Heads & Tails and Sniper and Other Love Songs Harry comes across considerably more self-assured and comfortable in his shoes on Short Stories. While Short Stories lacks the epic seven to eleven minute tracks like Dogtown, Sniper, and A Better Place to Be from his first two albums Harry manages to say less with more.
W.O.L.D. tells the tale of an aging DJ constantly seeking happiness at his next stop on the radio dial only to one day find his life, looks, and youth have passed him by. The song was inspired by Boston DJ, Jim Connors who was instrumental in Harry's early success. Chapin overheard a phone conversation Connors had with his ex-wife that sparked a deep discussion between Chapin & Connors and that conversation was the inspiration for this song. The song is told through a phone conversation a DJ is having with his ex-wife, although you only ever hear his half of the conversation.
Harry hits another homerun with Mr. Tanner which tells the tale of a humble man in Dayton Ohio who runs a dry-cleaning business and has a talent for singing in local plays and shows. After increased pressure from his friends and neighbours he uses up all of his savings to book a concert hall in New York City to audition. Being crushed after receiving some rather unkind reviews, Mr. Tanner returns to Dayton where he never sings again, "excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed, he sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes." What drives the song home are the haunting background vocals of bass player, John Wallace as he sings O Holy Night. According to interviews this song was inspired by a couple of rather harsh reviews Harry read in the New York Times-- Harry actually quotes segments of both reviews in the song.
As good as all of the tracks are, of all the tracks on the album it is really buoyed even further by the aforementioned tracks and by the achingly beautiful Mail Order Annie. A sad tale of two lonely less than attractive people who, through unusual circumstances end up fighting that loneliness together-- a similar theme to what Harry tackled on the previous album with A Better Place to Be.
Once Harry found his voice, his comfort level and gained a bit of self-confidence as an artist his albums were elevated to another level. Short Stories is the first in a series of several Chapin albums that truly showed Harry at his creative peak, a peak he rode through the rest of the seventies and up to his untimely passing in 1981. Honestly, from this album on, there's not a weak one in Harry's entire catalog.
Related Media & Links
Mr. Tanner video
They Call Her Easy video
Mail Order Annie video
Harry Chapin (official site)
Harry Chapin (wikipedia)