My Ding-a-Ling

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"My Ding-a-Ling"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album The London Chuck Berry Sessions
B-sideLet's Boogie
ReleasedJuly 1972 (1972-07)
Format7" 45 rpm
RecordedFebruary 3, 1972 at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry, England
GenrePop rock, novelty song
Length4:18
LabelChess 2131
Writer(s)Dave Bartholomew
Producer(s)Esmond Edwards
CertificationGold (RIAA)
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Tulane"
(1970)
"My Ding-a-Ling"
(1972)
"Reelin' and Rockin'"
(1973)
 
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"My Ding-a-Ling"
Single by Chuck Berry
from the album The London Chuck Berry Sessions
B-sideLet's Boogie
ReleasedJuly 1972 (1972-07)
Format7" 45 rpm
RecordedFebruary 3, 1972 at the Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry, England
GenrePop rock, novelty song
Length4:18
LabelChess 2131
Writer(s)Dave Bartholomew
Producer(s)Esmond Edwards
CertificationGold (RIAA)
Chuck Berry singles chronology
"Tulane"
(1970)
"My Ding-a-Ling"
(1972)
"Reelin' and Rockin'"
(1973)

"My Ding-a-Ling" is the title of a novelty song written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew. In 1972 it was covered by Chuck Berry and became Berry's only U.S. number-one single on the pop charts. Later that year, in a longer unedited form, it was included on the album The London Chuck Berry Sessions. Two members of the Average White Band, guitarist Onnie McIntyre and drummer Robbie McIntosh, played on the single. Nic Potter of Van der Graaf Generator played bass on the track.

"My Ding-a-Ling" was originally recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1952 for King Records. When Bartholomew moved to Imperial Records, he re-recorded the song under the new title, "Little Girl Sing Ting-a-Ling." In 1954, The Bees on Imperial released a version entitled "Toy Bell." Berry recorded a version called "My Tambourine" in 1968, but the version which topped the charts was recorded live during the Lanchester Arts Festival at the Locarno ballroom in Coventry, England, on 3 February 1972, where Berry – backed by The Roy Young Band – topped a bill that also included Slade and Billy Preston. Boston radio station WMEX disc jockey Jim Connors was credited with a gold record for discovering the song and pushing it to #1 over the airwaves and amongst his peers in the United States.

Content[edit]

The song tells of how the singer received a toy consisting of "silver bells hanging on a string" from his grandmother, who calls them his "ding-a-ling." According to the song, he plays with it in school, and holds on to it in dangerous situations like falling after climbing the garden wall, and swimming across a creek infested with snapping turtles. The lyrics consistently exercise the double entendre with "ding-a-ling" standing in for the penis. During the live version, Berry calls on the audience to join in the chorus, and in the final verse, he admonishes "those of you who will not sing" that they "must be playing with [their] own ding-a-ling."

Critical reception[edit]

The lyrics with their sly tone and innuendo (and the enthusiasm of Berry and the audience) caused many radio stations to refuse to play it. British morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse tried unsuccessfully to get the song banned.[1] "One teacher", Whitehouse wrote to the BBC's Director General, "told us of how she found a class of small boys with their trousers undone, singing the song and giving it the indecent interpretation which—in spite of all the hullabaloo—is so obvious … We trust you will agree with us that it is no part of the function of the BBC to be the vehicle of songs which stimulate this kind of behaviour—indeed quite the reverse."[2]

Moreover, pop critics[who?] generally dislike the song, especially given that it was Berry's sole #1 single in his career, and say that it is unworthy of someone who was so important in early rock 'n' roll. Alan Freeman once introduced the song by saying "oh Chuck baby, how could you?". In Icons of Rock, Scott Schinder calls the song "a sophomoric, double-entendre-laden ode to masturbation."[3] Robert Christgau remarked that the song "permitted a lot of twelve-year-olds new insight into the moribund concept of 'dirty'".[4]

Berry refers to the song on the recording as "our Alma Mater".

Censorship[edit]

For a re-run of American Top 40, some stations, such as WOGL in Philadelphia, replaced the song with an optional extra when it aired a rerun of a November 18, 1972 broadcast of AT40 (where it ranked at #14)[5] on December 6, 2008. Among other stations, most Clear Channel-owned radio stations to whom the AT40 '70s rebroadcasts were contracted did not air the rebroadcast that same weekend, although it was because they were playing Christmas music and not because of the controversy. Even back in 1972, some stations would refuse to play the song on AT40, even when it reached number one.

This controversy was lampooned in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Pony", in which a Springfield Elementary School student attempted to sing the song during the school's talent show. He barely finished the first line of the refrain before an irate Principal Skinner rushed him off the stage.[6][7]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1972)Peak
position
Canadian Top Singles (RPM)[8]1
Germany (Media Control AG)[9]40
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[10]29
Norway (VG-lista)[11]7
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12]1
US Billboard Hot 100[13]1
US R&B Singles (Billboard)[13]42

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coleman, Sarah (February 2002). "Morals Campaigner Mary Whitehouse". World Press Review. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Ben Thompson (ed.) Ban This Filth!: Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive", London: Faber, 2012 cited by "Ban This Filth!: Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive by Ben Thompson – review", The Guardian, 26 October 2012
  3. ^ Schinder, Scott (2008). Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends who Changed Music Forever. Greenwood Press. p. 68. ISBN 0313338450. 
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert (1988). "Chuck Berry". In Anthony Decurtis and James Henke (Eds). The RollingStone: The Definitive History of the Most Important Artists and Their Music. New York: Random House. pp. 60–€“66. ISBN 0679737286. 
  5. ^ oldradioshows.com: "American Top 40, 11/18/1972". Retrieved on 2008-12-08.
  6. ^ Jean, Al (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa's Pony" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  7. ^ Reiss, Mike (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa's Pony" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ "100 Singles" (PHP). RPM 18 (12): 15. November 4, 1972. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  10. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Chuck Berry – My Ding-A-Ling" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  11. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Chuck Berry – My Ding-A-Ling". VG-lista.
  12. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  13. ^ a b "Chuck Berry: Charts & Awards – Billboard Singles". Allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Ben" by Michael Jackson
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
October 21, 1972 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash
Preceded by
"Black and White" by Three Dog Night
RPM number one single (Canada)
October 21, 1972 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues
Preceded by
"Clair" by Gilbert O'Sullivan
UK Singles Chart number one single
November 25, 1972 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Long Haired Lover from Liverpool" by Little Jimmy Osmond