Friday, December 25, 2015
Not because it was rejected in any national heat. This one won the internal selection held by French television in 1974 and was all set for going to Brighton and collect a lot of points there.
Then something came between Dani and Brighton. Georges Pompidou, president of the republic, died unexpectedly four days prior to the ESC and was buried on the very day of the final. Not a chance that France would take part. Dani had to unpack her bags and stay at home.
I have often found myself wondering how this one could have changed the history of the contest. Hardly a winner - not direct enough for that, I'd guess - but could it have stolen points off Abba? And would the French jury have preferred the Italian ballad instead? The voting could have been much more of thriller had France made it to the starting line.
The message of the song - there's nothing bad with doing yourself a bit of good - is also a good motto for the holiday and for the new year. Cheers!
Dani / La vie à 25 ans (France 1974 preview)
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Few people in the world were ever happier than the people representing Turkey at Eurovision in the 1980's. Or the people fighting it out for the right to represent Turkey. They were all happy and never far from breaking out into neck breaking dance routines.
Few people ticked as many boxes in the "happy and dancing"-department as Seyyal Taner did. In 1986 she ended in second place of the national heat with this piece of bounciness. One year later, she went on to win and flew off to Brussels where quite a few people expected her to get an unusually good placing for being a singing Turk.
Instead, she famously returned home without a single point. A disgrace. Red card for the juries. (And the colour red suits Christmas very well as well.)
Seyyal Taner / Dünya (Turkey NF 1986)
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The Netherlands had had some problems finding really solid entries after their 1993 smash "Vrede" but put great effort into their 1998 final and found themselves with not just one but two fantastic entries.
I think they made the right choice, sending Edsilia off to Birmingham with the remarkable "Hemel en aarde" which secured the best Dutch showing since 1975. But Nurlaila would have been an equally strong choice.
Sounding like a Broadway musical showstopper, "Alsof je bij me bent" was written by John Ewbank who had previously taken part himself in the 1990 Dutch final as part of Shift.
Only a few years later, the Dutch would lose their grip on Eurovision totally and fail to reach the finals on eight consecutive occasions. Too bad they couldn't save Nurlaila for later and bring her out instead of that seemingly endless string of weak entries. That would have been something.
Nurlaila / Alsof je bij me bent (Netherlands NF 1998)
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Nobody votes for nice.
Iceland has had a bad case of nice for the last couple of years, where most of their entries have been sweet, lighthearted and inoffensive. It goes some way but never far enough.
This little ditty is a good case for my point. Everything here is very enjoyable; Anna Mjöll is a terrific performer whose company feels like a treat, the homemade dance moves, the infectious rhythm that is the result of Blame it on the Bossa Nova meets a geyser or two. I have a very good time for the two minutes and fifty seconds that this goes on.
And - mark my words - at Eurovision this wouldn't have gone anywhere. A few polite points from here and there and that would be it. Anna Mjöll represented Iceland in 1996 with an equally nice entry and ended up in the very middle of the result.
Anna Mjöll / Eins og skot (Iceland NF 1993)
Monday, December 21, 2015
Too bad. Nina should have gone to Dublin in 1994 instead. She would have rocked the place. Or would she? There are many reasons why selecting her in 1994 would have been fantastic as well as reasons why it would have been a really bad idea.
The song is really catchy and very contemporary at the time. It would have been one of the most modern-sounding entries in Dublin and one of very few uptempo song. It would have needed a much better stage presentation but that would have been taken care of, for sure.
So why not, then? The biggest answer to that is - of course - that Dublin orchestra. With firm grips around their strings and brass, they would lash out at anything attempting not to sound frightfully old and not stop until the only things left were gloom and ruins.
Nobody in 1994 brought a backing track powerful enough to outdo that orchestra. Could Croatia had been the odd one out? The one upbeat track to sound really good on the evening?
Nina Badrić / Godine nestvarne (Croatia NF 1994)
Sunday, December 20, 2015
("2005? Did she deserve to win in 2005?" I hear you cry. Maybe she wasn't the best but considering the hot mess Sweden sent to Kyiv, she would at least have made the event more fun.)
As for Finland 1990, I will insist - until I go blue in the face - that there is nothing really wrong with the chosen entry. It just didn't work, that's all. I still like it.
