First Bird Call

 

 

Half a Loaf
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Still working on this philosophy.

Some people are always hungry
Always wanting more
As soon as they get to where they want to be
They’re lookin’ at the door
Now I know all about the hunger
That wakes you up at night
But I’ve been hungry for so long
That I am losing my appetite

They talk about the whole loaf
They tell you that’s what you need
But I’ve been thinking half a loaf
Half a loaf’s enough for me
Half a loaf’s enough for me

You can sail across the deep blue sea
And search through foreign lands
But never notice the treasure you hold
Right in your own two hands
I was lost and all alone
And I went down on my knees
Looking for the difference ‘tween what I want
And what I need

They told me it’s the whole loaf
They told me it’s what I need
But I’ve been thinking half a loaf
Half a loaf’s enough for me
Half a loaf’s enough for me

How much is enough?
How you gonna decide?
When it gets too noisy to hear
I take a walk outside

God bless the child that’s got her own
When the times get tough
Got bless the man who leaves it alone
When he sees that he’s got enough

They talk about the whole loaf
Maybe that’s what they need
But just give me half a loaf
Half a loaf’s enough for me
Half a loaf’s enough for me

Queen of Spades
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Some people make you nervous, but they’re interesting to hang out with.

We were the kings of the coaster brakes
We could skid so hard we made our fillings shake
Took off the fenders, we were stripped for speed
Oil on the chain was all we’d need
My mom’s bridge cards were stiff and new
We only needed one or two
We stole some clothespins from off the line
Snapped ‘em on the spokes, both his and mine

CHORUS
Jack of Diamonds on the front wheel
Queen of Spades in the back
Wheels goin’ round in circles
While I listened to the cards going clack, clack, clack
Look at me, hey look at me
Yes I’m as wild as I can be
Making noise so you look and see
Me riding with the Queen of Spades

His house was a step up from a shotgun shack
They were gonna fix it up when his dad came back
There was stuff on the front porch that never worked

There were cars in the yard where his big brothers lurked
My mom stood in tour front yard and watched us play
She was a little uneasy, unsure what to say
He was closer to the edge than anyone I’d ever met
Like an accident that had not happened yet

CHORUS

It was just that summer, then we lost touch
We were bound to go our separate ways
I always wondered what happened to him
Knowing how dreams can go astray

I was sitting at the light with my foot on the brake
When a roar and a rumble made my whole car shake
He was right beside me in the left-hand lane
Wearing a red bandana and a silver mane
Behind him was a mama dressed in studs and black
She had a snake tattoo in the small of her back
He raised his fist and smiled, then pulled away
I smiled back, there was nothin’ to say

CHORUS

Enough is a Feast
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

When I sang “Half a Loaf” for Nancy Schimmel, singer and storyteller, she told me her mom, Malvina Reynolds had a saying “enough is a feast”. I tried to write a Malvina-like song.

I sat at the table, I ate my meal
I asked my stomach, “How do you feel?”
It said, “I’m sure full” I said “Are you sure?”
He said, “You’ll get fat if you eat anymore”

CHORUS
Enough is a feast, enough is a feast
Take what you need, save some for the least
Save some for the least who stand at the door
Enough is a feast, you don’t need any more

I swear that it’s wrong, I think it ain’t right
That a billion folks go to bed hungry each night
Some scrounge at the bottom
Some lounge at the top
I think it’s crazy, and I wish it would stop

Some folks drive ‘round in big Cadillacs
Others walk ‘round with just the shirt on their back
Some live in mansions, some live in huts
When aliens visit they must think we’re all nuts

CHORUS

The president says the economy’s slack
So they’ve got to give rich people their money back
But I smell a rat, I know a scam
What kind of a dummy does he think I am?

CHORUS

If I were the president or I were a king
I’d make a big pile out of all these damn things
All we’d have left is ourselves and our names
We’d all shake hands and start over again

I might be a liberal, I been called that before
Or maybe a pinko, I’m not really sure
I don’t really know, I don’t really care
I just happen to think that we ought to share

Some people work, some people don’t
Some people share, some people won’t
Some folks have nothing, some have it all
But we’re all stuck together on this little blue ball

CHORUS (2 times)

Call
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Written when my oldest left home before I was ready. A parent’s plea.

