THE MUSIC OF MY LIFE: Part 1 – The Early Years of Paper Lace and Billy

Paper Lace, a Nottingham, England-based band who hit it big just once in the US of A with the song "The Night Chicago Died."
Paper Lace, a Nottingham, England-based band who hit it big just once in the US of A with the song “The Night Chicago Died.”

Daddy was a cop, on the east side of Chicago.

No, this is not my biography. Nor is that of my father.

To the contrary this is a memory, another dance with the ghosts of my past, as I look back on a life filled with music and how it led me to where I am today.

Last night — which was Friday, Feb. 26, in the Year of Our Lord — 2016 — my 49th-plus year on this journey — I attended the 80th concert of my life. On the ride home it got me thinking, what kind of role music has played in the life of a non-musician who just happens to love and admire the craft.

Thus, the first line of this blog — the first of this “The Music of My Life” series that I’ll be looking at from time to time — is actually the opening lyrics from a song called, “The Night Chicago Died” by a band called Paper Lace.

Now in America Paper Lace is known as a one-hit wonder and “The Night Chicago Died” was that one hit.

It was a song that told a story of a night of mob violence in a far away city, and had a nice little rock beat to it and when it burst onto the scene in 1974 . I was only eight years old then, but it became my favorite song.

Perhaps, I dare say, my first favorite rock and roll song.

This is one of the first songs I remember turning up the radio, so I could sing a long — and probably also when I realized that I couldn’t sing a lick.

I couldn’t have told you the first thing about Paper Lace when I was eight years old, but I could tell you who the starting second baseman was for the Boston Red Sox (Doug Griffin) so obviously even then my life was already heading down a path toward what is now my present.

But the love of music never left me and on the drive home last night as I thought about Paper Lace, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about the band other than my affection for that very first song.

For the record, Paper Lace was a band out of Nottingham, England — my parents likely would have approved — Carlo Sanntana (who obviously can’t be confused with the great Carlos Santana) and drummer Phillip Wright were the two main front men for Paper Lace, and I’d never heard of either of them until I looked them up today.

However, I did get thrown for one loop during my research.

Before Paper Lace released their third album, which found some acclaim on this side of the pond, they had released an album in England that same summer that included a song called, “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero.”

Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods.
Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods.

The funny thing about this is “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” was another of my favorite songs growing up, only I knew the version made famous by a band called Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

That group, founded in Cincinnati during the 70s, released “Billy” the same summer that Paper Lace released “The Night Chicago Died.”

Paper Lace saw “Billy” go No. 1 in the UK. Bo and band covered it and saw it hit No. 1 in the U.S.

Until today, I can’t remember the last time I heard either song — not even on Sirius XM’s 70s channel — but as I listened to both songs today, I was taken back almost 42 years and remembered the young boy who first started to hear the music, to embrace it and — most importantly — enjoying it.

Now, in the October Weekend of my life, I’m enjoying it more than ever and working at making it a major part of my world.

Say what you will about these two songs, but for me they were the beginning of something special.

And I’ll never let that go.

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