Sixteen Parkside Lane

‘Taxi’ was written and performed by Harry Chapin and released on his 1972 album Heads & Tales.  The song peaked at #24 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and it went to #20 on the U.S. Cash Box Top 100 chart.  This was Chapin’s first single.  Harry had a taxi driver license in New York City and worked as a driver for 6 months in Long Beach, New York. Harry Chapin literally puts the listener inside of this taxi cab and lets them experience music that involves much more than just hearing somebody sing about being lonely.

Harry is a cab driver, working on a rainy night in San Francisco.  He picks up a woman wearing an expensive gown, his last fare for the night, and she asks to be taken to her home.  Harry feels like he knows this woman, but she seems not to recognize him until after she looks at him in the rear-view mirror and glances at his hack license.  She turns out to be his old flame Sue, someone Harry knew from his youth.  Harry has a flashback, remembering how he “used to take her home in [his] car” and also how they “learned about love in the back of a Dodge”, then he adds, “The lesson hadn’t gone too far.”  Sue had desires to be an actress, while Harry was going to learn to fly (hinting at Chapin’s earlier real-life experience at the United States Air Force Academy).  Their relationship ended when Sue “took off to find the footlights” and Harry “took off to find the sky.”

Harry arrives at Sue’s home where she offers to get together with him sometime, but Harry seems to know that is never going to happen.  Sue pays him a $20 bill for “a $2.50 fare” and says, “Harry, keep the change.”  Harry has mixed feelings about this gesture, but he “stashed the bill in [his] shirt.”  As Sue walks into her home, Harry finally realizes that they both got what they wished for, “such a long, long time ago”.  Sue is now happy acting out her life in a loveless marriage, while Harry is “flying” by driving a taxi and “getting stoned.”  Sue was a real person in this song and eight years later, Chapin followed this up with another hit, appropriately titled ‘Sequel’, which continued the chronicles of the former lovers Harry and Sue.

‘Taxi’ and his other very long song ‘The Cat’s in the Cradle’ were out of step with the fashion of the times, but they both received praise from many critics.  Driving eventually cost Harry his life, when he was in his Volkswagen Rabbit, which he was operating illegally, it was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer on the Long Island Expressway and Harry Chapin died in this traffic collision on Interstate 495, in NY on July 16, 1981.  Sadly, Harry Chapin has not made it into the Songwriters Hall of Fame yet.

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, she 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
Whoa, 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
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

Written for Song Lyric Sunday theme Tom/Dick/Harry,

25 thoughts on “Sixteen Parkside Lane

  1. Lots of new info in your write-up on the song, including his driving a taxi and being in the air force or that there was a sequel to the song. Now I need to go out and find it. Amazing he isn’t in the RnRHoF yet, especially in light of some others that are! Great selection today, Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Favorite lines in first song: “Where you goin to my lady blue? It’s a shame you ruined your gown in the rain.” and “Another man might have been angry, another man might have been hurt, another man never would have let her go. I stuffed the bill in my shirt.” Favorite line in the second song: “Sometimes better not to touch your dreams.” He’s a master poet, and the world is a better place for his music, and a darker place for his leaving” and the last line, “only time will tell.” Didn’t think I would be crying today.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There are some songs that hurl you to another place and time. This is one of them. It almost gives me chills. Great post as always, Jim. So nice to hear this one again.

    Like

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