If you asked me right here, right now, to name the Eurovision nation I support unconditionally…I’d say Sweden, duh. That has nothing to do with the subject of today’s post, of course – I was just hoping to throw you off track (and remind you that Sweden is the one, they’re my number one, the only treasure I’ll-STOP IT, JAZ!).
The UK, on the other hand, isn’t a participant I always wave a flag for, but they have had more than their fair share of successes in contests past. Every year for the first twenty years of their participation, they finished in the top 10, with eighteen of those finishes in the top five. Clearly, they knew what they were doing back in the day, and the people – be they people on juries or, later on in the 1990s, people at home on the couch – responded accordingly.
As I’m people too (believe it or not) I’m going to take this chance to vote for my faves from Royaume-Uni, if only in retrospect and with make-believe points. I’ve been on a trip through the ESC archives, and here are the ten songs from the land of Cliff Richard that I had to bring back with me as souvenirs.
1 point goes to Are You Sure? by The Allisons (1961)
I find voices that are in perfect harmony hugely satisfying. Are You Sure? plays up to that satisfaction by neatly weaving together the vocals of Allison 1 and Allison 2 (I am currently too lazy to Google-remind myself of their names) into a very cute little ditty about some she-devil who’s callously walking out on one (or possibly both) of these guys. It’s an entry that might prove too saccharine for some, but I find it refreshing to listen to in this day and age, when the pinnacle of pop music is Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. Okay, so that statement’s clearly untrue, but humour my desire to be dramatic, won’t you?
2 points go to Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit by Gina G (1996)
I think we can all agree – I think – that in spite of that cringeworthy ‘Hey girls!’, Gina G was robbed of a top 5 finish in Oslo. Getting through three minutes in that dress without something falling out was a prize-winning achievement in itself, but COME ON! This song is boss. It’s got an irresistible thumping beat, a disco/Eurodance flavour that Alcazar could only dream of recreating, and, when competing in the contest, managed to be both oh-so-90s and ahead of its time. I guess my fellow Aussie Gina found solace in the fact that Ooh Aah became an international hit, whilst Ireland’s winning song The Voice…well, didn’t. I guess that’s proof that the real Eurovision winner isn’t always the one on top of the scoreboard.
3 points go to Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981)
This has got to be one of the happiest songs of all time. It’s definitely the happiest song to incorporate skirt-ripping (and to be proudly sponsored by Velcro). It hasn’t dated particularly well, but stick this on at a Eurovision party, or a party being attended by anyone who was a sentient being in England in the 1980s, and the dance floor will be packed faster than you can say ‘don’t let your indecision take you from behind’ (tee hee!). Sometimes I feel like MYMU is one big, long chorus, with the levels of catchy so consistent throughout, and listening to it in 2015, it has a cheesiness that’s charming rather than revolting. At least as far as I’m concerned.
4 points go to Save All Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood of Man (1976)
So it turns out the UK were big advocates of adorability back in the day, as their third winning entry is as cute as The Allisons’. Save Your Kisses For Me isn’t just SO PRECIOUS IT HURTS, however. It also has a very M. Night Shyamalan plot twist in which we discover that the aforementioned kisses that must be saved are not from an adult spouse, but rather *gasp* a three-year-old child (presumably one of their children…). But mainly, it’s just precious. Tip of the day: make this your first pick next karaoke night, and throw in some of the original choreography just because. If your friends laugh at you, make it known you won’t be saving any smooches for them anytime soon.
5 points go to Come Back by Jessica Garlick (2002)
Who doesn’t love a good ballad? Well, probably lots of people. But I’m not one of them, and if you’re not interested in hearing my opinion, I have no idea why you’re reading my personal blog. As a connoisseur of fine ballads, I can say with authority that Jessica Garlick’s is up there with the second-best of them (or should I say the third-best?). There have been plenty of better ballads in the ESC, before and after she took to the stage in her Pocahontas costume (#WANT) but I still really enjoy Come Back. It’s a simple, well-sung entry that builds nicely before calming the eff down and then soaring again on that final money note. No stripteases or glitter-blowing required.
6 points go to Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (1993)
The UK went retro with Sonia, and her amazing purple catsuit. It didn’t totally work for them (if looks could kill, Sonia’s laser-beam death stare would have incinerated Niamh Kavanagh on the spot) but it was a top-notch effort nonetheless. Sonia’s one of those artists who almost sounds better live than in studio, and she sang and generally performed le crap out of Better The Devil You Know, which more than made up for the weaknesses in the lyrics. As a standalone song, the main drawcard here is how instant and infectious it is, and though I think Ireland’s winner was a very good one, I think I would’ve been happy if the UK had added another trophy to their collection at this point.
