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.
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.
These are three tracks from an unreleased album provisionally titled Diverse Brew, recorded around 1985 at Hallmark and featuring Bob Theil, Don MacLeod and myself, Pat Orchard, and Bob Cairns. The project foundered because one of the guys joined a band whose management company proved uncooperative, as I recall. As the master tapes are now somewhere in Antwerp, where Bob now lives and is still musically active (his web site at http://www.bobtheil.be/index.html includes links to his albums), these were snarfed from a fairly naff cassette tape, so the recording quality isn’t exactly hi-fi.
We were supposed to contribute two tracks each, but as we were working together a lot at that time, Don decided to make True Confessions one of his tracks. His other track was a rather nice instrumental called October. (Actually, he also recorded another track with a very nice lady singer called Sarah that we worked with for a while.) As I wasn’t on either of those tracks, they aren’t included. Not because of my own ego and hurt feelings, but because they aren’t mine to publish. 🙂
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 current cheap and cheerful Ozark.
A track from the ‘Diverse Brew’ sessions. This is a song co-written with Don MacLeod (he wrote the melody), and the mix is actually pretty good. But again, I don’t have the mix tapes or master to work from. Still, I’ve tweaked it as best I can.
Lead and backing vocal, acoustic and electric lead guitars: David Harley
Heatwave (David Harley) [All Rights Reserved]
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 (slightly) tremolo with a flat pick to suggest a folkie/Irish tenor banjo sound. I can’t altogether like the last verse: I omit some lines when I sing it now.
Remastered: unfortunately, this one didn’t survive the transition to mixdown cassette as well as the other two songs from the Hallmark sessions, but I’ve done what I could.
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, electric lead guitar, 5-string banjo
James Bolam (no, not that James Bolam!): piano
*I omit these lines when I sing this song now. In fact, here’s a slightly rough 2020 demo version:
And here’s the 1980s version messed about with to omit the lines I didn’t like. Garageband is a blunt tool for such detailed editing, but I don’t think it sounds too awful.