But imagine Arja Saijonmaa entering that stage in Zagreb, being the last of 22 participants, and just impose her presence onto everyone present. Preferably with a slightly more elegant stage performance than at the national final.
A top five for Finland? Not unthinkable, good people.
Arja Saijonmaa / Gabriela (Finland NF 1990)
Saturday, December 19, 2015
In 2003, their seemingly fool-proof system of having international experts selecting the winner had backfired and lead to a dismal placing in Riga. After that, the Estonian public was allowed to chose by televoting for two years, but neither one of their winners made it to the big ESC final. It was time to bring the international experts back.
It could have been a good idea, had they themselves selected more relevant and up-to-date experts. Instead the bunch in question rejected Ines' big comeback in favour of a slick but anaemic schlager that would go on to crash and burn in Athens.
Personally, I can't remember making a longer face at any national final I have ever been to and I still wish for Estonia to send Ines to the big thing for a second attempt some day when the stars align.
Ines / Iseendale (Estonia NF 2006)
Friday, December 18, 2015
If press exposure was what they were after, they got it as the eventual winner first collapsed on stage during the performance before getting itself disqualified a few days later.
It's a bit of a shame that this pre-selection has gone down in history as a bit of a mess due to these mishaps as the general line-up was quite strong. I don't mind the entry they sent off to Zagreb in the end, but Gruppe Papageno would have made a more interesting package.
This piece of Austropop must have made an impact on more people as me as it sometimes pops up on various hit samplers in Austria. Lead singer Stella Jones would later go on to represent Austria in Dublin in 1995 as well as doing backing vocals for George Nussbaumer a year later.
ORF kept the national final format also in 1991 when, unfortunately, most entries were highly mediocre and the winner landed Austria in last place with nul points.
Gruppe Papageno / Papagena (Austria NF 1990)
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Well, this is pretty much what happens.
A song about Adam & Eve and their wonderful life in the garden of Eden, until a certain snake makes an entrance and tempts them with the largest apple ever seen by any human eye.
That very idea in combination with a catchy chorus and THOSE outfits. Whoever thought that colour was skin colour in the first place?
Easy as it is to giggle at this little piece of schlager kitsch one should remember that Adam & Eve were pretty established stars at this time. They had had a number of hit singles and seemed fairly tongue in cheek about their own act.
In fact Eve was the real star of the duo and changed singing partners now and then, but always renaming them Adam for the sake of the act. The way any real star would.
Adam & Eve / Hallo Adam, Hallo Eva (Germany NF 1980)
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
"When The Kissing Stops" was written and produced by the team behind Brotherhood of Man, the winners of the 1976 ESC and one of the best selling eurovision singles of all time. Having them return would have been a real scoop for the BBC.
At some point, the winners had cold feet and decided not to perform the entry themselves. Instead they appointed Rubic - another one of those groups made up for the sole purpose of performing in the Song for Europe final never to be heard of again.
They looked and sounded just like the studio musicians they really were and the live performance was nice but unspectacular and nobody even bothered uploading it to YouTube.
But the song wasn't bad at all and Brotherhood of Man decided to include it in their own album after all, using more or less exactly the same backing track as Rubic had. And once again we get a lesson in how much good vocals mean for a song.
Rubic / When The Kissing Stops (United Kingdom NF 1983)
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
The average Danish entry is easily accessible, understandable and familiar. Only on very few occasions did they offer us the unexpected or surprising and not always with the best outcome.
In 1985, the regional juries thought it best to repeat the winning formula from the year before and sent Hot Eyes across the water to Gothenburg with another pleasant and safe song. I always liked that one and won't bash it.
But the obvious one for me in the 1985 Danish final is this smashing mother-daughter act. Gry was a well-established star and had already represented Denmark two years earlier, while mother Vivian had tried to win national heats since before Gry was born.
Surprisingly edgy to come out of a mid-1980's Danish final, complete with a pretty avantgarde dance routine. I would give anything to know what the international juries would have made of this one.
Vivian & Gry / Vi ska leve (Denmark NF 1985)
Monday, December 14, 2015
I'm not going to get on my high horse here and ask why on earth Spain didn't select this one for Copenhagen. It didn't stand out for me in this version either.
The 2001 Spanish final was reasonably strong and this felt mainly like a jaunty rewrite of a number of already existing songs in the typical vain of easy dance-friendly floor-filling summer hits. Catchy but not outstanding.
