Thursday, April 13, 2017

Musical Interlude: The Night Chicago Died (1974)

England's Paper Lace may be considered a 1-hit wonder here in the US, but they actually had something to do with a 2nd 1-hit wonder.

You see, Paper Lace had recorded "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" before Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods did, and their version topped the British charts before Donaldson similarly reached the top of the Hot 100. Paper Lace barely cracked the Hot 100 here. Then, their 2nd and final American single, "The Night Chicago Died", went all the way to #1.

"The Night Chicago Died" is set during the Prohibition era of the 20's, and references Al Capone in the lyrics. Fittingly, reruns of the original The Untouchables were in syndication at the time this song climbed the charts in 1974.

Following is a performance clip from Beat Club, as shown on VH1 Classic (now MTV Classic):


Mike Doran said...

When this song came out, we who actually lived in Chicago had a major laugh at the expense of the performers.
Where to start?
First of all, Chicago doesn't have an "East Side" - old or otherwise.
There's a North Side - that's where the Irish, German, and Jewish gangsters held sway.
There's a West Side - that's where the Italian-Sicilian faction was based, extending into Western suburbs like Cicero and Berwyn (Berwyn?).
And of course the South Side, which was the object of many of the ongoing Unpleasantnesses.
And satellite areas like the Southwest Side, which is where I'm from. We just watched, and stayed out of the way as much as possible.
Other satellite areas were Southeast and Northwest, but I think you get the idea.
"The Old East Side?"
That might be the Lakefront, where the Rich People lived - but the Mobs steered clear of that part of town; those were the paying customers for booze, dope, and sex, and they didn't care who got killed, as long as it wasn't them.
The sillyass Brit rockers who came up with this dumb song obviously got their "history" from old Warner Bros movies, conflating with the ones set in Manhattan (which of course does have a Lower East Side - but that's another story ...).

Oh, and any and all gun battles tended to happen in the dead of winter, and well out of public view.

This is all kidding, of course - nobody takes a Britrock song seriously as history.
Funny thing, though - we in the Cities are curiously protective of our Gangster Pasts.
It's not unlike the way Americans love the myths of the Wild West - the more mythical the better.
Ultimately, what bugged us about "The Night Chicago Died" was that it's such a stupid song.

hobbyfan said...

Historical inaccuracies never stopped anything from being successful, unfortunately.