368 À Force De Prier – Nana Mouskouri (Luxembourg, 1963)

Nana Mouskouri

Nana Mouskouri

Commentators often cite Abba and Celine Dion when attempting to associate Eurovision with global superstars. Sometimes also mentioned is Julio Iglesias, the best selling Latin artist in history and Spain’s representative in 1970 with Gwendolyne. Rarely, though, does the name Nana Mouskouri crop up, yet with an estimated 250 million record sales the instantly recognisable Greek singer is up there with Madonna, Mariah, Whitney and Celine as one of the most successful female artists of all time.

Ioanna Mouskouri (Ioanna is the name from which the English ‘Joanna’ is derived) was born on 13th October, 1934 in Chania on the island of Crete. When she was three years old her family moved to Athens where she attended the prestigious Conservatoire and on graduation signed a deal with the Odeon record label and released her debut single, Fascination in 1957.

In 1960 she signed to the French Philips label and relocated to Paris but it was in Germany where she achieved her first major success with The White Rose Of Athens, the theme to a German documentary about Greece, which sold more than a million copies. Having established a reputation in both countries Mouskouri was the ideal Eurovision choice for Luxembourg, a trilingual country that borders both France and Germany, and indeed  those two nations were her biggest benefactors on the night. For the unique scoring system of 1963 each jury awarded points to their Top 5 songs – from 5 points for their favourite down to 1 point. Germany placed her 3rd, after Françoise Hardy’s L’amour S’en Va (see No. 429) and Esther Ofarim’s T’en Vas Pas, while France put her 2nd just behind Hardy.

The United Kingdom gave Esther Ofarim top marks, Françoise Hardy one point and Nana Mouskouri nothing at all. Ofarim would go on to top the charts in 1968 with Cinderella Rockafella and Hardy, too, scored a few UK hit singles and EPs in the mid-1960s, but it was Mouskouri who would eventually have the most successful career in Britain, largely thanks to her 1963 Eurovision appearance, more specifically her meeting the show’s producer Yvonne Littlewood.

Littlewood was the BBC’s first female light entertainment producer. She was responsible for 1963’s contest from the BBC Television Centre in London’s White City and is most famous for the long running Val Doonican Music Show. In 1968 she commissioned Nana Mouskouri Presents… which was a staple of prime time TV in Britain until the mid-1970s, during which time Mouskouri became a household name and racked up eight hit albums including Passport, which climbed as high as No. 3. Her biggest singles success came in 1986 with Only Love, the theme to the TV series Mistral’s Daughter, which reached No. 2,  kept off the top of the chart by A-Ha’s The Sun Always Shines On TV.

À Force De Prier (By Persistently Praying) was written by Pierre Delanoë. Delanoë had Eurovision form as writer of 1958’s winning song Dors, Mon Amour for André Claveau (see No. 388) and would return in 1975 with Et Bonjour À Toi L’artiste for Nicole Rieu.

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369 Come Back – Jessica Garlick (United Kingdom, 2002)

Jessica Garlick

Jessica Garlick

Come Back by Jessica Garlick is the only UK entry in the last 18 years to have finished inside the Top 3. Compare that to the UK’s record at their first 18 contests where they reached the Top 3 no less than 12 times and you can see how the once mighty musical behemoth has become a Eurovision minnow, an also-ran.

It’s possible that Jessica might have done better than 3rd, she could even have been the UK’s sixth winner had she not been drawn to perform second. Without doubt Come Back is a much better song than 2002’s victor I Wanna by Marie N, but Marie had a more favourable draw – performing the penultimate song, and whereas the second-to-last slot has provided the winner four times (Après Toi in 1972; Love Shine a Light in 1997; I Wanna in 2002; Believe in 2008), no song has ever won from second place, and in 61 years only two songs in that position besides Come Back have finished inside the Top 3: I Belong by Kathy Kirby (2nd in 1965) and Dinle by Şebnem Paker (3rd in 1997, see No. 465).

Moreover Eurovision classics like L’amour Est Bleu (4th in 1967) and Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit (8th in 1996) were both huge international hits but under-performed at the contest at least partly because they were both drawn in that dreaded second spot. It’s doubtful whether L’amour Est Bleu would have won in 1967 – Puppet On A String was always going to romp away with the title that year. While in 1996 the field was too strong – and Gina G’s live vocal too weak – for Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit to triumph, but both would surely have improved on their placings had they had a different draw. 2002, however, was a relatively weak year and a strong case could be made for Come Back winning if it had been performed later on in the evening. Not only 2002, but the first three years of the new millennium were something of a low point for Eurovision with all three contests sparsely represented in our Top 500. In 2001 both the winning song (Everybody by Tanel Padar & Dave Benton) and the runner-up (Never Let You Go by Rollo & King) miss out on a place in the countdown, and there’s no place either for the Top 2 the following year (I Wanna and 7th Wonder by Ira Losco). It’s not until 2003 that things begin to pick up again; there are ten entries from 2003 in our chart whereas Come Back is the first of only six from 2002.

