A 1970s song became a chart-topping song twice in two countries by two different bands: Billy Don’t Be a Hero.
Written by Mitch Murray and Paul Callander, the song focuses on a young man joining the Army and wanting to go off and make his name, much to the singer’s lament.
Nottingham, England based band Paper Lace were an up and coming musical act in the early 1970s. Looking to gain attention, they competed on the TV show Opportunity Knocks, a talent contest show on ITV in England.
Winning five weeks in a row, Paper Lace drew the attention of Murray and Callander, who offered the song to the band to record.
Recorded as a single for Mercury Records, Billy Don’t Be a Hero hit the UK charts running, and rose to number one in March 1974 and also went to number one on the Australian music charts.
Meanwhile the songwriting duo offered Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods from Cincinnati, Ohio the opportunity to record the song for the US market.
Released in April 1974, the song on ABC Records steadily climbed the Billboard Hot 100, reaching the number one spot in June 1974.
This version of the song also became a hit in Latin America and Japan and was translated into French.
Despite hitting number one in many of the major English-language music markets, the song was disliked by many wand was voted by Rolling Stone readers as one of the “10 Worst Songs of the 1970s”.