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Apr 14

Charts – 14 April 2013

Posted on Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Paul in Music

The podcast is just below, so I’m kind of deluging you with material today, but this seems like a day to try and get the chart post up quickly.

This week: Margaret Thatcher dies, the chart goes berserk, and the BBC makes an incredible hash of the whole situation.

Where there is harmony, let us bring discord.

35.  The Notsensibles – “I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher”

Margaret Thatcher died on Monday following a stroke, at the age of 87.  To call her divisive would be an understatement.  Everyone can agree that she’s an important historical figure – the first female Prime Minister, the longest serving of the post-war era, and somebody who actually succeeded in remaking the British political culture in ways that have stuck.  Where people disagree, and passionately, is on whether this was a good thing.

The modern Conservative Party tends to regard her as little short of a secular saint, and the unquestioned template for all that should follow.  Many on the left regard her as a wrecker of communities and a destroyer of civic values; there are entire communities where the loathsomeness of Margaret Thatcher is pretty much taken as read.  It probably hasn’t helped that the government is acting as if her death was an occasion of national mourning, which it plainly isn’t, and will be paying £10m of taxpayers’ money towards the cost of her funeral.  Opinion polls show the public pretty solidly against that.  This has prompted many people who might otherwise have been more indifferent to consider that there is an attempt at canonisation going on which needs to be pushed back.

One result of this is the remarkable campaign to get a record to number one literally celebrating her death.  We’ll come to that later.  But that campaign itself sparked a minor backlash which resulted in a campaign to get this oddity into the charts.

The Notsensibles, as the name might suggest, were (and in fact still are) a not-terribly-serious punk band from Burnley.  This record, which came out in 1980, gives them their first top 40 hit – though it did reach number 8 on the UK indie chart back in the day.  One might surmise that the search for vaguely pro-Thatcher songs turned up a fairly short list; her world view was never viewed with great sympathy in creative circles.  Even this song isn’t exactly a pro-Thatcher record, and would probably be better classed as neutral-to-absurd.

And now, some other new entries which nobody will pay the slightest attention to.

31.  Nicki Minaj (featuring Lil Wayne) – “High School”

This is the second bonus track from the reissued version of the “Roman Reloaded” album to be released as a single.  It’s loosely recycled from an old mixtape track called “Hood Story”, which might explain why it’s one of the relatively rare Nicki Minaj singles which is both relatively commercial and features plenty of rapping.

30.  AlunaGeorge – “Attracting Flies”

AlunaGeorge are a vocal/production duo who previously cropped up as guests on Disclosure’s number 2 single “White Noise” (still on the chart), and now follow it up a hit of their own.  The 80s synthpop influence is unmistakeable, and it’s a pretty good song to boot.  I’d expect this to go further – there’s no obvious reason why it shouldn’t do as well as “White Noise”.

26.  Paramore – “Still Into You”

You know it’s a weird chart when it’s Paramore who provide the ray of sunny optimism.  More usually a bit of an angst-ridden proposition, this time Paramore are in love and they want you know how happy and exuberant they feel about that.  It’s a wonderfully cheerful song.

21.  Nina Nesbitt – “Stay Out”

Someone from Edinburgh!  Well, Balerno, but close enough.  We haven’t produced a successful singer since Shirley Manson (and before that you pretty have to go back to the Bay City Rollers).  We are truly terrible at producing musicians; we do writers and festivals here, we leave the music to Glasgow.  And indeed, that’s Glasgow in the video.

Nina Nesbitt is 18, she’s half Swedish, and she supported Ed Sheeran on his last UK tour, which can’t have done her any harm – though she reminds me more of Amy McDonald.  Sales on this must have been pretty frontloaded, as it was 13 in the midweeks.

So, back to Thatcher.

2.  Wizard of Oz Film Cast – “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead”

Yes, really.

Let’s start with the technical stuff, shall we?

First: the track in the charts, strictly speaking, is only the first fifty-one seconds of the video above, since that’s what you get if you download “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from the Wizard of Oz soundtrack album.  This is not the shortest record ever to make the singles chart – that dubious record is held by the novelty jingle “The Ladies’ Bras” by Jonny Trunk & Wisby, which made number 26 in 2007 thanks to the (heavily ironic) support of Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, and clocks in at 35 seconds.  It did, however, come very close to finally breaking the record for the shortest number one single, which has been stuck at 1:38 since Adam Faith’s “What Do You Want” topped the chart in 1959

Second: this recording is available on numerous compilations with assorted artist credits.  The version on iTunes is credited to “Judy Garland et al”, but that’s simply because they’ve credited the entire soundtrack album to “Judy Garland et al” – as you can see above, she doesn’t appear on this track, which is actually performed by the Munchkins.  The Official Charts Company has settled on crediting the track to “Wizard of Oz Film Cast”.