How was I - or anyone else - supposed to know this one would later become a smash hit and one of the most popular tracks of the year? The recorded version also had another energy and felt more dynamic. A better package.
Not that David Civera did a bad job, but this song would surely have felt like a welcome breath of fresh air in the pretty tedious lineup of 2001.
Sonia y Selena / Yo quiero bailar (Spain NF 2001)
Sunday, December 13, 2015
It's terrifying since it should be a dream come true but as I enter the stage I realise I don't really know the song. Neither do I know if I can sing or not. No idea what kind of sound will eventually come out of my mouth.
I can imagine that nightmare scenario is pretty much what poor Tajana experienced when opening the 1997 Croatian final, only it was no dream but live television.
The Dora was already in its heyday a few numbers too large for a country like Croatia and there were more entries than there were local quality talent willing to take part. But how this poor girl ended up on stage as badly prepared as this remains a mystery for me. Couldn't someone have stopped her?
The song really isn't bad and a solid performance could have made it a contender. Tajana's performance isn't really solid. It starts shakily, shapes up a bit only to result in one of the most painful key changes I ever heard.
But life isn't just about things that worked out they way they should. Let's take a moment to celebrate what this little song could have been. Brace yourselves and press play.
Tajana / Povedi me (Croatia NF 1997)
Saturday, December 12, 2015
I get why Silvia Night won. I like her madness and her offbeat presence and the humour not quite everyone in Athens managed to detect.
But still. Had it been about the song and the song alone, then this one should have won. This is the one that stayed with me for all these years, the one that just keeping getting better and better.
Exquisitely simply staged and beautifully sung. And a hook to die for.
Guðrún Árný Karlsdóttir / Andvaka (Iceland NF 2006)
Friday, December 11, 2015
Wenche and her boys dance onto the colourful stage of Oslo Spektrum and I am sold from the word go. From the first second to the last I'm firmly rooted in my happy place.
This is so sparkling and happy and uncomplicated, instantly likeable and adorable. Not even the excessive use of Indian feathers - enough to make Joan Franka blush - is enough to dampen my mood.
Not sure how well the package would have worked in Malmö but that's another problem. How could this not beat Visjoner? Most puzzling.
Wenche Myhre / Du skal få din dag i morgen (Norway NF 1992)
Thursday, December 10, 2015
The 1980 Song for Europe had ended in a tie for first position where the juries had to be called back a second time before Prima Donna were appointed to do the job. Most unfortunately both songs in first place were pleasant but meek. The song in third place should have gone to The Hague instead.
I love a little bit of disco-tainted melodrama, sung by somebody performing like her actual life depended on it. Maybe a final touch, some sort of development towards the end or something, could have been what this one needed. But still. Wonderful stuff. (And Switzerland's Paola would never have slept easy again after meeting Kim Clarke, I can tell you as much.)
Kim Clarke / Surrender (United Kingdom NF 1980)
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
This little gem from the 1990 Dutch final ticks every single one of these boxes and a few more. Not only does it come in a tempestuous orchestral arrangement - it also has the widest smiles you ever saw and some of the most ridiculous dancing ever known to mankind.
Most adults wouldn't dance like that in public unless they were dangerously intoxicated but I wish more people would. And I wish Shift would have made it to Zagreb instead of Maywood's nice but not too exciting ballad.
Shift / Helemaal (Netherlands NF 1990)
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
It wouldn't have had to be like that, though. There were always good songs at Eurolaul but some of the years there were international judges who wouldn't know a good song if it punched them in the face.
Or there would be a televote that would come up with equally dubious results.
The Estonian public didn't get anywhere near as excited as they should over this quirky, strutting piece of Kylie-electronica that is really catchy and pretty funny at the same time. It came across better in the preview, I'll admit as much, but it would have made for way more interesting viewing in Kyiv than Suntribe did.
Eha / Gotta Go (Estonia NF 2005)
Monday, December 7, 2015
In Latvia, what went wrong was mainly two things in cooperation: an obvious inability to choose the right song as well as the lack of someone who could step in and organise things.
This song sort of proves both points as it is clearly better - as a composition - than the song Latvia eventually sent to Düsseldorf. Catchy and with clear handles in the chorus. Perhaps not an obvious qualifier, but it would have had a chance at least.