7 points go to Say It Again by Precious (1999)
Hi, my name is Jaz, I’m twenty-three, and I’m still the same girl-band and boy-band freak I was fifteen years ago. I was raised on the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, so any act that vaguely resembles either of them AND entered Eurovision – i.e. Eden, Prime Minister or XXL – is bound to rate highly with me. Precious = a British girl band including a woman who’d go on to join Atomic Kitten = musical royalty in my eyes. In terms of my ears, Say It Again is always well received. R & B doesn’t usually go down well in the contest, and this was no exception by UK standards – at the time, 12th was one of their worst-ever results – but I’m a fan, and that fact that this song finished lower than the likes of Love City Groove is inexplicable to me.
8 points go to Where Are You? by Imaani (1998)
There’s not a whole lot you can say about this entry, though I could go on for hours about the painful yet wonderful 90s-ness of Imaani’s hair and outfit. My short and sweet description of the song would go something like this: three minutes of simple but very effective pop. There was a lot of that in the field in Birmingham, with the majority of it scoring well. I wouldn’t dare complain about the UK coming second to Israel, partly because it would be a cardinal Eurofan sin to diss Dana International, and partly because Dana did have a little extra something (and no, I don’t mean…THAT) which helped her forge ahead. But give me the option to listen to either Diva or Where Are You?…and I’ll be all like, ‘Who do you think you are? Don’t tell me what to do! Back off!’. Then I’d probably pick the latter.
10 points go to I Can by Blue (2011)
As if you didn’t know this was coming, especially after my earlier boy band/girl band speech. I still believe this song had ‘WINNER!’ written all over it, and if it wasn’t for a performance that wasn’t so much a complete disaster as it was just wrong all over (Lee Ryan’s vocal fail not included as that was definitely a disaster) it might’ve at least had ‘respectable top five finish’ written all over it. After the Josh Dubovie Incident of the previous year, and the many fails the UK had experienced leading up to the Düsseldorf show, the anthemic I Can gave us a glimmer of hope that Jade Ewen’s success hadn’t been a fluke. And I suppose Blue’s almost-top-10 result – an excellent one in comparison to the likes of 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010 – proved that it wasn’t. Kind of.
Douze points go to Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (1989)
Oh, but you don’t, Live Report. You actually got it super right on this occasion, apart from the whole ‘losing to a song that most of us think is one of the weakest winners, like, EVER’ thing. Now, to clarify, I actually like Rock Me as a song. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and lead singer Emilija had one of the best quiffs in Eurovision history until Jedward came along. But as a winner, it does suffer from a bit of Running Scared syndrome, otherwise known as ‘how the hell did that happen?’. So as much as I don’t like to say that certain songs ‘should’ have won, I’m going to imply it here. Why Do I Always Get It Wrong is the height of UK Eurovision excellence for me because I love 80s music, and I love ballads, and the combination of those two loves here does things to me. Report’s front man Ray helps that along with his effortless vocals in and out of the recording studio. Fashion aside, there’s nothing about this entry that doesn’t work for me.
EBJ extras: Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw (1967); Let Me Be The One by The Shadows (1975); Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (1977); Love Shine A Light by Katrina & the Waves (1997); Even If by Andy Abraham (2008).
Aaaaaaand cue the complaints! JK. I meant cue the commenting of your personal favourites from the United Kingdom over the last fifty-nine years, interwoven with gushing praise on how amazing you think I am. That’s not asking too much, is it?
Fine then! That’s all for today, but stay tuned to EBJ this week for some Georgia talk. Plus, sticking with the UK and continuing my ‘Vienna Wishlist’ series, I’ll be revealing who I’d draft in to represent them in 2015 if I had the power. To anyone at the BBC reading this: I really, really, really would like that power. In the immortal words of Cyprus 2002, GIMME.
I feel a bit sorry for the UK. For the entirety of the Olympic fortnight, all eyes were firmly on the capital. Then suddenly, there was the Spice Girls and One Direction and a bunch of fireworks, and it was all over – bye bye London 2012, hello Rio 2016.
As such, I feel a civic duty to help out in any way I can, so I thought I’d give the UK some one-on-one time. You know, so they don’t feel so lonely in the aftermath of the (second) Greatest Show on Earth.
I hope you enjoy this little look back at the ESC history of a Big Sixer!