But that’s not what’s grabbing attention here.  The concern here, and the headache for BBC Radio 1 with its Sunday afternoon top 40 show, is that here we have a Facebook campaign which is not merely pursuing a political agenda, but actively celebrating the death of another human being.  Issues of taste inevitably arise.  And it has to be said that if the objection to Thatcher’s policies is that they lacked compassion, this is a funny way of making the point.  Whatever you may think of her, there’s a family out there, after all.

All that being said, Thatcher herself probably wouldn’t have been bothered.  Never exactly a consensus politician, she often seemed to view strength of opposition as a sign that she was doing something right. And people often seem to feel normal standards of civility don’t apply to public figures, since they relate to them as public figures, rather than as fellow humans.  All the more so with the likes of Thatcher, who had an entire ideology named after her.  And, as noted above, there’s also a degree of backlash against the reaction of her supporters, adding to any personal animus.  Nonetheless, there’s something ultimately rather depressing about this whole affair.

Admittedly, choosing one of the thousands of actual anti-Thatcher songs would not have had the same impact.  The obvious choice would have been the Specials’ “Ghost Town”, a number one hit in 1981 and an acknowledged classic of English ska, though it’s really more a lament about the state of the country in 1981 rather than anything personal.

There are songs by major artists which make the same point with perhaps equal venom, though.  In its response to this fiasco (which I’ll come to), the BBC made the point that “Ding-Dong” is not a political song.  But would they really have been happier having to play “Tramp the Dirt Down” by Elvis Costello? “Margaret on the Guillotine” by Morrissey (not exactly the self-proclaimed poet’s subtlest hour)?  It seems unlikely.

The prospect of “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” making number one threw the BBC into something of a tailspin panic, since in theory that meant they would have to play it on the Sunday afternoon chart show.    They have made a bit of a meal of their response.  The pre-announced decision was that they wouldn’t play it, but would instead run a news item about the controversy in its place.  Rather bizarrely, they claimed this to be a compromise to avoid “banning” the record, though of course that’s exactly what it was – at least in the vague sense in which Radio 1 can ever be said to “ban” a freely available record.  The word people are looking for, really, is “refuse to play”.

The idea of Radio 1 banning a record had rather more content in the days when their policy was to playlist everything in the top 40, but they stopped doing that some twenty years ago.  The general  practice, though, is indeed to play every new entry on the chart show.  The last time they refused was when a spoiler cover of “Payphone” credited to Precision Tunes made the top ten; they played the Maroon 5 single instead.  Refusing to play a hit single on grounds of content, though, is vanishingly rare. From memory, for an outright ban on content grounds, I think I’ve you got to go back to “(I Want To) Kill Somebody” by S*M*A*S*H, a punk song which made number 26 in 1994, and names several politicians as suitable objects of said urge.  Including Thatcher, as it happens.

The cause celebre in this field, and the closest comparison, is “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols, which notoriously made number 2 in the Silver Jubilee week of 1977.  

Incidentally, there’s a persistent urban legend that the chart was rigged to stop the Sex Pistols getting to number 1, which might conceivably be true, but the evidence is hardly compelling.  It did make number 1 on the rival NME chart, but it wasn’t that unusual for the two charts to disagree on the number 1 placing, and it’s precisely the sort of story that Malcolm McClaren would have put about whether there was any basis to it or not.  No doubt we’ll have the same rumours this week, but the number 2 placement is entirely plausible.  Sales didn’t start to pick up until some way into the week, by which point the existing number 1 single had an established lead.  “Ding-Dong” had already dropped off the iTunes number 1 spot by Saturday night.  And while the BBC may have been running scared of this story, the Official Charts Company certainly weren’t – they were bending over backwards to promote it, recognising the value to them in anything that makes the charts newsworthy.

The BBC’s reluctance to go within a mile of “Ding-Dong” is understandable, particularly given the media furore.  But the execution on Sunday’s show was hopeless.  It’s one thing to decide that you’re not going to play the record, but beleaguered presenter Jameela Jamil had clearly been told that on no account was she to mention Thatcher’s name or acknowledge the controversy at all.  Which of course meant that she couldn’t hype the contenders for number 1, or in any way address the main story of her own show.  And since they cancelled all the studio guests and phone-in competitions due to the Sensitivity Of The Occasion, that didn’t leave her much to work with.

