Ghosts [demo]

I’m not saying I’m a slow writer, but this set of words is at least a quarter of a century old, and even though I had a vague idea of how I wanted the tune to go, I only just got around to trying to put them together. Actually, about four years ago, but I wasn’t happy with the tune. This is better, and I hope to learn the thing this time.

Copyright David Harley, 1987

Let’s get down to cases before someone packs their bags
And there’s nothing else to do but walk away.
Please don’t say there’s nothing to talk over: that’s not true
Unless you’d rather just call it a day…

There’s a cuckoo in our love nest
I can see him in your eyes
When you’re looking straight at me
It’s not always me you see
Who is that ghost you recognized?

Sometimes when we’re making love
You seem confused about my name
It seems I’m sharing you
With someone else you knew
Who’s gone, but not forgotten just the same

If you need time to think it over
You’re right, there’s nothing to explain
But please don’t go burning your fingers
On any old flames

I’m not afraid of losing you
I never had you anyway
There always seemed to be
A part of you that you kept from me
Words you never cared to say

If you need time to think it over
You’re right, there’s nothing to explain
But please don’t go burning your fingers
On any old flames

I’m not afraid of losing you
I never had you anyway
There always seemed to be
A part of you that you kept from me
Words you never cared to say

David Harley

 

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Freeze Frame [initial demo]

Finally finished(-ish) the tune, after only 33 years. Now I just have to learn it and put up a not-so-rough version.

Words and music by David Harley, copyright 1986

It’s a bitter-sweet light blue affair
Caught halfway between hope and despair
A tear for joy or a twisted smile
An elegant pose in the classic style
That echoes reality

It’s a strange ambiguity
Caught between life and parody
A stolen kiss, a moment of magic
Frozen between the comic and tragic
A haunting half-memory

What can we tell from these soft-focus nights
Of what might be real and exactly what’s right?
What can we learn from what we might see
On an under-developed transparency?
Only the questions are clear
Like “Where do we go from here?”

It’s a bittersweet light blue affair
A flash of future, of time we could share
A tear for joy or a twisted smile
An elegant pose in the classic style
Transcending reality
That can be what you want it to be

David Harley

Crossing the Bar [demo]

A work in progress. A well-known poem of 1889 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. A ‘moaning’ noise is characteristic of a harbour sandbar when the tide is  low and the water may too turbulent for a boat to put out to sea across it in safety. Kingsley’s ‘Three Fishers’ – set to music by John Hullah as recorded by Joan Baez and many others –  uses the image of the moaning of the harbour shoal to represent danger.  Tennyson’s poem uses it as the starting point for describing the final passing from life into death. It’s reported that before his death three years later he asked his son Hallam to have the poem placed at the end of all future editions of his verse.

Since then, the poem has been a popular choice for funerals, whether as a reading or in a musical setting such as the one by Sir Hubert Parry, the choral setting by Ian Assersohn, or the very popular folkier tune by Rani Arbo. In fact, I read it at my own mother’s funeral in 2018, but always felt that I wanted to set it to music myself for an ongoing project. This is the second draft of my setting, and it’s sounding nearer to what I wanted.

Sunset and evening star,
      And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
      When I put out to sea,
   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
      Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
      Turns again home.
   Twilight and evening bell,
      And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
      When I embark;
   For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
      The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
      When I have crost the bar.
David Harley

Before I fall [early demo]

I promised myself that when I retired I’d start doing something with some of the uncompleted songs I have lying around here. The words for this have been around forever, but I think its time has come.

Making up the tune as I go along, but well on the way.

Before I fall (Harley) Copyright 1982

I know I can be clumsy / I’m hamfisted as they come
I’m blessed with two left feet / And my fingers are all thumbs
But I can tie my own bootlaces / I can use a knife and fork
I get there in my own time / And if I can’t run I’ll walk

I don’t need a nanny or a minder and if I can’t cope, I’ll call
But please don’t pick me up (x3) before I fall

I know I tend to stammer / And my tongue gets tied in knots
I get confused and nervous / Tripping over my own thoughts
But I’ll make up my own mind / If I’m wrong I’ll take the blame
And I can finish my own sentences / Thank you all the same

