The Night Chicago Died

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"The Night Chicago Died"
Paper Lace Night Chicago Died.jpg
Belgian sleeve
Single by Paper Lace
from the album And Other Bits of Material, Paper Lace (US Version)
B-side"Can You Get It When You Want It"
Released15 June 1974
GenrePop rock
LabelPhilips (UK), Mercury Records (US)
Songwriter(s)Peter Callander, Mitch Murray
Producer(s)Peter Callander, Mitch Murray
Paper Lace singles chronology
"Billy Don't Be a Hero"
"The Night Chicago Died"
"The Black Eyed Boys"

"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 between the Chicago Police and members of the Al Capone Syndicate. The narrator retells his mother's anguish while awaiting news of the fate of her husband, a Chicago policeman. The song is featured in the theatrical trailer of the 2000 comedy-drama film High Fidelity. The song is also featured in a Season 1 episode of That '70s Show.


"The Night Chicago Died" was Paper Lace's follow-up single to "Billy Don't Be a Hero", a No. 1 hit in the U.K. but virtually unheard in the U.S. where Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' cover reached No. 1. Callander and Murray wrote both songs.

The U.S. single received a Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, signifying sales of at least half a million copies. Though the song's story is set in the United States, Paper Lace were unable to perform the song live in the U.S. at the height of its popularity because of contractual issues.[1]


"The Night Chicago Died" is about a shoot-out between the Chicago Police and gangsters tied to Al Capone. It was inspired by the real-life Saint Valentine's Day Massacre,[2] although that involved Capone's men killing seven of Bugs Moran's gang members and had nothing to do with the police. No confrontation large enough to leave around one hundred police deaths ever happened.

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. There is no East Side, as Lake Michigan is immediately east of Downtown Chicago. While there is an area of Chicago known as "East Side", it is a neighborhood on the Far South Side on the Illinois/Indiana state line. East Side is also several miles away from where Capone lived on Prairie Avenue in Chicago. Furthermore, in the 1920s, East Side was known for being a quiet, residential, and predominantly Eastern European neighborhood—a sharp contrast from the site of the bloodbath described in the song.

Songwriters Peter Callender and Mitch Murray 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. (Callender defended his interpretation of Chicago's geography by saying, "There's an East Side of everywhere!")

As reported by

" England there were at least a few young men that didn’t have all the facts straight, and in the 1970s their pop group from Nottingham turned their romantic misunderstanding of American history into a historically dubious yet gloriously catchy hit record. Though it was never intended for the American market, Paper Lace’s "The Night Chicago Died" crossed the Atlantic and became a #1 hit on the U.S. pop charts..."[2]

Paper Lace sent the song to the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, who greatly disliked it.[3] A member of Daley's staff is quoted as saying that Paper Lace should "jump in the Chicago River, placing your heads under water three times and surfacing twice. Pray tell us, are you nuts?”[4]

Chart performance[edit]


  • In 1974 Venezuelan singer Mirla Castellanos recorded her version of this song (translated into Spanish by her husband at the time, Miguel Ángel Landa) titled "La Noche De Chicago", which appeared on her album of the same name. Subsequently, Castellanos made a new version of this song, which was included in her 1984 compilation album 16 Grandes Éxitos.
  • Also, in 1974, Mexican group La Super Banda Macho recorded their own version of this song in Spanish titled "La Noche Que Murió Chicago", whose lyrics are very different from the previous version.
  • In March 1975 the Finnish singer Vicky Rosti recorded this song in Finnish titled "Kun Chicago kuoli" (When Chicago Died), which was her debut single. She reached the number one position in Finnish charts with the single by Midsummer.[17][18] The Finnish lyrics are almost verbatim translation of the English originals.
  • In 1994 Mexican group Banda Toro recorded this song titled "La Noche Que Chicago Murió" in a Banda music style (but with the same lyrics of La Super Banda Macho's version). This song appeared on their debut album Banda Toro.
  • In 2004 Mexican group Banda Machos covered this song titled "La Noche Que Murió Chicago" -and sounds very similar at the La Super Banda Macho's version- as part of their album Pura Pasión.
  • In 2006, Korean group Super Junior-K.R.Y. released a cover of this song entitled "The Night Chicago Died" in the Korean language, for the 2006 Korean drama "Hyena (soundtrack)". Their cover has the same melody, but the lyrics were entirely revised.



  1. ^ "Paper Lace Interview - Nottingham Culture". Retrieved 9 October 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "1974: "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace tops the U.S. pop charts". Archived from the original on 7 June 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Fred Bronson. The Billboard book of number 1 hits. p. 373.
  4. ^ "Back in the Bad Old Days". Retrieved 9 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 228. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ "RPM Top Singles" (PDF). RPM. 10 August 1974. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 70" (in French). InfoDisc. 20 August 1974. Retrieved 22 December 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – The Night Chicago Died". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1974" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 March 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "SA Charts 1965 – March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ UK Official Charts, 4 May 1974
  12. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 10, 1974
  13. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1974" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 March 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1974/Top 100 Songs of 1974". Retrieved 9 October 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 28, 1974
  17. ^ Rockin korkeat korot (LP), Edel Records, 2004. 0154442ERE. Liner notes.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Chris Carter (1994–1995). Chris Carter Talks About Season 2: "Die Hand Die Verletzt". The X-Files: The Complete Second Season: Fox.

External links[edit]