The Nonsensibles track was played in full, but she was only permitted to introduce it as “a new entry for the Nonsensibles”.  She was only allowed to identify the number 2 single as a new entry and then hand over to a news reporter.  Perhaps the idea was to insulate her from controversy, but it seems a shame to hobble her that badly on the highest-profile show of her career.  Then again, perhaps she welcomed not having the chance to screw things up.  Who knows?

Incidentally, if Thatcher had died a couple of weeks earlier, there would have been the added absurdity that Jamil spent the whole of March wearing a chicken suit for charity.  (Yes, the whole of March.)  I can only imagine the high-level debates that would have ensued about whether she should have been ordered to remove the chicken suit as a show of respect.

1.  Duke Dumont (featuring A*M*E) – “Need U (100%)” 

Duke Dumont hangs on for a second week.  Nobody is paying attention.

On the album chart:

  • “Paramore” by Paramore is at number 1 – their second number 1 album.
  • “Overgrown” by James Blake at 8, the sophomore album from the producer who doesn’t really fit in the dance classification.
  • “House of Gold & Bones Part 2” by Stone Sour at 11.  The second half of a concept album.
  • “English Electric” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at 12; their second album since reforming in 2006.
  • “Deleted Scenes from The Cutting Room Floor” by Caro Emerald is presumably being re-promoted again, since it shows up at 13.
  • “Shaking the Habitual” by the Knife lands at 31, for fans of off-kilter Swedish synthpop.


Bring on the comments

  1. Odessasteps says:

    So, fandango didn’t make it?

    As a Toffee, good. 🙂

  2. Jim Connick says:

    Edinburgh do produce plenty of musicians, just not any that are popular with more that a few hundred people really.

  3. Fandango just missed the Top 40, landing at 44 (down from 37 in the midweeks).

  4. Joe S. Walker says:

    Not accusing you of anything, Paul, but I think the “Thatcher still divides the nation, some feel one way, some the other” line as put in supposedly objective reports of this week’s news is utter bullshit. Getting “Ding Dong” into the charts, silly stunt though it may be, is an act of resistance by ordinary people against the powerful.

  5. Tim O'Neil says:

    Yeah, I’m not even British but I daresay if ever another human’s death was cause for celebration, it’s now.

  6. Dave says:

    I think Paul put it very well. Not wanting to get into all the politics of it (FWIW, I’m no Tory, in no small part due to Maggie), I’ve never taken it to be a case of ordinary people vs. the elite/establishment/rich/whatever. I’ve known plenty of people who you’d think would be too ‘ordinary’, or working class, to have voted for Thatcher, but who did.
    I think there’s a difference between ‘No tears from me’ and ‘Glad they’re dead’. I do find it interesting that non-Brits would feel so strongly about it.

  7. Jon Dubya says:

    Dave, as an American, I suspect it’s probably due to bitter memories of what happened when OUR “Thatcher” died.

  8. Tim O'Neil says:

    Well, again, as a non-Brit, you can’t view someone like Thatcher (or Reagan) as a local phenomenon. They put the industrialized economies of the West on a definite path that has led more or less to where we are today – the destruction of civil society, the erasure of any pretense of state responsibility for the commons (“no such thing as society”), bellicose nationalism as a stalking horse for completely demolishing local economies and inaugurating an era of neoliberal “centrism.” Just look at how the American political classes took the news of Thatcher’s death – all the pictures of Ronnie greeting Marge at the pearly gates.

    The older I get the more of a hardcore Leftist I become: capitalism is on its way out, but the people in charge of this system are doing everything possible to make sure that they take everyone else with them.

    We’re stuck having to live in the world they built, on our merry way to a hell on Earth that was very specifically planned and executed by a small group of very bad people. I only wish there was a God in heaven because then there might be a hell below into which he could deservedly cast every one of them.

  9. Paul says:

    Let’s put the strength of support for this campaign in context, which I should probably have done in the article itself.

    “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” sold 52,605 copies last week, according to the OCC. That compares to the average number one in 2012 selling around 90,000. The Hillsborough charity single last year sold almost 270,000 – more than five times as many as “Ding-Dong”.

  10. Gareth Wilson says:

    “Ding Dong” is sung by a group of pathetic midgets who had absolutely nothing to do with the witch’s defeat and can’t articulate why they opposed her. Sounds about right to me.

  11. Omar Karindu says:

    Leaving off from politics, don’t most of these sorts of willful campaigns to shift the charts fall short of number 1 unless — per the numbers Paul gives out — they’re very much tied with something like an organized charity campaign. And those have the added benefit of usually being new or star-studded productions.