I remember when you showed up
We held our breaths until you breathed
It seems to me that when you showed up
You never told us you might leave
Now I find myself standing here,
Looking out this open door
Same scene, but a different role,
Than the one I played before
Now it’s time for you to go
There’s still a few things you should know

CHORUS
Keep your heart open wide even when it hurts
Make sure you speak your mind, make sure you listen first
Be a fool for God or love, but not for worthless dollars
When you see that something’s wrong, stand up and holler
When the lonely darkness falls
I know somebody you can call

I remember holding you
When you threw up in my bed
I remember trying to sleep
While you were jumping on my head
It was only yesterday
You were standing just knee high
How is it I turn around
And now we’re standing eye to eye
Time’s a thief, and I’ve been robbed
I have to say these things, it’s still my job

CHORUS

You can’t say I never told you
You can’t say you never knew
You can’t say I never said
That I love you

Sometimes I wake up at night
My mind runs back across the years
All the chances that I missed
To hold your hand and quell your fears
All the things I meant to say,
All the things you need to know
The only thing that I can do right now
Is just to let you go
I know, it’s time for you to go,
Let me say these things to you
That I know you already know

Keep your heart open wide even when it hurts
Make sure you speak your mind, make sure you listen first
Be a fool for God or love, but not some worthless dollar
When you see that something’s wrong, stand up and holler
When the lonely darkness falls
When your spirit starts to stall
When no one left to call…
Come on and call

Ahab
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

I wrote and recorded this song in 2006 in a fit of confusion and anger over what was going on in our country. I include it here as a reminder of what it feels like when we're heading down the wrong path.

I was down by the seaside, down by the shore
I was wading in the water while I listened to the roar
There were sirens in the sky, I said what the heck
I was up to my knees, now I’m up to my neck
People on the rooftops, trying not to drown
While the Hummers all are moving to higher ground
They told me son, now don't be a bore
We’re gonna study this thing a little bit more
We’re busy making profits so cut that jive
Pray to Jesus there’s no category five
Put a gag on the doctor, tell him to shove it
Put your ray-bans on, you’re gonna learn to love it

CHORUS
Who’s got their hand on the tiller?
Who’s got the hand on the wheel?
It’s looking to me like we’re lost at sea
I can’t tell you how sick I feel
Somebody call for the captain
Cause it looks like we’re gonna down
But the captain ain’t the one
Look at what he’s done
He’s run this ship aground

I was down on the tarmac watching planes come in
They fill ‘em up with boys and girls and send ‘em off again
Some clown asked “Why? Tell me what’s this for?”
Somebody said something ‘bout a permanent war
I turned around the man’s got his hand in my pocket
Saying, “Spare some change son, for some guns and rockets
Step right up it’s a big shell game
There weren’t any weapons but we won’t take the blame.”
The numbers keep climbing higher every day
You come back in a box they hide you away
I said, “This ain’t livin, we act like we’re dead.”
The next thing I know there’s a bag on my head

CHORUS

There was a knock on the door it was a man in a suit
He was talking on a cell phone wearing snakeskin boots
He took me to the courtroom and put me on trial
When I said “Where’s the justice?” everybody smiled
The judge was a wolf, the jury was too
The only lamb there was you know who
The DA said “We got you, it wasn’t that hard,
We found all your guilt on your library card
You were readin’ books by Buddah, Suess, and Camus
If you read that much something’s wrong with you.”
The judge found me guilty, said,” The terror will cease.”
They put me in the slammer for talking ‘bout peace

CHORUS

I was down in the alley, I was down on my knees
Feeling like I had some strange disease
Like I was living in a bubble or a fog or a cloud
Dreaming of the truth spoken right out loud
There’s a storm in the ocean, there’s a storm in my head
The sun’s coming up and the sky’s turning red
The captain’s in his cabin and he won’t come out
Saying everything’s fine, there ain’t any doubt
There’s a story I read, it reminds me of a tale
‘Bout somebody chasing some big white whale
I was wondering what the answer to the riddle would be
When I heard someone talking ‘bout a mutiny

CHORUS

First Bird Call
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Written on banjo when things looked pretty dark, one night.

The night was dark as deep as sin
It seemed that it would never end
I leaned my head against the wall
That’s when I heard the first bird call
A pure and simple melody
A few clear notes of what might be
A song so fleeting, here and gone
The promise of the coming dawn

Oh little bird, How can she tell?
Down in this darkness where no light dwells
Some hope she feels, when I feel none
How can she know the day will come?
Sometimes it seems the world stands still
Darkness reigns and always will
When there’s no hope left at all
You just might hear the first bird call
And though the night goes on and on
The world is turning towards the dawn
And when there’s no hope left at hall
We wait to hear the first bird call
When there’s no hope left at all
You just might hear the first bird call

Like a Broken Wheel
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Most of us love someone deeply, though in odd ways – here’s my list of how I do.

