A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Runner-up: Ireland 1990

It could be hard to believe, but Ireland's 1990 eurovision entry - ending in a tie for second place with France - was in fact a soft and humble ballad performed by a male singer. Shocker.

Jokes aside, playing it safe used to be Ireland's favourite game in the ESC and depressingly often they got away with songs that were pleasant but not much more than that.

This one has its moments. It's melodic and the piano man approach makes it feel pretty intimate. Liam Reilly has a pleasant voice and if you really want it to, the whole package could remind you a bit of Elton John.

Again the big problem is in the lyrics, possibly vaguely inspired by the big ongoing political changes of Europe at that time. More than anything this is a list of places worth a visit around the continent, like random Tripadvisor pages set to music.

Everytime it almost gets close to the listener, on the brink of containing real emotion, there is a new cascade of tired name-dropping of famous sights until nothing of it could possibly mean anything to anyone anymore.

A deserved 2nd place?
Compare this one to the fresh, attractive and tempestuous French entry it shared its runner-up position with. Does this one measure up? Not even close.

Liam Reilly - Somewhere In Europe (Ireland 1990)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1960

Swinging London still feels very remote as the second of the Johnson brothers takes to the Eurovision stage. As Teddy Johnson had represented his home country the previous year, now it was younger brother Bryan's turn to show off his vocal chords for all the world to see.

They are really rather impressive, his vocals. But still Eurovision keeps hanging on to a very old idea of entertainment.

This song could very well be taken from the soundtrack of an animated Disney short film in the early 1940's. Well groomed, extremely polished and almost unbearably cheerful. You just wait for a Mickey Mouse in black and white to enter the stage to do a jig.

Nobody had to feel challenged or disturbed or anything, which was probably just the point.

A deserved 2nd place?
Not really even though it is hard to judge fairly. In my mind several countries had more interesting entries on offer - Norway, Switzerland and Germany to name a few - while this one is pleasant, inoffensive and very easily forgotten.

Bryan Johnson - Looking High, High, High (United Kingdom 1960)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1972

I mentioned it so many times already during this series of the runners-up of Eurovision but here goes again. Isn't it fascinating how the Home Country of european entertainment so often managed to send their starlets off to Eurovision with songs they dislike and normally would never want to associate themselves with?

Perhaps there was a clash between the pop status of the chosen performers and the family friendly air the BBC wanted their national final to have, what do I know?

What I do know is that few performers fared as well with the songs selected for their national final as did The New Seekers. They were a highly popular act whose usual output would fit right into the BBC's idea of a dream entry and they gladly sang their little hearts out in Edinburgh, offering a song they genuinely seemed to like and felt they could embrace.

Mary Hopkin did not feel the same way. Neither did Clodagh Rodgers. Nor Lulu. Nor Olivia Newton-John. And the list goes on.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. A given hit at the time and a timeless classic today, but nowhere near as massive as Vicky Leandros' winning song. Giving your performer a song they enjoy singing isn't such a daft idea after all, it seems.

The New Seekers - Beg, Steal or Borrow (United Kingdom 1972) 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Runner-up: Sweden 1966

What will you get if you take two of Sweden's best and most loved vocalists ever and have them sing a song by a top lyricist and one of the country's finest musicians? A timeless classic? A wonderful hit single? Not quite.

Instead all of these superb ingredients resulted in a novelty entry. The queen bee of eurovision jokes, if you so wish.

The jaunty little song tells the tale of a lovely but prude princess that bumps into the hippest swine herd around. The princess learns how to play sweet music on the herd's cooking pot and eventually convinces the cool man to swap places with her.

If you understand Swedish it is all very funny, I can promise you that. Nevertheless it proved a most controversial winner of the national final and the general public felt genuinely convinced their country would get seriously humiliated in Luxembourg.

For some reason beyond reason, the national juries of Denmark, Norway and Finland decided to let themselves go and gave all their top marks to the Swedish novelty. The audience laughed and whistled but, with the aid of an extra point from Switzerland, it was enough for Sweden to sail past everyone but the Austrian runaway winner and end in second place.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely not. Entering novelties like this one into a song contest is a bit like cooking instant noodles on Master Chef. Joke entries need to be stronger and have hit factor to deserve high placings and this one doesn't cut it.

