Posted by: David Harley | May 18, 2014

The Doomsday Gig

“…you sell a lot more records
when you’re permanently depressed…”
(Peter Buckley-Hill – apologies if I’ve misquoted. I can’t remember the name of the song, either.)

Recently I was thrown into a state somewhere between rage and gloom when one of my songs – admittedly not a particularly cheerful example of my oeuvre – was roundly and publicly condemned by two people for being depressing. (Well, we can go into debates another time about session etiquette, whether social comment is folk, and whether no-one should ever write anything that isn’t upbeat.)

After the gloom wore off, I started contemplating going back to that session with a handful of the gloomiest songs I know (of) and realized that without even looking at my own songs, I could easily find enough material to empty the Albert Hall several times over.

  • David Ackles: His Name is Andrew
  • Bob Dylan: It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
  • Phil Ochs: Crucifixion
  • Lord Gregory. The Recruited Collier.  And about a third of all the Scots ballads I’ve ever been tempted to fake an accent to sing.
  • Richard Thompson: The End of the Rainbow (or possibly Never Again, or Poor Ditching Boy, or Stuck on the Treadmill, or even Pavanne)
  • Blind Lemon Jefferson: See That My Grave is Kept Clean
  • One of several songs called Oh Death
  • Lay this body down
  • Hank Williams: I’m so Lonesome I could Cry, or Wedding Bells, or Lonesome Whistle
  • The Everlys (don’t know offhand who wrote these): Ebony Eyes, or Take a Message to Mary, or Crying in the Rain, or Rocking Alone in an Old Rocking Chair, or I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
  • Leonard Cohen: Avalanche, or Dress Rehearsal Rag, or One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong – I’m sure I could think of one or two more…
  • Brother Can You Spare a Dime?
  • Nic Jones: Ruins by the Shore
  • Bruce Springsteen: Brothers Under the Bridge
  • The Lyke Wake Dirge (probably the tune Britten used rather than the one YT et al recorded: any French horn players around Ludlow?)
  • Don’t they know it’s the end of the world? (Kent-Dee)
  • Texas Girl at the Funeral of her Father (Randy Newman)
  • Jackson C. Frank: Here Come the Blues (Blues Run the Game would be a contender, too)
  • Fred Neil: Blues on the Ceiling
  • Neil Young: A Man Needs a Maid or After the Goldrush.
  • Bill Caddick: Oller Boller (am I the only person in the world who loves this song?)
  • Steve Goodman: Penny Evans (I don’t have a problem switching gender for a good song: see Recruited Collier).
  • Ann Briggs: Go Your Way, My Love
  • Weary Blues
  • Eric Bogle: No Man’s Land or The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

You know, I really want to hear that set. And I was starting to think about a running order, but I kept bursting into tears.

David Harley

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