Highway Fever (alternative demo)

Backup copy:


Words and music (c) David Harley

Those easy-action formulae lie easy in my mouth
Down streets I walked for ever while my head was blowing South
That same old highway fever keeps burning up my socks
The river keeps on running, I’ve been too long on the rocks

All along the waterfront the chance is lost and found
I’m halfway back to nowhere but my head is outward bound
I’m on the run, my head is free, my cover has been blown
And still I hate to sing these backstage blues alone

Out beyond the fences windswept trees lay down to die
But I’m staring into limbo as the 19.10 rolls by
And I’m weary to my bones of scavenging for dreams
I’d give my second-best guitar for an unread magazine

I’m weary to my soul and home is far away
Racing into sunrise and another Northern day
I wish I’d half a chance of another drink or two
This train moves too fast, and it’s bringing me to you

Here’s an earlier version that goes straight into the old blues standard ‘Vestapol’.

Backup copy:

And this version experiments with a rather different arrangement.

Backup copy:

David Harley

Adventures in Video #9 – “Can’t Sleep”

This actually goes back to 2016: after that I went very quiet on the video front, but looking back at this it’s actually not bad. It’s a product of my obsession with songs about obsession.

Here’s a better audio version.

The guitar is a cheap and cheerful Yamaha 3/4 guitar, high strung – that is, the three lowest strings are restrung to allow me to tune them an octave higher than normal. This is sometimes called Nashville tuning, though I prefer to distinguish between Nashville tuning and high-strung tuning by using Nashville tuning to refer to when the four lowest strings are tuned an octave higher. (Either way, don’t try this at home if you only have a standard 6-string set to hand even if it’s an ultra-light set: that would be very bad for the strings and for the neck!) Just to add to the confusion, I’ve actually used the high-strung version of DADGAD.

This reminds me that I have yet to complete the article I started last year on Nashville/high-strung tunings. Tomorrow, perhaps…

Meanwhile, here are the words to “Can’t Sleep”

Words and music copyright David Harley, 2017.

I don’t need this jangle
In my nerves
And in my head
I don’t need
These lonely hours
Here in my weary bed
But I can’t sleep
I can’t turn her off
I can’t get her out of my head

The night hours
Are bleeding away
Till the light runs away with my time
The shadow fades
And I’m so afraid
My words are refusing to rhyme
But I can’t shut her up
I can’t shut her off
I can’t get her out of my mind

I can’t shut her up
I can’t shut her down
I can’t get her out of my head

I can’t pick her up
I can’t put her down
I can’t get her into my bed

I can’t find the path
I can’t do the math
I can’t get it into my head

And I can’t break it down
I can’t break it up
I can’t get you out of my head

Copyright David Harley, 2017


40-70 blues

If you listen to the bass, this is essentially a 12-bar with aspirations, not to mention pretensions. While at the moment I’m concentrating on getting more-or-less one-take versions of my songs onto the site, I think there might be more unexpected synth incursions in the near future. And I think I might come back to this one.




Backup copy:

There will come soft rains [very rough demo]

Sara Teasdale‘s poem ‘There will come soft rains’ has haunted me since I came across it as a boy, quoted in the Ray Bradbury story of the same name. This was sung straight into the mic, no edits, and I’ll need time to learn it and live with it before it’s fit to sing in public, and it may change quite a lot. But it looks as if I’ll have lots of time – Thanatos and Covid-19 permitting – to do that… Here’s the poem.

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows calling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.


A Pandemic Puzzle

There’s nothing specifically Cornish about this article. And, in fact, before I (mostly) retired from the security business, I’d probably have posted it either on ESET’s blog or on a blog of my own devoted to scams, fake news and hoaxes, since it’s about a very recent poem that somehow became attributed to a different author with a similar name and was then claimed by someone else entirely. But let’s start at the beginning.

Kitty (Catherine) O’Meara is, according to an article in the Oprah Magazine,  a retired teacher and chaplain living in Wisconsin. She has a blog called The Daily Round, and on the 16th March 2020 she published an article there called In The Time Of Pandemic, consisting of the prose-poem which has gone viral (albeit in more than one form) and beginning “And the people stayed home…” – the first line seems to have become the de facto title as the piece has spread across the Internet. It evidently struck a chord. Apart from the many (mostly admiring) comments at the bottom of the article, further articles on her blog demonstrate how many people were inspired to perform it or collaborate in other ways.

But that isn’t when or where I first met it. So I also missed the claim by Italian journalist Irene Vella that O’Meara’s piece was a translation of her own poem. To which I can only say that I don’t see much similarity between the two pieces as shown here with what appears to be Vella’s own translation, certainly nowhere near enough to suggest plagiarism.

