The Fifth Estate - Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead (1967)
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Published on Aug 27, 2010
The Fifth Estate was a rock n roll band originally formed in Stamford, Connecticut as The D-Men in early 1964.
They were originally a garage rock outfit and performed their now garage classic "I Just Don't Care" on Hullabaloo (television). They had numerous appearances on TV including Hullabaloo, which at that time was co-hosted by Brian Epstein, then also The Beatles manager. He "almost" signed them, but this was cut short as it was just at the time of John Lennon's bigger than Christ comment, after which they were lost in the shuffle and forgotten with all the ensuing problems and then Brian's untimely death. They won a Murray the K call-in contest for best new release over The Dave Clark Five and The Animals in 1965, and in 1966, after a rather horrendous yet still somewhat ridiculous turn of events based around the British Invasion/American Band dichotomy and what they now call the 'Murray The K Fiasco,' they changed their name to "The Fifth Estate," after an underground magazine they discovered while in Chicago on a blues club tour.
They then, now as The Fifth Estate, released the single "Love Is All A Game" on the Red Bird label, which became a regional hit, and which now receives a great deal of air play around the country as has much of their music as they again have become more highly regarded through their connection with the garage band revival and garage rock movements in general. They had a national/international hit in 1967 with "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" which reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and which they recorded and released with great success around the world in 5 different languages (Japanese, Italian, French, German and English). It is in the Top 100 record releases of 1967. For over 40 years it has been the biggest hit with the highest chart position of any Harold Arlen or Wizard of Oz song performed by any artist. A version of the tune had been the theme song for "The Goon Show," starring Peter Sellers, the program which heavily influenced the production of The Beatle's "Hard Day's Night" and "Monty Python's Flying Circus."
The band had recorded it as a jest about where rock and pop music was headed and in response to a bet that the band could have a "national hit" if it really wanted to, but also felt that the message of the song was universally meaningful and needed to be heard once again, especially with all that was happening in the world at the time. Due to the band's version of the song the phrase "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" has moved on into the lexicon of terms used by many people and was used at the end of the Vietnam War and then again after Saddam Hussein's passing. The band meant it to signify the overcoming of internal demons, or the end of a bad situation and the start of a positive new day.
Of course, after The Fifth Estate made it a hit, all the radio programmers and their record company wanted from them was more of the same. This the band fought against. Two other releases more their own rock and roll and garage rock style skimmed the bottom of the charts. Then in 1968 their own "Morning Morning" was also a sizable hit in Australia. This tune didn't make much of an impact back in the USA since at that time mainstream music had moved away from rock and roll and garage rock to sweeter pop forms, bubblegum and on the other end of the spectrum hard rock, heavy metal and FM radio. They were and always remained a Rock and Roll group, dance band style. "Morning Morning" was a tune about coming home in the morning after playing music all night. This was the story of their lives basically and what they had done for years and years already although the average age of the five guys was still only 19-20.
The original five member band lineup was consistent for six years and in that time recorded about 100 songs, released 13 singles, one album, had another album ready which was not released then, and they played live and did TV shows continually. Sam and Dave jumped on stage and sang Soul Man with them at one of their theater shows. One of the Vandellas sang and recorded one of their tunes with them as her next release. They were in a 1967 TV episode of Malibu U, which was a forerunner of MTV video, with weird overlays and film footage. The Monkees covered The Fifth Estate's version of Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead on episode 58 of their TV show in 1968, "The Frodis Caper".
The Fifth Estate constantly toured with acts like Count Five, The Electric Prunes, The Music Explosion, The Buckinghams, The Ronettes, Gene Pitney, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Turtles, The Byrds, The Easybeats and many more too numerous to mention, except they were on a taping session for the NYC Clay Cole Show with The Rolling Stones one of the first couple of times they were in the US. They also did the Upbeat (TV series) with another Greenwich Village band, The Velvet Underground.
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