The results are in, and "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" has failed to climb to the number one slot on British charts. It was just 5,700 copies behind Duke Dumont's "Need Me (100 Percent)" when the official tally was taken. Obviously, the 1939 classic did not just jump back into pop culture by coincidence. The song skyrocketed in popularity following the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. (The Iron Lady is a controversial figure in modern British history.) It was a coordinated effort led mainly by a Facebook campaign and ample amounts of rancor that picked up steam only a couple of days after Thatcher's death last week.
The situation put the BBC in quite a bind as well, since every Sunday the network broadcasts the Official Chart Show featuring the week's top songs. Bitter Brits listening to the Wizard of Oz soundtrack alone at home is one thing, but for a state-sponsored news organization to provide them with validation in the form of a worldwide broadcast would practically amount to treason in some people's eyes. Rather than play the 51-second track, however, the BBC ran a news segment on the song with a pithy lede: "Tributes poured in across the world for Margaret Thatcher when she died on Monday, but there were also people throwing street parties around the UK," read the BBC's Sinead Garvan. The network then played a seven-second clip of "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" and moved on to the number one song.
The song might've made it to number one if not for the backlash to the backlash. A separate pro-Thatcher camp campaigned for the 1979 punk ballad "I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher" to make a similar comeback but saw less success. With "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" selling 52,605 copies, the punk song garnered just 8,768, just enough to pull it up to the number 35 slot. The BBC did play "I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher" in full, however.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.