Thatcher opponents have driven the song ‘Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead’ to the top of Britain’s pop charts. Was the ‘retaliatory’ promotion of a 1979 punk song fanned by fans – or a good capitalist moment?
Two songs are battling to the top of the British music charts in memory of Margret Thatcher. One is, her supporters say, in bad taste, but the one adopted by fans of the late Conservative prime minister isn’t quite what it seems, either.
Opponents of Thatcher have campaigned successfully to have “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”, a song from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” composed by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, to reach the top spot Britain’s official charts.
The response from Conservative Party supporters was swift, with newspapers including The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph demanding that the BBC refuse to play the song. The BBC has said it will play a five-second clip of the song along with a news item explaining why during its official chart rundown on Radio One, Sunday.
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Equally irritated, though less outraged, Tories had another plan: counter Ding Dong with a song of their own. They chose the little-known 1979 punk number “I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher” by the Notsensibles.
The British press loved it — and why not? It’s a good story, in a silly sort of way: a bit of political argy-bargy in a fun and digestible package.
The media didn’t exactly work hard to uncover the truth of the story, such as it is. A phone call to the band’s former frontman, Michael Hargreaves, was all it took to discover that the campaign predated the Tories’ adoption of it.
Hargreaves himself started the campaign with a Facebook page on Wednesday that soon garnered 8,000 likes. Surprisingly, though, by Friday it had been adopted by Conservative Party supporters as a counter to “Ding Dong.” Facebook, Twitter and Tory blogs lit-up with requests that people buy the song in order to keep the anti-Thatcher song from reaching the top spot in the hit parade.
Would Maggie be proud?
In some press interviews, Hargreaves has implied, rather unconvincingly, that he is a supporter of Mrs. Thatcher. But if the song is a hit, the royalty checks may represent some private enterprise Margaret Thatcher would approve of.
Hargreaves, an ex-punk rocker who now works with adults with learning disabilities, is an unlikely figure for adoption by Conservative Party members, though he did say “Ding Dong” was disrespectful. (Read a in-depth profile of Margaret Thatcher here.)
“My grandfather was [both] a Christian and a communist. I’m a fat, 50-year-old punk. You make your mind up about my political sensibilities,” he says.
Hargreaves, who is due to perform with his old band on BBC television news in Manchester on Monday, says he doesn’t really mind how high the song charts in the end, but that the experience has been fun. “We dunked a pebble in the lake and there seems to be a few ripples.”
Eighty-five seconds of the song were previously featured in the 2011 biopic movie “The Iron Lady,” starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher.
“I find it hilarious that Tories have adopted it,” he says. “The song is a sort-of tribute and sort-of not.”