Like many others, I first encountered O’Meara’s poem on Facebook, but attributed to a 19th century writer called Kathleen O’Mara, complete with a backstory claiming that the original verse had been written in 1869, reprinted in 1919 at the time of the Spanish Flu epidemic, and even included a photograph of two ladies wearing suitably archaic clothes and facemasks. Well, I liked the poem, but wondered about a couple of things. While I don’t have the same grounding in literary analysis that Robert S. Becker apparently has, it did seem a little modern in concept, form and expression for 1869. Almost as if it had been written during the current crisis… Besides, over the years I’ve seen so many falsely attributed quotations (like the recent crop of plague-related ‘quotations’ from Samuel Pepys) – not to mention out-and-out hoaxes (like the malware hoaxes of yesteryear) and urban legends – that I tend not to take such things at face value. After all, while I’m now pretty much retired from malware/security research, I spent well over 30 years of my working life in that area: old habits die hard, and my natural curiosity and scepticism haven’t left me just yet. Besides, if I was citing a reprinted poem, I would at least say where it was reprinted: that sort of vagueness is characteristic of so many out-and-out hoaxes, that I really had to check it out.

A little digging turned up a nineteenth century writer called Kathleen O’Meara who was certainly writing by 1869, though she’s not known as a poet. Actually, I found several other more contemporary people with similar names, but I also found the Oprah Magazine article (and one or two others) that made it clear where the article really came from. And someone has already altered the  Kathleen O’Meara Wikipedia page to make it clear that it wasn’t her poem. While writing this article, I also came across the article by Robert S. Becker Travesty averted: An uplifting poem for the pandemic  already cited. While we seem to have taken much the same route, his thoughts are certainly worth reading. There is also a follow-up piece by Kitty O’Meara called In the Time of Pandemic, Part II which retains the essential optimism of the first piece while taking into account the presumed reluctance of the oligarchs to let the earth or mankind heal. I like it, but I must confess that I incline more to Sara Teasdale’s vision of a world where humanity has fought and plundered itself to extinction, though I fear we will take most of the birds and trees with us.

Much as I like Kitty O’Meara’s pieces (and I’ll probably do some further exploring on her blog), I suppose what really fascinates me is this: how (and why) did Kathleen O’Meara and Kitty O’Meara become so entangled in the hivemind?  Yes, the names are close enough for potential confusion, I suppose, and there are plenty of cases where there probably is genuine confusion. (For instance, when that old saying about ‘singing in the lifeboats’ is credited to Voltaire.) But then someone went to the trouble of inventing a provenance for the poem based on a false assumption.

  • Is artificially ageing the poem supposed to give it authority?
  • Does it derive from some genuine but misleading source that I failed to find?
  • Or is it just the old hoaxer thing of someone feeling superior because they’ve managed to convince others of something that is less than true?

I suppose the theory of ‘spurious authority’ would at least account for the number of people who have put up fake quotations from (e.g.) Samuel Pepys. Though Pepys actually did make quite a few observations that are very relevant to our present situation (thank  you, Nora Lucke for pointing them out!)

“…this disease making us more cruel to one another than if we are doggs.”

“But, Lord! how every body’s looks, and discourse in the street is of death, and nothing else, and few people going up and down, that the towne is like a place distressed and forsaken.”

“Lord! to consider the madness of the people of the town, who will (because they are forbid) come in crowds…”

Maybe we’re not so far removed from those long gone plagues and pandemics after all…

David Harley

Adventures in Video (3) The Chuck BeriBeri

The Chuck BeriBeri – words & music by David Harley

Strangely, this started off as a poem called The Walsall Concerto, then started to evolve into straight rock and roll, then suddenly turned into something altogether darker…

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’re 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

Adventures in Video (2) Scratch One Lover

How does it feel to be proved right
When everything just fell apart?
Does it buy you sleep through long cold nights?
Does it ease your aching heart?

Score two points, scratch one lover:
You said it’s too good to be true.
Why don’t you run back to your mother?
She always knows what’s best for you.

All those black moods and jealousies,
Now you know they were justified.
She looks so happy, holding hands with someone else:
Was it worth it, being right?

Hold on to all that righteous anger
But don’t forget who set it up for her.
If she’s easier in someone else’s arms,
She might be telling you you were unfair.

Score two points, scratch one lover:
Let it ride, it’s just the gypsy’s curse.
But people tend to give you what you ask for:
Maybe you only got what you deserved

Words & Music (c) David Harley

Wrekin (The Marches Line) [remastered]

There’s a live video here.

Here are the words again, but there’s much more information about the references in the song here.

The Abbey watches my train crawling Southwards
Thoughts of Cadfael kneeling in his cell
All along the Marches line, myth and history
Prose and rhyme
But these are tales I won’t be here to tell

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Lawley and Caradoc fill my window
Facing down the Long Mynd, lost in rain
But I’m weighed down with the creaks and groans
Of all the years I’ve known
And I don’t think I’ll walk these hills again

Stokesay dreams its humble glories
Stories that will never come again
Across the Shropshire hills
The rain is blowing still
But the Marcher Lords won’t ride this way again

The royal ghosts of Catherine and Arthur
May walk the paths of Whitcliffe now and then
Housman’s ashes grace
The Cathedral of the Marches
He will not walk Ludlow’s streets again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again
And I may never pass this way again