Belfast Telegraph

Singer Sandie is Shaw not the smartest, says music legend Phil Coulter

By Peter Robertson

Legendary musician Phil Coulter has broken a silence of almost half a century to hit back at Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw for her repeated criticism of the song which made her a star.

Londonderry-born Coulter and his song-writing partner Bill Martin co-wrote Britain's first-ever Eurovision Song Contest winner, Puppet on a String, in 1967.

But Sandie Shaw, whose career was revived by her barefoot rendition of the song, has spent decades criticising the song which made her a fortune.

"I hated it from the very first oompah to the final bang on the big bass drum. I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune," Ms Shaw once remarked.

Now, after almost five decades of declining to respond, the writers of Puppet On A String have finally had enough.

Last week 68-year-old Shaw told her fans on Facebook to ask the BBC why she hasn't been invited to take part in their televised concert, in London later this month, to mark Eurovision's 60th anniversary.

Phil Coulter (73) responded: "Sandie Shaw is not one of the greatest brains in the world. If some pop music critic whom I respected said such things about Puppet On A String, I'd think 'Well, that's a bit of an affront'.

"But Sandie Shaw's job was to sing songs, and I wouldn't take her analysis or criticism of the song really seriously. She is very dismissive of a song that, by any standard, she should feel a debt to. "She owes something to that song because it brought her to a much wider audience than she had beforehand, sold her a lot of records, and I dare say gained her a lot of royalties."

Coulter continued: "She has consistently bad-mouthed Puppet on a String. Maybe she thinks she's a more credible artist than one who would sing a cute Eurovision-winning song, conveniently forgetting that it was her biggest hit and the one that broke her throughout Europe.

"We didn't have any choice but to give the song to Sandie - she was the nominated singer [for Eurovision 1967] by the BBC. And for all her bad-mouthing of Puppet, she did a bloody good job of singing it.

"I prefer to think of the positives of Puppet on a String. As a songwriter, just because you give an artist a big hit, you don't expect loyalty. They say in the music business: 'If you're expecting loyalty, buy yourself a dog!'''

Coulter and Martin also penned Congratulations, which came second in the Eurovision for Cliff Richard one year after the success of Sandie Shaw.

In 1970, Martin and Coulter were producers and publishers of All Kinds of Everything, the song with which Dana won the first of Ireland's record seven Eurovision triumphs. Five years later, the Martin/Coulter song Toi, co-written with Pierre Cour, was performed in French as the Luxembourg entry by Coulter's future wife - the Irish singer Geraldine Branagan - in Stockholm. It came fifth.

But Coulter says he would never consider penning another Eurovision entry. "Absolutely not," he said. "That's a bit like asking Sean Connery if he would play James Bond again. That was then, this is now. But I do have a soft spot for Eurovision. Unlike Sandie Shaw, I realise I owe a debt to Eurovision."

Background

In 1968, a year on from Puppet On A String securing the UK's first Eurovision victory, Martin and Coulter almost repeated the success when Cliff Richard came a close second with their song Congratulations. Both songs took just 30 minutes for the pair to write and together sold over 10 million records.

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