The Night Chicago Died
|"The Night Chicago Died"|
|Single by Paper Lace|
|from the album And Other Bits of Material|
|B-side||"Can You Get It When You Want It"|
|Released||15 June 1974|
|Writer(s)||Peter Callander, Mitch Murray|
|Producer||Peter Callander, Mitch Murray|
|Paper Lace singles chronology|
"The Night Chicago Died" is a song by the British group Paper Lace, written by Peter Callander and Mitch Murray. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in 1974, reached number 3 in the UK charts, and number 2 in Canada. It is about a fictional shoot-out in Chicago between gangsters tied to Al Capone and the Chicago Police. The narrator retells his mother's anguish while awaiting news of the fate of her husband, a Chicago policeman.
"The Night Chicago Died" was Paper Lace's follow-up single to "Billy Don't Be a Hero", a #1 hit in the U.K. but virtually unheard in the U.S. where Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' cover reached #1. Callander and Murray wrote both songs.
The U.S. single received a Platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, signifying sales of at least one million copies. Though the song's story is set in America, Paper Lace were unable to perform the song live in the U.S. at the height of its popularity because of contractual issues.
"The Night Chicago Died" is a work of fiction. Although it references the notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone and his gang by name, probably the most notable contemporary real-life event in Chicago resembling a massive shoot-out involving Capone's forces as depicted by the lyrics would be the infamous Saint Valentines Day Massacre of 1929, an encounter between Capone's men and a rival Chicago gang rather than the police, which took place on the city's North Side in February instead of "in the heat of a summer night", during Capone's reign as the head of the city's organized crime syndicate. In fact, police often worked with the gangsters, soliciting and accepting bribes, and sometimes even standing guard during liquor deliveries. Capone's criminal career ended quietly in 1931, when he was convicted of income-tax evasion and weapons possession.
The song's events supposedly take place "on the East Side of Chicago." Chicago has three commonly referred-to regions; the North Side, the West Side, and the South Side. The East Side is not one of these "sides" of town, but in reality is a neighborhood located on the South Side, several miles away from where Al Capone lived (at 7244 South Prairie Avenue).
The songwriters said in interviews—most notably on Beat Club shortly after the song's smash success—that they had never been to Chicago before that time, and that their knowledge of the city and that period of its history had been based on gangster films.
- Paper Lace Interview - Nottingham Articles - LeftLion.co.uk
- Fred Bronson. The Billboard book of number 1 hits. p. 373.
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