It remains a bitter pill to swallow that Lill Lindfors never got to display her talent for real with a true contender of a song, even though her presenting the 1985 final - and subsequently dropping her skirt in front of an entire world - got her written into Eurovision history for good.

Lill Lindfors & Svante Thuresson - Nygammal vals (Sweden 1966)

Runner-up: Iceland 2009

In many ways, this little ballad is a strike of genius as it can be read on various levels. Somebody wakes up from a happy relationship, realising things were not as rosy as she would have hoped and now fear the whole thing crumbling under her feet.

This was pretty much was the whole state of Iceland went through only a matter of months prior to the final in Moscow. The national banks imploded, taking more or less the whole state budget with them in their almost impressive fall, leaving the finances in a state of rubble and nothing.

"Is it true? Is it over?" probably came across to quite a few listeners as a pretty relevant question to ask at that very moment in time.

Yohanna gave a strong vocal performance - frosty and heated at the same time - and the big points came flying in from all over Europe. Apparently the europeans were not cross at Iceland for the economic shockwaves they created, or at least they wouldn't hold Yohanna personally responsible for it.

A deserved 2nd place?
I suppose it is. Frankly, I've never really seen the mass appeal of this one. It is nice but nothing really special, and after this most Icelandic entries have been nice rather than challenging or cutting edge. I miss Paul Oscar. And Silvia Night.

But rather Yohanna in second place than that Andrew Lloyd Webber ballad representing the UK.

Yohanna - Is It True? (Iceland 2009)

Runner-up: Denmark 2001

Ecstatic after bagging their first victory in 37 years, Danish television derailed ever so slightly and lost a bit of focus while preparing for the 2001 Copenhagen final.

Never mind if things were good as long as they were big. The biggest arena ever with a huge audience and a huge stage unfortunately resulted in a show that often looked like it was shot in a flight hangar where a large restless crowd kept walking about rather than focusing on the competing entries.

The only song to benefit from this setting was the home entry, a pleasant if not violently outstanding tune with a typically wide Danish smile and a singalong chorus that was easy to retain. Catchy and happy. Inoffensive.

Under normal cirucumstances, the Danes could have had a nice fifth place with this song. Now, being performed last on the night in front of an audience that suddenly goes from barely awake to screaming enthusiastically, it came across very well on-screen. Surely that must have affected the voting masses at home.

A deserved 2nd place?
Hardly. I am not saying the Estonian victory was fully deserved either, but both these entries came across well and scored accordingly, while better songs looked less attractive and failed to impress. I just wish songs would matter more in a song contest, that's all.

Rollo & King - Never Ever Let You Go (Denmark 2001)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Runner-up: Switzerland 1963

Israel wasn't going to debut in its own right until ten years later and hadn't even started regular television broadcasting as yet, but at the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest two Israeli singers were to make quite an impression.

Very rightly so as well. The horrors of the second world war were still an open scar, the state of Israel had only been in existence for fifteen years.

Carmela Corren represented Austria and sang the bilingual "Vielleicht geschieht ein Wunder" to seventh place while Esther Ofarim, representing Switzerland singing in French, did even better and looked like a winner up until the bitter end.

Famously the Norwegian jury had given the wrong scores when first called, and, when called back at the end of the voting, changed their points enough for Denmark to win and leave Esther in second place. The second set of Norwegian votes was the correct one but the victory was still disputed.

Esther Ofarim herself has sometimes in interviews recalled what it was like when she won Eurovision. She almost had a second shot at Eurovision many years later, as Ralph Siegel originally wrote the 1997 German entry "Zeit" with her in mind before offering it to Bianca Shomburg instead.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely. Denmark and Switzerland brought in the two best songs and both of them deserved victory. The Ingmann's won and Esther apparently thinks she won, so let's call it a tie.