Jessica Garlick was born in Derby but grew up in Carmarthenshire in Wales. She is one of six Welsh singers to have represented the UK at Eurovision: Mary Hopkin (1970), Nicky Stevens of Brotherhood Of Man (1976), Emma Booth (1990), James Fox (2004), Bonnie Tyler (2013) and Joe Wolford of Joe & Jake (2016). Cyprus also once chose a Welshman to represent them at the contest; in 2010 Jon Lilygreen of Newport finished 21st with Life Looks Better In Spring.

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370 Not Alone – Aram.MP3 (Armenia, 2014)

Aram.MP3

Aram.MP3

The Caucasus is a region between the Black and Caspian seas and includes the entirety of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as a small part of southern Russia (Chechnya, Dagestan, etc) and north east Turkey.  This territory had always been outside the European Broadcasting Area but in the 2000s it was brought into the EBU’s remit and so Armenia were able to make their debut in 2006, Georgia followed in 2007 and, finally, Azerbaijan came on board in 2008.

Armenia’s record since then has been excellent: they have finished inside the Top 10 on seven occasions to date (2016), a feat bettered only by Russia and Ukraine who have each racked up eight Top 10 finishes in the same period. However, this eastern dominance isn’t reflected in our countdown, particularly in the case of Armenia: Not Alone is their sole entry inside the Top 500 – that’s significantly fewer than neighbours Azerbaijan (four entries, see Nos. 478, 396) and Georgia (three). It’s also fewer than Russia (three entries) or Ukraine (four, see Nos. 447, 439, 385).

Let me tell you a bit about us: we are a small group of Eurovision fans from the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands and, while we’ve tried to judge impartially, we have a north-west European perspective and there is bound to be a natural bias towards the north west of Europe rather than the south east. For instance Iceland – a tiny island of 330,000 people, about as far northwest as you can go in Europe – only joined Eurovision in 1986 (see No. 454) yet 16 of their 28 entries are in the countdown, one more than Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine combined, and who between them had 58 entries eligible for our chart.

In Eurovision Armenia’s scores have been bolstered by the Armenian Diaspora – the huge displacement of Armenian peoples that occurred during and just after World War I. Many went to the United States, but in Europe the largest communities of Armenians are in Russia and France and those countries’ televoting patterns reflect this. In Armenia’s first three contests they received 34 points out of a possible 36 from both France and Russia. The re-introduction of juries for 50% of the vote from 2009 has tempered this favouritism somewhat, but the televote from France and Russia remains firmly pro-Armenian (both countries gave their 12 point televote to Armenia in 2016, for example).

Patrick Fiori, France’s Eurovision representative in 1993 (Mama Corsica, finished 4th) is a member of the French-Armenian community, as is “France’s Sinatra” Charles Aznavour. There are also a number of Brits who are descended from Armenian immigrants, among them Bargain Hunt presenter David Dickinson and Andy Serkis, the actor who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

Aram MP3, or Aram Sargsyan as it says on his birth certificate, is a former comedian from Armenia’s capital Yerevan. In 2007 he won AMPTV’s talent show 2 Stars and seven years later the broadcaster selected him as their representative in Copenhagen. It proved a wise choice – Not Alone finished 4th, Armenia’s highest ever placing (shared with their 2008 entry Qélé Qélé by Sirusho) and – according to us – their greatest entry.

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371 Love Games – Belle & The Devotions (United Kingdom, 1984)

Belle & The Devotion

Belle & The Devotions

The 1980s was a decade of two halves for the United Kingdom. The first five years kicked off with Prima Donna’s Love Enough For Two, 3rd in 1980’s contest, followed by a win for Bucks Fizz in 1981. The next three entries – One Step Further by Bardo, I’m Never Giving Up by Sweet Dreams and Love Games by Belle & The Devotions – didn’t quite match those lofty positions, but all were sizeable UK hits. Indeed, when Making Your Mind Up topped the chart in 1981 and One Step Further climbed as high as No. 2 the following year, it was the first time UK Eurovision entries had scored back-to-back Top 2 hits since Lulu and Mary Hopkin in 1969/1970, and although Gina G and Katrina & The Waves came close in 1996/1997, that feat has yet to be repeated.

