Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Tribute to Eurovision (Part II) - The Greatest Hits (1956-2011)

It's that time of year again.

The Eurovision Song Contest is here to bring us its annual dose of hillarity, incredulity and sheer randomness that manages to infuriate and illuminate us all at the same time.

I don't watch it as much as I used too as the shine has been taken off the contest in recent years in my mind. Is it because the UK have fallen back to regular also-rans since the turn of the millennium? Quite probably yes. Also, the loss of the talismanic (and indeed manic) commentating style of Terry Wogan has meant that to me the competition in these isles have lost that mavaric, irreverant care-free voice that made it a 'must-watch' every May.

But whilst I may just tune in to see if Blue manage to improve the UK's lot this year, I can still look back in my own memory and in the memory of the televisual archives to some stand-out moments in Eurovision history.

So here is my run-down of the 20 greatest songs from Eurovision's 55 year history to date since it began in 1956...

No.20 - Rock Bottom (Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran) UK - 1977

It may be rock bottom of my top 20, but this playful melody brought the UK one of many 2nd places in the competition over the years. I love the mix of having two pianos being played along with an orchestra. A catchy sound.

No.19 - La Det Swinge (Bobbysocks) Norway - 1985

Norway's first Eurovision winner was an old-fashioned homage to the rock'n roll era of a generation earlier. Its retro sound struck a chord as it won the 1985 contest for the double act Bobbysocks!

No.18 - Ding-a-Dong (Teach-In) Holland - 1975

The 1975 Eurovision winners followed in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors from 1974 by becoming the second entry to win having not sung in their native tounge.

No.17 - Puppet on a String (Sandie Shaw) UK - 1967

The UK's first win at Eurovision by Sandie Shaw was with a song that she didn't even like! She was also nearly dropped before the competition by the BBC because she was the 'other woman' in a divorce case! But she did sing and made a a piece of history by winning by a then record margin.

Key Change!

No.16 - Nocturne (Secret Garden) Norway - 1995

Norway's second winner was another classic but this time for a different reason from its rocky attempt of a decade earlier.

Secret Garden's performance consisted of only 24 words with a violin solo at the heart of the piece. It reminds me of the music used years later in the popular Shrek movies.

No.15 - Boom-Bang-A-Bang (Lulu) UK - 1969

The UK's second Eurovision winner actually tied for the honour with 3 other entrants in an era when shared victories were permitted.

Like with any Eurovsision hit, it had a catchy hook that is rememebred 40 years on.

No.14 - Poupée de cire, poupée de son (France Gall) Luxembourg - 1965

This catchy song composed by Serge Gainsbourg and sang in French by France Gall was the first non-ballad winner of Eurovision.

No.13 - What’s Another Year? (Johnny Logan) Ireland - 1980

Johnny Logan gave Ireland its second Eurovision win in 1980 with this ballad. He would return 7 years later to win the Eurovision for a second time. He also composed the winning Irish entry by Linda Martin in 1992.

No.12 - Tu te reconnaîtras (Ann-Marie David) Luxembourg - 1973

In 1973, Luxembourg became only the second country to win back-to-back contests after Spain in 1968 & 1969 (indeed, only Israel in 1978 & 1979 and Ireland in 1992, 1993 & 1994 have matched that feat).

Big band time!

No.11 - Save Your Kisses for Me (Brotherhood of Man) UK - 1976

A classic Eurovision hit, it just misses out on my Top 10.

Before we break into the Top.10, it's time for an interval.

What better way of taking a break than with the greatest interval act in Eurovision history? In 1994 in Dublin, the Irish event organisers gave us what would become a world-wide sensational hit - Riverdance.

No.10 - Fly on the Wings of Love (Olsen Brothers) Denmark - 2000

It's a simple but catchy number that begins my Top 10. This rather old-fashioned love ballad was sang by the oldest performers to enter the contest and became the first song since 1974 to lead the competition from start to finish.

No.9Congratulations (Cliff Richard) UK - 1968

This perennial Eurovision hit was the favourite to win the contest in 1968 but was pipped by a single point by Spain. It reached No.1 in the UK charts.

No.8Diva (Dana International) Israel - 1998

This was and remains, a huge Eurovision success story, being sang as it was by one of the most well known transexuals in the world.

I remember it clearly and it took the world by storm.

No.7Take Me To Your Heaven (Charlotte Nilsson) Sweden - 1999

This is a fantastic, up-beat Eurovision favourite which celebrated the 25th anniversary of a certain Swedish band's win in 1974 in style.

No.6Love Shine a Light (Katrina and the Waves) UK - 1997

It remains the last British victory at Eurovision to date and is a beautiful anthemic hit. With 227 out of a possible 288 points, it created an Eurovision record which stood until 2004.

No.5Making Your Mind Up (Bucks Fizz) UK - 1981

Katrina and the Waves' win was Britain's first in 16 years since this hit from 1981.

The immortal Eurovision 'key change' was noticeable here in a song that epitomised the Eurovision sound with a strong beat and catchy lyrics. It will always be remembered of course for the legendary whipping off of the girls' skirts to reveal even shorter skirts by the boys.

No.4Nel blu dipinto di blu (Volare) (Domenico ModugnoItaly - 1958

A surprise entry at No.4? Certainly not.

Although it only placed 3rd for Italy in the 1958 competition, it has become famous the world over with over 100 covers of the song over the past 50 years - most famously being made its own by Dean Martin.

No.3Ein bißchen Frieden (A Little Peace) (NicoleGermany - 1982

The winning song in the year of my birth, this is a simple but gentle ballad describing a wish for world peace, with the lyrics sung in first person, and also describes the beauty of the natural world.

Nicole was only 17 when she performed what would become Germany's first ever Eurovision winner.

Key Change!

No.2All Kinds of Everything (DanaIreland - 1970

Another easy on the ear ballad (noticing a trend here?!), 18 year old Dana won Ireland the first of a record 7 Eurovision titles.

She proved that she was capable of all kinds of everything as she moved from the entertainment arena to politics. In 1997, she stood as an Independent candidate or the Irish Presidency and though she failed in that endeavour, she was elected to the European Parliament for a single 5 year term in 1999 - again as an Independent.

It all began with that appearance on the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970!

No.1Waterloo (ABBASweden - 1974

It has to be really, hasn't it?

They had released singles before this appearance but it was winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest that brought ABBA to world-wide attention and would eventually lead to their fame and fortune.

So I thank Eurovision for giving us ABBA and their music but also, all of this weird and wonderful music which we have had to put up with over the years!

There are online bargains available for songs from the '60's & '70's.

1 comment:

  1. I was going to comment... "where is Dana's ALL Kinds of Everything", but you had it at number 2. Its my favourite and I would still say its a better song than Waterloo.

    I must admit to liking Blue's song "I Can" and if it was based purely on the song, as in days gone by before the Eastern Bloc entry to the competition made it more political than Greece and Cyprus merely voting for each other, Blue would have had a good chance.

    So good luck to Blue tonight.