Esther Ofarim - T'en va pas (Switzerland 1963)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1961

The times they are a'changing and this song could possibly rank as the first proper pop song to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest. There had already been at least one attempt at rock'n'roll - Germany 1956 - but this is perhaps the first real trace of youth culture taking part.

Compared to what British pop and rock would be famous for in the years to come, these boys (marketed as brothers but in real life not related at all) come across as very tame. Obviously they have not been hanging with the Beatles down Reeperbahn much.

But at the same time it is a commercial hit song, clearly aimed at a much younger audience than previous UK entries, and the old-fashioned orchestra has obvious problems making it sound right.

The Allisons went on the sell a huge amount of copies after the contest but never managed to cut another big hit and split soon after. Which is also a very pop culture thing to do.

A deserved 2nd place?
Of course. Had the BBC stayed on this path and dared to be contemporary and youthful, the ESC could soon have sounded very different. For better or worse.

The Allisons - Are You Sure? (United Kingdom 1961)

ESC 2015: Semifinal allocation draw

The semifinal allocation draw. What a strange title of an event. And what an odd event it is, too. Loads and loads of countries are drawn and drawn and we don't even get a running order. It's a little bit like getting cotton candy when you really wanted a proper meal.

And yet the host broadcasters have handled this little draw beautifully recently. It's the first chance for the host to make any kind of impression, and a fine opportunity to show that the ESC is important but that you, at the same time, doesn't take it all too seriously.

Andi Knoll and Kati Bellowitsch were relaxed and funny, doing their thing with wit and at quite a high pace. I wouldn't have objected had ORF chosen these two to do the big thing come May.

What we know so far is how the countries will be divided between the semis and whether they will sing in the first or second half. What is still more important - that could really make or break your chances - is the establishing of the running order, which will be made by the show's producers once all entries are selected.

For myself, I note that Finland is back in the first half of the first semi and that the only real hope of any friendly neighbour points come from Estonia. That UMK winner better be prepared to give the performance of a lifetime in Vienna.

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1992

For the first time since 1975, the BBC selected one performer to sing all the songs in the national final and Michael Ball wasn't a bad name at all. A shooting star in the world of musicals, he had landed a smash hit with "Love Changes Everything" from Lloyd Webber's "Aspects of Love".

Like so many other singers who took part in this one-singer-formula, Michael Ball seems to have been disappointed by the standard of songs he was set up with.

Rumour has it that people at the BBC insisted there must be up-tempo songs included in the line-up - not only big belters - and you can sort of touch Michael Ball's disappointment by the end of the national final as when of these little pop songs win overwhelmingly.

"One Step Out Of Time" made it to second place in Malmö and was a minor hit in the charts, but it's runner-up "As Dreams Go By" - co-written by ESC winner Andy Hill - could have won the whole shebang.

Michael Ball later said he'd rather put pins in his eyes than do Eurovision again.

A deserved 2nd place?
Not at all. Michael Ball and his energetic backing group do all they can to make this pretty sub-standard song take off and look attractive, but they don't have an easy task. Why the jury showered this one in points while ignoring far more interesting entries on the night remains a mystery, but maybe they'd seen Aspects of Love and liked it.

Michael Ball - One Step Out Of Time (United Kingdom 1992)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Runner-up: Malta 2002

Some ESC years are bad because the songs are bad. Or mediocre. Every country will send in the song they deem suitable and some years, by coincidence, too many countries will decide not to rise at the task properly at the same time.

Some ESC years are bad because the mix doesn't really work. Tallinn 2002 is the perfect example of this. Most of the songs are fine, really, but there are few standouts and when you heard all the songs you are left with the impression that most songs were a bit samey.

That's when people suddenly will warm to something nobody would have expected them to warm to. Very much like when Europe suddenly embraced Estonia's Tanel & Dave the year before, the televoting audience suddenly fell headlong for Malta's Ira Losco.

Not many would have seen that one coming before the rehearsals start. The Maltese entry was just a happy little ditty with a typical lyric stacking words on top of each other with the only purpose of making them rhyme.