THE UNITED KINGDOM: THE STATS
1957 – 7th place with All by Patricia Bredin
5 – 1967, 1969, 1976, 1981, 1997
15 – 1959-61, 1964-65, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1988-89, 1992-93, 1998
3 – 1973, 1980, 2002
Top 10 finishes
Top 10 success rate
Top 5 finishes
Top 5 success rate
Wooden spoons (last places!)
3/55 – 2003, 2008, 2010
Semi final qualifications
Qualification success rate
(Apologies for the lack of a more recent recap.)
My favourite entry
Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (1989). You’ll probably have seen this listed as my second-favourite entry of all time, as well as on countless other occasions because I love it so much and have a strange compulsion to refer to it whenever possible. WDIAGIW (say that three times fast!) is a classic 80s power ballad with lyrics that go where none ever had before by lamenting a broken heart. Did I say none? Sorry, I meant gajillions. Anyway, I think most of us would agree the UK should have beaten Yugoslavia in Lausanne, but as it happened, yet another second placing – their twelfth – was all they could muster. Not that that’s anything to bitch behind someone’s back about.
My least favourite entry
No Dream Impossible by Lindsay Dracass (2001). I have few words but lots of letters for this one – W, T and F, for example. I think someone at the BBC must have come to the conclusion that just because a badly-dressed woman with a dated dance song had failed at Eurovision the previous year, it didn’t mean repeating the formula would end badly. News flash: it DID. For my ears and eyes at the very least.
I must also mention That Sounds Good To Me by Josh Dubovie (2010). Now, I have nothing against J.Dub (he seems like a top bloke. Plus, we are Twitter buddies) but this song is beyond belief. I bet even Jemini are embarrassed that it now shares page space with them in the history of last-placed entries.
More of the memorable
Sing Little Birdie by Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson (1959) – whistling in a song these days can rocket you to #1 all over the world. Just ask Maroon 5 or Flo Rida.
Puppet On A String by Sandie Shaw (1967) – another classic that kicked the contest into high gear.
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981) – the manufacturers of Velcro are probably Bucks Fizz’ biggest fans.
Just A Little Bit by Gina G (1996) – I knew this one long before I knew what Eurovision was, which is the mark of serious success.
Cry Baby by Jemini (2003) – if something hadn’t gone terribly wrong for these guys, nobody would remember them. See! Every out-of-tune cloud has a silver lining.
Their best stage show
Teenage Life by Daz Sampson (2006). Yes, it was cheesy, and yes, the fact that the middle-aged, tracksuit-clad Daz was getting down with girls in school uniform was rather unsettling – but if you’re going to have a theme, you may as well run with it. My favourite part has to be the flag blizzard, which makes me wish I’d hidden a stack of them in my school desk when I had the chance, and thrown them up in the air at random moments. No one would have questioned that, would they?
Their best costume/s
Sonia (1993). I can’t go past a structured shoulder, especially when there’s two of them and they’re attached to a bright purple catsuit. I might have to hunt one down for my upcoming graduation…
Their best vocalist/s
Lulu (1969)/Jade Ewen (2009). Lulu’s one of those people who can make a live rendition of a song sound better than the studio version. As for Jade, well, she’s one of those people who can casually share the stage with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, get beaten up by a violinist AND nail her vocal, all at the same time.
I love the UK in the ESC because…
Let’s face it, things just wouldn’t be the same without Royaume-Uni complaining that they came last or next-to-last yet again for whatever reason (Europe hates them, it’s a race thing, etc etc). That’s only in recent years, of course. They had an enviable record of success up until the 2000s, and they still tie with France, Luxembourg and Sweden for the second-greatest amount of wins. Speaking of ‘second’, nobody else has mastered the art of being runner-up quite like the UK, who as mentioned above have been beaten into the top spot 15 times. If only they could manage that nowadays! Still, no matter how badly they do, year after year and without just cause (nothing to do with dodgy song choices or anything) they always come back, and I don’t reckon we’re in danger of seeing a contest without them any time soon. They may mock Eurovision, but they couldn’t stand to not be a part of it – kind of like a teenager who winds up at a kids’ party where the guests are playing Musical Chairs. You know you want in, UK. We all do.
What are your thoughts on the UK in Eurovision?
We are, of course, in national final mode at the moment, but there are still lulls in the action which mean I have nothing to talk about. This current lull is thanks to Belarus, who decided to change the date of their selection for the second time last week (as of my writing it’s now February 14th). I can’t talk about something that isn’t happening, which only leaves France’s song presentation from Sunday. Since I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, I have one option, and one option only. I didn’t want it to come to this, but it’s time for…ANOTHER TOP 10!
