Writer: Harry Chapin
Producer: Jac Holzman
Recorded: Fall 1971 at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles
Released: February 1972
|Harry Chapin — vocals, acoustic guitar
Ron Palmer — electric guitar
John Wallace — bass, vocals
Tim Scott — cello
Steve Chapin — keyboards
Russ Kunkel — drums
|Heads & Tales (Elektra, 1972)
Harry Chapin's first single as a solo artist, “Taxi” tells the story of a cabbie who picks up an old flame, Sue, as one of his fares. The two talk and realize that neither has achieved the dreams they shared when they were dating.
Like many of Chapin's songs, “Taxi” is partly based in reality. The Sue character is Clare MacIntyre, a well-to-do girlfriend from his college years at Cornell. The two did share such dreams–Chapin to be a performing musician, MacIntyre to be a singer or actress–and they shared a stormy relationship. One story has them jumping out of a car at a red light in Harlem to yell at each other. The two broke up after about a year of dating.
Chapin was inspired to write “Taxi” in 1971, when he had indeed become a cab driver in order to support his wife, Sandy, and their growing family. He read old girlfriend MacIntyre's marriage announcement in The New York Times and began to fantasize the song's scenario. He recalled, “I had this strong vision of picking up Clare somewhere–she getting into the back seat of my taxi–and me seeing her in the rearview mirror and us recognizing each other. We would have both known right away that we had lost, that our dreams were gone, and that we had both sold out.”
Elektra Records, which had signed Chapin, knew that “Taxi” was the most compelling song on his debut album, Heads & Tales, and even used a checkered cab motif for the cover, but the song's seven-minute-plus length made it difficult to promote. The company did an edited version for radio stations that balked at playing the album version, but the full-length “Taxi” found an audience at FM rock radio stations.
Despite all that, “Taxi” reached Number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, and for a time in the spring of 1972 it was the most requested song on American radio stations.
The Heads & Tails album, produced by Elektra president and founder Jac Holzman, reached Number 60 on the Billboard 200 chart.