Monthly Archives: September 2015

What do I do (about you)?

What do I do (about you)? (words and music by David Harley, copyright 1984)

[Apologies to Harburg and Gorney for borrowing the tune for ‘Brother can you spare a dime‘ for one section. I guess if I ever do anything serious with this, I’ll have to rethink that particular leaning towards Lehrerism. But this is actually more a curiosity than a demo.]

Around the start of the 1980s I went through a somewhat theatrical phase: in fact, a couple of the best songs I wrote around then were for a revue called Nice If You Can Get It, directed by Maggie Ford: in particular, Hands of the Craftsman  and Long Stand . This one is a little more flippant: I don’t think this was intended for any project in particular, and I can’t actually remember playing it in public anywhere, but I found this version on a cassette recently and quite liked it. Just vocal and electric guitar.

While I might harbour a secret desire to be the sort of Renaissance Man presented here, the ‘hero’ definitely isn’t me. I’m a slow writer – slower as I get older, and I’ve never written an opera – though I once started to put together a concept album back in the days when that wasn’t considered absurdly pretentious. I don’t play the Minute Waltz – least of all on the piano – though these days the wonders of the internet will probably turn up a version on YouTube of someone who does play it in 35 seconds flat, probably on ukulele. So you can spend 35 seconds listening to it and 5 minutes wondering why anyone would do that. I don’t fly gliders or water-ski – these days I do my best to avoid flying even as a passenger – I usually leave cooking to my wife, who is an excellent cook and also very adept with the cocktail shaker. And I don’t drive. I was once a wood-machinist – which is why my right thumb is much shorter than the left and I almost invariably play with a thumb pick – but certainly not a cabinet-maker, and am certainly a mediocre artist at best. I just write and play a few things. And take the occasional photo. Which all sounds so dull that I can’t imagine why you’d bother to have read this far.

Here’s the lyric:

I can start a song at 2.45
And finish it by 5 to…
I can write an opera in an hour and a half
But what do I do about you?

I can play the Minute Waltz
In 35 seconds flat
But I can’t seem to get you out of my head
So what do I do about that?

Sometimes I fly gliders or water-ski
Before making breakfast for two
From my own recipes (of course you’ve read my books?)
But what do I do about you?

I can make cocktails like you’ve never seen
Ask anyone – I can do
Things with an olive you’d never believe
– But what do I do about you?

I can build a cocktail with a sting like an asp
Pernod, tequila and lime
Crushed ice and soda – now it’s almost done
Buddy where’s the grenadine

I can build furniture, drive racing cars
I’ve painted a mural or two
But I can’t seem to get you to remember my name
So what do I do about you?
What do I do about you?

David Harley

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Bluebert [demo]

A guitar solo I used to play a lot when I was living in London, though I think I was living in Bracknell when I wrote it. Actually, this version has some sections that suggest I was intending to come back to it and add a second guitar, which explains why it’s so much longer (too long!) than when I played it out in the wild. But clearly I haven’t. Yet.

The title has nothing to do with Bert Jansch, by the way. I’m flattered when people tell me what I do reminds them of him, but I don’t really see a resemblance, though I did listen a lot to his first album when I first started to learn the guitar. But if anything, I was more influenced by John Renbourn. And there are bits here that sound as if I was trying to be both of them at once. But to get back to the point, the title refers to the fact that for much of my life I was known as Bert rather than Dave or David.

Played on a cheap and cheerful Kimbara acoustic – actually, it was a very decent little guitar – and recorded on domestic equipment.

David Harley