Song: “The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace
Reached #1: August 17, 1974 (their first, 1 week)
This song proves that you really need to do research if you’re writing a song about a part of the world you don’t know.
Paper Lace songwriters Peter Callander and Mitch Murray set out to write a fictionalized version of what could have happened if Al Capone decided to go out in a blaze of gunfire instead of a quiet tax-evasion conviction.
Problem: they really didn’t know Chicago. Would you like to know what the “East Side” of Chicago is? Lake Michigan. Chicago has North, South, and West sides, but no East side, as the North and South sides run along the lake.
That didn’t stop Paper Lace from sending a copy of the song to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Mayor Daley was not impressed.
Paper Lace has told interviewers that they couldn’t perform this song in the USA while it was at the top of the charts… something about contractual issues? Maybe it had something to do with their other song – the one you didn’t know was theirs. They wrote and originally performed “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” before Bo Donaldson & the Haywoods rushed out a cover version in the USA – that version became the hit.
Oh, one more thing – all of this was just months after their “discovery” by ITV television’s Opportunity Knocks programme… a “discovery” seven years after the band started.
They’re still together, with a new album due out this year.
Tomorrow, the song that set longevity records that weren’t broken for 4 decades…
Other songs that reached #1 on August 17:
1968 – “People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals (their third, 5 weeks)
2002 –“Dilemma” by Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland (his second, 10 weeks)