Orpheus With His Loot [demo]

Words & Music by David A. Harley (all rights reserved)

This will hopefully evolve into something a little more polished, but I think the words are about where they should be. Unlike the politicians who ‘inspired’ them.

I used to push pens in the City
I was paid to milk someone’s cash cow
I once served my time at a dollar a line
But that’s not the job I do now

The clown wants some words to divert you
And asks me to build him some jests
A wink and a nudge, to distract some harsh judge
But that’s not the job I do best

The emperor assumes that I love him
This bully, this man without shame
He believes that I’ll praise all the lies he portrays
From his seat on the gravy train

A friend of the Fancy, his nose to the trough
Makes his profits from public pain
I can buy with sweet notes my way onto the lifeboat
If I honour this grandson of Cain

The rats have abandoned this Ship of Fools
The saints have forgotten to pray
Orpheus counts loot that he earned licking boots
But this is my text for today
Yes, this is my text for today


CD Review – Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire

Last in a series of reviews for Folking.com of a series of CDs on a seasonal theme. While this one is loosely linked to summer, it’s largely focused on work and emigration issues.

HANZ ARAKI & KATHRYN CLAIRE – The Emigrant’s Song/The Laborer’s Lament (The Celtic Conspiracy CELCON003)

David Harley

An interesting resource for folkies

Recommended to me by my friend Andi Lee (The Ashen): a Mixcloud podcast series by Jon Wilks at The Old Songs Podcast. Here’s the current listing:

  • Ep12 – The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Banks of Green Willow’, ft. Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne
  • Ep11 – The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Lord Gregory’, ft. Burd Ellen
  • Ep10: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, ft. Jim Moray
  • Ep9: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Myn Mair’, ft. Owen Shiers (Cynefin)
  • Ep8: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Hal-An-Tow’ ft. Lisa Knapp
  • Ep7: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Dives and Lazarus’ ft. Nick Hart
  • Ep6: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ ft. Billy Bragg
  • Ep5: The Old Songs Podcast – ‘An Acre of Land’ ft. Paul Sartin
  • Episode 4 – “The Sweet Nightingale” The Old Songs Podcast with Jackie Oates & Jon Wilks
  • Episode 3 – “On Humber Bank” The Old Songs Podcast with Jon Wilks & Ben Walker
  • Episode 2 – “Tam Lin” The Old Songs Podcast with Jon Wilks & Jim Moray
  • Episode 1: “Henry Martin / Lofty Tall Ship” The Old Songs Podcast with Jon Wilks & Nick Hart

I’ve been dipping in and out of UK and Irish folk music for many decades now, and am well-acquainted with most of these songs, but still found much to enjoy here.

David Harley

Seventeen-year itch (Harley)

At the time I wrote this, even being forty didn’t seem something I needed to identify with: all the other stuff seemed far, far away. So not too many biographical clues here. 🙂 In fact, I used to precede it with ‘Love Hurts’ so that you had two diversely miserable love stories together: however, I don’t think I could get away with singing ‘I’m young, I know…’ these days.


An older version with solo electric guitar.


Words and Music by David Harley, copyright 1986

Front tyre blew
Tax overdue
Picked up
A parking fine or two

Gas bill trouble
Rent is doubled
You say
“NOW what’s wrong with you?”

Dentures slipping
Nervous twitch

I’m underpaid and overweight
So let’s go and celebrate

Who said life begins at 40?

Kids are listening
Separate beds
Bitter thoughts
In separate heads

Kids are screaming
Dogs are howling
Milk gone bad
We’re out of bread

So I leer at typists
Wonder which
Might scratch
My seventeen year itch

I must have wasted
So much time
The other side
Of 39

Monday morning
Bus queue blues

My head is bursting
My eyes need testing
That I snapped at you

Always saying sorry
Always praying
There might be some peace sometime
The other side of 65
But would it be so hard to be
Another aging divorcee?


David Harley


Walls [demo]


Last time I saw Jeannine, we lost most of our time
In the company of friends who were neither hers nor mine

Castaways in different cities, working through some breaks
Regretting our vocations, scared of making more mistakes

And we talked of where we’d been
How we’d passed the interim
Since the last time together, building up
A wall of coffee cups and cigarette ends
Keeping our last rendezvous
At least, it looks to be the last we’ll keep

The last time I saw Jeannine, we lost most of our time
Talking of ourselves in terms of once upon a time

Clinging to the wreckage of lives we’d left behind
Hoping for the miracle we lost somewhere in time

And shied away from conversation
Of ourselves but in relation
To each other, but together, building up
A wall of alibis half-spoken
And chances we were missing
At least, from here it seems we’ve missed them all

By David Harley, copyright 1973

The first line does, I suppose, invite comparison with Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’, though I didn’t hear that until several years later. But I suppose you could also compare it to ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ or ‘Last Time He Saw Marie‘ if you really wanted, and you’d still be wrong. Personally I prefer the Mitchell song, but this has a certain nostalgic je ne sais quoi. See what I did there?

And for anyone whose interested in any biographical elements, the lady’s name wasn’t Jeannine or Richard, and it was Bangor (North Wales), not Paris. 

I just realized that I also used the line ‘Last time I saw…’ in Diane. Probably Diane is the better song, and written about someone completely different. Whose name was not Diane, Richard or Jeannine. 

Anyway, I promise not to use the line again. Probably. 

(So much for) Romance

(words and music by Don MacLeod)

[There may be an updated version of this eventually.]


I could spend my time just watching you
Seeing all the things you want to do
What you’re going through
It’s all so new, it’s strange somehow

Continue reading “(So much for) Romance”

She’s Gone

She’s Gone (by Don MacLeod and David Harley)
All Rights Reserved


She’s gone: too bad…
And I wanted so much more
But now, too late,
I see what she was looking for
Wasn’t me at all
Just a lay-by
On the road to bigger things

Continue reading “She’s Gone”


Words and music by David Harley: all rights reserved


This is the preface Wilfred Owen drafted for a collection of war poems intended for publication in 1919.

“This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.

Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War.

Above all I am not concerned with Poetry.

My subject is War, and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.

Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful.

(If I thought the letter of this book would last, I might have used proper names; but if the spirit of it survives – survives Prussia – my ambition and those names will have achieved fresher fields than Flanders…)”

I quote it here because every year it seems to me that we give too much credence to

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

I wrote this song out of disrespect. Not disrespecting those who suffer and die in battle or as a less direct result of warfare, whether or not the world called them heroes; not disrespecting those who lived on, suffering injury or the loss of loved one; but I have no respect at all for those whose ‘respect’ is founded on seeking political and commercial advantage. When I added this note in 2015, that cynical capitalization on tragedy seems, if anything, even more in evidence than it was in the 1980s.

Sleep well old man, and don’t look down from some heavenly aerie
To see the edifice we’ve built on your philosophy
The sacrificial fires below bear the devil’s mark
But it was hands a lot like yours that struck the first spark

Continue reading “Circle”