Sheer Bravado sessions

Some 1980s recordings (mostly) from the CentreSound studio in Camden originally compiled as a cassette LP called ‘Sheer Bravado’. I recently had the CentreSound master tapes baked (don’t ask!) and transferred to digital media, and those better-quality but slower-loading versions have now been added to the versions originally posted here. Track listing as per the original cassette.

Track List

  1. Long Stand
  2. Speak My Heart
  3. The Weekends
  4. Dives and Lazarus/the Butterfly
  5. Paper City
  6. Sheer Bravado
  7. View From The Top
  8. She’s Gone
  9. So Much For Romance
  10. Circle
  11. Blues For Davy

Track 1

Long Stand

Long Stand From “Sheer Bravado” (Words and Music by David Harley)
All rights reserved


The day I started work, the foreman said to me,
“I’ve another job for you when you’ve finished brewing tea:
Go down to the stores and when you find old Stan,
Tell him Harry sent you for a long stand.”

I got a long stand all right: I stood an hour or more,
Till Stan got tired of the joke and sent me back to the shop floor.
Well I didn’t think it funny, but I laughed and held my peace,
Even when they sent me back for a tin of elbow grease.

Still I did my bit, till I was pensioned off in ’69
From apprentice to foreman, all down the production line.
Many’s the lad I’ve sent myself when things were getting dull
For a can of striped paint or a pound of rubber nails.

But the joke they’re playing now, I just don’t think it’s fair:
Even when you get your ticket, the work just isn’t there.
The safest job in England is handing out the dole:
For every man that gets a job they turn away a hundred more.

For now the work is scarce, again, the queues are building up.
The streets are full of lads and lasses looking out for jobs;
But when you’ve just left school, you hardly stand a chance
They’re sending every lad in England for a long stand.

They say that if you’ve got the gumption you can do just as you please.
They say you’ll do all right with a bit of elbow grease;
But with a hundred out for every job, it’s few that stand a chance
They’re sending every lad in England for a long stand
They’re sending every lass in England for a long, long stand

Back in the days when Britain had industries, it was customary for the older blokes to send apprentices to fetch curious items such as a can of striped paint or some rubber nails. The lucky lad who was sent for a long stand was liable to be left standing at the counter for a half an hour or longer while the storeman went off for a cup of tea and a chuckle. This song was written for a revue called “Nice if you can get it” directed by the actress Margaret Ford in the early 1980s. The guitar was tuned to D-modal, to give it a folksy Martin Carthy/Nic Jones feel. But it still sounds more like David Harley to me…

David Harley: Vocal, acoustic guitar
Track 2

Speak My Heart

Ten Percent Blues (Harley)


My love’s so many miles away
Makes it so hard to live through every day
Now I’m a watcher, a looker-on
I see my life as lived by someone I hardly know

Love is so near and yet so far
If what we speak we are
And every day that we’re apart
I realize how little I’ve shown my heart

I sometimes think I’m just a hopeless case
And I’ve always been the same old way
I get in such a hopeless mess
Because I find it so hard
To speak my heart

So the days may turn and the world may roll
We do our very best to keep body and sould
One thing’s for certain right from the start
You can lose your mind if you don’t know your heart
And speak your heart

David Harley: vocal, electric and acoustic lead guitars
Don MacLeod: acoustic guitar

The Weekends

Track 3
The Weekends (Words by David Harley – Tune Traditional)
All rights reserved
The weekends (are the worst) MP3 as originally released.

The world has changed since I was born in 1902.
Two World Wars have swept away the world that we once knew:
Two brothers and three sisters , long dead and gone to earth
Our lives were often hard, but now the weekends are the worst.

My old man died just 20 years past.
His health was never good since the Kaiser had him gassed,
But in the end it was cancer that carried him off so fast
I miss him all the time, and the weekends are the worst.

You might say I was lucky, though we never had much cash,
But we had 50-odd good years, more than I’d dare to ask.
I brought up three lovely kids, though another died at birth:
I miss them all a lot, and the weekends are the worst.

I’ve a son in Melbourne, he’s been there since ’62:
I’ve never seen his wife or kids, just a snapshot or two.
My eldest died in the last lot, on a convoy to Murmansk:
It still brings tears to my eyes, and the weekends are the worst.

I’ve a daughter in Glasgow: she writes when she has time,
But that’s a long way off, and I’ve not seen her for a while.
She’s got a son in the army, just been posted to Belfast:
We worry all the time, and the weekends are the worst.

My friends are mostly dead, or else they’ve moved like me
When the street I was brought up in was pulled down in ’63.
Sixty years I’d lived there, child, girl and wife:
Sheltered housing’s not so bad but it can be a lonely life.
Especially since Jim died: we weren’t too bad at first
But now I’m on my own the weekends are the worst.