I love you like a broken wheel
Turning on a wagon only half way home
I love you like a sinking ship
I love you like a falling stone
I love you like a dream you had
That slips away when the morning comes
I love you like a big black cloud
Passing over the mid-day sun
I love you like a beggar’s prayer
I love you like a deep dark pool
I love you like the back porch stairs
I love you like a goddamn fool
I love you like a goddamn fool

I love you like the dark new moon
A hole in the night that’s quiet and still
I love you like an empty bowl
That hours and minutes will never fill
I love you like a pilgrim’s road
I love you like a writer’s pen
I love you like an open bridge
Like a child that’s finally home again
I love you like an old stonewall

Like frost heaves pushing up the frozen ground
I love you like the barren trees
I love you like the long way ‘round

All these endless schemes
Of who I said I’d be
But you’re still standing here

I love you like the long slow burn
I love you like the ember’s glow
I love you like a dog’s last bone
Like a crack in the pavement where the weeds can grow
I love you like a fool’s last stand
I love you like a late night deal
I love you like a midnight song
Like a wound that just won’t heal
I love you like a minor chord
Played on the backbeat on an old guitar
I love for the way you talk
I love you for the way you are
I love you for the way you are

Smart People, Stupid Words
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Written after a steady diet of Elvis Costello, one of my favorites.

I don’t understand it
It don’t make no sense to me at all
There’s books on the bookshelves
Diplomas on a wall
Well-read, well-traveled
East, west, north and south
Then I listen to the things
That are coming from our mouths

Smart people, stupid words
Smart people, stupid words

You’d think somebody that smart wouldn’t act that way
You’d think that may might have enough sense
To consider what they say
You think we’re getting somewhere
We’re on the right track
Then somebody says something
That they can’t take back

Smart people, stupid words
Smart people, stupid words

Everybody’s been hurt
Everybody’s been burned
You’d think with all this bleeding
There’d be some lessons learned

You read it in the papers
You see it on the TV every day
You know they act so smart
Then you can’t believe the stupid things they say
But don’t misunderstand me, baby
Don’t you get me wrong
Cause we can be that stupid
When we don’t get along

Smart people, stupid words
Smart people, stupid words

You Make Me Smile
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

True proof that I don’t know where I fit in the music world.

Baby I was just blind, maybe I was just dumb
Baby I was lost at sea
It took something like a kick in the head
Might as well have been dead till you looked at me
You got that je ne sais quoi
That I don’t know what
There’s just something about you
Something ‘bout you turns me inside out
There ain’t no doubt, I’d be lost without you
Poets might be masters of words
But words are just a waste of time
Take a look what’s plastered on this
Face of mine

CHORUS

You make me smile
Whenever I think of you
You make me laugh out loud, it’s true
You make me sing
Like I haven’t in a long, long while
You make me smile

Ever notice when you walk down the street
Some people you meet, you know it’s just a shame
Walking around with their eyes on the ground
Acting like things are never ever gonna change
Acting like the moment they’ve been given
Is barely worth livin just something to get through
Their live’s just slipping away,
Nothin’ they can say, nothing they can do
Baby I was just like that, I felt the same way too
Everything was dull and flat, til I met you

CHORUS

My ears are ringing look at my eyelids flutter
My tongue gets tied, I start to stutter
I been living too long on the straight and narrow
Now I’m jumping off cliff and yelling "Te quiero!"

CHORUS

Dangerous
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

A song about living in Massachusetts - for my friends Shirley Wright and Robin Rose.

I see ‘em every day taking in their mail
They live just down the street
I shout out hi and I wave my hand
And they wave back at me
And they wave back at me
One of ‘em works in a shelter
Helping people in need
One of them works as a teacher
Helping kids learn to read

CHORUS
Oh yeah but they’re dangerous
It’s hard to tell
Oh yeah they’re dangerous
They’re going to hell

They’ve got a riding lawnmower
They use every Saturday
They’ve got a big leaf blower
They blow all their leaves away
They blow their leaves away
One time last year my kid got sick
I called them on the phone
Them came over and stayed with him
‘Til me and my wife got home

CHORUS
Sometimes in the afternoon
I walk my dog on their land
Sometimes I see ‘em out in the field
Walking hand in hand
They walk hand in hand
When they finally tied the knot
I was sitting in the very first pew
Listened to them say things right out loud
That I already knew

CHORUS
I don’t believe in a hell below
I’m not counting on a heaven above
The only thing I’m quite sure of
Is this moment I’ve been given to love

Maybe that’s dangerous
But what the hell
If we’re gonna be dangerous
Let’s do it well
Oh let’s be dangerous
It’s just as well

The Size of the State of Rhode Island
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

I lived in Rhode Island, then moved five miles, and now live in Massachusetts – most of my friends live in little Rhody. My submission for an unofficial Rhode Island state song.

