Following the recent death of Margaret Thatcher the BBC have announced they will be playing ‘Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead’ after a campaign to get it to Number 1 in the singles chart; well, four seconds of it anyway. In what Radio 1 Controller, Ben Cooper, has described as a ‘compromise’, listeners will hear a ‘clip of the track within a journalistic environment’. I’m unsure of what this ‘environment’ is going to emerge as, but as a student journalist, my ‘environments’ tend to switch between rubbish pubs and rubbish curry houses, so here’s hoping Mr Cooper is going to get us all a nice take-away while we all watch Wizard of Oz together.
Regardless if the song is played or not, the organisers of this protest have truly missed a trick. On researching the song, I came across something that would truly have wound up the old Thatcherites as they go about their weekly routine of religiously tuning in to the Radio 1 Official Chart Show with Jameela Jamil every Sunday from 4 till 7 on Radio 1. There is a version of the song so dangerous it is hard to find; a version that the BBC has every right to ban; a version that would make nuns cry. There is a version of ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’, by the cast of Glee.
Now, putting aside the incredibly apt title of the American (there are no other adjectives fit for description) hit TV show that would have pushed the protestors’ message even further, (and perhaps added some credibility given the universal agreement of the importance of satire in modern Britain) it may have suggested an alliance between socialist protestors and a fictional American school choir; the fall out of which would have made for a great spectacle.
Yes, the song is offensive. Mainly to my ears. It is sung by ‘munchkins’, and with such irritating smugness it’s as if they take delight at your physical suffering from having to listen to something that makes Will.I.Am sound like Pavarotti and the sonic equivalent to being kicked in the shins by a toddler; or paper cuts. The most blasphemous thing about the song choice is the neglect of decades of sensitive and finely tuned pop songs that portray such emotion and more meaning than any munchkin could ever dream of. From The Specials’s bemoaning of ‘the government leaving the youth on the shelf’ in ‘Ghost Town‘, to The Larks’s more complex and lyrically obtuse ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie (Out Out Out)‘, what’s the point in making socially aware pop music if all we do is resort to blunt personal attacks? It’s the musical equivalent to burning all your own books, forgetting everything you’ve ever learned and jumping up and down shouting. It’s the logic of, well, munchkins, and they hardly went on to have a successful recording career.
Rather than the intelligent and acute observations found in Elvis Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding‘ and Billy Bragg’s ‘Between the Wars‘, the protestors missed an opportunity to make a sharp political message, and instead made an unattractive personal one that does nothing except negate from any reasoned argument; and rather than leaving us weighing up the effects and legacy of Thatcher, we are left frustrated and tired, no more informed about the debate, and with little munchkins singing and dancing in our heads. Which frankly, is no cause for celebration.