It’s that time again. Eurovision is here. My mum no doubt is glued to the box right now and die-hard Eurovision fans across Europe – and for the first time ever, Australia (yeah I don’t understand that either) – are throwing Eurovision themed parties and trying to work out which country will be hailed this year’s winner, which will be revealed in just over an hour.
And this year’s Eurovision isn’t any old Eurovision either as the annual European song contest is in its sixtieth year. who would have thought that a musical competition that was initially created as a means of bringing peace and harmony back to post-war Europe would still be going strong today? Well it’s aim was to bring peace and harmony but as we all know that judging by the tactical voting and obvious bias towards certain countries, politics is very much at play. But it’s also a display of musical talent, fun, entertainment and over the top performances.
The Eurovision Song Contest used to be a big deal in my family, and every year we would huddle around the TV and watch all the acts. We’d even be allowed to stay up late to watch the voting. I remember one year in the mid-eighties, I really wanted Italy to win because one of the singers looked a lot like my aunt. When they didn’t win, I burst into tears – much to the annoyance of my dad!
I have to say that in recent years, I have been much of a Eurovision fan. I can’t really pinpoint why other than there have been quite a few changes over the years and it’s just not as good as it once was – in my opinion at least – and given the choice, I’d much rather be doing something else than watching Eurovision.
But I won’t knock it. I’m glad it’s still around as it brings back great memories for me. This got me thinking about some of my most memorable UK entries. The ones I’ve selected aren’t all necessarily the most amazing or my most favourite. But they are definitely the ones that are most memorable or most well-known to me, and good or bad, they’ve all stood out in some way.
1. 1981, DUBLIN BUCKS FIZZ – MAKING YOUR MIND UP 1st Place
I’d definitely entered the world by the time Bucks Fizz represented the United Kingdom back in 1981 with making your mind up. I’d either have been perched on my Eurovision nut mum’s lap or I’d have been fast asleep in my cot – either way I obviously don’t remember seeing the moment Cheryl Baker, Jay Aston, Mike Nolan and Bobby G – who had been specially put together for the song contest – performed in Dublin.
However I do remember seeing it years later, and that skirt ripping moment is definitely one of the most iconic in Eurovision history – that still gets talked about. Furthermore we were all big Bucks Fizz fans at home so they played a big part in our childhood.
2. 1984, LUXEMBOURG, BELLE AND THE DEVOTIONS – LOVE GAMES 7th place
Even though I don’t remember the song very well, I did remember Belle and The Devotions. I remember them appearing on television a fair bit before they took part in the song contest. As I watched the contest, I remember wondering why Belle and The Devotions were the only act I recognized and moreover why the other acts were not singing in English. I remember very little about the 1984 show but I’m pretty certain I lost interest soon after Belle And The Devotions performance. I was still only a little ‘un and had a while to go before I entered into the Eurovison spirit of things – and under my mother’s influence I did!
3. 1985, GOTHEBURG, VIKKI – LOVE IS 4TH PLACE
To be totally honest I don’t remember the song at all but I do remember Vikki and seeing her perform on Top Of The Pops. despite finishing at a not-at-all-bad fourth place, Vikki didn’t become a household name unfortunately but she continues to work as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles where she is now based.
4. 1987, BRUSSELS, RIKKI – ONLY THE LIGHT 13TH PLACE
I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who would love to forget this song – Rikki included – but I think they’re being a bit harsh as listening to it years later, I actually think it’s quite catchy and a fine bit of pop music and Rikki’s vocals were pretty good. In fact it’s not just years later – I actually thought that at the time.
I remember Rikki and the track he wrote himself, Only The Light, much better than the previous UK entries because my sister and I not only used to sing Only The Light (much to the annoyance of the neighbours no doubt!) but we also came up with some choreography as well – though looking at the performance I think it’s fair to say that Rikki beat us hands down!
