Posted by: David Harley | June 7, 2022

Two improvisations…

…likely to appear at some point in an ongoing verse and music project.

  1. Improvisation in High G tuning:

 

or backup:

 

2. Improvisation on piccolo guitar in Nashville tuning:

 

or backup:

 

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | May 7, 2022

From An Old Tin Cup

From an old tin cup (Words & Music by David Harley)

A curiously old-fashioned song. The words have been hanging around for at least 30 years, and I can’t remember what prompted them.

Backup:

 

I’ve got this feeling that can’t be bad
I’ve seen the end of feeling sad
Thanking fate for a little luck
Drinking life from an old tin cup

I had this dream that by and by
My time would come for living high
Eyes wide open for the best way up
To drinking life from a golden cup

But that’s all changed since you found your way
Back into my heart where you used to stay
Thanking fate for a little luck
Still drinking life from an old tin cup

There was sweet wine I used to sip
Now I need the taste of your honey lips
Thanking fate for a little luck
Drinking life from an old tin cup

One fine morning, pretty soon
We’ll set sail on a poor man’s honeymoon
Thanking fate for a little luck
And drinking life from an old tin cup

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | May 1, 2022

Requiem / R.L.S.

backup:

A setting that combines poems by Robert Louis Stevenson and A.E. Housman. Needs more work, of course.

Requiem (Stevenson)

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

XXII: R L S

(from ‘Additional poems’, Housman)

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
And every fowl of air.

‘Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.

 

Posted by: David Harley | April 28, 2022

Thou Art My Lute

Backup:

 

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 –1906), the son of parents who were slaves in Kentucky before the Civil War, was better known in his lifetime for writing dialect poetry and prose, but in recent years his more traditional writing has attracted more attention and respect. Maya Angelou borrowed a line from ‘Sympathy’ for the title of her autobiography ‘I know why the caged bird sings’.

It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings!

For my setting of ‘Thou Art My Lute’ I’ve used a consciously archaic arrangement to suit the tone of the poem.

Thou art my lute, by thee I sing,—
My being is attuned to thee.
Thou settest all my words a-wing,
And meltest me to melody.

Thou art my life, by thee I live,
From thee proceed the joys I know;
Sweetheart, thy hand has power to give
The meed of love—the cup of woe.

Thou art my love, by thee I lead
My soul the paths of light along,
From vale to vale, from mead to mead,
And home it in the hills of song.

My song, my soul, my life, my all,
Why need I pray or make my plea,
Since my petition cannot fall;
For I’m already one with thee!

Posted by: David Harley | April 28, 2022

Bread and Circuses

A song written in the 1980s about the conflict Jorge Luis Borges described as “a fight between two bald men over a comb.”

Backup:

 

The lads are on the march again: adrenaline is surging
Through the arteries of power
The gutter press is snarling, waving flags and beating chests
From the safety of its concrete Dockland towers
The price of bread is escalating and the jobs are getting scarce
But the circuses get bigger every year
If we lose the World Cup, God will give us back the Falklands
Before the latest Royal new-born appears

In the Corridors of Power, the game is Battleships:
Sink a few and lose a few – that’s Diplomacy
The body count gets higher, the planes and ships get fewer
The bereaved on both sides might agree
That the game’s not worth the candle standing by a single coffin
But there’s so much more at stake than death or life
There’s property and money and oil and mineral rights
And loss of face and patriotic pride.

The bombs and missiles blossom, and the gunfire pounds and pounds
The ears of friend and foe
The Belgrano and the Santa Fe, the Sheffield and Sir Tristram
Death by death the roll of honour grows
Till the fighting fizzles out in bitter winter gales
Far too late for so many mothers’ sons
The guns have fallen silent, but the words are bayonet-sharp
And the propaganda war goes on

The hawks are praising God across the tombstones of the dead
A service is attended by the Queen
The Prime Minister spits blood because a timid man of God
Recalls the dead on both sides in ‘victory’
Peace in the South Atlantic; a bombing in Hyde Park
Bloody warfare in the Lebanon
We press on to self-destruction: even as this one war ends
The killing still goes on and on and on

Posted by: David Harley | March 9, 2022

Postcard from Hiroshima

This is a piece that turned up during my ongoing sifting through (and digitizing where necessary and appropriate) all my non-security hardcopy from the 60s onward. This was written in the 80s (lightly edited here) but I never put a tune to it. Perhaps I never will, since it’s typical of the long and downbeat songs of mine that rarely garnered much enthusiasm from audiences. But it seems appropriate for these times.

