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Nul Points – No Way! My Most Memorable UK Eurovision Entries

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…

“France.”

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?

 

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The World Cup Dream May Be Over… But The Music Lives On

In just a matter of hours, World Cup 2014 will be over. Who will emerge victorious – Argentina or Germany? It won’t be England, that’s for sure! And the irony of two of England’s biggest sporting nemeses battling it out in the final isn’t lost on me.

 

I recently announced that I’ve accepted that I will never see England win the World Cup in my lifetime – which makes me wish that I’d been born before 1966! However, as this was the first time in fifty six years that England crashed out in the group stages, at least I can say I witnessed a piece of sporting history. That’s me – definitely a glass half full kind of girl!

 

However, despite almost fifty years of hurt (and shame) I’ve decided to give England one last chance. No, not to win the World Cup. I know I’m never going to see that happen, but to play much better than they did this year and to go much further in the tournament. We have four years to get over this setback, come up with a better strategy and a better team.

So, in a bid to cheer up disappointed England fans and to instil a sense of hope, I thought I’d share with you my four favourite awe-inspiring England World Cup songs. I remember there was always a great deal of excitement when the official England World Cup songs were released. Us kids would eagerly watch Top Of The Pops to check out the new tune and the feelings of anticipation and excitement were infectious – could this really be England’s year?

The tradition of the England World Cup songs began in 1966. The songs were released with the approval of the Football Association to coincide with the England national football team’s participation in the finals of the FIFA World Cup or the UEFA European Championship. Some of the official songs were surprisingly overshadowed by unofficial songs released around the same time. This year’s offering, Noble England was sung by the late Rik Mayall, who sadly passed away this year, making the song all the more poignant.

There are four songs that really stand out for me, and for which I feel there is probably no need for any more England World Cup.

1. Vindaloo, Fat Les

Released in 1998, this actually eclipsed the official song (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World, written by Ian McCulloch and performed by England United (Echo and the Bunnymen, Space, Spice Girls, Simon Fowler.) To be honest it wasn’t really much of a surprise as although the England United song is a great tune, it lacked that special something. Whereas Fat Les’s Vindaloo was humourous and is exactly the kind of thing you’d sing in the pub after a few pints. Performed by British band Fat Les, the music was written by Blur bassist Alex James while the lyrics were written by Keith Allen (lilly and Alfie’s dad!) Although it’s mainly just a series of chants and “nah-nah-nahs”, the song has remained a cult classic.

2. Three Lions, The Lightning Seeds/Baddiel & Skinner

Believe it or not, Fat Les’s anthem wasn’t the only unofficial tune that year to outdo the official England World Cup song. Three Lions, written by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, was originally released in 1996 as the official song for UEFA European Championship. It was such a hit, it was brought out again two years later for the World Cup, though not as the official song. Not that it mattered too much because everyone thought it was! And to be honest it’s pretty much remained England’s anthem for every tournament – the lyrics say it all. It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming – football’s coming home… OK so it never does, but we can always hope!

3. World In Motion, New Order feat. The England Squad

I don’t care what anyone says; this should be the song the players sing before the start of the match not the national anthem (no disrespect.) If ever there was an upbeat number to get you fired up and cause some damage on the pitch, this would be it. The only problem would be that the players would squabble over who should do Barnesy’s rap! Released in 1990 for the FIFA World Cup, it was written by New Order and Keith Allen, and topped the charts. This tune is my joint fave along with Three Lions, and brings back so many wonderful memories. How I long for it to be 1990 again!

4. Goldenballs (Mr. Beckham To You) Bell and Spurling

OK, so this wasn’t actually an official or unofficial song for any football tournament, but rather an ode to David Beckham, who was a fantastic footballer and icon, and the George Best of my generation (but without the excess!) by comedy duo Martin Bell and Johnny Spurling. It was released in 2002 and only got as far as number 25 in the charts, but I still reckon it’s a great tune. My then twelve year old brother could not stop singing the chorus which drove us all mad but as I said – top tune!

And now – let the finals begin!

 

 

 
 

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A Legacy That Cannot Be Krossed Out

I cannot describe the shock I felt after hearing about the tragic passing of Chris Kelly, one half of nineties rap duo Kriss Kross, at the age of 34. One of the most inspiring aspects of my childhood is gone forever and the world of urban music is in mourning.

Chris 'Mack Daddy' Kelly

Chris ‘Mack Daddy’ Kelly

Atlanta born Kelly was discovered by a teenage Jermaine Dupri at a shopping mall in 1990 along with his friend Chris Smith. Together the double act became Kriss Kross and went by the names ‘Mack Daddy’ (Kelly) and ‘Daddy Mack’ (Smith.) Dupri produced their debut album, Totally Krossed Out, which was released in 1992. It was this album which spawned their chart topping single Jump.

Kriss Kross: as fans remember them

Kriss Kross: as fans remember them

For a while, Krissmania spread all across the world. Everyone rapped along to Jump and copied the choreography. Boys wanted to be Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack; girls had Mack Daddy and Daddy Mack plastered all over their bedroom walls. But it is for their outlandish sense of style for which Kriss Kross are best remembered. Clothes had to be big, baggy and backwards! They are without a doubt the only guys who could make putting clothes on back-to-front look super cool!

The two Chris': all grown up

The two Chris’: all grown up

Kriss Kross also featured in the videos of artists such as TLC and Run DMC; made cameos in various films and TV shows; starred in a video game and recorded the rap tune for Rugrats and best of all bagged themselves a spot on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour (in my opinion the best Michael Jackson CD ever!)

However, as with most of their contemporaries, their success was short-lived. Subsequent offerings did not fare as well as Totally Krossed Out, and despite making a comeback, they never experienced the same level of stardom as they did the first time around. Furthermore Jump is the only hit for which the duo are best known.

Like most of the world, my friends and I were Kriss Kross Krazy and they definitely appealed to the tomboys in us. Back in the early nineties (especially among young inner city girls) pink, cute and girly was out. Big, baggy and boyish was in and we dug the two Chris’ look. But more importantly, being of a similar age, Kriss Kross showed us that it was possible to be young and ‘live the dream’. The dream being having a fabulous career; truckloads of money in the bank; partying like a superstar and having the hottest names in music on speed dial! Oh and that hard work, dedication, determination and the will to succeed will ensure that you can achieve anything beyond your wildest dreams. In an essay for English, I wrote that I wanted to be remembered as the cute kid in a Michael Jackson video – well Chris Kelly and Chris Smith managed to do just that.

The style that made them famous

The style that made them famous

At present, despite a great deal of speculation as to why Kelly collapsed and died suddenly, nothing has been confirmed. All we do know is that a brilliant young life full of talent and promise has ended. Tributes have been flooding in from artists such as LL Cool J, Jermaine Dupris – who described Kelly as the son he never had – P Diddy and of course, Chris Smith who released a statement describing his devastation at the loss of his friend and band-mate who was ‘like a brother.’ In the midst of the sadness, we can take comfort in the memories and years of entertainment which is Kelly’s lasting legacy.

ck

RIP Chris Kelly.

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Gone Too Soon

 

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