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The Night Chicago Died

by

Paper Lace



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song tells a story about the notorious gangster Al Capone and his men having a shootout out with the police. As you can see from the comments below, there is plenty of debate as to whether or not the story is true. Mitch Murray, who wrote the song, cleared this up when he sent us the following:

I'd like to start by thanking your contributors for so many flattering comments regarding 'The Night Chicago Died.' As co-writer of this song, I feel qualified to settle some of the questions posed by those comments. My writing partner, Peter Callander, and I are both British and it's true, we'd never been to Chicago at the time we wrote the song - many other parts of the USA, but not Chicago. Having been brought up on a tasty diet of American gangster movies, the term 'East Side' usually meant the seamy side of a city. Of course, looking back, it was used about New York, not Chicago. We (actually, I mostly blame Peter because he had the last words on lyrics while I had the last word on the tunes) were obviously a little careless with our research, as we were when we wrote about Al Capone fighting the 'forces of the law' - I really don't think that ever happened; apparently, the cops were nearly all on Capone's payroll. The song was certainly a work of fiction, and as such, perhaps we should have used fictional gangster names. Still, it's hard to have regrets when your song is No 1 in the USA. Just to put the record straight, Paper Lace was the excellent group who recorded our song, but had nothing to do with the writing - that was our department, as was production of the record. Thank you all, once again, for your interest in 'The Night Chicago Died' Mitch Murray, London, England. (West Side of London)
Paper Lace's previous release was "Billy Don't Be A Hero," which was also written by Murray and Callander. It topped the UK charts, but they had to watch as Bo Donaldson And The Heywood's cover version reach #1 in the US. This gave them a hit both sides of the Atlantic.
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Comments (49):

I always thought it was bubblegum music and written to make money. Al Capone and his eight brothers and sisters grew up in NYC and Al was sent to a private catholic school but was expelled after punching a female teacher in the face. He was recruited by a notorious gangster and moved to Chicago. Capone was thought to have orchestrated the reprisal assassinations of rival gangster George "Bugs" Moran's seven gang members in the notorious "Saint Valentine's Day Massacre". Syphilis, stroke, pneumonia and heart disease eventually killed Capone.
- Jim, Enid, OK
Does anyone know of a cowriter or collaborator on this song named Jerry Albritton. This guy lives in Florida and claims he wrote the song. He's owns the name to a band/vocal group called "The Shadows" and has publicly claimed he wrote the song. I would like to know the truth. Does Mr. Callendar or Mr. Murray know him or have they ever heard of a Jerry Albritton. He also claims to have written several other songs for some major 70's groups. I want to know if he's for real or is he full of it. Someone let me know.
- Stan, Saint Petersburg , FL
I have heard this song since I was a teenager. I don't know whether there is really an East side of Chicago or not. Also, I don't know whether Al Capone did have a fierce fighting with the forces of the law in Chicago or not. Anyway, the song tells us not only about the fight between the outlaws and the cops, but also the concern of a boy and his mother to a man who was a boy's father and had to fight with these gangsters.

Finally and happily, the song tells us that the father could make it back home alive and this seems to be a happy ending for the song. I do like the end of the song although many people may regard this type of ending as a cliché.
- thyrocyte, Bangkok, Thailand
There is infact an "east side of chicago" I was born and raised there, graduated high school. It boarders both of the 95th street bridge, the river to the west, Indiana state line to the east and wolf lake on the south. I have many fond memories from that neighborhoos back in the 70"s. I understand much has changed.
- bonnie, santa rosa, CA
With the song Billy Don't be a Hero. The way the story of this song went. Billy should have been a sandwich instead. A very sad ending
- Frank, New York City, NY
I had liked this a lot when it was first released, even bought the 45rpm record. It only took months and I got sick of this song. It is like mold. Moldy bread, stale, when getting up in the morning. So like moldy bread. I broke this 45rpm. Paper Lace was the type of group that all their song was easy to get sick of quick anyhow
- Frank, New York City, NY
Found it, Carlo Paul Santanna is the one with the beautiful voice, :-)
- Sue, Hamilton, ON
I'd like to know who the 5 members of the original group were. The singer with the Guitar has an amazing voice and I'd like to know who he is. When Phillip Wright joined the band was called Music Box, they change it to Paper Lace.
- Sue, Hamilton, ON
Capone was convicted of Tax Evasion, got 11 yrs. Here in Hamilton we have the East End, where our Steel Mill was, not the greatest place to live. Our North End is Hamilton Bay.
- Sue, Hamilton, ON
Capone also owned a house in Hamilton, ON. Canada
- Sue, Hamilton, ON
Paper Lace sang, The Night Chicago Died, Billy Don't Be A Hero(it went to No.1 in England before Bo Donaldson covered it,)Bye Bye Blue.
- Sue, Hamilton, ON
There was indeed an East Side, but there was no fight where "a hundred cops" died.

