Peter Steward's Web Site
Harry was a storyteller. To me he was the greatest storyteller music has ever known. People seem to frown at this assessment. They say his lyrics are simplistic and trite. I would suggest these people have never studied a song such as Taxi and Sequel which I group together here for obvious reasons.
They show the remarkable power of the man to tell a story full of so many morals, so many messages. The two songs flow with imagary of lost loves, lost opportunities, of age and experience and follow so many of Harry's great themes.
The memorable lines just dripped from his pen in these two songs and the fact that he could continue the power over all the years which separated them is truly remarkable. Just try listening to them back to back to get the full story. From the opening lines of Taxi "It was a raining hard in Frisco" the scene is set.
These opening words just set the scene for heartbreak. Suddenly into Harry's rain-sodden night steps a reminder of the past.
Don't we all remember those far off days when we had dreams for the future. And aren't we left asking ourselves where those dreams went just like Harry's taxi driver. And of course Taxi includes those classic lines "Harry Keep The Change." I am told that today people visiting Harry's grave leave loose change there - another reminder of how powerful this song has been over the years to Chapin fans.
It was raining hard in 'Frisco, I needed one more fare to make my night. A lady up ahead waved to flag me down, She got in at the light. Oh, where you going to, my lady blue, It's a shame you ruined your gown in the rain. She just looked out the window, and said "Sixteen Parkside Lane". Something about her was familiar I could swear I'd seen her face before, But she said, "I'm sure you're mistaken" And she didn't say anything more. It took a while, but she looked in the mirror, And she glanced at the license for my name. A smile seemed to come to her slowly, It was a sad smile, just the same. And she said, "How are you Harry?" I said, "How are you Sue? Through the too many miles and the too little smiles I still remember you." It was somewhere in a fairy tale, I used to take her home in my car. We learned about love in the back of the Dodge, The lesson hadn't gone too far. You see, she was gonna be an actress, And I was gonna learn to fly. She took off to find the footlights, And I took off to find the sky. Oh, I've got something inside me, To drive a princess blind. There's a wild man, wizard, He's hiding in me, illuminating my mind. Oh, I've got something inside me, Not what my life's about, Cause I've been letting my outside tide me, Over 'till my time, runs out. Baby's so high that she's skying, Yes she's flying, afraid to fall. I'll tell you why baby's crying, Cause she's dying, aren't we all. There was not much more for us to talk about, Whatever we had once was gone. So I turned my cab into the driveway, Past the gate and the fine trimmed lawns. And she said we must get together, But I knew it'd never be arranged. And she handed me twenty dollars, For a two fifty fare, she said "Harry, keep the change." Well another man might have been angry, And another man might have been hurt, But another man never would have let her go... I stashed the bill in my shirt. And she walked away in silence, It's strange, how you never know, But we'd both gotten what we'd asked for, Such a long, long time ago. You see, she was gonna be an actress And I was gonna learn to fly. She took off to find the footlights, And I took off for the sky. And here, she's acting happy, Inside her handsome home. And me, I'm flying in my taxi, Taking tips, and getting stoned, I go flying so high, when I'm stoned.
SequelSequel immediately takes up the story where Taxi ended. Harry's Taxi driver and Sue's actress are now different people. Harry is a successful artist and Sue is struggling, but somehow once again they are driven together.
One of Harry's most powerful images comes in the line: "It's better sometimes that we don't get to touch our dreams." Sue has come to realise that dreams can be shattered but asks if this isn't necessarily a bad thing as we hear that she finally likes herself. In other words she no longer aspires to something unobtainable. She has come to terms with her life.
This is one of the hardest lessons we can learn as we go through life. Not everything can be ours. We may aim for the stars but we often fall short. Here Harry suggests that this is okay.
Then we have more beautiful imagery in "We talked of the tiny differences, between ending and starting to begin." Indeed many of Harry's finest lines come in these two songs.
This song suggests that it's okay to dream as long as you accept what is. It ends by suggesting that thre is more to the saga. We will never know what that was.
So here she's actin' happy inside her handsome home And me, I'm flyin' in my taxi, takin' tips and gettin' stoned. I got into town a little early. Had eight hours to kill before the show. First I thought about heading up north of the bay Then I knew where I had to go. I thought about taking a limousine Or at least a fancy car. But I ended up taking a taxi 'Cause that's how I got this far. You see, ten years ago it was the front seat Drivin' stoned and feelin' no pain. Now here I am straight and sittin' in the back Hitting Sixteen Parkside Lane. The driveway was the same as I remembered And a butler came and answered the door. He just shook his head when I asked for her And said "She doesn't live here anymore." But he offered to give me the address That they were forwarding her letters to. I just took it and returned to the cabbie And said "I got one more fare for you." And so we rolled back into the city Up to a five store old brownstone I rang the bell that had her name on the mailbox. The buzzer said somebody's home. And the look on her face as she opened the door Was like an old joke told by a friend. It'd taken ten more years but she'd found her smile And I watched the corners start to bend. And she said, "How are you Harry? Haven't we played this scene before?" I said "It's so good to see you, Sue Had to play it out just once more." Play it out just once more. She said I've heard you flying high on my radio I answered "It's not all it seems" That's when she laughed and she said, "It's better sometimes When we don't get to touch our dreams." That's when I asked her where was that actress She said "That was somebody else" And then I asked her why she looked so happy now She said "I finally like myself, at last I like myself." So we talked all through that afternoon Talking about where we'd been We talked of the tiny difference Between ending and starting to begin. We talked because talking tells you things Like what you really are thinking about. But sometimes you can't find what you're feeling Till all the words run out. So I asked her to come to the concert. She said "No, I work at night." I said, "We've gotten too damn good at leaving, Sue" She said, "Harry, you're right." Don't ask me if I made love to her Or which one of us started to cry Don't ask me why she wouldn't take the money that I left If I answered at all I'd lie. So I thought about her as I sang that night And how the circle keeps rolling around. How I act as I'm facing the footlights And how she's flying with both feet on the ground. I guess it's a sequel to our story From the journey 'tween heaven and hell With half the time thinking of what might have been and half thinkin' just as well. I guess only time will tell.
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