White Noise – demo

A second song for which Alan Doyle provided a tune and added some words. 🙂 I think this will probably have a fairly synth-y feel when I’ve learned it properly, but while it obviously needs polishing, this will be the basic shape.

By Alan Doyle and David Harley

Backup:

The puppet master has turned his back
On the farewell appearance of the men in black
But he can’t stop thinking ’bout the shape he’s in
Heavy water seeping through his skin

Input/output all of the time
There’s only white noise out there on the line

He’s got the moves, but he’s worn so thin
He tried to be polite, but they cut his strings
His voice is rusty and his chords are crude
His fingers are raw and his head is screwed

Input/output all of the time
There’s only white noise out there on the line

White noise [white noise] in the air
White noise [white noise] everywhere
White noise [white noise] all around
White noise [white noise] the only sound

His skin is crawling, his resistance is low
There’s an overload building with nowhere to go
The feedback generates so much heat
He’s got to boost his signal out in the street

Input/output all of the time
There’s only white noise out there on the line

….There’s only white noise at the end of the line

David Harley

 

Quirks and Crotchets demo

This is a collaboration with Alan Doyle, who wrote the tune and tweaked my lyrics. 🙂

I’m planning to include a cleaner (I mean better recorded, not less obscene!) version of this on a forthcoming album called ‘Kitsch and Canoodle’, but this is probably most of the way there.

Two lost souls living in a bedsit
Lying there back to back
She’s close to weeping, he pretends he’s sleeping
But he’s wondering what to pack
Someone needs to say ‘sorry’
But it seems that it won’t be him
They want to be happy, but they’d rather be right
So the chances of that are slim

Sometimes it’s OK just to let it all go 
And it really doesn’t matter who’s right
Sometimes it’s OK just to let it all go
And it really doesn’t matter who’s right

Two lost souls standing by the bus stop
Neither finding words to say
He’s packed up his troubles in his old rucksack
But no one’s smiling today
Someone needs to say ‘sorry’
But neither seems to want to know
They want to be happy, but they’d rather be right
Instead of flattening the bumps in the road

Sometimes it’s OK just to let it all go 
And it really doesn’t matter who’s right
Sometimes it’s OK just to let it all go
And it really doesn’t matter who’s right

Two old dears standing in the bus queue
Neither has a lot to say
He’s got the shopping and she’s got his arm
So it must have worked out OK
And they’ve learned to live with each other’s quirks and crotchets
And the angry words that quickly lose their bite
They wanted to be happy, and they want to be right
But they’ve learned to put the past behind

Sometimes it’s OK just to let it all go 
And it really doesn’t matter who’s right
Sometimes it’s OK just to let it all go
And it really doesn’t matter who’s right
It really doesn’t matter who’s right

David Harley

New album – Cold Iron

Yes, I know it’s not a good sales strategy to put out so many albums so close together, but I’m trying to get this stuff out there, and not really expecting to make my fortune at this time of my life.

All music by David A. Harley. The author of the 18th century lyric to ‘They Hang The Man’ is unknown, and the words to ‘Nowhere to Nowhere’ were written by Alison Pittaway. Piano on ‘London 1983’ by James Bolam. All vocals and other instruments by David A. Harley.

All rights reserved.

Here’s the album: Cold Iron

And here’s the track ‘For Phil Ochs’ which is in a way the foundation stone of the album:

Anyway, here are what would be the sleeve notes if I was releasing it as a physical album.

I suppose you could say that all songs are ‘social comment’ – I don’t care for the term ‘protest’ since I associate it with the 1960s phenomenon of well-fed pop singers whining about plastic people and how awful everything is – but I’ve always leaned towards songs that weren’t exclusively about ‘my girl friend left me’.. Still, I never felt I had to distinguish between ‘love songs’ – perhaps we should say songs about people and their relationships – and songs with a wider topical resonance. If a song demands to be written, I don’t take no notice because it’s in the ‘wrong’ genre or context.

