Category Archives: David Harley

Wrekin [demo]

Neither the words nor the tune are quite set in stone yet… If you’re familiar with the Welsh Marches Line, it probably won’t surprise you that the first draft of this was born on my way from Shrewsbury to Newport.

Wrekin (words and music by David Harley)

The Abbey watches my train crawling southward
Thoughts of Cadfael kneeling in his cell
All along the Marches line, myth and history, prose and rhyme
But those are tales I won’t be here to tell

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Lawley and Caradoc fill my window
Facing down the Longmynd, lost in rain
But I’m weighed down with the creaks and groans of all the years I’ve known
And I don’t think I’ll walk these hills again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

The castle dreams its humble glories
Glories that will never come again
Across the Shropshire hills, the rain is blowing still
But the Marcher Lords won’t ride this way gain

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

The royal ghosts of Catherine and Arthur
May walk the paths of Whitcliffe now and then
Housman’s ashes grace the Cathedral of the Marches
And he will not walk Ludlow’s streets again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

And I may never pass this way again

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My Boy Jack [demo]

My setting of the poem by Rudyard Kipling. It’s often assumed that it refers to the loss of his son John, presumed killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915. The confusion was probably increased by the TV adaptation of David Craig’s play, which missed out the 3rd Act and finished with Kipling reciting the poem. However, while Kipling’s own grief did, no doubt, contribute to the overall tone of the poem, it was first published at the top of a series of articles on the Battle of Jutland, in which the British fleet sustained heavy losses, and it seems to me (and others) that, given the importance of ‘the tide’ in the poem, that the name Jack probably reflects the more generic ‘Jack Tar’. (While the earlier ‘Tommy; has a very different tone, it does use the generic name ‘Tommy Atkins’ in a somewhat similar way.)

‘My Boy Jack’
1914-18

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide. 

David Harley

Song Without Warning (demo)

This is my box of dreams, my nest of nightmares
Words and lines and verses in a cage
Fragments of conversation
Thoughts that barely made the page

Some days, I think someday I’ll write them
All the verses in vitro in this room
Someday these little birds will find the way to fly away
They won’t need me anymore and they’ll be gone

Sometimes I call myself a writer
Though I’m afraid I might have lost the paperwork
Till they tap me on the shoulder and remind me
My poetic licence hasn’t been revoked

When my last song has been written
When I’ve picked my last chord
My box of dreams will still be here
Overflowing still with orphaned words

For every song without warning
That somehow made it to be heard
There’ll still be all these scraps of recollection
Thoughts and dreams that never found their words

Sometimes I call myself a writer
Though I’m afraid I might have lost the paperwork
Till they tap me on the shoulder and remind me
My poetic licence hasn’t been revoked

(c) 2018 David Harley: all rights reserved

This song’s not over [demo]

This Song’s Not Over (Words and Music by David Harley, copyright 1974)

This song’s not over
We’d best take what we’re owed
So pack your bags
And let’s get on the road

We’ve had our share of bruising
We drank some bitter wine
But I’m sick and tired of losing
So let’s try one more time

I guess we broke too easy
I know I dragged my feet
But hold on, and we’ll make it
Right back to Easy Street

We were building up too much
To let the pieces drop
If we both try some humble pie
We can take it from the top

 

Blues I Blew [demo]

Actually a very rough demo, but there you go. Now I’ve remembered it exists, I’ll do some work on it.

Backstory: drinking with a friend in Manchester in the early 70s while both our girlfriends were out of town, making some musical plans. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but shortly after he and his girlfriend got married and moved (to Wales, I think): I moved somewhere else and married someone else entirely.

Why that story got into a song when so little of my back-catalogue is strictly autobiographical, I can’t say. It seems long ago and far away. Oh. Actually, it was long ago and far away (from Cornwall, at any rate).

Blues I blew: Words and Music copyright 1975 David Harley

There we were, my buddy and me
Two grass widowers out on a spree
Between the bar and the BBC
And nowhere much to go

Plans to make a wave or two
Adding up to two plus two
No complaints of nothing to do
With another 12-bar to blow

Another place, another day
Nothing very much to say
Another song I threw away
Another blues I blew