East of the M60 commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest
Owing to this month’s Not So Perfect Ten being later than usual, we have decided to commemorate the above venerable institution. One maligned and respected in equal measure. An institution better known for its most frenetic climax. One that led to Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Annafrid to become Sweden’s biggest export after Volvo cars.
The United Kingdom made her Eurovision début in 1957 with “All” by Patricia Bredin which finished seventh. They returned to the contest in 1959 with Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson’s “Sing, Little Birdie”. The UK’s 1959 entry came second to France.
Throughout its formative years, the UK fielded her most popular acts. The first runners-up were successful singers in their own right and appeared on programmes like Crackerjack. Cliff Richard’s fame was enough to win national support with Congratulations and Power To All Our Friends well received in the singles charts.
For every Brotherhood of Man, there’s Emma, Bardo, Jann Teigen and Telex. This month, we are focusing on the forgotten gems of the Eurovision Song Contest. Here’s our Not So Perfect Ten:
- Sing, Little Birdie, Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson (UK, 1959);
- Apres Toi, Vicky Leandros (Luxembourg, 1972);
- Tu Te Reconnaitras, Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg, 1973):
- I See a Star, Mouth and MacNeil (Netherlands, 1974);
- Mary Ann, Black Lace (UK, 1979);
- Eurovision, Telex (Belgium, 1980);
- Horoscopes, Sheeba (Republic of Ireland, 1981);
- Terminal 3, Linda Martin (Republic of Ireland, 1984);
- Go, Scott Fitzgerald (UK, 1988);
- Fairytale, Alexander Rybak (Norway, 2009).
* * *
1. Sing Little Birdie, Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson (UK, 1959):
After abstaining from the 1958 contest, the UK did better with this jaunty number. Both Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson were successful singers prior to marrying in 1955. Sing, Little Birdie is an uplifting number typical of its time whilst retaining a continental flavour. Outside of its Eurovision success, the song would be a quiz answer in an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
It was also the first Eurovision entry to break the Hit Parade. Sing, Little Birdie peaked at number 12 and stayed in the charts for eight weeks. Both are actors and happily married. From 1967 to 1992, Teddy Johnson also presented Teddy Johnson’s 78 Show on BBC Radio 2.
2. Apres Toi, Vicky Leandros (Luxembourg, 1972):
Number two seems to be our magic number again as Ms. Leandros’ number reached this position in the UK singles chart, staying in the charts for 16 weeks. In translation to English as “Come What May”, Vicky Leandros’ song – Luxembourg’s winning entry in the 1972 contest is a sultry number. One which is music for lazing on the beach too as well.
After being the one and only singer to win a Eurovision Song Contest in Scotland (it was held in Edinburgh), she returned to her native Greece and became a politician. She moved to Germany with her parents in 1958, aged six.
3. Tu Te Reconnaitras, Anne-Marie David (Luxembourg, 1973):
For a small country known for an iconic radio station, Luxembourg cruised to victory again with Anne-Marie David’s Tu Te Reconnaitras. A bombastic number, the English version entitled “Beautiful Dream” peaked at number 13, enjoying a nine week stay in the singles chart. It is a passionate number which some Eurovision anoraks rate as the contest’s finest moment.
Before the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, she played Mary Magdalene in the French version of Jesus Christ Superstar. Anne-Marie David still performs today and is seen in many Eurovision reunions.
4. I See a Star, Mouth and MacNeil (Netherlands, 1974):
As Luxembourg lacked the finances to host the 1974 contest, an alternative venue would play a part in Eurovision history. There was a rather obscure Swedish group whom the British jury didn’t rate. Over in Brighton, the most fancied group was a Netherlands duo.
I See A Star is a jaunty number with a healthy dose of whistles and lead guitar thrash. The song came third to the rather obscure Swedish group’s number and peaked at number eight in the UK singles chart. At around that time, the winning entry – ABBA’s Waterloo – reached the top spot.
Whereas Mouth and MacNeil were UK one hit wonders, the rest was double physics with the mighty ABBA. The Dutch duo split up at the end of 1974 with Mouth joining Little Eve, his later wife; Mouth being known as Big Mouth. Willen Duyn (Mouth) died on the 04 December 2004 from a heart attack. MacNeil – Sjoukje van’t Spijker – tried to reform Mouth and MacNeil (with Arie Ribbens as Mouth) in 2008, without success.
5. Mary Ann, Black Lace (UK, 1979):
Five years on in advance of Israel’s contest, a change of direction saw newish acts introduced to the UK’s entry chosen via Song for Europe. Acts would be chosen on a regional basis with votes from 13 regional juries. In 1979, Ossett’s finest would be Britain’s representatives with the song Mary Ann.
You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a Smokie song. In this case, it was vaguely reminiscent of Oh Carol, a chart hit single of theirs from the previous year. In the early 1990s, the Smokie link continued with Alan Barton joining the group. In spite of finishing a respectable seventh, Yorkshire’s first Eurovision entry fared less well in the singles charts. It only peaked at 42 during its four week stay.