Although Rikki wasn’t the first UK entry to place below the Top Ten, never before had a UK entry placed so low at a disappointing thirteen – though I think this was extremely unfair as it wasn’t a bad song and Rikki, accompanied by his backing vocalists, gave it their all. I do remember this entry getting a lot of stick in the media the next day.
Then Jemini came along and all was forgiven!
5. 1988, DUBLIN, SCOTT FITZGERALD – GO 2ND PLACE
We all have our personal favourites and most memorable performances when it comes to Eurovision entries and Go, a track penned by Bruce Forsythe’s daughter Julie and performed by Scott Fitzgerald just happens to be mine. I wasn’t into ballady type numbers when I was a kid (that was more Mum’s thing) but there was something about this song that really jumped out at me. It could have been Scott’s powerful vocals, or the emotion in his voice, or just simply that it’s a great song. Naturally we always backed the UK when it came to Eurovision (even if we did sometimes secretly think that other countries had better songs and performances) but now we were convinced that Scott Fitzgerald was going to bring it home for us.
And he very nearly did.
It was nailbitingly neck and neck between the UK and Switzerland but Mum wasn’t too worried.
“That Swiss song wasn’t all that fantastic,” was Mum’s expert opinion.
By the time there was only one country left to vote, Switzerland was in the lead by only one point but we were so sure victory was going to be ours. I can’t remember who the last country to vote was but I do remember the moment when I knew it was all over:
“And finally twelve points goes to -”
Please let it be the UK, please, please…
Cue much shouting, cheering and cartwheels from the Swiss team.
Of course the press had a field day about the unfairness of it all. Fancy the United Kingdom being beaten by just one measly point. It was like Mexico ’86 all over again – we’d come so far and victory was in our grasp only for us to have it snatched from us. But at least this time there was no cheating or Hand of God involved.
The press also commented on whether it was acceptable to have a Canadian representing Switzerland in the song contest.
Clearly the singer didn’t Think Twice about the fuss as she – Celine Dion – was on her way to bigger and better things.
6. 1991, ROME, SAMANTHA JANUS – MESSAGE TO YOUR HEART JOINT 10TH PLACE
When the future Ronnie Mitchell/Branning/Cotton was flying the flag for the United Kingdom back in 1991, I sadly was unable to watch it due to our prehistoric telly being on the blink! However I do remember a lot being said about the absolutely stunning, blonde twenty one year old then unknown, Samantha Janus, who was going to perform Message To Your Heart, a song intended to prick the listeners’ social conscious regarding serious world wide issues. It was probably in the same vein as New Kids’ This One’s For The Children – and as everyone know New Kids On The Block can do no wrong in my eyes – but Message To Your Heart just didn’t make the same impact.
And for all those who suspected that Samantha Janus would probably end up pulling pints one day – they were right!
7. 1992, MALMO, MICHAEL BALL – ONE STEP OUT OF TIME 2ND PLACE
We just thought of Michael Ball as the Aspects Of Love bloke – the one who did a bit of musical theatre. So when we heard that he would be making a bid to represent the United Kingdom, we thought it would be a number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lloyd-Webber production.
So sis and I were amazed when Michael Ball rocked up with an up-tempo pop song – a song we couldn’t get out of out heads for days. And we loved Ball’s choreography!
I felt disappointed at the time that the UK lost out yet again but hey, we came second (again) so not all bad!
8. 1993, Co. CORK, SONIA – BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW 2ND PLACE
We’d always loved Sonia ever since she burst onto the scene with You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You and my mum was a huge fan:
“Aw that Sonia. she sings all the old songs and gets to number one.” Er, really Mum???
Well the fact that Better The Devil You Know (not the Kylie classic) wasn’t an ‘old song’ might explain why Sonia didn’t get to ‘number one’ in the Eurovision charts and win. Well that’s what Mum would have said anyway. But Sonia did us proud all the same. She sang her heart out and gave a great performance with a song that’s in my head to this day. Furthermore Better The Devil You Know did well in the national charts.
Plus I loved that purple jumpsuit!
9. 1994, DUBLIN, FRANCES RUFFELLE LONELY SYMPHONY 10TH PLACE
I have to admit, I didn’t know who Frances Ruffelle was prior to her representing the UK in Eurovision. She was – and still is – star of the West End stage, and also the daughter of Sylvia Young, and the mother of Eliza Dolittle.
Frances’ song was quite different to the previous Eurovision entries as it was less pop driven, more soulful, atmospheric song with a moving melody, and definitely not as cheesy as previous offerings. It also didn’t go for the novelty factor. Definitely one of the most sophisticated entries we’ve ever had.
10. 1995, DUBLIN, LOVE CITY GROOVE- LOVE CITY GROOVE 10TH PLACE
For the first time ever, rap came to the Eurovision song contest via the United Kingdom. And to this day I can still remember the chorus. I know this song was heavily criticised at the time for not being ‘Eurovision’ enough but I don’t think it’s a horrendous song at all, and as urban music was the only thing I’d listen to back then, I actually quite liked it. It had that cool summertime vibe and pop beat that was typical of all mid-nineties rap that didn’t come over all gold tooth and gangsta! It did placed tenth just as their predecessor Frances Ruffelle had done the year before but it did a lot better than most people had expected. I think the truth of the matter is that Eurovision just wasn’t ready for rap from the UK.
11. 1996, OSLO, GINA G – OOH AAH… JUST A LITTLE BIT 8TH PLACE
This stunning Aussie redhead, born Gina Mary Gardiner, represented the United Kingdom back in 1996 and whereas most Eurovision hopefuls are rarely heard of again once the contest is over, Gina was very popular in Britain for quite some time. She had four UK chart hits after Ooh Aah… she also did well in America where she was nominated for a Grammy award, graced the covers of many mags, and was never off the telly!
I have to say although Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit was very catchy and something of a club anthem back then, Gina’s brand of pop, house and dance wasn’t really my thing as I was very much an urban chick but it hearing this track does bring back tons of memories of my secondary school days.
After years of living in London, Gina eventually relocated to Los Angeles where she still resides today and is still involved in the music industry.
12. 1997, DUBLIN, KATRINA AND THE WAVES – LOVE SHINE A LIGHT 1ST PLACE
I’m walking on sunshine… woah-oh, I’m walking on sunshine… woah-oh, I’m walking on sunshine…woah oh
And don’t it feel good! Hey!
It’s one of the most recognizable tracks from the eighties and the one that British rock band Katrina And The Waves were most well-known for.
But that was until 1997 when Katrina And The Waves represented the United Kingdom with Love Shine A Light. I remember watching lead singer, Kansas-born Katrina Leskanich, being interviewed just before the contest and being asked how she would feel if they ended up getting the dreaded ‘nul points’.
“But it’s not going to get nul points,” Katrina responded confidently, “come on – it’s a great song.”
Well she wasn’t wrong. That year, the UK headed to the top of the scoreboard and secured their first win since Bucks Fizz’s Making Your Mind Up sixteen years earlier.
It was the second time the United Kingdom have won the Eurovision Song Contest in my life time – but only the first time that I actually got to see and remember it.
Now if only I could see England win the World Cup…
13. 1998, BIRMINGHAM, IMAANI – WHERE ARE YOU? 2ND PLACE
Admittedly I’d forgotten this song and the singer Imaani – who still singning and putting out records – but as soon as I heard this song again, it all came flooding back. It was a very good entry and although it didn’t secure a second consecutive win for us, it finished at a very respectable place.
14. 2003, LATVIA, JEMINI – CRY BABY 26TH PLACE
OK, I’m sure there’s a lot of people who’d like to forget Jemini but how could we ever forget the only UK act ever to get the infamous nul point?