Belfast Telegraph

Tacky Eurovision can still hit the high notes

By Frances Burscough

Hands up if you grew up in the '60s and '70s. If you did, you will remember a time when the Eurovision Song Contest was actually taken seriously.

I know, it seems like a bizarre concept, doesn’t it? After all, in the last couple of decades it has degenerated from a popular international event into a ludicrous running joke. But in those days we weren’t quite so sophisticated nor as discerning as we are now, so The Eurovision Song Contest was mandatory viewing and one of the few nights in the year when I was allowed to stay up well past my bedtime.

I took it all so seriously too. We all did. I remember we would make a night out of it and everyone in my family — even mum and dad — sat down in front of the telly to watch it. We enjoyed all the little traditions.

First Terry Wogan took the Mickey out of the host nation. It was the tradition.

“Here we are in Prague, a bustling and vibrant city in the heart of Europe ... where the biggest tourist attraction is ... err ... an astronomical clock!” he would announce, breathily, with a barely-stifled snigger.

Then after half an hour of that city’s Tourist Board promotional video along with our Terry’s patronising voice-overs, came the main event of the evening — the songs.

Each country would have an introductory video about their country, then a few clips about the singers and the song. The cameras would flash to them sitting nervously behind the scenes, where they would wave at the camera and blow kisses, before leaping into action and running out onto the stage to face the music.

Now of course, being a little English girl, I was patriotically rooting for UK. So I would cheer our country’s entry accordingly — no matter how rubbish our song may have been- and then boo all the other countries, no matter how good their songs may have been. We all booed particularly loudly for Germany and France, knowing that they would almost certainly give us a very poor score, simply because they always did. It was the tradition after all and of course Dad blamed the war, Basil Fawlty style. The other tradition was that Norway would score nul points and just anticipating that was also part of the fun too.

Then, once all the songs had been sung, then the judges from all over the world would be called up via satellite link-up, live on air to give their scores. The tension was tangible.

“Guten Abend Prague! Good Evening Prague! Bonsoir Prague! Bona Sera Prague! Buenas noches Prague! Kalispera Prague! God kväll Prague! (oh get on with it will you???)

This is Germany calling! We would like to hereby give our scores:

Norway: Nul points (“Ha ha ha ha ha !!!”)

United Kingdom: Nul points (Booooooooooooo!!!!)

Switzerland: Twelve points (Booooooooooooooooooooo!!)

I remember being so outraged whenever Germany gave us no points but its neighbouring country a very diplomatic 12 points, that I was convinced it was a kind of conspiracy. Dad blamed the war again and my big brothers even suggested that it constituted a violation of the Geneva Convention and should be taken up in parliament.  

Of course over the years there were some fantastic pop songs to come out of the Eurovision. Puppet on a String by Sandy Shaw in 1967; Congratulations by Cliff Richard in 1968; Boom Bang a Bang by Lulu in 1969;  Dana singing All Kinds of Everything in 1970 and the most famous one of them all, Waterloo by Abba in 1974. I still remember them all to this day, word for word. 

And in that same spirit, tonight I will be watching it once again for old time’s sake. After all, it is the 60th anniversary of the contest and I’m sure the organisers will pull out all the stops to make it a spectacle worth watching, even if just to have a laugh at how tacky it all is.

Belfast Telegraph


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