My Eurovision Song Contest cry for help (1956–2009)
I’m old enough to have started following pop music in November 1962. The first song I heard on Top 40 radio was Big Girls Don’t Cry by The 4 Seasons. It was only their second single. I was around to see The Beatles and The Rolling Stones come to America, The Beach Boys have their first top 10 single in 1963, Motown become the soundtrack for everyone’s life and everything else I wanted to get into. Rock music is said to have started in 1954 so over time I went back and found out about the beginnings of that music. But it wasn’t a big project and happened naturally.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I got into Eurovision. That means I knew nothing from 1956–2009 except the one thing every American knows; Abba got their big break singing Waterloo at the 1974 contest. Each year I now watch the current year’s videos, decide who to root for and watch online. But what about the past? I know I can find songs on YouTube but I wasn’t really curious.
In April 2015 I saw the 90 minute TV special hosted by Graham Norton and Petra Mede called Eurovision’s 2015 Greatest Hits. They brought back some of the winners from previous years. I was surprised how good many of them still sounded. It’s like American Idol in the USA ; to perform live in front of millions of people you have to be talented and know how to sing. So between the special and some research I’m finding some favorites.
We’ll get more into Bobbysocks! soon. On April 18th they headlined the 2015 Eurovision in Concert show in Amsterdam. There was this delightful interview with them on that day.
Hanne Krogh mentioned how in 1971’s contest, when she was 14 years old she sang “Lykken Er” (“Happiness Is”) for Norway.
Yes, the song goes on too long and finished 17th out of 18. But a future star was born. It sounds very much like a Burt Bacharach-type arrangement, which was very popular back then.
After Abba won in 1974, my wife’s home country, The Netherlands won in 1975. Ding-a-Dong by Teach In was a group wearing Abba type outfits. Like a lot of these songs, once you hear it, you can’t get it out of your head so be warned before you click!
On New Year’s Eve in 1999, lead singer Getty Kaspers sang before an enthusiastic, loving Dutch audience and everyone had a great time. I’ve been in Holland four times for New Year’s Eve but not that year. I would have loved it and become a Eurovision fan a decade earlier.
Whenever you see a retrospective history of Eurovision you’ll see four colorfully dressed 20-somethings. Toward the end of the video the two male singers rip their long skirts off the female singers to reveal shorts skirts. The group is Bucks Fizz and they won the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest for the U.K. with Making Your Mind Up. They then went on to have several hits records throughout the 1980s (like Piece of the Action, Run for Your Life, My Camera Never Lies)in many countries except in the USA. Like Ding-A-Dong, listen to it once and you’ll have trouble getting it out of your head.
Elisabeth Andreassen is the other singer in Bobbysocks! In 1982 she represented her homeland of Sweden in a duet group called Chips with the song Dag efter Dag. Very pop, not really great but fun and finished 8th that year.
Watching the Eurovision Greatest Hits special I found out about Herreys. They’re from Sweden and won in 1984 with Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley. This clean-cut group was considered everything wrong with Eurovision by their critics. When I asked my wife if she was familiar with Herreys she said they were the worst group ever there. That’s harsh and my wife is usually very sweet! She has since calmed down and I see she respect Herreys. My wife might have partially “escaped” Holland to rid herself of the Eurovision Song Contest and now I could not stop talking about it!
But that’s not why I liked Herreys. They’re still together and performed the song with all the dance moves in 2015. They knew this was not the Sgt Pepper of Eurovision but showed so such enthusiasm. I love it! I saw an interview where they said the 2015 performance was the first time they sang with backup dancers.
By 1985 Norway had been know for doing badly at Eurovision. But Elisabeth Andreassen and Hanne Krogh had formed Bobbysocks! I had gone my whole life not knowing who Bobbysocks! were until I saw the 2015 Eurovision in Concert advertisement mentioning that Bobbysocks! would be there as a special guest, in addition to many of Eurovision Song Contest 2015’s contestants. I saw the 1985 song called Let It Swing aka La Det Swinge on YouTube and liked it. What’s not to like?
Then I saw them on Eurovision’s Greatest Hits. And 30 years later, they were even more enthusiastic and loveable!
According to Wikipedia; “Elisabeth Andreassen has a record as the woman with the most participations in the Eurovision Song Contest, tied with Lys Assia. She has participated four times, three times in duets (with Kikki Danielsson in 1982, Hanne Krogh in 1985, and Jan Werner Danielsen in 1994) and once on her own (in 1996).” In 1996 Elisabeth finished second with “I evighet.”
Hanne was part of the quartet Just 4 Fun that performed Mrs. Thompson at the 1991 contest. There are some videos on YouTube from their three albums in the 1980s and they still do perform from time-to-time in Norway and have been part of Eurovision entertainment over the year. I’ve become obsessed with them!
In 2002 Spain’s Rosa sang Europe’s Living A Celebration which was made to win Eurovision but only finished seventh. I’ve read many comments that people feel she should have won.
And Finland’s Lordi. Once the competitors heard Hard Rock Hallelujah in 2006, they were fighting for second place and pride. According to Wikipedia; “on 26 May 2006, the Finns broke a world record for karaoke songs, when about 80,000 people sang Hard Rock Hallelujah on Helsinki’s Market Square.” My only question is; where was the rest of the country?
Greece has lot of great Eurovision performers over the years. They’re pop-oriented with Greek music influence, sexy and a lot of fun. Here are three examples. In 2004 Sakis Rouvas finished third with “Shake It.”
In 2005 Helena Paparizou won Eurovision with the aptly titled “My Number One.” Must have been a great night to have been at a Greek Eurovision Song Contest Party!
In 2008 Kalomoira sang My Secret Combination and finished third. Gee, wonder what she is referring to as her “secret combination?”
When I was growing up in the 1960s, the leading music groups of the era-The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys-would mention their musical influences such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lew Lewis and of course Elvis Presley. It helps when Eurovision performers tell you about songs they liked. France’s 2017 Eurovision contestant Alma bought France Gall ‘s “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” to my attention. It won Eurovision for Luxembourg in 1965. My wife tells me it was a huge hit in Europe.
United Kingdom’s 2017 Eurovision contestant Lucie Jones said, in a BBC interview, that Ukraine’s 2008 contestant Ani Lorak’s Shady Lady was one of her favorites. Thank you Lucie. I like it a lot too! It finished #2 that year.
But what about other Eurovision songs I might love? There are no definitive books that I’ve seen, about the history of the contest. Eurovision never seems to take itself too seriously. I became aware about a 2011 DVD documentary, contacted the company but it’s not longer available.
You can see what I like. So maybe you can help me. I’m not saying I’ll love your suggestion but suggestions are welcomed!
(updated September 17, 2017)