DING DONG! THE WITCH IS DEAD

The Fifth Estate

Jubilee 5573, 1967
Billboard: #11

According to Jubilee's trade-paper hype of the period, this was the very first recording ever waxed by the Fifth Estate, which isn't even slightly true; the group had been together for three years and had had recordings issued by three different labels during that time. Originally the Demen, mutated into "D-Men" when they were picked up by the Veep label, they cut the British-y "Don't You Know" in the fall of 1964. It clicked in New York, where Murray the K proclaimed it the best new release of that week, but failed to chart, though its B-side, "No Hope for Me," got some airplay in and around the D-Men's Stamford, Connecticut home. A second single, "I Just Don't Care," did no better on the charts but got the Ds a spot on NBC's Hullabaloo. They switched to Kapp for the folky "So Little Time". In 1966, the band relocated to New York, renamed itself the Fifth Estate — drummer Ken "Furvus" Evans said that D-Men, which sounded rather like "demon," might have cost them some church-hall gigs — and cut one of the last-ever singles for Red Bird, "Love Is All a Game", supporting itself by doing demos and studio work. At a Christmas party that year, lyricist Don Askew vouchsafed the notion that any song, properly presented, could become a hit. (Shades of "Zabadak"!) Challenged to prove it with a song — any song — from The Wizard of Oz, Askew approached the group, and keyboardist Wayne Wadhams worked up an arrangement based partly on Michael Praetorius' dance suite Terpsichore. A demo was cut, Jubilee Records loved it, and in May 1967, "Ding Dong!" was unleashed. It was an immediate smash, which led to inevitable friction between the band, who viewed it as a one-shot novelty, and the label, who wanted More of the Same. The band obliged with "Heigh Ho!", which did not chart, but the Fifth Estate were not the Seven Dwarfs, and after further clashes and some unsuccessful 45s — only "Do Drop Inn," with only two band members present, scraped the bottom of the charts — the Estate had had enough. Jubilee wound up issuing a couple more singles, including "The Mickey Mouse Club March," on which no actual members of the Estate performed, and the label itself went bust in 1969. Most of this is explained better by Ken Evans, interviewed by 60sgaragebands.com.

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Where can I get this on CD?
"Ding Dong!" has made it to a few anthologies. Ding Dong! The Witch is Back! (Boston Skyline BSD 116), which collects twenty-seven D-Men and Fifth Estate recordings, more than enough to prove that this was a real band that could play everything from surf licks to John Lee Hooker. Boston Skyline, let it be noted, is primarily a classical label, operated by (yes!) Wayne Wadhams. Sundazed is working up a D/5E compilation for 2007 (I hope) release.


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Copyright © 2003-07 by Charles G. Hill
Chart information from
Billboard is copyrighted by Billboard Publications, Inc.
Thanks to Ken Evans.

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