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‘Wizard of Oz’ song mocking Margaret Thatcher joins list of tunes BBC censored
‘Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” driving up charts
LONDON (AP) — A 70-year-old song is giving the BBC a headache.
The radio and television broadcaster has agonized over whether to play “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead,” a tune from “The Wizard of Oz” that is being driven up the charts by opponents of Margaret Thatcher as a mocking memorial to the late British prime minister.
A compromise announced Friday — the BBC will play part of “Ding Dong!” but not the whole song on its chart-countdown radio show — is unlikely to end the recriminations
This is not the first time Britain’s national broadcaster, which is nicknamed “Auntie” for its “we-know-what’s-good-for-you” attitude, has been caught in a bind about whether to ban a song on grounds of language, politics or taste.
Here’s a look at some previous censorship scandals:
SEX, DRUGS AND DOUBLE ENTENDRES
The 1960s and ‘70s saw several songs barred from airplay for sex or drug references, including The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” for a fleeting and implicit reference to smoking marijuana.
For The Kinks’ 1970 hit “Lola,” the trouble was not sex or drugs, but product placement. The line “you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola” fell afoul of the public broadcaster’s rule banning corporate plugs. The brand name had to be replaced with “cherry cola” before the song could be aired.
The BBC frequently has been targeted by self-appointed moral guardians, most famously the late anti-smut activist Mary Whitehouse, who campaigned for decades against what she saw as pornography and permissiveness.
In 1972, Whitehouse got the BBC to ban the video for Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” for allegedly being a bad influence on children. The controversy helped the song reach No. 1 in the charts, and Cooper sent Whitehouse flowers. He later said she had given his band “publicity we couldn’t buy.”
But Whitehouse’s campaign to get Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling” banned on grounds of indecency was unsuccessful. The BBC’s chief at the time told Whitehouse that, while the song’s title could be seen as a double entendre, “we believe that the innuendo is, at worst, on the level of seaside postcards or music hall humor.”
Paul McCartney may now be the cuddly elder statesman of pop, but his first single with the band Wings, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” caused a storm.
Written after the 1972 killing of 13 Irish nationalist protesters by British troops on “Bloody Sunday” in Londonderry, the single was barred from all TV and radio airplay in Britain — but reached No. 1 in Ireland, where it was not banned.
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