Still, I had some difficulty in placing a couple of the songs in this collection because they’re ‘folkier’ – OK, acapella – than most of my output. So I finally went for an album of songs that fit together because they’re more about social comment and less about personal relationships (fictional and otherwise). That doesn’t, of course, mean they don’t fit into other contexts. Some have already been released on other albums, and others are likely to be in the future.

The album’s title comes from a poem by Kipling, though his conclusion in that poem, and indeed his politics in general, often diverge from my own convictions. On the other hand, I think he would have agreed with the relationship between iron as a foundation of weaponry and iron as a symbol or element of the supernatural.

Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

And here’s the tracklist.

  1. London 1983 (Harley) 06:28
  2. They Hang The Man (Anonymous-Harley) 01:43
  3. Song of Chivalry II (Harley) 03:58
  4. Nowhere To Nowhere (Pittaway-Harley) 02:11
  5. Soldier (You Come, You Go) (Harley) 01:06
  6. Long Stand (Harley) 03:00
  7. Orpheus and his Loot (Harley) 01:51
  8. For Phil Ochs (Harley) 05:35
  9. Calvary (Soldier of Fortune) (Harley) 01:30
  10. Paper City (Harley) 05:25
  11. Hands of the Craftsman (Harley) 05:35
  12. Jerry Jingalo (Harley) 01:06
  13. Circle (Harley) 08:14
  14. Diane (Going Out) (Harley) 05:19
  15. Paper Tiger (Harley) 02:37

 

David Harley

 

Old White Lightning demo (revisited)

[backup]

Ancient version remastered (somewhat). I don’t currently sing this one, but if I did these are probably the words I’d use.

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

David Harley

New Album – Dinosaur Tracks

Hat tip to Ken Bechtel, who for some reason suggested that ‘Dinosaur Tracks’ would be a suitable title for a Harley album. Be that as it may, the album is now available on Bandcamp.

Here’s an MP3 the track that’s featured on Bandcamp: ‘Butterfly’

Dinosaur Tracks cover art

When I started to do many more of my own songs, back in the 1970s, much of my repertoire was blues-based, and my own songs reflected that bias, including most of the songs here. The performances here are mostly demo-quality, mostly taken from cassettes rather than studio performances, but the fingers and the voice were generally in better shape than they are nowadays. The guitar in particular is generally pretty decent on these tracks. And while I’m less blues-oriented nowadays, I think these songs fit quite nicely into the genre, and my opinion is, of course, quite unbiased.

These are all ‘live’ recordings with no overdubs except for the lead break on ‘Lady Luck’ and the slide on ‘This Guitar Just Plays The Blues’. All the songs are mine, and all the guitars and vocals are  me.

1. Butterfly (Over The Hill)
2. Southside
3. Bootup Blues
4. Wearing Out My Shoes
5. Stranger In Uniform
6. Sylvie (Letting go)
7. This Guitar Just Plays The Blues
8. Scratch One Lover
9. Low In The Water
10. Soleares
11. Lady Luck
12. Drunk Last Night
13. Odd Job Man
14. Down To The River

Released July 12, 2021

David Harley

A Rainy Day Blues revisited

Backup:

A Rainy Day Blues (Harley) – all rights reserved

Some days are like a melody
But I can’t seem to hold the key
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

So I spend my day trying to keep  myself amused
Sitting here picking at a rainy day blues
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

It seems the road to fortune never ends
You play God all week and golf at weekends
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

And if we quit the rat-race we could have a ball
But you know those big wheels grind so small
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

You say you love me but it seems sometimes
You stuff my mouth with kisses and my ears with lies
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

David A. Harley

Gooseberry Blues [remix of demo]

Heavily remixed version of a slightly weird little song.  Words and music copyright David Harley, 1976

Going down the upline to your heart
Changing stations for a brand-new start
If you’d asked I might have stayed
But since we met it’s been stop signals all the way

Going back to the Badlands where I’m known
So I don’t have to sing those backstage blues alone
If you ask I might just say
The gooseberry blues is one tune I don’t play

Going down the upline to your heart
Changing partners for a brand-new start
If you asked I might just stay
But since we met it’s been stoplights all the way

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
Ecstasy
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)