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

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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

Home from the Ball [demo]

Cinders, home from the ball: words and music copyright David Harley, 1975 

I haven’t sung this in decades, so this is rough – still not sure I remember the chords correctly – but I’ve been finding old songs and thinking, “Gosh, this is worth saving.” A better version should be along sooner or later. 🙂

Strange landscape
of soda lights
blank windows
city nights

The Lord of Revels folded up
the streetcorner faces
the small hours swallowed whole
and Cinders hurries home from the ball

Cinders you’re the saddest song I’ve sung
barely grown, aching and alone
fingers fumbled numbly for the key
to fit that Bluebeard’s door
and she wondered “is that all?”

She lets herself in
from the cold into the cold
creeps up creaking stairs
and hopes that no-one calls
and still the war drags on
but there was fresh blood spilt tonight

Ballad of the Arbor Tree [rough demo]

This is the second demo version: still rough, but now with some basic guitar. Relates to Shropshire rather than Cornwall: you can take the boy out of Shropshire, but you can’t take Shropshire….

I came across this set of words in a discussion on the Memories of Shropshire Facebook group, and somehow found myself putting a tune to it as I read. This version of the tune is one of my ‘make it up as you go along’ recordings: it may well change significantly over time, and is not in any case consistent between all the verses.

By W.B.H. and apparently dated 29th May 1786, though that may have referred to the wedding that took place on that date rather than the date of printing. It seems that the modern Arbor Day celebration is held on the last Sunday in May rather than strictly on the 29th. The Aston Clun celebration is closely linked with Oak Apple Day as well as with the wedding of 1786. I don’t know exactly when this was published, but the somewhat random initcapping and the use of a ‘thin space’ before colons and question marks is characteristic of an earlier school of typography, perhaps as far back as the late 18th century.

In Aston Clun I stand, a tree,
A Poplar dressed, like a ship at sea.
Lonely link with an age long past :
Of Arbor Trees, I am the last.

Since seventeen-eighty-six, My Day
Is writ, the twenty 9th of May.
When new flags fly and we rejoice,
New life has stilled harsh Winter’s voice.

To greet a Squire’s lovely bride
Did tenants dress my boughs with pride ?
But Old Wives say, my flags are worn
To mark the day an heir was born.

Wise men, mellow o’er evening ale,
Old feuds and wicked deeds retail.
Thanksgiving dressed my arms, they say
For Peace, when blood feuds died away.

Did here ! my father mark the rite
Of Shepherd’s, gone with world’s first light ?
Was England merrie neath his shade
Till crop-Haired Cromwell joy forbade ?

In sixteen-sixty with the Spring
Came Merry Charles the exiled king.
Did he proclaim May twenty-nine
“Arbor Day” for revelry and wine ?

And Shepherds, plagued with pox and chills
Turn to the old ways of the hills,
To “Mystic Poplar”, to renew
Fertility in field and ewe ?

Stand I, for Ancient ways, for Birth,
For Love, for Peace, for Joy and Mirth?
Riddle my riddle as you will
I stand for good and not for ill.

And if my dress your fancy please
Help my flags to ride the breeze
That you with me, will in the Sun,
Welcome all, to the Vale of Clun.

A Research Article from April, 2003, by John Box gives some very useful information. It’s available from a number of places but, most appropriately, here:  https://hopesayparish.com/arbor%20tree/dressing%20the%20tree.html

Here’s the Abstract:

The custom of dressing the black poplar growing in Aston-on-Clun in south Shropshire – known as the Arbor Tree – with flags on flagpoles every 29 May is unique in Britain. New flags are attached to wooden flagpoles on the tree that remain throughout the year. Written records of the Arbor Tree only extend back to 1898, but the tradition of dressing the tree is reputed to date back to a local wedding in 1786. The article attempts to establish the history and context of the tradition and shows how the custom has developed and acquired new meanings, particularly since 1955 when a pageant was devised. The pageant and the celebrations associated with the tree dressing are evolving in response to those living in the local community as well as to the external recognition now accorded to this unique tradition.

David Harley

Bootup Blues (Big Blues) [2019 demo]

When I woke up this morning
My laptop wouldn’t boot at all
I said I woke up this morning
And tossed my Tosh against the wall
My baby took the mains adapter and the battery’s screwed beyond recall

Well she left me for some guy
With a 99GHz overclocked PC
And now she’s interfacing
With his RS232C
(he’s a serial womanizer)
She said my hard disk was too small
To satisfy
Her new spreadsheet

I wouldn’t treat an iPad
The way that woman treated me
She fragmented my hard disk
And ran off with my Angry Birds DVD
Left me nothing but this boot sector virus
And a copy of Wordstar version 3.3

Dah-diddy-dah-diddy-dah-diddy-dah….

You can get some idea of how old this thing is from the fact that the iPad was originally an Amstrad, and the Angry Birds DVD was originally a 7th Guest Cd. It’s hard keeping up with technology. Hopefully, I’m still ahead of the curve on PC CPU specs, Moore’s Law (or House’s variant) and overclocking notwithstanding. The reference to RS232C is slightly disingenuous: RS-232-C is the 1969 version of the standard, not hardware. I wouldn’t have mentioned any of this if it weren’t for a ludicrous conversation in a pub with someone who apparently thought I was setting PC for Dummies to music rather than writing a mildly amusing blues parody. And to the guy who recommended that I use Sophos to deal with my imaginary boot sector virus, thanks for the suggestion, but I did at the time actually work – or, strictly speaking, consult – for a(nother) anti-virus company, and I had it covered.

David Harley