    Otherwise popular campaigns don’t seem to be a good driver of singles or entertainment sales; it’s not as if such campaigns got “Fairytale in New York” to become the #1 Christmas single, for example, nor was Red Wedge all that long-lived.

    It can’t help the anti-Thatcher campaigners that much of the singles-buying market today is too young to have first-hand knowledge of a Thatcher government anyway. Perhaps depressingly, all of this must seem sort of quaint to plenty of younger folks.

    (And FWIW, I’m politically about as far from Thatcherism and neoliberalism as you can get.)

  12. Al says:

    Most, yes, but it can happen – see Rage Against The Machine a couple of Christmases ago, for instance.

  13. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    “I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher” as a song, might be neutral to absurd. The image, which shows Thatcher flicking a V sign, suggests they may not be her greatest fans. The image on the official website until recently (certainly after her death and the campaign started) of the same picture in negative, with flashing red eyes, suggests this even more strongly.

    While it hasn’t charted, apparently “Tramp The Dirt Down” by Elvis Costello is selling quite well, all the more impressive for there not being a campaign behind it (as far as I know). Although Mum says “Shipbuilding” (written by Costello, performed by Robert Wyatt) would be better.

    Oh, and I agree with the other Dave about the difference between “No tears from me” and “Glad they’re dead” — it’s not even as if Thatcher’s been a direct influence on British politics in the past 20 years, or that her indirect influence is now going to stop. OTOH, the hagiography that’s going on is getting annoying.

  14. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    …Okay, due to my poor attention span I a) missed that you’d already referenced “Tramp The Dirt Down”, hence the unnecessary “by Elvis Costello”, as though this were the first time it had come up, and b) Not completed my final thought, which should have ended “…so I can understand the backlash.”

  15. Will Cooling says:

    Actually Thatcher was a pretty constant figure in politics until she retired from public life in 2002. She egged on the anti-Maastricht rebels during the Major Government, flirted with Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, publicly endorsed Hague in the 1997 Tory Leadership Election, was a major source of debate in the 2001 General Election (campaigned for Tories vs. Labour doing a mockup of Hague with her hair) and endorsed Iain Duncan Smith in the subsequent Tory Leadership campaign. Plus was releasing increasingly loopy right-wing books. And that’s not counting the sway she still held over right-wing Tories behind closed doors after her retirement.

  16. Daibhid Ceannaideach says:

    Quite right. I’m afraid I’d actually forgotten most of that, but I knew it at the time. (I’m particularly embarassed forgetting about the Hague thing, given how taken I was with Simon Hoggath’s description that the Blessed Margaret explained how we could still vote for her via her appointed representative on Earth…)

  17. Susi O'Brien says:

    I’m still wondering how and when I missed the memo that said it was once again socially acceptable to insult a woman by calling her a witch?

    Given that the term ‘witch’ has been traditionally used throughout history as a method of controlling independent-minded females, I find the choice of Ding Dong as a protest song somewhat misogynistic as well as extremely tasteless.

    I’m not a Thatcher fan BTW, and one of my biggest regrets about this whole controversy is that it’s masked some of the media coverage given to the current UK Government’s questionable new benefit rules for which pilot schemes have just started… But that’s nothing to do with the charts so I’ll shut up.

  18. Taibak says:

    Thatcher or not, I’m just disgusted by the idea of celebrating the death of anyone, regardless of how much you disagree with them.

  19. Somebody says:

    > Thatcher or not, I’m just disgusted by the idea of celebrating the death of anyone, regardless of how much you disagree with them.

    Why? Surely, the thing to do is to regard someone after they’re dead in exactly the way you did when they were alive….

  20. Joe S. Walker says:

    “I’m just disgusted by the idea of celebrating the death of anyone, regardless of how much you disagree with them.”

    Pious bullshit. If someone systematically, knowingly, cynically makes your life worse that’s not a “disagreement” – it’s being fucked up the arse. Thatcher did that to half the nation for years on end.

  21. Trond Sätre says:

    The song (the one we’re all talking about) is 1 minute and 40 seconds long on the remastered soundtrack album streamed by Spotify.

  22. LiamKav says:


    “I’m still wondering how and when I missed the memo that said it was once again socially acceptable to insult a woman by calling her a witch?

    Given that the term ‘witch’ has been traditionally used throughout history as a method of controlling independent-minded females, I find the choice of Ding Dong as a protest song somewhat misogynistic as well as extremely tasteless.”

