Author Archives: David Harley

About David Harley

Musician/singer/songwriter; independent author/editor

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

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.

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!

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.”

Words and music (c) David Harley

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

Links to Available Albums

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