Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Story Songs #6 - Billy Don't Be a Hero : Bo Donaldson + Paper Lace

Sixth in a series - previous story songs on How Marvellous...

My earlier reminiscing about 70's hits, led to a crackerjack song, which I'm convinced would not have been so successful without the story element. Fair enough, in the UK, Paper Lace had won Opportunity Knocks five weeks in a row, but it took the talent & experience of Mitch Murray and Peter Callander to spot their 'potential', perhaps mainly as a vehicle for their own song-writing ability.

Murray & Callander were no strangers to pop hits, between them having written all these & more:
How Do You It? - made famous by Gerry & The Pacemakers, although written for, & recorded first, by The Beatles;
I Did What I Did For Maria, Avenues and Alleyways - Tony Christie;
I Like It - Gerry & The Pacemakers;
To Make a Big Man Cry - Tom Jones/PJ Proby;
A Fool Am I - Cilla Black;
Ragamuffin Man - Manfred Mann;
Tell the Boys - Sandie Shaw;
The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde - Georgie Fame;
You Were Made For Me, I’m Telling You Now - Freddie & the Dreamers
Even The Bad Times Are Good, Suddenly You Love Me - The Tremeloes
Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha - Cliff Richard

Mitch Murray even made records himself, under the name of Mister  Murray - Down Came the Rain, and I Drink To Your Memory.

You get the picture... these two knew the score, and will likely provide me with  at least one more story song at a later date.

Murray & Callander by now had their own label - Bus Stop, with a snazzy red,white & blue logo; they had successful production experience (Tony Christie), a band (Paper Lace) who were very much in the public eye, a catchy story song, a gimmick (soldier uniforms)... and whistling... - more main weapons than the Spanish Inquisition. Sure enough, Billy Don't be a Hero was a huge hit in the UK, spending three weeks at #1.

America was a different story however - for some reason, the writers let the song be recorded/released by a US band at the same time as Paper Lace's version : Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods made #1, but our boys languished at #96.

Billy Don't be a Hero - Paper Lace
Paper Lace and Other Bits of Material (1974)

Billy Don't be a Hero - Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods

website | buy


Paper Lace had two more decent-selling singles on Bus Stop, both written by the Callander/Murray team - The Night Chicago Died reached #1 in the US, which maybe made up for Billy?.

The Night Chicago Died - Paper Lace

The Black Eyed Boys - Paper Lace

Peter | Paper Lace booking

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