Margaret Thatcher Protesters Fail to Make “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” Number One Song
(Nick Harvey, WireImage; Hulton Archive)
The Facebook group Make Ding! Dong the Witch is Dead Number One the Week Thatcher Dies launched shortly after The Iron Lady’s died April 8, and its efforts encouraged 52,605 supporters to download the 51-second song, the shortest ever singer to hit the pop charts.
The real friction came not from whether or not Duke Dumont would eke out Garland, which they did by 5,700 more sales, but whether the BBC would play "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead" on the national show knowing that it charted in celebration of Thatcher’s death.
In the end, the BBC played seven seconds of the tune as part of a news story by Radio 1 music reporter Sinead Garvan. In her commentary, Garvan said, "Thatcher strongly divided opinion" between those who accused her of "putting millions out of work and not caring about the poor" and those who believe she "changed the UK for the better by taking Britain's then failing economy and making it successful," reported The Guardian. "Some politicians said it was disrespectful to play it," she continued, "while others say it is because she stood for freedom and allowing people to have their say."
During the same program, the BBC played the entire 1979 song "I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher," by punk band Notsensibles, which charted at number 35.
The decision to censor "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead" from the national chart could have a chilling effect on the media, Paul Robinson, a former managing editor of Radio 1 and ex-head of strategy at BBC Radio told The Guardian. "It sets a very dangerous precedent because they have taken an editorial view on a song in the Top 40. They have destroyed the idea that it is the people's chart and not the property of the BBC," he said.
It wasn’t the first time the BBC decided not to play a top-selling song in its countdown. In 1984 the company refused to air "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and in 1977 it banned the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen."