Heatwave

Words and Music by David Harley [All Rights Reserved]

MP3: Heatwave

There’s a heatwave in the city and the day drags on forever
The tarmac burns through patent leather
Clear through to the sole
Ice tumbles through glass as the temperature soars
And the dayshift leaves the nightshift to take over for a while

The city sings at midnight to the well-fed and the civilized
While waiters mop their faces in the kitchen, out of sight
Small change pours in torrents over counters in the bistros
And the moon hangs red and sullen in the dustbowl of the sky

The city is on heat, bare-legged girls in summer dresses
Dodge the lechery of workmen laying cable through the day
But the night turns on the body to sweet pornography
Passions feed on darkness and the body mutes the mind

The city squeals at midnight in its pain and ecstasy
The life-force surges through the veins and soaks the sheets
The couples claw and couple and feed upon each other
And still the hunger rages through the streets

I saw a refugee from Galway with a faceful of stubble
Singing sentimental songs in the underground today
He’s going back to Mother Ireland and the Mountains of Mourne
And he only needs a bob or two to help him on his way

The city whimpers at midnight in its apathy and squalor
From a bench on the Embankment, from a derry in Barnes
From a squat in Deptford, from the winos and the junkies
From the homeless and the helpless, the hopeless and the lost

A refugee from Calvary is preaching anarchy and anger
Through his 40 Megawatt PA
And when the concert’s over he packs his guitars and prophecies
And goes back to his hotel to drink the night into the day

But out there in the streets the word is out all over
The heat are out for action in New Cross and Ladbroke Grove
The temperature is dropping but the tempers are at flashpoint
And no-one lingers on street corners if they’re walking home alone

The city screams at midnight in the agony of anger
The rocksteady revolution pays its homage to its dead
Where dreadlocks meet deadlock the shock tears up the flagstones
And on their righteous anger the riot squads are fed

The Klan charts fiery crosses cloistered in an upstairs room
The architects of reaction spin their bitter webs
Entangling and exploiting the kids with skinhead hairstyles
And no-one dares explain the chaos in their heads

A Pakistani youth lies bleeding in the gutter
A Jamaican girl is raped behind a dockyard wall
Black and white scrawl their frustrations in blood across the charge-sheets
A copper clutches at his stomach where a flick-knife said it all

The city burns at midnight and the blood runs down the sewers
In the ghettoes and the side-streets where the patriots have been
Squad cars and an ambulance cut through the aftermath
And tomorrow’s front pages unfurl to set the scene

David Harley: Vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo, electric lead guitar, 5-string banjo
James Bolam (no, not that James Bolam!): piano
Engineer Steve Hall

The song wasn’t based on any particular incident, just a feeling about living in London at that time. I guess those feelings were justified, since the rioting at Broadwater Farm took place a few weeks after I wrote it. The banjo belonged to the studio (Hallmark, London): it was a five-string in conventional G tuning, but I played it (slighly) tremolo with a flat pick to suggest a folkie/Irish tenor banjo sound.  I can’t altogether like the last verse (slightly greyed out): I’d probably change or omit some lines if I was to sing it now.

As far as I remember, all these tracks were done using a cheap but very cheerful Kimbara acoustic (which my daughter still has, if she didn’t get fed up with the warped soundboard) and a Les Paul copy which was a bit inaccurate around the octave but had a very nice chunky humbucker sound.Don was using a Sigma acoustic, I think, and Bob was probably using a Takamine 12-string. No idea what the banjo was, as it wasn’t mine: I’d sold my own John Grey long-tail 5-string by then, and it was long before I bought my Ozark.

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