However, someone with a good eye for details would have had to step in, execute some good choreography, tell the singer not to do so much wailing and perhaps to rewrite the odd line in the lyrics. Very easily this good song could have been improved further.
And what a good move to have a brass-based song as a contrast to the abundance of violins we had in recent times.
D-Family / Daylight (Latvia NF 2011)
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Not only do I like Bucks Fizz. I love them. Their discography is very dear to me and I followed their career very closely. I am happy that they won and I am most aware that the rest of their success would never have happened hadn't they won first the UK final, then the ESC in Dublin.
But that knowledge doesn't stop me from loving the runner-up even more. Just like Waterloo is hardly Abba's best song, neither is Making Your Mind Up one of the strongest in the repertoire of Bucks Fizz.
Don't Panic is such a wonderful fluffy disco cake with too much of everything stuffed into the mix. Slightly frantic and totally over the top it would never have won in Dublin but I love it very dearly. Should have been a worldwide hit and that's my final word.
Liquid Gold / Don't Panic (United Kingdom NF 1981)
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Then there is that other large group of singers that sort of make up the larger mass. The ones who sing when the stars are fully booked. The ones that sing in smaller venues. The ones who record songs more in the hope of getting heard on the radio rather than aiming at the charts.
If I understood things right, Mieke clearly belongs to the second group. She has been around for many years, she is well liked and she sings well. People like her but she wouldn't sell out a large concert hall on her own.
In 1993, all of that could have changed, had the Belgian jury been more perceptive. Mieke made it through the semi finals with this old-fashioned but seriously well-crafted schlager. Given that the eventual winner scored a meagre three points in Millstreet, Mieke would surely have done better. Maybe that would have upgraded her local star status a bit? It's a good song either way.
Mieke / Waarom zou er vrede zijn (Belgium NF 1993)
Friday, December 4, 2015
Not that this entry necessarily qualifies as "pretty". You will understand what I mean. They look like the dansband that they are even if they dressed up a bit for the occasion.
The pretty part is the song in itself. Understated but very melodic and with the kind of key change all songs should have at some point.
Pastellerna were quite popular back in the day with quite a few hit singles to their name. As the group took an extended break in 1982, three of its members teamed up with songwriter Monica Forsberg to form the group Ritz (Melodifestivalen 1983 and 1985) instead.
Pastellerna - Idag är det vår (Sweden NF 1978)
Thursday, December 3, 2015
She entered the Greek final in 1989 without doing particularly well. "Kleo" was a good little soft rocker of a kind that was popular around that time, but the version used here is just a demo and you can tell.
Maybe this could have turned interesting had it been given a facelift and a restyling. Rock songs were in short supply in Lausanne and given there had been a powerful backing track - as that Swiss orchestra wasn't all that rock'n'roll to start with - Anna could have had a chance of scoring heavily from the jurors who couldn't stand yet another ballad.
Anna Vissi - Kleo (Greece NF 1989)
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Mainly it is there to illustrate my never-ending crush on Carlos Paião who had already represented Portugal in 1981 with the outstanding "Play-Back".
In the meantime he had turned into a big star at home and teamed up with a good friend for a sweet and slightly nationalist duet.
Carlos Paião and the ever-smiling Cândida Branca Flor was a good match and they received thunderous applause by the end of their performance. Unfortunately neither one was about to have a happy end.
Carlos Paião died in a violent car crash on his way home from a concert, only 30 years old. Cândida was deeply affected by the death of her friend and would sink into depression some years later, as her career hit a rough patch. In 2001, she committed suicide.
Carlos Paião & Cândida Branca Flor / Vinho do Porto (Portugal NF 1983)
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
So I thought I'd make my own ESC version, so every day until Christmas I will present you a song that never made it to the big international final but that deserves some sort of recognition.
Maybe they are not all good in the traditional sense. Certainly not all of them would have gone down a storm at the ESC. Not of all them should have won their national finals. But the thing they have in common is that I am deeply fond of them.
Today's song does, however, tick all the right boxes. It is excellent, it would most certainly had impressed also internationally and it should have won its national final by a landslide.
Cindy Berger had already represented Germany together with her then-husband Bert and ended in a most undeserved last place. This should have been her grand revenge and her opportunity to show herself in a better light.
A classy song and a classy performance with gravity, presence and dignity.
Cindy Berger / Und leben will ich auch (Germany NF 1988)