Never get a US history lesson from a UK songwriter. That’s the lesson learned on this #1 hit from British pop band, Paper Lace, written by Peter Callander and Mitch Murray. They tell a story of a shoot with Al Capone and the cops of Chicago on the East side of town during the heat of a Summer night. Hate to break it to you, but gangs usually fight rival gangs rather than cops. And Capone’s notoriously had the Chicago police in his pocket. Even if Joe Policeman took a bite out of Al’s calzone by accident, it still wouldn’t have resulted in gunfire. Al’s reign as mob boss in Chicago was a relatively quiet one, save for the St. Valentine’s Massacre, which was a shootout with a rival gang.
But hey, that doesn’t sell records and make for good drama , does it? It sounds like Peter & Mitch fell asleep to too many late late shows with James Cagney. And the drama sure it made it popular on both sides of the pond. Paper Lace was following up their #1 UK hit, Billy Don’t Be A Hero, which was usurped in popularity by Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods in the States. PL decided to take it out on us with The Night Chicago Died and we took the bait.
The story is told from the point of view from a son of a East-side Chicago cop. That would be a tough beat to patrol since he be wading in Lake Michigan. Supposedly there’s a big shootout on the East side (maybe the mob has a lot of sailors & fishermen) with Al Capone’s gang & the Chicago police force. The cops kill most of the gang, those who didn’t surrender, but it was at a price od 100 dead cops. Not 99 or 101. 100 on the nose. The mob has their quotas too.
All the while, the singer’s mom is crying & praying for husband, who eventually breaks the silence, bursts the door open wide and kisses her face. Hooray! And, bullshit! No event that has taken place in Chicago has come close to this, not even the Democratic National Convention in 1968. And I doubt this song was a metaphor for that.
The only nights Chicago dies are the ones where the Cubs are in the playoffs and they choke their opportunity away. The only song close enough to represent a dying Chicago night is Do The Bartman.