There’s the club once a week, though it’s just from seven till nine,
And since my fall they only fetch me down from time to time.
There’s my knitting and the TV, for what that might be worth,
But I miss the company, and the weekends are the worst.

David Harley: vocal

The tune is the well-used traditional tune associated with the ballad “Dives and Lazarus”, among many others. Though, digging back through my notes at the time, I see I originally intended to use the tune mostly associated with “Musselburgh Fair”, which I guess would work too. In fact, I rejigged the tune much more recently as a mashup of the two tunes: if I was going to sing it in public now, that’s how I’d do it. (See above – note that there’s no instrumental part to the recent version at present, but it is just a demo.)

The story is vaguely based on a composite of a number of people I met in the late 70s. In a way, it could be a companion piece to Ian Campbell’s “Old Man’s Song” but I never got around to learning that. I sang this the first time I went to the Enterprise in Chalk Farm, and someone asked me if it was a song by Eric Bogle, writer of “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and “No Man’s Land”: one of the nicer compliments I’ve received. When I used to work with guitarist and fiddle player Pete Wilkes we used to follow the song by playing the tune, then going into a slip jig called “The Butterfly”. This is the recorded version: there was a problem with the fiddle on the recording of Dives and Lazarus, so I re-recorded the air with my own double-tracked guitar and no fiddle, followed immediately by the slip jig as recorded with Pete (and Gail Williams on boddhran). Track 3.1

Dives and Lazarus/The Butterfly (Traditional)

Dives and Lazarus/The Butterfly

Here’s a remastered version I like better, but have a horrible habit of calling Diving Butterfly (arr. Harley, Wilkes):


rack 4

Paper City


I woke up with my mind’s eye facing your direction:
I looked hard and I saw you needed help.
You’re choking on paper and tape and legislation,
But you can’t produce one thing to help yourself.

Paper city at the heart of a paper empire:
You’ve got strings to pull, you’ve got wires all over the earth.
Sky-climbing parasite, concrete and paper jungle,
You’ve got money to burn, but I know you’d rather freeze to death.

 You’ve got stacks of stocks and shares and bonds:
You’ve got telephone and telex,databank and dateline too.
But you can’t produce as much as one lead pencil,
Or a bar of soap, or a rubber band to pull you through.

The media twitch at the flash of a freemason’s handshake:
Speeches are made and the punters gather round;
Paper politicians and faceless company men,
Taking the pulse of an ailing paper pound.

I bet you know just what you’re worth on paper:
When the market crumbles, what will that do to you?
A lot of cold people don’t own the earth they lie in:
Will you be all right in your green-lined paper tomb?

Paper city at the heart of a bankrupt empire:
Your towers get higher as your assets hit new lows.
Nose-diving parasite, I wouldn’t mind you dying,
But you’ll take so many with you when you go.

One of my occasional forays into rock and roll, sort of…

David Harley: vocals, acoustic and acoustic slide guitar
Track 5

Sheer Bravado

Sheer Bravado (by David Harley & Don MacLeod)


Look at us now, back to back
And so choked up
That neither dares to say a word.
What is this crazy game
where losing doesn’t count
As long as no-one sees you’re hurt?

It doesn’t seem to me
That you really want to break up:
And moving on is light years
From my mind.
Yet we fence and fight and snap
And when we ransack our emotions
For a clue to what we’re doing, all we find
Is sheer bravado.

It’s just make-believe:
Behind the thrust and parry,
We’re just two frightened people talking tough.
No-one would believe
We were so close an hour ago:
Isn’t it time we called our bluff?

It doesn’t seem to me
That you really want to break up:
And moving on is light years
From my mind.
Yet we fence and fight and snap
And when we ransack our emotions
For a clue to what we’re doing, all we find
Is sheer bravado….

Alas, the overdubbed slide isn’t quite in tune with the other guitar. Vocal isn’t bad, though, considering I can’t usually bear the sound of my own voice.  (So why should I expect you to like it any better? Errr…..)

David Harley: vocal, acoustic guitar, acoustic slide guitar
Track 6

View From The Top



You learn to fall, then you learn to fly
I’ve been a lifetime learning, but I always got by
Living in pain isn’t living in vain
I’m used to losing and there’s so much to gain

Your love’s a mountain that I’m learning to climb
And it’s a long way down but somehow I don’t mind
I know the dangers but I don’t want to stop
It’s worth the fear of falling for the view from the top

Dawn rings the changes from a crawl to a run
Out of the shadow and into the sun
It’s not surprising if the light hurts our eyes
But if loving you is crazy it’s too late to be wise

Your love’s a mountain that I’m learning to climb
And it’s a long way down but somehow I don’t mind
I know the dangers but I don’t want to stop
It’s worth the fear of falling for the view from the top

Sometimes a voice inside whispers “Take care of yourself:
What makes you think you’re the one to take care of anyone else?”
All I can say is, “Don’t care if I fall:
She’s got the best part of me – she might as well take it all.”