Fabricated/altered history -- the sort Hollywood enjoys spewing.
- esskayess, Dallas, TX
Apologies for my "one-hit wonder" remark. That was rather U.S.-centric of me. Considering their slightly greater success in the U.K., I should have said "two-and-a-half-hit wonder" according to Wikipedia.
- Rap Porter, Chicago, IL
Lovely to see all these Chi-town old timers defending a silly song by a one-hit wonder (Quick! Name three songs by Paper Lace), but the fact is, the lyric is wrong. "On the East Side" can't refer to a neighborhood. Nobody in Chicago says "ON Hyde Park" (my 'hood) or "ON Andersonville" or "ON Englewood"; neighborhoods are always referenced with "in." "On the South Side" (or North, or West, but NOT East) refers to a large geographic division of the city. Referring to the neighborhood, you'd say "IN East Side," or maybe "IN the East Side."
- Rap Porter, Chicago, IL
There was and is an East Side neighborhood in Chicago. Most Chicagoans don't realize it. It is where the Indiana/Illinois state line meets the Lake. I was born there in 1930 and lived there until 1942. It WAS a wonderful place in those days. You could now say the wonderful place is "gone with the wind." Jim,Granite Falls, Washington
- James Kussy, Granite Falls, WA
Worst. Song.

EVER.
- Mike, Matawan, NJ
I remember this song, though at the time it was released, I sang the lyrics without really knowing what they meant. Now I can see the campiness but it's still a cool song.
- Karen, Silver Spring, MD
this is such a greatsong
- jessie steele, bartlett, TN
I had the 8 track of this LP when it came out it was called The Black Eyed Boys --It had both The Night Chicago Died and Billy Don't Be A Hero on it. It also had covers like Sealed With A Kiss, Cheek To Cheek. It was a great L.P.
- rauliy, Lomg Island, NY
Stormy in Kokomo, you sound like an old Roseland girl. Yes Richard J. Daley hated this song, but I think when CSNY wrote the song "Chicago" about the "68" Convention, this song took a back seat to his list of hated things. I was West Pullman myself by address, but would only admit to Roseland as my neighborhood. 111th Michigan Ave. Chicken Unlimited ring a bell, Shrimp House maybe?
- Linda, Chicago, IL
A little poetic licence was used in this song. It is not known if Big Al was involved in the Little Steel Strike in May of 37, and technically the strike happened in South Chicago. You can also reference Memorial Day Massacre. I'm sure Big Al was mentioned because this was a Union organizing thing. Also Ohio had the same problems, and strikes at the same time. Yes there was and is an East Side of Chicago neighborhood. 101st north to 95th, Torrence to the lake. East Side was a neighborhood reference, just like Roseland, Pullman, West Pullman, South Chicago etc.
- Linda, Chicago, IL
Let's finally clear the air. In the 1920s, Al Capone ruled the SOUTH side of Chicago and was a HUGE White Sox fan and a guy by the name of "Buggs" Moran ruled the North side of Chicago. Of course there is a North, South, East and West side of Chicago as there is in ANY city! Haven't any of you heard of the term "poetic license"? I also remember that the mayor of Chicago at that time was Richard Daley and he HATED this song and tried to get it off of the radio station WLS which all of us kids listened to in the 60s and 70s. Remember DJs Dick Biondi and Larry Lujack? It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the 1968 Democratic convention held in Chicago!
- Stormy, Kokomo, IN
ALL You people are looking too deeply at what the song is about.
it's obvious that its about 1929 chicago.
- Jake, Leicester, MA
I always assumed this was loosely based on the Saint Valentines Day Massacre in 1929. My only problem with that theory is that no or very few cops were killed.
- PMcOUntry, Small Town, PA
Ok I am doing a school project on this song and all of you need to get your facts straight! Yes, it is about Al Capone and the story is perfectly true. Yes, there is an East Side. And yes Al Capone was a ganster that actually existed. It was not Carlos Santana. His father probably wasn't actually a cop on the East Side but it doesn't mean that the story is not true! It is perfectly true so look up the facts and everything because you all have scattered facts that for the most part make no sense!!!! OKay?
whoever said this song wasn't about gangsters of Al Capone hasn't listened to the song very closely "When a man named Al Capone
Tried to make that town his own
And he called his gang to war
Against the forces of the law"
- Natasha, Oklahoma City, OK
The song has nothing to do with gangsters and AL Capone. Its about the 1968 riots that accompanied the Democratic convention.
- B, San Jose, CA
There is an East Side. I was born there and lived there for 50 years.. So yes.. it is there
- Cathie, Chicago, IL