I have a postcard from Hiroshima I pasted in a scrapbook
With some photographs of Dresden before the bombers came
I always meant someday to assemble them on canvas
I hope I have the time before the whole thing starts again

I’ll deploy them round some other shots of Coventry Cathedral
And the East End of London around 1943
And some more of Babi Yar, Dachau and Leningrad
To prove that no one’s safe or guiltless, not them, or you, or me

Christ was crucified again on barbed wire on the Somme
Torn by shrapnel in Guernica, starved in Biafra
In Warsaw he was lined up with the fighters from the ghetto
It could be me that squeezed the trigger, and the target could be you

There’s never been a simple answer, but the question’s getting bigger
Ukraine to Zimbabwe, Little Rock to Palestine
When our masters saw fit we were pointed at our targets
And scapegoats were graded by their religion or their skin

Don’t look at me that way, brother, I do mean you and me
It won’t always be us who get the cream
If you think your hands are clean, Soweto and Belfast
Kenya or the Congo might just show you what I mean

Christ is dying again on streets in India and Brazil
In Syria and Yemen, from Washington to Kyiv
East of Suez, West of China, New Cross and Brixton too
It could be me throwing petrol and the target could be you

But don’t let it get you down: the guns still buy the butter
For the tables of the wealthy and the leaders of men
And in a little while if the silos yield their harvest
There’ll be caviar and brandy for those sheltered till it ends

When they re-emerge to survey the devastation
There’ll be profits to be made from those not wiped out in the blast
The tyrants of the past will look down in grim approval
To see their life’s work ended so decisively at last

When Christ is dead and buried beyond hope of resurrection
With all the teeming millions who overran the nations
Of the world, our masters will cast lots for what remains
And the whole appalling cycle will be set to start again
But there’ll always be someone else to blame

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | February 23, 2022

Captains of Industry

I always had in mind a sort of Gilbert & Sullivan tune for this, but I’ll probably never get around to recording it, at any rate with two principals and full orchestra, so for now you’ll have to imagine it. There again, given the levels of cronyism and corruption that we now take for granted from our government, I might edit it to make a little more of the no doubt laudable links between our leaders and the billionaire classes. We’ll see.

[A = Lord Bibbenbrace; B=Sir Allen Key – if it matters!]

A & B:

We rise in the morning at nine
Glide into the office at ten
Just in time for morning and tea

A:

Just an arrowroot biscuit and coffee for me

A&B:

At eleven we both buckle down
To push the wheels of industry round
At half-past to the club for lunch we’re bound

It’s a busy old life for such as we
But the rich man’s burden we would not flee
We tireless captains of industry

A:

Lord Bibbenbrace…

B:

…and Sir Allen Key

A:

When I return to the office at three
A mountain of work waits for me
My putting’s in need of such polish, you know
So it’s round and round on the carpet I go

B:

There’s no such diversion for me
But tea at the Ministry
And tomorrow to lunch in the City I’ll go
And there I’ll confer with an MP I know
About on whose expenses the drinks will go

It’s a busy old life for such as we
But the rich man’s burden we would not flee
We tireless captains of industry

A:

Lord Bibbenbrace…

B:

…and Sir Allen Key

B:

Through many a long sleepless night
I’ve pondered the economy’s plight
The financial climate is such a disgrace
It’s a wonder the Cabinet dares show its face

A:

Oh, I have my sleepless nights too
As I’m sure I don’t have to tell you
Trying so hard that my poor head aches
To recall what it is my company makes
Except huge tax-free profits
And accounting mistakes

A&B:

It’s a taxing existence for such as we
But the rich man’s burden we would not flee
We tireless exploiters of bureaucracy

A:

Lord Bibbenbrace…

B:

…and Sir Allen Key

B:

Such labour we have to endure…

A:

Labour?!?!?!

B:

I do beg your pardon!
Such travail we have to endure
To meet all the workers’ demands…

By the way, have you actually seen a worker recently?

A:

Of course: only last year I had to take a shortcut through the works on the way to my Rolls

A&B:

We treat them as part of the family
We shake hands with shop stewards and offer them tea
And all in the name of (sigh…) democracy…

A:

Lord Bibbenbrace…

B:

…and Sir Allen Key

Posted by: David Harley | February 15, 2022

Links to Albums Available

This site hasn’t really kept up with the ridiculous number of my album and single releases in the last year or two. No, I don’t expect them to keep me in my old age. If someone occasionally buys an album or even a track, that’s nice, but it’s really more about getting as many of the songs as possible out there in some reasonably structured, (hopefully) semi-permanent form. Just in case someone, sometime likes them enough to dig out the obscurities.