After Love Games, though, the UK entered a downturn. Not so much in the contest itself – Scott Fitzgerald came within a whisker of winning in 1988 with Go, and Live Report also placed 2nd the following year with Why Do I Always Get it Wrong – but none of the UK’s late 1980s entries reached the Top 40 and two (Ryder’s Runner In The Night from 1986, and Rikki’s Only The Light from 1987) didn’t even make the Top 75. It was the first time back-to-back UK entries had failed to chart – something that only happened again this year when Joe & Jake’s You’re Not Alone bombed as badly as Still In Love With You by Electro Velvet.

Quite simply the UK fell out of love with Eurovision in the latter half of the 1980s. The contest ceased to have any relevance to the British public and – worse – it became a joke, something to be mocked rather than appreciated. The blame for this has often fallen on the late Terry Wogan and his light-hearted commentary for the BBC, yet he was just the messenger; Eurovision, with a few exceptions, really did lose its way in the late 1980s. This was particularly true of the UK: four of the five early 1980s entries are in our Top 500, none of the late 1980s entries are. Yes, the results (mostly) held up, yet this was more to do with the advantages of singing in English than the quality of the songs.

The path back from this low point began in 1991. A Message To Your Heart by Samantha Janus (see No. 461) was the first UK entry since Love Games to reach the Top 30. Both songs were written by Paul Curtis, who had also been responsible for the UK’s songs in 1975 (Let Me Be The One by the Shadows) and 1990 (Give A Little Love Back To The World by Emma) as well as an unprecedented 18 further tracks that competed in the UK national selection, A Song For Europe, between 1975 and 1992. However, the main credit for getting Britain engaged with Eurovision again goes to Jonathan King. Love or loathe him, he knows a hit when he hears it and his selections of Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit and Love Shine A Light were a high-water mark. Results since then have not been impressive – there is no longer the language advantage for one thing – but the songs have generally been better, and the British public are largely fonder of Eurovision than in those dark days of 1985-1990.

 

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372 Walk Along – Trijntje Oosterhuis (Netherlands, 2015)

Trijntje Oosterhuis

Trijntje Oosterhuis

The Netherlands have been among Eurovision’s stalwarts: they were one of the pioneering six nations in 1956 (see No. 373), Jetty Paerl’s De Vogels Van Holland the very first of more than 1,400 songs (so far) to grace the Eurovision stage. Since then they’ve lifted the trophy four times and, apart from the odd occasion when the contest has clashed with their Remembrance Of The Dead memorial day, the Dutch had been reliably dependable. Then came the arrival of the semi final in 2004 and things started to go seriously awry.

That first semi actually went OK: Without You by Re-Union was performed last and finished in a creditable 6th place, though it disappointed in the final – drawn in an earlier, more unfavourable position it could only manage 20th out of 24. It was to be the Netherlands’ last appearance in a Eurovision final for nine long years.

In the first nine years of the semi final, that 2004 appearance was the only time the Dutch qualified. Besides the Netherlands another 30 countries competed in every contest from 2004 to 2012 and every one of them had a better record of reaching the final. The Big 4, of course, got automatic byes but Bosnia, Greece, Romania, Russia and Ukraine also qualified every time during that period, while Sweden (in 2010) and Turkey (in 2011) missed out just once. At the other end of the scale Belarus, Belgium and Slovenia only extricated themselves from the semis twice – but that was still one more time than the Netherlands managed.

The artist to stop the rot was Anouk. Her entry, Birds, came 6th in 2013’s semi, the same position as Without You in 2004 but Birds finished in a much more impressive 9th place in the final. The following year the Common Linnets did even better – 2nd with Calm After The Storm – the best showing for consecutive Dutch performances for 40 years when Mouth and MacNeal finished 3rd in 1974 (see No. 381), followed by a win for Teach-In in 1975. The Netherlands were on a roll again, but it wasn’t to last.

Despite the fact Trintje Oosterhuis was an established, multi-platinum artist in Holland; despite the fact Walk Away had been written by Anouk and despite the fact that the Netherlands were drawn in 2015’s semi final with their normally generous neighbours Belgium, Walk Away struggled, finishing 14th in a field of 16. Was it that dress (bad enough to saddle Oosterhuis with the uncoveted Barbara Dex award for worst outfit)? Was it the performance (a little leaden)? Or was it the song (it did, at least, have a decent hook)? It’s much lower down our chart than either Birds or Calm After The Storm but, final or no, it makes it to a very respectable No. 372 in the countdown.

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373 Aprite Le Finestre – Franca Raimondi (Italy, 1956)

Franca Raimondi

Franca Raimondi

1956’s winning song by Lys Assia (see No. 502) fell just outside the Top 500, so the first entry from the first year of Eurovision in our countdown proper is Franca Raimondi’s Aprite Le Finistre.

