Category Archives: Parody and Pastiche

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

The magic fingers of David Harley

I have a history of being almost there in the music and recording world. Back in the 60s, the organizer of something I played at in Bayston HIll or thereabouts was photographed for a local paper playing (or pretending to play) my guitar (I guess that would have been the Hofner). In the ’70s, Wayland Smithy recorded something or other using my Gretsch Anniversary. (I should never have parted with that guitar…) In the 80s I had several songs on an album that was never released because of a contract issue with one of the other guys. My three tracks are here, though.

And I was involved with some other recording projects that were a little more successful (including some of the recordings on this site, hopefully), though I’m not sure whether I should include Peter Buckley Hill’s Tubular Brains in that category in view of Peter’s high opinion of it. 😉 OTOH there are some bits of Harley guitar in there I still quite like, having heard those tracks again for the first time in at least 20 years.


Anyway, in the next two decades I had other things on my mind, like parenting and IT security (not to mention job security).

However, a month or two ago, I was promoted to body part double for a video by the pseudonymous Virg Clenthills, a well-known C&W name in Ludlow and environs. Not only does it show one of my guitars, but my actual fingers, complete with Virg’s enormous rings. Which would have been a little awkward if I hadn’t been miming.virge video

Not quite overnight success. And I guess if I’m going to get any more music of my own Out There, I’ll have to take Peter Gabriel’s advice and carry on D-I-Y-ing.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Available on SoundCloud

[Updated 11th March 2014 after I came across Peter Buckley Hill’s tracks from Tubular Brains, an LP for which I share a little of the guilt, on Soundcloud.]

Just in case you prefer the interface. Or as a backup to the stuff here. Anyway, I’ve uploaded some recordings to SoundCloud.

True Confessions, Heatwave, from an unreleased album with Don MacLeod, Bob Thiel, Bob Cairns and Pat Orchard. One Step Away was also recorded during those sessions, but that version is about to be released as a single, so the version here is later and not studio-recorded.

More tracks from Sheer Bravado and Scriptwrecked (and maybe some more recent stuff) in due course.

On a slightly lighter note, I recently became aware (as per the post The magic fingers of David Harley* – that title is meant to be ironic by the way!) that Peter Buckley Hill has put all the tracks from his first album Tubular Brains onto Soundcloud. In fact, I think all his albums are on there, but I didn’t have anything to do with the others. As you might have guessed from the title, the album is in much more of a comic vein (insert your own jokes about exsanguination here) than my own output.

On the original sleeve I think I’m credited as producer (my vinyl is all in a couple of boxes somewhere round here), though to be honest I think those sessions were more about cheerful anarchy than production values. I did play a lot of guitar on it, though, and hearing the tracks again – taken from the vinyl rather than the mastertapes, judging from the ambient noise – there’s some stuff there I really like. Including Peter’s idiosyncratic material and vocals, of course. 🙂 I particularly like the extended fadeout with acoustic lead on Love at first Sight, and while it’s probably not a song I could sing convincingly myself, I’ve thought from time to time that I’d quite like to record a completely instrumental version. That’s on the to-do list.

No doubt further skeletons will emerge from the closet in due course.

*Suddenly I’m reminded of a witticism of Martin Simpson’s about Manitas de Pescado (Little Fish Fingers): apologies to fans of Manitas de Plata but it still makes me chuckle, though it’s probably politically incorrect.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Lady Luck



Harley aged 60-something having fun adding lead break to Harley aged 30 something. Clearly, the words have changed a bit over the years. Originally recorded on cassette sometime in the 80s, probably playing my ES175D copy or my Ovation Viper: the lead break was added with a Les Paul Special.

I rolled out my paper this morning to see what Lady Luck would say
She said “Sorry boy, no joy: It’s just another rainy day…”

Slow down, Lady Luck: why d’ya turn your back on me?
I never meant you any harm at all, but you really have your knife in me

Rolled out of bed this morning, in hopes to see some sun
But a long cool woman put the freeze on me and the good times are dead and gone

Slow down, Lady Luck: lady, won’t you let me be?
I never meant you any harm at all, but you really have your knife in me

I don’t mean to bring you down, I don’t mean to take you too deep
But I’m bored and bad and on my own and I need me a place to sleep

I think I’ll point my feet at the highway and move a little further down the line
If my shoes get stuck maybe Lady Luck will let me go this time

Words & Music by David Harley, copyright 1975

There once existed a recording of this with some percussion. Long gone. More rock than blues, in a pastiche sort of way.

Make Mine A Snowball

What would Christmas be without The Snowman?


For years this was just a single verse stranded in the first draft of a novel I’ll probably never finish now, and then a few years ago it demanded to be finished. Its first public appearance was after the funeral of my friend Graham Bell. That might seem less strange if I tell you that the funeral finished with the Ying Tong Song. Graham was always urging me to play more jazz, but I think he would have approved of this anyway. Apologies to both Howard Blake and Raymond Briggs, who might not approve.

Of course this does have a very well-known tune, but I haven’t recorded it until now (even with these words, let alone the original lyric – I don’t think I could pass myself off as an alto or counter-tenor). There is a demo recording that includes it at A Xmas Garland  – just a sketch for a more polished recording I might get round to later with some added string synth and such.

I did once sing it at one of Vic Cracknell’s open mike evenings in tandem with a vaguely jazzy instrumental version of White Christmas which probably proved conclusively that I was not born to compete with Wes Montgomery or Barney Kessel.

I’m snoring in my chair
I think I’ve had too much to eat
And even if I tried
I couldn’t leave my seat.

I’m getting very tight:
I didn’t need those last two beers
And now that last mince pie
Has dribbled down my tie.

Somebody offered me another cup of tea
Turkey sandwich, more plum pudding, woe is me…

I’m sprawling on the stairs
I haven’t got the strength to rise
And dear old Auntie Jill
Is in the bathroom still.

I’ve turned off the TV
The Queen’s speech was keeping me awake
And one more Singing Nun
Is more than I can take

Uncle Dick is feeling sick, he’s running for the loo
Heaving like a mighty monster from the zoo

I’m surfing in my lair
Googling for some online deals
To spend next Christmas Day
On a cruise ship far away…