With the death of Margaret Thatcher during the week, an anti-Thatcher campaign took off that urged people to buy the song “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz. Since digital downloads count as part of the official UK music chart, pretty much any song can make it into the top 10. Radio 1, which broadcasts the UK top 40 every week, has since refused to play the track and stated that doing so would be inappropriate.
The track is due to be at #3 in the charts – a track that hasn’t been re-released and its popularity is due to a recent online campaign to have as many people as possible buy it.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened either. In 2009, a campaign was successful to make Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” the UK Christmas #1. It wasn’t re-issued as a single – it was digital only. The campaign was a way to protest against the usual X-Factor manufactured nonsense that usually hits the top spot and it worked.
The song the anti-Thatcher movement chose is their protest song, but unlike previous protest songs that have been before, this one is different. It wasn’t written as a protest song and it wasn’t released as one either. The Clash’s “London Calling” track is an example of a protest song that was written and released for the times. Written back in 1979, it encapsulated the worries of the late 70s, with references to high debt, nuclear scares and unemployment. “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead” was written for Judy Garland to sing in the “Wizard of Oz” – it’s only the campaigners who are using it to convey a message.
Whether or not you agree with Radio 1’s decision to not broadcast the track, the fact that a movement is able to get a particular song to #3 in such a small amount of time shows how much the music industry has changed, thanks to downloads. Before then, the charts were pretty much dictated to whatever singles and albums were currently available and the charts would usually reflect the music trends of the time.
Digital downloads mean that the music chart isn’t just a reflection of popular music tastes and trends but it’s a way for people to express political or social opinion.