Five years on, they would have the last laugh. After holidaying abroad they saw a need for danceable cheesy tunes. By the 18 August 1984, Agadoo peaked at number two in the UK singles. It was kept off the top spot by George Michael’s first solo tune Careless Whisper. After its 35 week stint, it became a staple of many a school or wedding disco in the 1980s.
6. Eurovision, Telex (Belgium, 1980):
A year later, the rise of electronic music became apparent in popular culture. Kraftwerk and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark rose in popularity amid a backdrop of League Two punk music, polished new wave acts, and the nascent New Romantic scene. In 1979, Belgium group Telex did a cover of Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock. Rock ‘n’ roll under the influence of Tramadol.
Their second most cherished piece sent up the concept of Eurovision. With Kraftwerk style vocals and arrangement. It was a fantastic piece which – alas – was lost on the Eurovision jury. Our Olympus XA wielding duo (as seen at the end of their performance) finished last. The song didn’t chart in the UK.
A snatch of Telex’s number was used as closing title music for the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest (won by Katrina and the Waves).
7. Horoscopes, Sheeba (Republic of Ireland, 1981):
Meanwhile in Dublin, after Johnny Logan’s success the previous year came a completely different entry. Sheeba’s song, Horoscopes, wouldn’t have appeared out of place in Elaine Page’s songbook – or as a lost Rock Follies album track. In three minutes, it debunked the theory of everything being written in the stars. Now, if they used this piece in Anglia Television’s 1985 quiz The Zodiac Game…?
Sheeba’s entry came fifth in that year’s contest (won by Bucks Fizz with Making Your Mind Up). Whereas Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston had detachable skirts, the threesome had revealing dresses.
Horoscopes didn’t chart in the UK. Two years on, we would see Sheeba again on Name That Tune (Thames Television 1983 – 88) augmenting Maggie Moone, the Alan Braden Orchestra and Tom O’Connor.
8. Terminal 3, Linda Martin (Republic of Ireland, 1984):
Cleared for landing in Luxembourg, we see the return of Johnny Logan. This time as the songwriter of Linda Martin’s first entry. Terminal 3 is a love song where Ms. Martin’s lover is waiting for him to disembark from a transatlantic flight. Mr. Logan later said the flight in question was at Heathrow Airport.
Terminal 3 came second to Sweden’s entry (The Herreys’ Diggi-loo Diggi-ley). Though her first didn’t break the UK charts, it peaked at number seven in the Irish singles chart. Ms. Martin would taste Eurovision success in 1992 with Why Me? Before going solo, she was in the group Chips. Formed in Omagh in 1969, they had a good following on the live circuit.
Johnny Logan would clinch another Eurovision win as solo artiste in 1987 with Hold Me Now. The 1988 contest in Dublin leads us on to our ninth entry.
9. Go, Scott Fitzgerald (UK, 1988):
Some of you may remember the song If I Had Words. A great many by singing mice in Babe. Some, by this fellow with Yvonne Keeley. Scott Fitzgerald’s entry was a classy number, if a little cloying in parts. The song was written by Julie Forsyth – Sir Bruce Forsyth’s daughter. She was joined on stage with her husband Dominic Grant on backing vocals.
His entry peaked at number 52 in the UK singles chart in its five week stay. Unluckily, Go lost to Switzerland by a point. The winning singer was Celine Dion with Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi. By the mid-1990s, she would become a successful vocalist with her 1993 album The Colour Of My Love selling millions. She remains the biggest selling Canadian artiste of all time.
10. Fairytale, Alexander Rybak (Norway, 2009):
Some Eurovision anoraks would assume the early 1970s was the peak era of Eurovision. I beg to differ; 2009 was the year when the Eurovision Song Contest came of age. By which time, it had gone from 14 entries in 1956 to a stunning 42 in 2009. With semi-final heats. With Eurovision parties fast becoming the norm in some households and public houses. Not least its diversity, expressed in 2009 and subsequent contests.
Fairytale by Alexander Rybak gained a record points total and deservedly so. Not only did he write the song, he played all the instruments. With songwriting, acting, violin and piano playing under his belt, a real renaissance man. The violin playing has Celtic and Norwegian influences; his song writing, a boy-girl romance – true to the spirit of Eurovision; a song truly European in outlook.
Eurovision didn’t do the young lad any harm at all. He was the voice of Hiccup in the Norwegian dubbed version of How To Train Your Dragon and its imaginatively titled sequel. His album got to number one in Norway and Russia whereas Fairytale reached the Top Ten of the UK singles chart. His stay in the UK charts wasn’t too long, only three weeks (Tell me: how long was Crazy Frog’s Axel F on the top spot of the UK singles chart? No justice).
* * *
Your Eurovision Favourites
Feel free to add to the list or comment on our Not So Perfect Ten. Is there another forgotten Eurovision gem you wish to add to the collection. Comment away.
S.V., 18 May 2015.