At dinner last month, John brought up the old Harry Chapin song, 30,000 Thousand Pounds of Bananas, which reminded me of a photograph I took way back in April 1976.
I’d gone to Lebanon Valley College to review one of Chapin’s concerts, perhaps even to interview him, but when I got to the dressing room a few hours before the show he wasn’t there – only his backup band, including brother Steve on piano.
Much later – about 15 minutes after the 8pm show was scheduled to start – Harry called the dressing room to announce he still was about a half hour away. (“That means 78 miles on a two-lane road,” one of the band members guessed.) The musicians worried not so much about him, they said only half-jokingly, but that to make it up to the audience, he’d insist on playing a four-hour concert.
Harry finally appeared around 9, and, as the band went off to take the stage, he looked at me and quipped, “Is this a good time for an interview?” Within a few minutes of arriving, he was on stage too, apologizing to everyone, and saying, “Well, I’m here, and I’m planning to have one of the best concerts we’ve ever done.”
The show only turned out to last about three hours, 20 long songs including his hits like W·O·L·D, Taxi, Cat’s in the Cradle, Circle and, near the end, a long happy version of the banana song, based on a true story that took place in Scranton, about 100 miles north of where we gathered at LVC.
30,000 Pounds of Bananas usually went on in concert for at least 10 minutes, and on this night, as it ended and people burst into applause, one of the students came up to the stage and handed Chapin a paper bag full of bananas, which he started throwing into the crowd. By that point I had moved up to the stage myself, where I was photographing Harry from a few feet away, using an old broken camera my newspaper’s photographer let me borrow. Either the film – remember film? – didn’t advance properly, which sometimes happened, or in the excitement I forgot to wind it; anyway, I ended up getting a once-in-a-lifetime double exposure of Harry Chapin singing one of his most famous songs and then when it was finished, throwing bananas at his admirers.