You’ll say I’m crazy, but lady, no joke
I’m scared of busting but I’m going for broke
And I don’t know if I’ll fly or I’ll fall
But living without you is no life at all.

Your love’s a mountain that I’m learning to climb
And it’s a long way down but somehow I don’t mind
I know the dangers but I don’t want to stop
It’s worth the fear of falling for the view from the top

David Harley: vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboards
Track 7

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

Too bad: I guess
We all live and learn
Too late, sometimes, like now
But she’s not concerned
About who she burns
So I guess I’ll just get on with my life

She met someone else, and then went away
And it broke me up, but just today
I woke up with someone else on my mind
I guess I can take it, I guess I’ll survive

One day at a time
Until I make contact
And I’ll forget in time
How she turned her back
And said so matter-of-fact
“My love, I don’t love you any more…”

I lost my woman to another man
There’s nothing new under the sun
I woke up with someone else by my side
I guess I can take it, I guess I’ll survive

One day
At a time
One day
At a time…

A song mostly written by Don MacLeod, though I did some tinkering with the lyrics: Don’s guitar has a nice ragtime feel. My Les Paul copy sounds more than usually out-of-tune with the acoustic guitars. Maybe I was trying for a Carlos Santana feel. ;-) I don’t think I’d do that change of vocal track for the middle eight now, either.

David Harley: Vocal, acoustic lead guitar, electric lead guitar.
Don MacLeod: acoustic guitar
Track 8

So Much For Romance


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

And I could spend my time just being me
It would be so fine just being free
If I could be
But don’t you see how I’m bound?

So much for romance
So much for romance

And I remember all the plans we made
Were they just so many games we played?
With changing rules
It’s hard on fools and it’s hard on hearts

So much for romance
So much for romance

And I could spend my time just being here
I could spend a lifetime getting clear
To live again
And in the end find peace of mind

So much for romance
So much for romance

But I could have spent a lifetime knowing you….

One of Don’s songs, predating the Antivillains by decades…

David Harley: vocals, acoustic lead guitar, keyboards
Don MacLeod: acoustic guitar, piano
Track 9


(words and music by David Harley: all rights reserved)


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

Sleep well old man, while history gathers dust
Logicians shake their heads and accountants check the cost
The shattered bones and bombed out lives are yesterday’s stale news
But it was hands a lot like yours that cut and primed the fuse

Rest in peace, old soldier: time has obscured the words
Carved in granite long ago on behalf of a grateful world
An alien soil feeds on the bones that deserved a better bed
Than the shit and slime of the shell-torn trench where your body splintered and bled

Square up to the judge and fear no grudge of the old men left behind
Who grasped the glory with greedy hands, irreversibly blind
To the faces behind the statistics, the bones beneath the clay
Who robbed you of your humanity and threw your life away

And for all they stole from you, they gained less than nothing and yet
They travel the same barren road, savagely, immutably deaf
Though they heard over and over the pacifist logic, the widow’s curse
And though our team of backroom boys sweated blood for ten thousand years

To find a way out of the spider’s reach, but they don’t even see the web
Nothing was gained, no lesson was learned, only new ways of dealing death
And so you died, trying to play fair, but who formulated the rules?
The implacable logic of history, generations of wise old fools

Sleep on, unborn child: don’t try the door
They’ll call you a war baby, but Christ only knows which war
Best to opt out with your faith still intact and your innocence undefiled
Before they become sublimation, a dustbin for wasted ideals

Prophets will offer causality, idealists will offer you dreams
Holy men offer you brimstone and visions, opportunists ways and means
But would you let one marry your daughter? Sell you a second-hand fire?
Trade you a soul for a rope and a gun, and drag your corpse through the mire?

Rest in peace old soldier, secure from the lure of the drums
Safe with your secrets in heaven or hell, your sanity is restored
And I’ll stand by your grave, a soldier of sorts – different army, same old war
You with a rifle, me with these words, both prey to causality’s laws

We fight the same battle on different sides – but there are no sides
Caught in the same vicious circle, unable to stem the tide
And still we contend with the same spider’s web
And ask the same questions, but who can resolve the riddle of the rain?

The sort of very long message song that I don’t feel the urge to write nowadays, and am unlikely to sing in public. Still, the lyric still works for me.

David Harley: vocal and acoustic guitar
Track 10

Blues for Davy

(music by David Harley: all rights reserved)

Blues for Davy (Harley): 1980s version (acoustic guitar solo)


A short, vaguely jazzy guitar piece. Not actually a studio recording, but (under-)recorded on fairly expensive domestic equipment. As the title might suggest, I was trying for something vaguely Davy Graham-ish: so successfully, that people used to come up to me after gigs and say “What was that John Renbourn piece you did?” I’m going to need to practice a while before I do this one in public again, anyway…. However, there are some more recent versions here. 

David Harley: acoustic guitar

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