Song of the Day #1,382: ‘Half Harvest’ – Michael Penn

Best Albums of the 80s – #19
March – Michael Penn (1989)

I ranked Michael Penn’s second album, Free-For-All, higher on my list of 90s albums than his debut album sits here, but I consider them essentially equals.

Free-For-All owes its placement to a weaker field overall as well as my personal associations (it belongs to that fabled class of ’92, after all).

I do have positive associations with March, as well. It was given to me as a high school graduation present by my sister along with another album that will make an appearance higher on this list. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s hard to beat the gift of music, especially music as good as this.

The best-known track on March (maybe the only known track) is ‘No Myth,’ which most people will recall if you mention it’s the “Romeo in black jeans” song. The success of that song, and Penn’s lack of success since, has painted him as something of a one-hit wonder.

But listen to any song on March and you’ll be rewarded with the same wit, intelligence and melodic sensibility that made ‘No Myth’ a hit. It’s a shame the rest of his work didn’t catch on the way that one did.

My pet theory is that Penn’s lyrics are too inscrutable for popular consumption. He gets off some great one-liners but half the time I have no idea what he’s talking about. Perhaps it’s easier to sing along when you know the meaning of what you’re singing.

Case in point… anybody know what a “half harvest” is?

I don’t care that you won’t quit this notion
Of burying the carnival
But what the hell is in your potion
That’s made you so dull?

So I cannot make a blind from sawdust
Much less a cool millennium, but I’d
Much rather feel the heat of August
Than be sheltered and numb

So move out of your bed of roses now
I’m putting in a bed of nails
‘Cause missiles, guns and rubber hoses
Will land me in jail

This paradise is slowly crumbling
From here to Wilshire Boulevard
But the rubble over which you are stumbling
Just isn’t that hard

What did you do with all that grace, now?
What did you do with all my wine?
What makes you think that just ’cause you dress bright
It means that you shine?

So move out of your bed of roses now
I’m putting in a bed of nails
‘Cause when this whole production closes
This innocence fails

And weren’t we supposed to
Shine…like half harvest never shone
Shine…like half harvest never known

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,382: ‘Half Harvest’ – Michael Penn

  1. Dana says:

    Well, I tried to Google “half harvest” to see if I could find the meaning, but no luck. No idea what he is talking about.

    This is a truly great album and it is a shame that Penn only had the one hit because he deserves more success than that.

    Curious to know what the other album is that will appear higher on the list. Guess I will have to wait to find out, unless Amy remembers what other album she gave you:)

  2. pegclifton says:

    Well, this is just a guess, but if a harvest is the “yield” of something i.e. corn, wheat, etc. then maybe a “half harvest” is less than what is expected for farmers; taking that another step his relationship is less than he expected??

  3. Amy says:

    I don’t see this as a relationship song, though I like Peg’s interpretation of the half harvest itself. I’m thinking it’s some sort of protest or revolution… that the speaker/protagonist expected to undertake with the person he addresses… but was left disappointed when the bright dress doesn’t lead to true shining… I’m circling it…. but I’m not there yet :) (and yes, I remember what the other album is, but I won’t be a spoiler :)

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