So here is a list of the Harley albums and singles currently available including content summaries These releases replace cassette and CD albums previously available  (which is how they come to be released in such a short timeframe), and are at present digital-only releases. Right now, some of them are still only available from Bandcamp, but I’m working on that.  Some may be the basis in due course for multi-media projects: for instance, I’m currently working on a music and verse project that will draw on some of the instrumental tracks from Back In Free Fall and Still In Free Fall, and an expanded multi-media version of Tears of Morning. The list below is just a barebones list of releases. (The links here are to the Bandcamp albums – the Available Albums link includes further links to other sources such as Apple Music.

  • Strictly Off The Record‘ and ‘Further Off The Record‘ are slightly different ‘greatest hits’ collections. Admittedly I don’t actually have any hits, but these are the tracks/songs that have been listened to most, or have had radio play, or get asked for during live performances, or that other performers have expressed an interest in learning. They’re a good place to start (and finish, in most cases…) as they include 20 or so songs that are a pretty good cross-section of my better recordings.
  • Moonflow VI was the first single. It’s an extended version of an instrumental included on Tears of Morning.
  • Tears of Morning is a collection of songs with a Shropshire connection, including settings of verse by A.E. Housman and ‘W.H.B.’
  • The single One Step Away (From The Blues) is one of a handful of tracks recorded for an album by Bob Theil, Don MacLeod, Pat Orchard, Bob Cairns and myself in the 80s. Unfortunately, the album was never released.
  • The EP ‘View From The Top‘ features Don MacLeod, and consists of songs we perform (occasionally!) as a duo, written by us individually or together.
  • The EP ‘Hands of the Craftsman‘ consists of songs and verse from the 1980 review ‘Nice…If You Can Get It’, directed by Margaret Ford, for which I wrote most of the original music.
  • The Game Of London‘ consists of stories in song of the city in which I spent some 25 years of my life.
  • Ten Percent Blues‘ has tracks that mostly have a touch of blues, including a look back or two at my very short career on the road.
  • The single: ‘How To Say Goodbye‘ is the song with which I considered embarrassing my daughter at her wedding. :)
  • Dinosaur Tracks‘ are mostly of demo quality, quite a lot leaning towards blues.
  • Cold Iron‘ puts together most of my songs of social commentary.
  • Kitsch And Canoodle‘ – songs of love, lust and obsession. Probably describes most of my current repertoire.
  • Upcountry‘ – songs with a loosely rural theme, some in a country/blues/folk idiom, plus some settings of verse by Kipling, Housman and Yeats.
  • Single: ‘Song Of Chivalry‘ – originally posted to try out a different distributor, but same version subsequently added to Bandcamp. NB this is not the same version as the one on Tears of Morning.
  • Back In Free Fall – Part 1 of a collection of instrumentals that will be the musical backbone of a music-and-poetry project.
  • Single: Back In Free Fall – a guitar piece played on my electro-classic, with a vaguely Renaissance feel.
  • Still In Free Fall – Part 2 of the instrumental collection.
  • Born To Be Mild: 1st Demo Album – first of a set of albums where the tracks are not really commercial-quality recordings, but I’m putting them out because I think the songs are better than the performances. If and when my health improves, I’ll certainly revisit some of them. The first batch is mostly my settings to verse by Housman, Kipling and Hood.
  •  The Duke Of Haphazard: 2nd Demo Album – second in the set…
  •  The Old Man Laughs – not part of the demo collection.
  • Album: Demo Album 3 – still under construction.
  • Album: Nobody’s Song – still under construction.

David A. Harley

Posted by: David Harley | February 4, 2022

The Lent Lily

The Lent (or Lenten) Lily is better known today as the daffodil.

Words by A.E. Housman (‘A Shropshire Lad’ XXIX), tune by me.

Backup:

‘Tis spring; come out to ramble
The hilly brakes around,
For under thorn and bramble
About the hollow ground
The primroses are found.

And there’s the windflower chilly
With all the winds at play,
And there’s the Lenten lily
That has not long to stay
And dies on Easter day.

And since till girls go maying
You find the primrose still,
And find the windflower playing
With every wind at will,
But not the daffodil,

Bring baskets now, and sally
Upon the spring’s array,
And bear from hill and valley
The daffodil away
That dies on Easter day.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | February 4, 2022

Loveliest of Trees

Words by A.E. Housman (A Shropshire Lad II), tune traditional arranged and adapted by David A. Harley. It’s more or less the A tune from the reel ‘The Rose Tree’. At some point I’ll probably combine it with a version of the reel.

Taster for an album.

Backup:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

David Harley

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