A Better Place to Be

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"A Better Place to Be"
Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Sniper and Other Love Songs
Released October 1972
Recorded 1972
Genre Folk rock
Length 6:25
Label Elektra Records
Songwriter(s) Harry Chapin
Producer(s) Fred Kewley
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"Sunday Morning Sunshine"
(1972)
"A Better Place to Be"
(1972)
"WOLD"
(1974)

"Sunday Morning Sunshine"
(1972)
"A Better Place to Be"
(1973)
"WOLD"
(1974)

"A Better Place to Be" is a song by Harry Chapin from his 1972 album, Sniper and Other Love Songs. The song is about a midnight watchman confiding in a waitress, while drinking gin, about a woman that he met the night before and had a one-night stand .

Released as a single, the song reached #118 on the Billboard Bubbling Under chart. A live version, from the 1976 album Greatest Stories Live, reached #86 on the Hot 100 chart.

According to Chapin, it was his favorite song that he wrote.

Story[edit]

The song begins with "a little man" sitting at a bar, looking glum. The waitress, who is described as a "big ol' friendly girl", notices this in him and asks him what his problem is. The little man ignores the waitress at first, but after "a couple of sips" of gin, he begins to tell her his story.

The song then takes the little man's point of view as he states that he is a midnight watchman at a place called Miller's Tool & Die. One week earlier, he goes to a diner and sees a beautiful girl. Though worried that she's too good for him, the little man still attempts to "give her one good try." Stammering, he makes a fool of himself, but the girl takes his offer, saying in the song's refrain:

If you want me to come with you
then that's all right with me
Because I've been goin' nowhere
And anywhere's a better place to be

The little man takes her home and attempts to turn on the lights as he enters his room, but the girl tells him to leave the lights off because she "doesn't mind the dark". The little man cannot believe his good luck, and tries again to speak to the girl, who says only:

If you want to come here with me
then that's all right with me
because I've been oh so lonely
Loving someone is a better way to be.

The next day, the little man watches her sleep and leaves early so he can return and surprise her with breakfast. When he returns, he finds she has gone, leaving behind a "six word letter, saying 'It's time that I moved on.'"

After the little man's story, the tearful waitress tells him she wishes that she too were beautiful so she could go home with the little man. He responds to the waitress a "crooked grin", finishes his drink, and acknowledges their shared loneliness by repeating the song's first refrain. He says if she wants him to go home with her "that's alright with [him]" implying he will go home with her.

Although Harry often wrote songs about his own life experiences, it is not known if the "early morning bar room" or factory in Watertown actually existed or does today.

Chart Performance[edit]

Weekly Charts[edit]

Chart (1972–73) Peak
position
U.S. Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles 118
Canadian Adult Contemporary 51

Live Version[edit]

"A Better Place to Be (Live)"
Single by Harry Chapin
from the album Greatest Stories Live
Released April 1976
Recorded 1976
Genre Folk rock
Length 9:59
Label Elektra Records
Songwriter(s) Harry Chapin
Producer(s) Stephen Chapin, Fred Kewley, Paul Leka
Harry Chapin singles chronology
"Dreams Go By"
(1975)
"A Better Place to Be (Live)"
(1976)
"Flowers Are Red"
(1978)

"Dreams Go By"
(1975)
"A Better Place to Be (Live)"
(1976)
"Flowers Are Red"
(1978)

The song was released as a single on the live album, Greatest Stories Live. While introducing the song, Chapin states he came up with the song while visiting Watertown, New York, claiming he "spent a week there one afternoon". The live version was, until 2015 (when David Bowie's Blackstar took the title), the longest song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.[1]

Chart Performance[edit]

Weekly Charts[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 [2] 86
Canada RPM Top Singles 80

Year-end Charts[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 456

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Longest & Shortest Hot 100 Hits: From Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce & David Bowie to Piko-Taro".
  2. ^ "Billboard, A Better Place to Be".