blatantly bad 70s songs: billy, don’t be a hero (bo donaldson and the heywoods)

billy, don’t be a hero. be a hoagie instead.

in 1974, the anti-war billy, don’t be a hero was a huge hit in the US for bo donaldson and the heywoods. strange, considering the song had been a monster hit in the UK earlier for the band paper lace, whose version didn’t chart well here. (don’t cry for them, argentina. they later gave us the ear-bleeder the night chicago died, a song i’d write novels about if november had more than 30 days. lord, that one sucks worse.) i think they had another minor hit, and then, bo went buh-bye!

for a time, every sunday (or so it seemed), we would pile into the car at dinner and meet our friends, the weiners, at Sizzler in Brick (or Bricktown, or Brick Township — no one ever knew what the place was really called; my old biology teacher, who drove through there every day on his way to school merely referred to it as land of the free and home of the truck driver. may he rest in peace.) i really hated sizzler — i don’t care for steak, so i pretty much was relegated to the salad bar and the texas toast. but i loved having dinner with these folks — there was my BTD’s best friend as well as his younger brother, who was a year older than i. so there i was with two 15 year old guys, a 12 year old, and an 11 year old. (nevermind that two of those boys were my brothers, BTD and the now-dubbed middlebro, so they didn’t count as guys.)

sometimes, they’d even talk to 9-year-old moi.

one time, we went back to the weiner’s house. for reasons i cannot fathom, i recall all of us kids in the older son’s room, listening to the single of billy don’t be a hero, and lip synching the whole thing. i remember we had to organize ourselves into parts (i suspect BTD was behind that) — who was singing, who was playing guitar.  because i had taken up the flute, i was the person who played that flute-y-fife-y part that runs through the song, over and over, like a demented pennywhistle. and oh! i felt special. they. were. talking. to. me.

later, i’d thank them by eavesdropping on their conversation when the oldest son came and slept over with BTD. [note to all 9 year old little siblings out there: don’t eavesdrop by leaning into the bedroom door. it’s probably not closed, and when you fall in, there will be hell to pay. promise.]

middlebro seems to remember us seeing bo donaldson and the heywoods perform this at disneyworld. maybe he’ll chime in on the comments, as i don’t somehow remember that.

i suspect i’ve blocked it out.


4 Responses to “blatantly bad 70s songs: billy, don’t be a hero (bo donaldson and the heywoods)”

  1. Some other blogger I read posted this song recently – I recall looking up the commentary on it. I like the interpretation that it’s not so much an anti-Vietnam song as a song about the civil war. I like The Night Chicago Died, too, even though I’ve since learned that it isn’t exactly historically accurate (but I’m lousy at history, so that isn’t a huge barrier to me).

  2. Thanks a lot Wreke. From 6:30 am until about 10 I could not get this song out of my head!

  3. we called it “bricktown” in monroe. for what it’s worth.

    come to think of it, aren’t brick and wall townships adjacent to each other? coincidence?

  4. You don’t like The Sizzler? This alone calls into question all your opinions.

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