Today, it’s all about the songs that had to settle for silver, but to me are pure gold. Read the title, read the list, then tell me below which second-place songs are your most loved. If you want, I mean…I’m not forcing you. ???
Lane Moje by Zeljko Joksimović (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)
The 2004 winner from Ukraine was a whip-cracking, hair-flicking, leather-rocking wild woman known as Ruslana, and there’s no doubt she deserved her victory. The entry she beat (possibly literally, and into submission) to nab first place was a much more understated but still dramatic affair, from a multitalented Serbian we all know as Zeljko Joksimović; an entry I am proud to call My Favourite Eurovision Song of All Time – even if Kanye West interrupts me and tells me that actually, it was Ruslana who had the best entry ever. Whatevs, Kanye – Lane Moje never fails to give me goosebumps and that’s how I know it’s the one.
Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989)
‘Why does she always mention this song?’ is the line most of you would sing on reading this. Unfortunately I don’t have a proper answer for you, because I can’t explain my undying love for the man with the braid and the oh-so-eighties power ballad he and his band brought to the ESC before I was even born. It just is.
Never Let You Go by Dima Bilan (Russia 2006)
The 2006 contest was my first Eurovision (gasp!) and so I have many fond memories of the acts and songs – not all of which include latex monster masks, surprisingly. Dima Bilan, his mullet, and the piano that was suffering from a serious infestation of painted lady definitely stick in my head, as does his song. Yes, I actually do talk about the music sometimes. Russians know how to do pop, that’s for sure.
Is It True? by Yohanna (Iceland 2009)
I have a bit of a girl crush on Yohanna, I must admit. I think the moment of realisation came in Moscow, not with that dress, but with that note – the clear-as-crystal money note that may as well have been subtitled with ‘Iceland is going to rake in more points than Carola has had visits to the Fountain of Youth.’ The pitch perfection of her voice helped make Is It True? a ballad extraordinaire that would have topped the ‘09 lot had Alexander Rybak never been born/given a violin.
All Out of Luck by Selma (Iceland 1999)
Selma was Gina G when Gina G should have been Gina G. I.e. had the real Gina G performed Just A Little Bit in the ’99 contest, it would have done a whole lot better than it did three years previously, and possibly would have had to battle All Out of Luck for a top-end finish. As things stand, Selma had the right song at the right time, a song that still has the power to get people (a.k.a. me) up and dancing (a.k.a. flinging my arms about and knocking ornaments off my shelf).
To Nie Ja by Edyta Gorniak (Poland 1994)
Another ballad? Well, these babies have a knack for getting close, but not close enough, to the Eurovision trophy.Polandgot their best ever result on their first ever attempt with this cracking ballad. Thinking of it now makes me wish they would change their minds about withdrawing, go and fish Edyta out of her nursing home and give her a similarly ear-pleasing tune to perform in Azerbaijan.
Sanomi by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003)
Does anyone else compulsively mimic the onstage hand movements when this song comes on? I’ll assume yes to make myself feel less weird. Anyway, I think Urban Trad and their imaginary-language ethnic entry surprised everyone in Rigawith second place. Sanomi may have been pipped by Sertab Erener’s glittery belly button back then, but to this day it remains a favourite of mine. That’s despite the fact that it reminds me of a sewing machine (you know, Janome? The well known brand of…ah, forget it).
Solo by Alsou (Russia 2000)
Speaking of glittery belly buttons, here’s one that apparently wasn’t glittery enough to ooutshine two middle-aged men with a vocoder. It did beat a bunch of skinny college guys in flares though, which counts for something. ‘It’ is also known as the torso of Alsou, whose 2000 runner-up is yet more proof of the Russian pop prowess.
Rock Bottom by Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran (UK 1977)
These days you can enter a song in the ESC called, oh, I don’t know, My Number One or We Are The Winners, and good things can happen. In the past, however, you had to sing Last Place or This Is Going to Fail Miserably…or Rock Bottom, if you wanted to do well. I guess it was about not jinxing yourself.
Are You Sure? by The Allisons (UK 1961)
Yes I am sure. Sure that I love this song (boom tish). It may seem like a random addition to this list, but I am a girl of eclectic taste – sometimes – and so here we are. It’s a catchy little number that was sung, not by a trio of poofy-haired, synchronised teenage girls as the group name would allude, but by two grown men with more product than poof in their luxurious locks.