True, his father probably was not a cop on the east side, but the war of Al Capone was absoulutely true and I have the newspaper to prove it, although I wasn't born there I do vacation basically everywhere, Al Capone was a nutorious and horrible gangster that was never given the title 'gangster', he was only convicted of tax evasion. This story is completely true, many cops died that night.
- Simon, Manchester, England
What was it about 1974 that engendered so many depressingly bad songs from performers who knew nothing about the ostensible subjects of their songs? I'm referring to this song, "Seasons In The Sun," "Beach Baby" (No one has ever gone from LA to San Jose to surf!)and a host of others. Well, at least 1975 had some good music, disco notwithstanding.
- MusicMama, New York, NY
I was once told that this song was loosely based on the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the anniversary of which is on my girlfriend's birthday. Did I mention that my girlfriend told me this? I don't think so.
- Darrell, Eugene
One of my all time favorite songs growing up in the 70's. My sister and I had a little "Dance Routine" to this. Ahhh...the good ol' days!
- Mary, Phoenix, AZ
There is an east side.Hegewisch area,Avenues L and O,ETC....by 95th street beach.Technically east of state street is East side
- Chris, Chicago, IL
Im from chicago and there is no east side the east side is a big freakin lake.
- andy, chicago, IL
I quess you could say its true, polece versus gangsters.
- Graham, Surrey, Canada
Allan from Canada: By that definition, the "east side" of Chicago would be downtown along the lakefront. It's very strange to refer to a major city's downtown area as anything other than, well, downtown. In other words, the lyric should have been "Daddy was a cop in downtown Chicago", if that's the part of town the song's writer actually had in mind. (It's pretty safe to assume he didn't mean Lake Michigan.)
- Joshua, Twin Cities, MN
Every city has an east side. Not every city has an East Side. "Daddy was a cop, on the east side of Chicago." They're not saying he worked in a place called East Side, they're simply saying his beat was in the eastern part of the city. Seems pretty simple to me, but hey, I'm a Canadian. If it ain't simple, I have problems.
- Allan, Vanderhoof, Canada
How ironic -
This is made up, yet in 1871 there was a great fire in Chicage, which put businesses at a stand-still. Wonder how it started - - - hmmmmmmm.
- Tina, Dallas, TX
I always wondered if it was true or not, specially since I knew Capone was not convicted for any gang-related activities or anything, but strangely enough I never dug into it. The song is great regardless, though.
- Jorge, Mexicali, Mexico
I am from Calumet city Ill which is south sub of chicago. East Side is there. We used to hang out at 99th street beach back in 60s-70s. Mostly Italians then. Best softball team in Ill in 70s,The Eastsiders
- ted, calumet city (orig), IL
I always enjoyed this song. I grew up going to Chicago quite a bit since I lived in Northern Indiana.
- Dee, Indianapolis, IN
there is an east side of chicago....a neighborhood that is actually registered as the
"east side" is any chicago neighborhood map you
look at is located on the southeast corner of chicago, right on the border of Indiana...it is
and always was a steel mill area, heavily polluted and very rough...it was historically eastern european ethnic(serbs, croations, and poles), but now is heavily hispanic and rundown.
- Scott, chicago, IL
it was actually Carlo Santana, Close but no cigar... he was born in Italy.
- pete, nowra, Australia
I heard,Carlos Santana was the founder of the band or something like that.
- Ramon Escobar, Los Angeles, CA
there is an east side..i grew up there.
- chris, highland, IN
As a former disc jockey, I can tell you this was considered "bubble gum music". Little kids requested this song incessantly, driving many D.J.s crazy. However, the pulsing intro with the clever siren effect and the catchy lyrics created something we're still talking about 30 years later.
- Rob, Hutchinson, KS
Paper Lace didn't know that there wasn't an East Side of Chicago, they just used that because it "sounded American". At the time their horizons didn't extend far beyond Nottingham, and probably still don't........
- Si, London, England
However, Chicagoans puzzle about what was meant by the "East Side". There's no place in Chicago referred to as the East Side, really. There's Downtown, and then East of that there's Lake Michigan.
- Lauren, Maryville, MO
the story is not false, it is completly true. Maby the parthaboyt his "father" could be fictional, but the attempt by al capone's gang to take over chichago was not. Capone was not found guilty for this, or even for being a ganster, but was finally convicted of tax evasion.
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