at the weekend: not sure I’ll keep it, as it doesn’t seem quite in tune with the others. Anyway, I didn’t sing it this time round.

Pick My Pocket (Harley)

Got no fare
For a boat or plane
I got shoes to walk
But I’m here just the same
Buddy, you can pick my pocket
Got no greens to lose
Just a handful of empty
And a head full of blues

I keep looking for a highway
I can make it down alone
With every hobo, sewer rat
And rolling stone
Buddy, you can pick my pocket
Got no greens to lose
Just a handful of empty
And a head full of blues

[I keep on thinking
Just how nice it might feel
To wake up two days older
Hypnotized by burning wheels]

I’ve got a new way of spelling
E is for Exit
And the rest is blowing free
Buddy, you can pick my pocket
Got no greens to lose
Just a handful of empty
And a head full of blues
Just a hat full of empty
And a guitar full of blues


New single: ‘How to say goodbye’

Here – or actually on Bandcamp – is a newly-recorded version of a song I’ve put up here and there before.

A track from off a forthcoming album, final title not yet set in stone. Releasing it now because I suppose I ought to release a single occasionally, and the guitar part here is actually the best I’ve managed for this song so far! The first verse is a recollection of the second time I took my daughter to nursery, and the first time I left her there on her own. I felt like a criminal!

Took you down to the High Road
Where I’d taken you once before
Kissed you and left you crying
There behind the nursery door

From the day our children are born
Until the day we die
We keep on learning to let go
And how to say goodbye

Took you down to the station
Waited with you for a train
A kiss and a wave from the platform
Saw you homeward bound again

Took you in from the car
Walked you down the aisle
Kissed you goodbye at the reception
Once more you left me, with a smile

Walk me down to the station
Time that I went home again
Blow me a kiss from the platform to warm
An old man’s heart on the train

Words & music, vocal & guitar by David A. Harley


The Nightingale (A La Claire Fontaine) [demo]

The Nightingale (À la claire fontaine)

[Possibly a jongleur song from the 15th or 16th century: translation (C) by David A. Harley. ]

The tune used here is well known – I think it may be the one in the Penguin Book of Canadian Folksongs.

As I walked from my love’s wedding
By the spring where we once lay
From the top of a mighty oak tree
A songbird sang to me

It’s been so long that I’ve loved you
I never will love again

Sing, happy nightingale,
Sing, for your heart is light
Sing out your notes so merry
But all that I can do is cry

My love has wed another
Though I was not to blame
I gave to him my love too freely
Now someone wiser bears his name

Oh, how I wish that the rosebud
Still flourished on the vine
And that my false true lover
Still returned this love of mine

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai

I’ve always liked one particular tune to a French song (also widely found in Belgium and Canada), but the words as I’ve seen them have always seemed problematical to me, with the lover whining that he was unjustly discarded for being reluctant to give his lady a spray of roses. Hard to be too sympathetic… When I found some older versions where the protagonist was clearly female and the spray of roses symbolizes her maidenhead, it made more sense, though it also makes it more difficult for me to sing it convincingly myself. (I may attempt a male version that is nearer to the original sense, but that could be challenging.)  This is a rather free translation, picking up a possible interpretation that the lady lost out by giving in too easy, and then being too ‘easy’ to marry.

C’est de mon ami Pierre, qui ne veut plus m’aimer,
Pour un bouton de rose, que j’ai trop tôt donné.

Other versions suggest that she was dropped because she _didn’t_ give in. As well as making my chosen subtext a little clearer, I’ve compressed the story by dropping a couple of very common lines referring to the protagonist bathing, as that doesn’t seem to translate well. The song is often seen as a children’s song, but this approach might be considered a bit too explicit for that.

And yes, vining roses are a thing: they’re climbing roses trained to grow along fences and trellises.

One of the versions I used as a basis for this translation is on this French Wikipedia page: À la claire fontaine — Wikipédia (wikipedia.org)

The Chuck Berry-Beri [demo]

A revisited arrangement. Still needs some work, but not far off, I think.

