In the 1960’s there was only one way to buy music, you had to go to a ‘record shop’ and hand over your money. A ‘single’ in those days cost six shillings and eight pence, you could therefore buy three for a pound. I remember once as a boy being asked if I’d like a record for my birthday. Of course I said yes and asked for a Kinks song. When the day arrived I was thrilled to receive not one but three records, the Kinks song, a Hollies hit and I think the third one was a Beatles song. I played them over and over again.
Now, it is so much easier. Log on to iTunes, put in your password, search for the song, click buy and you can play it a few second later. Excellent. Time has moved on. What has also changed is that albums are better value for money than they used to be, and more people now buy albums than singles. In the 1960’s you had to sell shed loads of singles to get in to the charts and on to ‘Top of the Pops’. Top of the Pops was a popular BBC TV Music Chart show often presented by Jimmy Savile. Let’s not go there.
Now singles are sold in much smaller quantities and it doesn’t take much to get a single into the charts. Often now social media websites, like Twitter and Facebook, feature campaigns people have started to get a certain record up the charts, often for no particularly good reason. A popular one is to try to get a song to the Christmas Number One in the charts, just so it beats the Christmas song released by the winner of the Simon Cowell TV show ‘X Factor’. Some people don’t like Simon Cowell, I can’t imagine why, and would prefer another song to hit number one rather than his latest dull offering. Last Christmas, no not the Wham song, Christmas 2012, this happened. The number one slot was taken by a charity record, a reworking of the Hollies hit ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ by the Justice Collective. It featured artists like Glen Tilbrook, Rebecca Ferguson, Holly Johnson, Melanie C and many others.
It’s happening right now. There is a song called ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ that is suddenly selling well on iTunes. This is a song from the 1939 Film ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which starred Judy Garland. The song is 51 seconds long, is terrible and costs 79p to download.
Last week it was selling no copies at all, next week it will sell no copies at all, why is it selling now? It’s because it’s been linked to the recent death of Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the UK for eleven and a half years from 1979 to 1991. She was a strong woman who knew her own mind and unlike most of todays politicians, was anything but bland. Some idolised her, others didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with her.
I can understand those who weren’t that keen on her politics not shedding a tear at her loss, but why on earth would anyone want to pay 79p to download a 51 second song that is 74 years old. This song selling well does not affect the Thatcher family in any way. Nobody gains anything, except Apple who take a 30% commission on all downloads.
Unlike the three singles that I got for my birthday all those years ago and played over and over again, I don’t think anyone will be putting ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ on repeat play. It’s not my concern whether people are happy or sad at the lost of an 87 year old grandmother, but there are better ways to spend 79p than on a song you will never play.