There’s an iceberg afloat in Botany Bay
The size of the state of Rhode Island
There’s a hole in the ozone that won’t go away
The size of the state of Rhode Island
There’s a forest fire raging out in Montana
A tropical storm just off of Havana
They just found the world’s biggest banana
The size of the state of Rhode Island

There’s a swath of the rainforest clear cut each day
The size of the state of Rhode Island
There’s an asteroid circling close by us, they say
The size of the state of Rhode Island
There’s a caribou herd I saw on TV
And General Motors has a new SUV
Donald Trumps ego is said now to be
The size of the state of Rhode Island

If there were a prize for comparing, Little Rhody would win it
We know all about it, ‘cause hey, were here in it
And driving across it takes forty-five minutes
That’s the size of the state of Rhode Island

Rhode Islands’ the size of a spreading oil spill
Off of the coast of Bahia
Rhode Island’s the size of a giant landfill
Somewhere in the Crimea
It’s the size of a ranch on the west Texas plains
It’s the size of a cave in the south part of Spain
Just how big is that, you ask, we will explain
It’s the size of the state of Rhode Island

Now it may annoy you and cause you despair
That they use little Rhody by which to compare
But if we weren’t here, then they’d use Delaware
‘Cause it’s the size of the state of Rhode Island

There’s a baker in Omaha that just made a pie
The size of the state of Rhode Island
There’s a plasma screen TV that you ought to buy
The size of the state of Rhode Island
There’s a red tide arising and making a stink
There’s a fungus that’s growing ‘neath my bathroom sink
And this song is over, so I need a drink
The size of the state of Rhode Island

Where Am I From
©Bill Harley, All rights reserved
Reprints with permission only

Late night car drives make you think, and I think we should remember we’re just passing through.

I’m out on the highway late at night with a couple more hours to go
Crossing over the Jersey line towards some place I don’t know
I was born in Ohio, raised in Indiana, New England’s now my home
I was just in Missouri, by way of Montana, thinking about going to Rome
I been to Rio de Janeiro, I been to Sarajevo, I been to Mexico
Next week I’m going to Northern California for a couple of days or so
I’ve left something behind me every place I’ve ever been
I carry something inside of me from everything I’ve ever seen

CHORUS
Where am I from?
Where am I going?
Where am I from?
Where am I going?
Where am I from?
Where am I going?
Where am I from?
Where am I going?

I am driving in a car made in Ohio, by a company from Japan
While I listen to a CD of a singer from Bahia Playing in a samba band
He is playing a guitar plugged in an amplifier Made in Mexico
He’s using some licks from a man from Mississippi who moved to Chicago
I am eating some grapes grown in Chile
Drinking water from the south of France
I am wearing shoes made in China
And maybe some Malaysian pants
Outside my car window a quarter moon is on the rise
Orion’s belt is a trio of stars hanging in the southern sky

CHORUS

My father’s great grandfather left Germany cause he didn’t want to fight their wars
My mother’s side came from Scotland and England my grandma was a DAR
My great grandfather left Ohio for the gold rush of ‘49
There was talk of a woman in the family, she didn’t have skin like mine
I married into a family from Eastern Europe, they passed through Ellis Isle
And the woman I love was born in Brooklyn, she lived there just a little while
My children have the blood of the pogrom running through them
And the blood of the Ku Klux Klan
I see a little bit of me when I look in their eyes
But I’m not sure who I am

CHORUS

We were born when the whole thing started, made from the stuff of stars
Flashed across the darkness on a cosmic ray, ‘til we ended up where we are
Born from ashes, headed towards dust, set free on the wind
Spinning ‘round in a great big circle til we come back here again
I’m out on the highway late at night, a couple more hours to go
I take a look in the rear-view mirror to see where I should go
Just passing through, part of the dance, feeling like I’m running late
Only here for a breath, a moment, not enough time to hate

CHORUS