The Chuck Berry-Beri (spelling optional)
Words & Music by David A. Harley

I don’t feel very much like dancing
No song worth singing but the blues
I used to feel like some kind of sex bomb
Till you absconded with the fuse
I think I need a holiday
So I’m out here on a midnight cruise
I’ve got the Chuck Berry-beri
Got to get a shot of rhythm and blues

I guess there’s no time left for loving
Looking into your backyard
Dissatisfaction guaranteed
But back to you was just a step too far
The waves are blowing higher
And we were shaking at the end of the cruise
It’s a fascinating rhythm
But I need a shot of rhythm and blues

I thought I saw your nightlight flicker
But I don’t think there’s anyone at home
Maybe I’ll call you from the middle of nowhere
While I’m stranded by the side of the road
I still need a holiday
But I can’t afford another midnight cruise
Still I can’t break the habit
I need another shot of rhythm and blues

David Harley

They hang the man and flog the woman [demo]

Lyrics anonymous: tune by David A. Harley

The Inclosure Acts enabled the passing into private hands land that had previously been designated as either ‘common’ or ‘waste’. This process preceded by several centuries the formal Inclosure Acts (which began with an Act of 1604) and continued into the 20th century, resulting in the enclosure of nearly seven million acres. While enclosure facilitated more efficient agricultural methods, that increased efficiency and loss of communal land was a factor in the enforced move of so many agricultural labourers into towns. There are a number of variations of this poem, which is usually assumed to date from the 1750s or ’60s, when enclosure legislation started to accelerate dramatically. The tune here is mine: I haven’t yet learned it properly, so not a polished performance, but better than the previously published version, with some tentative harmonies on the repeat of the last line (which is not in the original text). 🙂

There’s a relevant thread on Mudcat here.

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common’
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

‘Please’ revisited


Please let me go on dreaming
Don’t make me wake to find her gone
But it’s all right waking in the darkness
To find her still here in my arms

And the nightmares come and go but in the afterglow
The pain spills out across the sheets
If this is all a dream please let me go on dreaming

Please let us go on dreaming
Sleep away the bitterness that poisoned our lives
Help us go on believing / Tuning out the threats And the lies

Please hold back the daybreak
Let there be no more lonely dawns
Or else let tomorrow last for ever
Dreaming of the night before

Words & Music by David Harley
© 1977


Sarah McQuaid – The Sun Goes On Rising

Sarah ends her series of singles from the forthcoming album The St. Buryan Sessions with a lovely, blues-y song co-written with Gerry O’Beirne a decade or so ago, and previously recorded on the excellent 2012 album The Plum Tree And The Rose. 

To my ear this version seems a little slower than the previous version, and benefits from the ambience of the venue and perhaps an indefinable maturity of delivery. But judge for yourselves: the video of the single is on YouTube here, while the earlier album and 3-track single (and much else, including the previous singles from the St. Buryan album) can be found on Sarah’s Bandcamp page.

The St. Buryan’s Sessions album is due for release on October 15th 2021: while there are no plans to release any more singles from it, but there may be more videos (Sarah’s YouTube channel is here). I don’t mind either way: I have a copy of the album to look forward to!

David Harley


‘Ten Percent Blues’ Album

Now available (and listenable) at Bandcamp.

1. Make It Pay 01:30
2. Butterfly (Over The Hill) 03:43
3. The Road 03:13
4. Anywhere 03:12
5. Ten Percent Blues 03:42
6. Now How Long 03:45
7. Blues For Davy 02:01
8. Baby What A Groove 02:52
9. Another Bangor Day 04:12
10. Long Cigarettes, Cheap Red Wine 04:22
11. Moonstruck 01:30
12. Angel [demo version] 02:15
13. East River 03:07
14. Empty Sunday [demo version] 02:09

You might regard this album title as an over-extended pun. Not only does it include more blues/American-influenced material than my previous albums (though I’m not sure how to quantify the exact percentage), but it also draws some inspiration (if that’s the right word) from life on the road. Though in fact my own time as a professional musician was extremely short, and no agent was getting very fat on ten percent of my income at that time. And at this time of my life, I don’t think I’ll be spending much time playing live again, let alone living in a tour bus.

If I ever belonged to a particular ‘school’ of songwriter, it was probably that very English group that included people like Bill Caddick, Peter Bond, Bernie Parry et al. (Whatever happened to Al?) Still, looking back (as I have been a lot recently) to the songs I’ve written in the last 50-60 years, I suspect that there is enough material there for at least one more album with a fair amount of Americana influence.

Released May 19, 2021

All songs, guitars and vocals by David A. Harley

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