Drive Byes: The Legend of Harvest Queen Revisited


FROM JOHNNY—From more than three years ago…..
On to my other reason for blogging: I want to thank Chris and Maria for the wonderful podcast regarding the history of my song “Harvest Queen”. A big thank you to Morst too. Well done! I feel compelled to fill in a few blanks though…..the music for the song goes back years…all the way to “Big Dirty Yellow” (The house David and I shared when we first moved to Richmond together pre Cracker). I awoke one morning with the guitar riff and melodies in my head and worked them out right then and there. I showed it to David at one point and he called my then instrumental “Harvest Queen”. It felt like a great title but we were in the middle of working on many, many other songs and I put it on the back burner. Cut to 1999, around the time I moved back to Redlands and rekindled my friendship with Chris LeRoy.

We showed each other what we had been working on and instantly began collaborating again which always feels natural to us. He came up with a new title and lyrics for the song (Haunted) which I felt where great, but I still liked David’s original title idea. We recorded the track with Chris on an old, beat up, upside down bass , Chad Villareal on drums and Maria at the board and it was just spontaneously magical on the first take. It’s true as Maria says, I showed it to several session players and they never matched that original track!

One night I fell asleep thinking about David’s title idea “Harvest Queen”. As Chris says in the podcast he had burned me a CD of several scary old songs by other people. One night I dreamt I was one of 3 or 4 young migrant farm workers in a vast green field in California somewhere. In the dream there was a beautiful, naked witch flying over us. She was slowly changing from a woman to a raven, a ball of fire and back into this temptress / goddess …then she vanished. She appeared again after dark and was trying to coax these young men into an old 1940s looking car for something…sex? comfort? protection? To steal our souls? I didn’t know but I saw it all…the monkey’s paw, the straw…all of it. Scared the hell out of me.

I woke with a start and wrote the whole thing down before I could forget it. The dream became the final version of the song after that. Strange story huh? Even though I wrote the lyrics and music, the song would never have gotten finished without the input of Chris and David. I had played a rough sketch for David Immerglück one night (in the back of a car) and he actually DEMANDED that he play on the track with me. How could I refuse the amazing Immy?

I was honored. One night he came down to Lo-Fi from Los Angeles and had brought along Cracker’s original bassist Davey Farragher. They sang those great “AAAAAA” backing vocals and Immy and I did this sword fight of guitar solos at the end of the song which completed the long journey. I recently had the opportunity to play the song live at Roger Clyne’s Mexico festival a few weeks ago. It was their suggestion. Roger and the Peacemakers just said “Hey let’s do Harvest Queen…yeah we know it”. They did and played the hell out of it with me. Yet another of those wonderful “Man I have a cool job” moments. Johnny….over and out.

FROM CHRIS: More than four years ago…..

Halloween SongBook Podcast Up Now
The SongBook Series Podcast covers the wide musical spectrum of Johnny Hickman and Chris LeRoy (& Friends)

SongBook Series Podcast 2 compares HARVEST QUEEN with its original demo, HAUNTED. MORST taped the interview with studio engineer Maria Baglien at Lo-Fi Studios 9/9/07 one day after the Cracker/ Camper Campout III in Pioneertown CA. Chris LeRoy discusses both songs.

This Halloween special will be of interest to those Cracker fans who want to see a bit behind the songwriting and song morphing of Johnny Hickman and Chris LeRoy. In fact, to this point, Harvest Queen is the only song co-written by LeRoy, Hickman and David Lowery.

The Legend of Harvest Queen REVISITED

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