A little something extra…here are the ones that just missed out:
Eres Tu by Mocedades (Spain 1973), Better The Devil You Know by Sonia (UK 1993), Never Ever Let You Go by Rollo & King (Denmark 2001), Shady Lady by Ani Lorak (Ukraine 2008) and We Could Be The Same by MaNga (Turkey 2010).
COMING UP: Another Saturday brings a song from Malta and semis from Scandinavia, and I put the spotlight on a record-breaking ESC country.
A song that should have won
Congratulations by Cliff Richard (UK 1968, 2nd place)
Cinéma by Paola (Switzerland 1980, 4th place)
Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989, 2nd place)
To Nie Ja! by Edyta Gorniak (Poland 1994, 2nd place)
Die For You by Antique (Greece 2001, 3rd place)
Shady Lady by Ani Lorak (Ukraine 2008, 2nd place)
But the one that really should have won is:
7th Wonder by Ira Losco (Malta 2002, 2nd place)
I feel I may have picked this simply because I detest the song that actually won, but in my heart of hearts I do feel 2002 should’ve been Malta’s year. Give me a catchy song, flared all-in-one and glitter blow any day over a strip tease and an ‘ay yai yai yai yaaaaa!’
PS – I just want to say that I was thinking of the families of the 9/11 victims today. Stay strong everyone.
Favourite song from a group/band
Fiumi Di Parole by Jalisse (Italy 1997)
Reise Nach Jerusalem by Sürpriz (Germany 1999)
Northern Girl by Prime Minister (Russia 2002)
Keine Grenzen – Zadnych Granich by Ich Troje (Poland 2003)
Zauvijek Moja by No Name (Serbia & Montenegro 2005)
Bistra Voda by Regina (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009)
Lako Je Sve by Femminem (Croatia 2010)
But my favourite is:
Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? by Live Report (UK 1989)
I love 80s music. I love good ballads. And I LOVE men with plaits in their hair (JOKE ALERT). So naturally, this is the perfect song for me. Don’t worry, Live Report – you don’t always get it wrong. In fact, you almost got it completely right…darn you Yugoslavia!
I hope you’re doing well wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. I’ve spent the last few days “studying” for my exams next week and wishing I could be blogging instead. I’m determined to keep doing so (the latter, that is, not pretend to study) all year round, but it’s a bit hard at the moment.
This is especially frustrating when I’m wanting to put up my retrospective reviews for you! I’ve been putting them together in bits and pieces, looking at the songs, artists and performances from 2011, in between doing what I’m supposed to, and I’m hoping to post them in installments from early next week – the first being countries A to B. So please come back to check them out and share your own opinions (subscribe to EBJ to get alerted…pretty please? Just go to the bottom of the page). In the meantime, why not relive my 2010 retrospective reviews from here: https://eurovisionbyjaz.wordpress.com/2010/06/20/retrospective-reviews-a-to-b/
In the (350 or so) days before Baku, here are some of the other posts I’ve got planned:
– Top 10’s: JESC to ESC, songs that shouldn’t have come last, and anything else I can think of!
– Articles: What does it take to be a runner-up in Eurovision? What have the last decade’s winners been up to lately? Plus, some contest questions that have to be asked…
– Time-warp Tuesdays: I’ll be shining the spotlight on a personal classic moment from the glittery ESC history every week, courtesy of Youtube, just for nostalgic fun!
– And of course, my take on all the developments from Armeniain the lead up to 2011’s other contest, Junior Eurovision.
To conclude, I’ll continue the randomness of this particular post by saying:
a) I picked up my copy of the Electric Pictures documentary The Secret History of Eurovision today. From an actual shop. Finally, we Australians get something Eurovision easier! I haven’t watched it yet, but I remember how good it was from the broadcast in May, and if you do, or if you didn’t get the chance to see it, you can get it online right now. It’s stocked at www.dymocks.com.au and http://shop.abc.net.au/ for $30AUD, and both ship overseas. What are you waiting for?
b) My first Time-warp Tuesday begins…now! Yes, I am aware it’s more like Forgotten Favourites Friday, but who’s caring? Let’s go back to 1989 and one of those runners-up…one that really should have gone all the way. It’s the United Kingdom, who back then asked themselves the question that they should be asking themselves more often now (the answer can be found in song form in their 2010 entry): why do I always get it wrong? This is from Live Report, and it’s one of my all-time favourites. Talk to you soon!