I don’t need an interpreter and if I ever do, I’ll call
Only please don’t pick me up (x3) Before I fall

I’m defensive and I’m obstinate / When things I say and do
Turn out upside down and in reverse / I may get mad with you
As well as me, but I’m sorry / And I hope you understand
I appreciate your putting up / With me the way I am

I’m trying to do better, for you, most of all
Only please don’t pick me up (x3) before I fall

David Harley

The Chuck Beri-Beri [demo]

An improved demo of my most recently completed song. A bit of an outlier, lyrically. Sometimes a lyric insists on being something quite different to what I originally had in mind…

The words are actually not quite crystallized yet, but I think these are probably very close:

I don’t feel very much like dancing / No song worth singing but the blues
I used to feel like some kind of sex bomb / Till you absconded with the fuse
I think I need a holiday / So I’m out here on a midnight cruise
I’ve got the Chuck Berry-beri / Got to get a shot of rhythm and blues

I guess there’s no time left for loving / Looking into your backyard
Dissatisfaction guaranteed / But back to you was just a step too far
The waves were blowing higher / We were shaking at the end of the cruise
It’s a fascinating rhythm / But I need a shot of rhythm and blues

I thought I saw your nightlight flicker / But I don’t think anyone’s at home
I’ll call you with the news from nowhere / When I’m stranded by the side of the road
I still need a holiday / But I can’t afford another midnight cruise
Still I can’t break the habit / Need another shot of rhythm and blues

David Harley

Aftermath/Postcards [demo]

A tale of three dysfunctional people. Actually, some of my best songs are about dysfunctional people, but I don’t want to think too hard about what that signifies. As it has a very simple chord sequence (almost literally a three-chord trick) the demo version includes a second acoustic guitar. (There’s an earlier version here where the second guitar is electric rather than acoustic. )

Years on from the explosion
Standing in the aftermath
She waits for the three minute warning
Hear’s nothing
Runs the bath
And pulls the chain on another miracle
Waits (though the post is always late)
For letters which never seem to arrive
And are never worth the wait

Still the sun shines on bravely
The wind blows kisses to the see
Gulls waltz to the rhythm of the waves
And she writes
‘I wish you could be here with me’
Skips through the morning like a postcard
Spends the afternoon alone
Carries out the day to order
One eye on her horoscope
And one ear to the phone

Sometimes she wakes in someone else’s bed
Before he wakes, she’s gone
Leaving him to wonder why
She couldn’t let the evening die alone
Still he lights a cigarette
Soon remembers to forget
But he wonders where his whisky went
Wonders why his day is empty

She has dropped her life on postcards
Through a letterbox in distant parts
But the tale was shunted into disused sidings
And the unintended bombsites of his heart
And he writes “At last I’ve found a woman
Who’s noticed that I’m me,
And not just a dispenser
Of Scotch and sympathy
And maybe she’s The One
Or maybe I’m just marking time
But at least she holds her liquor
And she doesn’t whine…”

And he writes
“Go your way, taking with you
A year or two of my life
That’s all I have to offer
But don’t forget to write…”

David Harley (c) 1974

The Chuck Berry Beri [demo]

Chuck Berry beri: related to the rocking pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu, but not, in this case, rock and roll. The words started over a decade ago as Chuck Berry pastiche, but when I came back to it this year it turned into something quite different.

I don’t feel very much like dancing
No song worth singing but the blues
I used to feel like some kind of sex bomb
Till you absconded with the fuse

I think perhaps I need a holiday
So I’m out here on a midnight cruise
I think I’ve got the Chuck Berry-beri
Got to get a shot of rhythm and blues

I guess there’s no time left for loving
Looking into your backyard
Dissatisfaction guaranteed
But back to you was just a step too far

The waves were blowing higher
And we were shaking at the end of the cruise
It’s a fascinating rhythm
But I need a shot of rhythm and blues

I thought I saw your nightlight flicker
But I don’t think there’s anyone at home
Maybe I’ll call you with the news from nowhere
While I’m stranded by the side of the road

Maybe I still need a holiday
But I can’t afford another midnight cruise
Still I can’t break the habit
I need another shot of rhythm and blues

Words and music copyright March 2019 by David Harley