Harland Chesterfield & The Magic Bullet

Shit happens. It almost always does. The year that should have been, never was. We had big plans. Plans that we were certain would change our lives forever. Plans to attend ten Yes concerts in 15 days during the band’s ‘Close To The Edge Tour’, but nobody had heard from Harland Chesterfield since the weather changed that September. The search for him took several days, but he was found in a motel room hours away from home, draped over the side of the tub with an empty six pack of Labbatt’s Blue and a crumpled pack of Players scattered on the floor.

Harland Chesterfield had always been one weird, little guy. He was usually hanging out at Wilmington Park in what seems like a lifetime ago, roaming around, struggling to find somewhere to fit in. He seemed a withdrawn, but  he was usually also pretty wasted.  Harland didn’t have many friends, and kept to himself most of the time. He lived his life through music, and that seemed to be the only bond he would, or could share with others. He knew his stuff though.

One Friday night, at a house party at the home of one of the many teenage tarts who prowled Wilmington Park in search of drugs, love, and sex, Harland had discovered that the best way for someone to take their own life was at a Yes concert during the ‘I get up, I get down’ section of  ‘Close To The Edge’. He thought it was absurdly brilliant. We just thought he was messed up. He had reason to be. When he was nine years old, his mother seemed to have lost her mind and stabbed his father to death in the kitchen, after he informed her that the soup she had served him was not hot enough. She looked at him, smiled, and inserted an eight inch blade directly into his heart. He was dead before he hit the floor. She was institutionalized, and Harland was sent to live with an aunt, a divorced woman who lived on my street and whose bedroom I had the privilege to visit on more than one occasion.

After the police had found him, Harland was taken to the hospital and released a few days later, apparently in good health. It seems that he had simply drank himself unconscious. The trip was back on, and we were set to depart for Waterloo the following afternoon. Harland didn’t want to talk about what happened in that motel room, and the only comment he ever made about it was simply that he had a great sleep. We attended the Waterloo show completely messed up on peyote, and  followed it with concerts in Toronto and Ottawa.  Montreal was to be the last Canadian date, before we were to set out for the second stage in Flint, Columbus, and Erie.

During the Montreal concert, dead smack in the middle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, amid the dry ice and flashing lights, Harland Chesterfield fell face first onto the floor. When we couldn’t get him to move, we called security who removed him from the concert floor and took him somewhere inside the bowels of the arena. We followed the security detail, and waited outside a room they had taken him to. Paramedics arrived quickly, and they seemed to be in there for hours. Finally, the door burst open, and they rushed Harland down the hallway, strapped to a stretcher, and into the back of the waiting ambulance. Harland passed away, in fact he was already gone by the time the paramedics got him into the ambulance. He was pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital. An autopsy identified the cause of death as suicide by poison. Traces were found in his blood and on his hands. Harland Chesterfield had administered the magic bullet that took his life at a Yes concert, with twenty thousand fans cheering, amid the spectacle of ‘I Get Up, I Get Down’, just as he had said he would.

We didn’t finish the ten shows in fifteen days. None of us really wanted to continue. Harland’s funeral was small and short, but those who attended gave him a send off we were sure he would have appreciated. The following summer, as I dabbled around the North, neck deep in drugs and damsels in a dress, I listened to Close To The Edge every day. It continues to live on in my playlist, and everytime I hear any track by Yes, my mind drifts off to remember Harland Chesterfield.

 

 

 

 

 

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