Thursday Inspiration #144 The Night Chicago Died

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word night, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘The Night Chicago Died’, or by going with another song by Paper Lace, or anything else that you think fits.  ‘The Night Chicago Died’ is a song that the British group Paper Lace recorded, and it was written by Peter Callender and Mitch Murray who were not members of the group.  It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in 1974, and it went to #3 on the UK charts.  It is a fictional story that included the real-life character Al Capone, but their research was careless, so they didn’t get all of their facts straight, plus they had never been to Chicago before, so this song was not intended for the American market.  The song crossed the Atlantic and became a #1 hit for Paper Lace from their 1974 album Dynamite.

Chicago is a historic city and its location being between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River made its growth inevitable.  The 1871 fire destroyed one-third of Chicago and left more than 100,000 homeless, but Chicago did not die from this, and Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking a lantern over is just a legend, as this fire was fueled by drought, high winds and wooden buildings.  The Black Sox Scandal of 1919 led to eight members of the Chicago White Sox being banned from major league baseball for gambling, but baseball survived after a commissioner was appointed to restore its integrity.  Chicago fell into the hands of gangsters during the 1920s, as crime became a lucrative business when prohibition laws were enacted.  Corrupt politicians didn’t help matters and wars erupted with gunfire between the rival gangs of the organized crime syndicate.  The Thompson submachine gun was perfected in 1920, aka, “the Chicago typewriter”, and this became the weapon of choice for many the mobster gangs.

This song is narrated by a kid whose father is a Chicago Police officer in the 1920s when a shoot-out between the Chicago Police and mob results in a blood bath.  The narrator’s mother is worried while awaiting news about the fate of her husband, where about a hundred cops were shot dead before all the hoodlums were killed or surrendered as described in the song.  This shootout never happened, as most of the cops in Chicago were on Capone’s payroll.

Songwriters Peter Callender and Mitch Murray gained their knowledge of Chicago and the gangster period from watching gangster films.  Callender and Murray met in 1966 and they worked together as a song writing team to produce recording artists such as Paper Lace, Tony Christie, and The Brothers.  Together they composed songs that included ‘Even the Bad Times Are Good’ for The Tremeloes, ‘The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’ for Georgie Fame, ‘Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha’ for Cliff Richard, ‘Ragamuffin Man’ for Manfred Mann, ‘Hitchin’ a Ride’ for Vanity Fair, ‘Turn on the Sun’ (Nana Mouskouri) plus ‘Avenues and Alleyways’, ‘Las Vegas’, and ‘I Did What I Did for Maria’ for Tony Christie.  Richard Daley the mayor of Chicago disliked this song.  A member of Daley’s staff was quoted as saying that Paper Lace should “jump in the Chicago River, placing your heads under water three times and surfacing twice.”

Paper Lace are a five member Nottingham-based rock band that performed cover songs and they rose to success in 1974 with three UK Top 40 hit singles.  In the United States they are considered a one-hit wonder, having a single US top 40 hit.  Philip Wright from Nottingham, England played drums and sang lead vocals.  Mick Vaughan from Sheffield, Yorkshire played lead and rhythm guitar and was the group’s arranger.  Cliff Fish from Ripley, Derbyshire played bass guitar, Chris Morris from Nottingham, England played guitar and sang vocals and Carlo Santanna from Nottingham, England played guitar, mandolin and did vocals.  The Nottingham band got their name Paper Lace because Nottingham was the lace making capital of the world for over 100 years.  They had been playing together in one form or another for six years, when they auditioned to be on Opportunity Knocks, the Britain’s Got Talent of its day.  It took three years for them to get the chance to be on the show, but when it happened, they were ready.  Seven million viewers watched them win, again and again for five weeks in a row.  One of those viewers was Connie Callender the wife of Peter Callender who composed the music for this song.

I heard my mama cry
I heard her pray the night Chicago died
Brother what a night it really was

20 thoughts on “Thursday Inspiration #144 The Night Chicago Died

      1. No I didn’t either…the two songs Billy, Don’t Be A Hero and this one has always been tied together for me in my memory.

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