The One with Thatcher and the Top 40

The One with Thatcher and the Top 40

On Monday lunchtime, as soon as the news broke of Mrs Thatcher's death, I text my husband and I simply put...

"Ding Dong the Witch is Dead"

He knew exactly who and what I meant.

I don't intend for this to be offensive, it was after all a private conversation between myself and my husband, but I transcribe it here, not to force our political views on you, the nature of which from the text I'm sure you can guess, but more to highlight the use of the phrase.

A phrase which has dominated the news this week.

I would venture to say that the only thing I think we would all agree with, whatever side of the political fence you sit on, is that Mrs Thatcher was divisive. After the week of news and social media I've seen it would seem she is as divisive in death as she was in life!

Which brings me to "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead".

The 51 second track from The Wizard of Oz has been downloaded all week since Mrs Thatcher's death and is set to be number 3 this afternoon in the charts. In reaction to this, pro Thatcher supports have been downloading an early 80's punk song called "I'm In Love with Margaret Thatcher" which is also due to chart.

I have listened to the Top 40 countdown on a Sunday night since before Mrs Thatcher came to power and I will continue to listen long after she's dead.

Apart from tonight!

Because tonight the BBC have been put in an impossible position and have decided to play a 5 second clip of Dong Dong the Witch is Dead within a news item to explain why the track has been downloaded. A compromise certainly, and in the circumstances all they could probably do to maintain freedom of speech whilst balancing issues of decency and taste, but do we really want....

"And now in at number three it's a new entry for ... the news".

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead contains no swearing, racial, homophobic or sexual references. It's from a feel good musical that is over 70 years old. Banning it couldn't be justified because the song itself isn't offensive. However the reason why it has been downloaded has been deemed offensive. Offence is as subjective as politics, it all depends on your point of view.

And herein lies my problem. Mass downloading of a song, any song, to cause offence is manipulation of the charts. It corrupts the very core of what the charts are intended to reflect.

So to not put to fine a point on it I wish people would stop buggering about with the Top 40 to score political points off each other. The Top 40 is part of radio history and heritage. It's supposed to reflect what people are listening to in their homes and cars and what they are dancing to in pubs and clubs. It is not there for people to download a track they'll probably never listen to just to make a political point.

As a kid I remember listening to the Top 40 in the bath, excited by each track as we got ever closer to the number 1 song. Back then I knew all the bands and all the words to all the songs. I still listen now while I'm cooking dinner. I barely know any of the groups and I often moan I can't hear the words but that's just my age and grumpiness. I still love the nature of the countdown, and hearing new music and what's number 1, whether I like it or not, is still as vital to me now as it was to the little girl, having her hair washed before another school week started, over 30 years ago.

The charts have always contained protest and political songs written specifically for that purpose and using music to spread a message is nothing new but this download has nothing to do with music. This is just about publicity.

Neither song, for the reasons they are being downloaded, have any place in the charts if that's the only reason they are there.

A friend of mine on Twitter said to me "But it's only music it doesn't matter". But to me it does matter. It matters because it's part of my childhood, my youth and my culture being highjacked for a "cause", and I use the term loosely, that has no business being in the Top 40. And where will it end? Does including downloads now give rise to using the charts as a way of pushing social and political propaganda? After all we can find hidden meanings in any song title or lyrics if we look hard enough and have a social media campaign to strengthen and back it up.

Perhaps we should settle the next general election by download and whoever's song comes the highest wins. If this weeks antics are anything to go by it would be more popular that actually voting and more young people would probably do it. The irony is it's free to vote whereas downloading these tracks has cost each person 79p a time!

I want music in the charts, good music, loud music, terrible music, rock music, rap music, indie bands, girl groups, boy bands and punk, I want ballads, soul, R&B, grungy guitars and yes I want protests song but not random songs picked just to protest.

So tonight I won't be listening because I want the glory hunters and the opportunists to leave the Top 40 alone please, before its very nature and purpose gets ruined forever.


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