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Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead by The Fifth Estate

Album: Ding Dong! The Witch Is Back!Released: 1967Charted:
  • This song first appeared in the 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz, where it is sung by Dorothy, Glinda and the Munchkins to celebrate the demise of the Wicked Witch Of The East. As was also the case with "Over The Rainbow," the song was written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.
  • The Fifth Estate cover contained a classical interlude that was not part of the original version. The interlude came from a piece called "Terpsichore Suite," which was written by the German composer Michael Praetorius in 1612. In an interview with the Forgotten Hits newsletter, Fifth Estate drummer Ken "Furvus" Evans explained:

    "As to Michael Praetorius, we will give that credit solely to Wayne Wadhams our singer/keyboard player. Wayne had played classical music in theaters around the area between flicks to pick up a little spending money. He had played theaters like The Paramount in New Haven since he was 13. The band actually formed first in 1963 as The Decadents (later The D-Men) when he was about 15, and he became a lot to us as George Martin, with his classical background, was to The Beatles, except he was built into an otherwise 2 guitar, bass, drums and vocals band, rather than just being an external producer. But produce he did. We have about 100 recordings. Most of them have never been heard, some with good reason. But many should have been and looks like now they will.

    We had already had a number of good singles out with United Artists' Veep records, been on Hullabaloo co-hosted by Brian Epstein where we did our garage classic "I Just Don't Care" (the first real punkish style tune done on prime time national TV I am told), and we had recently changed our name to The Fifth Estate (after a magazine we saw in Chicago while doing a Blues club tour). We were a solid performing band playing as much as 6 sets a night 6 nights a week in Greenwich Village. But we were now looking for something that would go deep into the charts. That's when Don Askew, the lyricist for many of our songs, was at a party someplace in NYC and after a few drinks (maybe quite a few), he made a bet that we The Fifth Estate could at that point make a hit out of any song. Somebody suggested "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" and the rest is history I guess. Except!! It is the Michael Praetorius part in there that probably really made that all work.

    Our band used to get together and rehearse all day and late into the night. In the summer it would be blisteringly hot. Some of us would go out and get (what else) pizza and bring it back for dinner and I believe this time Wayne stayed at the house while the rest of us went. He had a hammock set up way out back in the bushes and he had run a long, long wire out there for headphones so he could listen to music and rock back and forth in the hammock as he did. This day he was trying to relax so instead of listening to a recent album he put on one of his classical favorites from his organ in the theater days. And it just hit him I guess, and the rest is history (sort of) I guess!? After the pizza and back in our rehearsal room, he takes me over to the piano and says what kind of drums can you do with this and what do you think of it as our next single?? Hummm?? I said it gives you room in that middle part to do some harpsichord things which he was pretty good at, maybe the best around even and at such an early age. Now we were quite creative for the time and we usually just made something up that worked pretty well. But this was different enough that I didn't have any good immediate answer. So I went home took out my records and went though 20 or 30 or so before I came to 'Nowhere Man,' obviously a Beatles tune, and I heard it all click immediately and so I just ripped off Ringo's beat from that song. It does pull and hold the other 2 parts together very well and the rest is HITSVILLE!!

    So we, the band, put "Terpsichore Suite" into the piece. All the members of the band are playing on the recording along with a few members of the New York Pro Musica, who overdubbed a couple of horns and that piccolo line. Ricky played the piccolo line when we did it live, and even at times we did that line with fuzz guitar of all things. It actually comes out really fine but in a more garaged out rockin sort of way, which was the basic sound of the band at that time overall, with harpsichord, fuzz guitar and often even fuzz bass along with all the other. 'The Witch Is Dead' was done in 5 languages by us: Japanese, German, French, Italian and English." (Thanks to Ken "Furvus" Evans and the Forgotten Hits newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter by sending a request to The60sshop@aol.com.)
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Comments: 7

Here's some obscure trivia:
On May 27th 1647, Achsah Young, a Windsor*, Connecticut resident, was put to death for being a 'witch', it was the first recorded execution of its kind in America...
And just under 320 years later on May 14th, 1967 the Fifth Estate's "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #84; six weeks later on June 25th it would peak at #11 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for 10 weeks...
* The Fifth Estate were a quintet from Stamford, Connecticut; roughly just 84 miles from Windsor.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Let's not forget Klaus Nomi's 80s cover with fresh and catchy musical arrangements.Claudia - Caracas, Venezuela
A true "Close but no cigar" song. This was the Fifth Estates only record to make Billboard's weekly Top 100 chart but it just missed making the Top Ten, peaking at #11!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I highly recommended to my readers all of the Fifth Estate's records in my 450-page book "Connecticut Rocks!" which also contains the biography of the D-Men and Fifth Estate adn their complete discography. Please let me know if you might mention my book or email link for my book. My email is PBezanker1@aol.com. Thanks! Paul BezankerPaul - Lake Toxaway Nc, Nc
I read somewhere that this song was written on a dare, that the song from "The Wizard of Oz" couldnt be made into a hit - The Fifth Estate also made a hit out of the song "Heigh-ho" from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and they made a hit out of the "Mickey Mouse Club" song too-Kristin - Bessemer, Al
Ken "Furvus" Evans mentions how he'd "ripped off Ringo's beat from" Nowhere Man... I noticed that the "La La-La" backing vocals are clearly from that song as well!

Didn't know that Streisand had done "Ding! Dong!" - but a couple of other odd "Oz" covers are Stephen Bishop's of "If I Only Had a Brain" and Bette Midler's of "Optimistic Voices".
Tony - Vero Beach, Fl
I have never heard this version. Barbra Streisand recorded this on one of her early reacords. I don't know what the original songwriters would have thought of this one.Sara - Silver Spring, Md
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