Oct 07

PAPER LACE – “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”

FT + Popular83 comments • 6,236 views

#346, 16th March 1974

There’s a sensibility here that’s completely vanished now from British pop. Death ballads aren’t exactly thick on the ground these days, but it’s the combination of death, jauntiness and theatre that’s really become alien – the drumbeats and penny-whistles, the big matey chorus, the sudden slowdown when Billy’s girl gets the (hardly unexpected) bad news. It’s a particular kind of sentimentality, absolutely unafraid of corn. You still find this kind of storytelling and broad emotional brushstrokes in country music sometimes (though from my skimpy knowledge of country, it’s declined even there) – and “Billy” might make an OK country song. There’s one line at least – “I heard she threw the letter away” – which could hit hard if it wasn’t so oversold. As it stands, “Billy” is an emotional non-starter – and it was probably ridiculous to most even in 1974, war or no war.



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  1. 61
    Matthew H on 18 Oct 2007 #

    Sorry, Andy Sturmer.

  2. 62
    Brian on 18 Oct 2007 #

    Singing Drummer : Levon Helm ( of The Band ).

  3. 63
    Brian on 18 Oct 2007 #

    ” Actually, I was wondering when we would get around to discussing how long regular contributors would last. ”

    Although not contributing regularily ( hurrah ! ) I read everybody’s posts. I learn alot of useful and useless stuff.

    As for the music , I have been experinceing a renaissance of musical appreciation as my kids get older and have started playing and listening to alot of music I wouldn’t have got to, if not for them. I think that FT can do the same.

    But if I was to ask my kids ( age 13 , 15 , 17, ) to jump into this – they wouldn’t . That’d be lame.

  4. 64
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Oct 2007 #
  5. 65
    Erithian on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Yes, hopefully I’m here for the duration, although I rather drifted away in the early 90s, albeit always finding pleasure in at least a few corners of the top 40. It’ll be a drag when we get to the early Noughties when there was a new piece of dross at number one nearly every week. But even at an age when hardly anything in the chart is pitched at me, I can still hear the likes of Sean Kingston, Sugababes and especially Plain White T’s and think they’re great pop records.

    Wasn’t it the Mayor of Chicago who said he’d like Paper Lace and the writers of “The Night Chicago Died” to “jump in the Chicago River, going down three times and coming up twice”?

  6. 66
    Doctormod on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Re: Waldo (31)

    Actually, I was wondering when we would get around to discussing how long regular contributors would last. I can tell you now that the second we enter the 1980s is when Waldo leaves the building, Clodagh Rodgers moments an’ all.

    And around that time, I might well be back. For now, there are either no microchips in my brain that process most of the music under discussion–or else I’ve carefully crafted selective amnesia about it and don’t want to be reminded. Loved the 60s, hated the 70s–with the exception of ELO and the group whose cheerful faces now appear at the top of the page. (Ooops! Sorry–I suppose alluding to them or the 80s at all will get me in trouble for the nonce.)

  7. 67
    Brian on 19 Oct 2007 #

    DOC MOD !! You old choir girl !

    Baby, please come home …..

  8. 68
    Doctormod on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Oh dear. There I go again. I hadn’t read the “Seasons in the Sun” thread when I wrote that.

  9. 69
    Brian on 19 Oct 2007 #

    Not to worry Doc, it’s been a bit of a dry-spell with alot of un-inspring #1’s in the Brit Charts. Consequently, we’ve learned to go off subject very, very well …..

  10. 70
    Doctormod on 20 Oct 2007 #

    Thank you, Brian.

  11. 71
    Erithian on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Great to see you back on these pages Doc, you’ve been missed. To risk another spoiler a couple of decades away, we want you back for good. Even if you can’t stand the 70s…

    A favourite gag of the time from Bob Williamson, the Peter Kay of his day: “Terrible accident at the Nestle factory the other day – a bloke fell into a vat of chocolate, and his mates all sang “Billy, Don’t Be An Aero”.”

  12. 72
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Now there’s genuine 1974 comedy for you. Speaking of which, Freddie Starr had a top ten hit round about this time with his heartrending ballad “It’s You.”

  13. 73
    Waldo on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Come on then, MC, what did Dale say about “It’s You”? I personally found it nauseating and Freddie himself about as amusing as Harry Worth, the man with only one joke.

  14. 74
    Marcello Carlin on 22 Oct 2007 #

    “Lovely man…and a good single.”

  15. 75
    Waldo on 22 Oct 2007 #

    Just wrong.

  16. 76
    Erithian on 7 Mar 2013 #

    re #17 – RIP part of one of Mike’s Ten Successful Music Acts from Nottingham, Alvin Lee.

  17. 77
    wichitalineman on 24 Mar 2014 #

    Peter Callender, co-author of BDBaH, was interviewed for this excellent BBC doc – only broadcast on Radio Ulster for some reason: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03ybwl0 Sadly, he passed away last week.

  18. 78
    Lena on 18 Aug 2014 #

    Paging Thom Yorke: The Hollies just want some air to breathe, man: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-nothingnothing-paradox-hollies-air.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  19. 79
    Lena on 26 Aug 2014 #

    Countrypolitan man misses woman, local man says: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/endless-quest-charlie-rich-most.html Thanks for reading, everybody!

  20. 80
    sam on 25 May 2018 #

    who sang the line “keep your pretty head low”?

  21. 81
    Mark G on 25 May 2018 #

    Joanne Stone, a cousin of Madeline Bell. She had a hit single with her husband, R.Stone, “We Do It”. Passed on, in 1979, of a brain tumor.

  22. 82
    lonepilgrim on 21 Oct 2019 #

    a bit poignant reading former posters wondering if they’d still be here by the time Popular reached the 80s, 90s and beyond. I wasn’t posting then, hence the reason for these slightly OCD trawl through the hits I missed
    as for the song there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance between the chirpy performance and the ‘tragic’ narrative which may work in it’s favour as I don’t see the generic lyrics bearing the weight of a more gloomy rendering

  23. 83
    Gareth Parker on 15 May 2021 #

    Not for me at all I’m afraid. I can only give a 2/10 to Paper Lace.

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