    I don’t think most people are aware of those connotations of the word “witch”. I wasn’t until you pointed it out, which is probably a bit ignorant of me, and so I apologise. I would say though that for most people, the first thing they think of when they hear the word “witch” is a pantomime woman who rides a broomstick and cackles. That’s what the song does… it reduces Thatcher to a pantomine baddie to be booed.

    I don’t imagine the thinking went beyond “catchy song about a bad guy dying who is also a woman”.

    (Harry Potter and other things have made a stake for changing the definition of “witch” to mean “female wizard” in recent years though.)

    I can see both sides of the argument regarding celebrating her death. I imagine that the people who are aren’t so much going “ha ha, an old woman has died”, but celebrating the public figure of Thatcher is now dead, which is a small but significant difference.

    I agree with Susi that I’m annoyed that all this is allowing the benfits changes to go through unchallenged. And I’m also annoyed that in the “list of things wot Thatcher did”, Section 28 doesn’t seem to be being mentioned.

  23. Jacob says:

    This is probably very telling about the time and place I was born into but it seems to me that at least Thatcher was an ‘evil empire’ to rail against, to generate good and art and media in spite of her social policies. A political figure who stuck to their guns, opinion polls be damned…

    Now New Labour, Cool Britannia, mutating the labour party into some sort of conservative offshoot, telling people how much better things are whilst pursuing Thatcherite policies…yeah I’ll save my celebrations for when Blair dies.

  24. Jonny K says:

    Re: Context for sales, it’s worth noting that while “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead” sold only 52,605 copies last week, this is hard to compare to “Killing In The Name Of” or other such singles as a measure of popularity. For a start, that campaign, and most others like it have been able to publicise the campaign in the week leading up to it. As opposed to this, which few were aware of before about lunchtime on Monday.

    When you add in the fact that most people don’t want to celebrate another’s death or do find the specific song a bit misogynist, it’s remarkable that it did so well. Even if the right-wing papers did relentlessly hype it.

  25. Martin Smith says:

    My problem with Radio 1 not playing the song is that the chart show isn’t really the place to be making judgements about music and the politics behind it. When you’re a show dedicated to running down the tastes of the nation every week, you don’t really have any justification to not play something that enough people have bought because you don’t agree with it or think it might offend some people (and let’s be honest, the top 40 is essentially a monetised popularity contest these days).
    The controller of radio 1 was interviewed about it on radio 4 and one of his arguments for not playing Ding Dong was that it was the result of an organised movement to get into the chart. Well isn’t that exactly what the music industry is? How is that ok for record companies to do for profit but not for regular people to do for political reasons?

    Anyway, if that’s their attitude, I can only look forward to them refusing to play Chris Brown songs in the future for promoting and glamorising domestic violence.

  26. Not to mention that they played the opposing track in full.

    And while I’m here, I agree with Susi. This particular choice of song was very bad. I would have preferred “Tramp The Dirt Down” myself.

  27. Paul says:

    Minor factual correction: apparently, the last record to be excluded from the Radio 1 chart show on grounds of taste was “Smack My Bitch Up” by the Prodigy in 1997. They played the B-side instead, and announced the record as “the new Prodigy EP” without naming it.

  28. Si says:

    Here’s something interesting. A couple of years ago in Australia there was a furore when our leader of the opposition (and a rabid fan of Mrs Thatcher) deliberately stood in front of protest banners that called our female prime minister a witch. It’s absolutely sexist, in that it insults the victim as a woman, not as a prime minister or a leader or even a person.

  29. Si says:

    I still think the song’s funny though.

  30. Omar Karindu says:

    I suppose the video for the Prodigy single just confused matters for Auntie Beeb.

  31. The hypocrisy of those who condemned celebrating Thatcher’s death was apparent if you looked back at the coverage of Chavez’ death. Also, there is a question mark over what was counted in terms of sales of Ding Dong. I bought it on Amazon twice – the first time it was discounted to free, the second time discounted to around half price. It’s very possible that these were discounted.

  32. Doh, I mean it’s possible they were not counted for chart purposes – obviously they were discounted in terms of price.

  33. Paul says:

    The minimum price for chart eligbility for an individual track is 40p. I suspect if there had been a big issue about sales being discounted due to underpricing, we’d have heard about it.

  34. Sort of to the side of the political debate, but I think I’ve a minor correction. KILL SOMEBODY may have been not played on Radio One generally, but I’m pretty sure it was played on the countdown.

    It was edited hilariously to the point where they had the same lyric sang four time in the chorus, and edited down to about a minute and a half, but it was played.


  35. Dave says:

    Didn’t see the post ’til now, but, hypocrisy with regards to Chavez? Is that in America? His death was in the news here for about 2 days, and if there was celebration then I missed it.

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