Seven countries took part at the Teatro Kursaal in Lugano, Switzerland: (in order of appearance) Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Italy. Each country submitted two songs so after the performance of the first Italian entry – Aprite Le Finistre, it was the turn of the Netherlands once again and so on until the fourteenth and final song, the second Italian submission, Amami Su Vuoi by Tonina Torrielli. Five countries sent two artists to the contest; Luxembourg and Switzerland provided just one singer to perform both songs.

The voting system for 1956 was similarly unique: juries comprised two members who each gave a point to their favourite song. The Luxembourg jury never made it to Lugano and so the Swiss jury voted on their behalf. With no rule in place to prevent jurors voting for their own country Switzerland were at a considerable advantage which is perhaps why they ended victorious. Full scores have never been made public but there is speculation that either Walter Schwarz or Freddy Quinn placed second for Germany as 1957’s contest went to Frankfurt.

Eurovision’s genesis owed much to the Sanremo music festival, an Italian song competition held since 1951 in the Mediterranean coastal town of Sanremo, 16 miles east of the border with France. Franca Raimondi had won the 1956 festival – ahead of Tonina Torrielli – and for the next 10 years Italy’s Eurovision entry was always the song that had won Sanremo. From 1967 to 1969 the Sanremo winner went to Eurovision but with a song different from that which had won, but since 1970 the link between the two contests has been broken and Italy have been represented by Sanremo’s winning song and performer on just four subsequent occasions: in 1972, 1997, 2013 and 2015.

Franca Raimondi was just 23 years old when she performed Aprite Le Finestre (Open The Windows). Of the 12 acts present that evening in Lugano only Corry Brokken of the Netherlands and Raimondi’s compatriot Tonina Torrielli were younger – Brokken by 5 months, Torrielli by 20 months. Despite being one of the youngest Raimondi was sadly the first of the class of 1956 to pass away, from cancer, in 1988 aged just 56. Corry Brokken, winner of the 1957 contest, was the most recent casualty. She died in May this year (2016) at the age of 83 (none of Brokken’s three Eurovision entries have made the countdown, though her 1957 triumph, Net Als Toen, came close at No. 519). Happily Lys Assia, Freddy Quinn and Tonina Torrielli are all still with us and it would seem so is Mony Marc (Belgium’s second performer in 1956), though an internet search yields scant information on Ms Marc. Does anyone know anything about her?

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374 Wenn Du Da Bist – Marty Brem (Austria, 1981)

Marty Brem

Marty Brem

Wenn Du Da Bist (When You Are There) is the second (see No. 420) of seven entries from 1981 in our chart. The song was the opening number of that year’s contest in Dublin and was performed by Marty (Martin) Brem who, as a member of Austrian five-piece Blue Danube, had also kicked off the previous year’s Eurovision in the Hague with Du Bist Musik.

1981 was particularly notable for the number of returnees – more than a third of the entries featured artists who’d graced the Eurovision stage before. After Brem (in order of appearance) came Jean-Claude Pascal for Luxembourg; he’d lifted the trophy for the Duchy exactly 20 years earlier with Nous Les Amoureux (one of 15 winning songs not to feature in our countdown) but in 1981 could only manage joint 11th place, tied with Tommy Seebach and Debbie Cameron for Denmark. Seebach was a Eurovision trouper – he had finished 6th with Disco Tango in 1979 and would go on to represent Denmark again in 1993.

Irish female trio Sheeba were on home turf in Dublin and finished 5th with Horoscopes. One of their number, Maxi (McKenzie McCoubrey), had previously represented Ireland in 1973 with Do I Dream. Crossing the Irish Sea to Britain and 1981’s winners Bucks Fizz included Cheryl Baker, formerly of Co-Co, UK entrants in 1978 with The Bad Old Days.

Switzerland’s Eurovision perennials Peter, Sue and Marc were appearing at Eurovision for a fourth time, and in 1981 achieved their best-ever showing with Io Senza Te which finished 4th. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Peter, Sue and Marc over the coming months. Finally, Björn Skifs of Sweden – like Cheryl Baker he’d also been present at the 1978 contest, and like Marty Brem, he performed in the same position in the running order twice, though rather than taking the stage first as Brem did, Skifs closed the show both times. And unlike Peter, Sue and Marc, that’s it for Björn Skifs in the countdown – both his entries fell short of the Top 500.

Wenn Du Da Bist failed to replicate the success of Du Bist Musik. Blue Danube had finished inside the Top 10 the year before, whereas the solo Brem could only manage 17th. After Eurovision he continued in the music industry, spending much of the 1990s in London working as VP of International Marketing for Sony Music.

 

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