Review: Bap Kennedy, ‘Reckless Heart’

Sadly, Bap Kennedy died a few days, before his final album was due to be released. (It comes out on the 18th November.) Here’s my review for folking.com.

BAP KENNEDY – Reckless Heart (Last Chance Records LCR 048)

David Harley

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Reynardine [demo]

A very 60s-ish guitar arrangement of a traditional song. Final arrangement might be quite a lot different. Words and tune approximately as A.L. Lloyd et al. Is he (Reynardine, that is) a British outlaw, a Bluebeard, a werefox, a French outlaw? I don’t know, but he’s attracted many different theories, which I’ll go into later..

Just trying out some ideas at the moment.

 

David Harley

Tommy [demo]

Actually a very rough demo, as I was in ‘make-it-up-as-you-go-along’ mode. (The tune! The words are by Kipling, of course.) I rather like it, though, so I intend to get back to it when I’m better acquainted with it: it’ll suit a recording project I’m working on very well. According to Wikipedia, it’s a poem of 1890, but it was reprinted in Barrack-Room Ballads (1892). Also according to Wikipedia, the still-current term ‘Tommy’ or ‘Tommy Atkins’ derives from the use of the name Thomas Atkins in 19th century War Office manuals as a placeholder when describing how forms should be filled out.

I WENT into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, ” We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, wait outside “;
But it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? ”
But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

Soldier of Fortune

Words and Music by David Harley, copyright 1974.

Written at a time when I was much more ambivalent about my religious beliefs (or the lack of them) than I am now, but I’d like to think that even the least enlightened deity or prophet might be appalled at some of  the actions their followers take in their name. A version of this song was released on the Scriptwrecked cassette, but re-recorded here. 

Have you seen a man choke on another man’s dream
And humanity dying of shame?
Have you seen a man drunk on another man’s blood
And a scapegoat called Christ get the blame?

And God knows I’m no angel
But then I wouldn’t claim to be
Nor the gambler who lost
On a hill called Calvary

Have you walked in fear of another man’s lust
In the heat of a holy war
That slashed the throats of the innocent
The guilty and the bored?

And maybe we’re all guilty
But I wouldn’t want to be
The gambler who lost
On a hill called Calvary

Have you seen the soldiers of fortune
Fighting for names?
Have you seen the fallen angels
Play their whisky games?

And each one thinking
He has the right to be
A stand-in for the dealer
Who OD’d on Calvary

 

Soldier (You Come, You Go)

Words and music copyright David Harley 1976.

This song was originally part of a set of songs I started in the 1970s but never actually finished. In those days my generation was very much preoccupied with Vietnam and its neighbours, though the story wasn’t meant to be geographically or politically specific. More about the psychology of occupation and the winning (and losing) of hearts and minds… I was very much of a generation of songwriter that was very focused on issues, he said pretentiously.

A thousand years of rape
lie easy on my body
a thousand years of blood and fear
a million miles of marching feet and refugees

soldier
you come
you go
bring wampum, cookies
beads and rings

soldier
you come
you go
trade pretty things
for my pretty thing

cropped hair
and death-in-life hero eyes
how long
before you spread your epaulettes
and fly?

(smoke your Luckies
drink your words
eat your candy
suck you dry)

soldier
you come
you go

The lyric was published in Chaff 2, 1985. A version of this was recorded for the Scriptwrecked tape, but I’ve just re-recorded it for this site.