But when Ira entered the stage, she oozed with confidence and managed to convince the audience that her little song actually meant something. That is was relevant, somehow. Very few contenders in the 2002 final had managed to do the same. Many of them had better songs but for some reason they passed the voters by.

And when Ira has passed the bridge and suddenly blows Europe a silver kiss - in one of the cheesiest yet most brilliant gimmicks ever - she almost seems to know she has hit home. Some more points and it would have earned her a victory.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. Anyone who can take a song that originally means as little as this one and turn it into something convincing and instantly likeable deserves at least a second place.

Ira Losco - 7th Wonder (Malta 2002)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Runner-up: Spain 1971

You can say Spain played it safe in 1971 as they got a star to do the job for them and then fixed her up with a song sticking to the same formula as their 1969 winning entry "Vivo cantando".

But then again, entering something as crazy as this should never be considered playing safe.

It starts with a rather low key verse which is only there to warm up the audience for the big thing. It builds into a catchy chorus that gets repeated and repeated until nobody can escape it anymore before it spirals into almost uncontrollable bounciness.

"En un mundo nuevo" also has a fake ending, a finesse that had been very "in" during the late 60's. Some other entries had attempted it before, but never to this extent.

Right when you might think the song is over, the orchestra bursts into a perfectly bombastic rerun of the chorus in what sounds like a parody of a eurosong, only done so well you have to surrender to it.

Karina is also flawless, a real firecracker of a performer, and makes this overloaded package not only make it over the finishing line but feel like a loveable and slightly wacko gem of a song.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. There are better songs in the line-up of 1971 but Karina's determination wins me over every time. Nowhere near as good as the winner but then again not many songs are.

Karina - En un mundo nuevo (Spain 1971)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1989

The Swedish saying says, roughly translated, that you should not throw rocks when you live in a glass house but here goes. Some music journalists are a really boring lot, I must say.

I must admit that Eurovision was perhaps not at its height in 1989 and most of the songs sounded very much like they were created for the ESC and wouldn't have much of a life outside the event.

Songs can still be good in spite of that but I understand that a serious music writer could get a bit stressed under these circumstances. But why so many journalists and music professionals embraced the UK entry so totally is still beyond me.

It has its moments and doesn't sound like your average ESC entry, I admit as much. It has a breezy, quality arrangement and Ray Caruana delivers a very good vocal. The lack of an obvious key change also makes it sound a bit different.

I understand all of this but still - nothing really happens throughout the entire song. It stands totally still for three minutes and yet it was frantically love bombed by critics and - so I would guess - the more "serious" music lovers in the juries.

A deserved 2nd place?
Not really. I see why it scored but I'd still say it got way more points than it deserved. If the jurors wanted songs that broke out of the typical eurovision formula, all the songs ending in the bottom three places did that too. Why didn't they leave any points for them, then?

Live Report - Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? (United Kingdom 1989)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Runner-up: Ireland 1997

As already stated when reviewing Ireland 1967, there has been an abundance of soft and inoffensive male ballads representing the emerald isle through the years.

How inoffensive can you be before that in itself turns offensive? How much pleasant can you take before it feels unpleasant? This very song has at least for me crossed some kind of line.

It's a song about a man who sees a beautiful woman at an airport. He wonders where she could be from. He knows he will never forget her. Now his entire life will have a sombre undercurrent and a bitter after taste since he knows this woman was the only one in the world that could have made him happy.

I'll repeat that: he sees her for a matter of seconds and knows nobody else can ever make him happy again. Not that he talked to her or anything but perhaps personality is overrated.

Just how trivial can any story get? Seriously? If it hadn't been for the dimwitted lyrics, it would only have been a seriously average ballad with some lovely strings. Now instead it is a fantastically annoying piece of drivel. With some lovely strings.

A deserved 2nd place?
No no no. One of the most pointless entries ever. Should have been in the bottom five and nowhere else.

Marc Roberts - Mysterious Woman (Ireland 1997)

Runner-up: Germany 1985

When I was nine years old I was anything but a cynic. I'm not saying I'm a cynic now, but I find it harder to accept certain things in life these days.

One of the things I struggle with is adults pretending to be naïve, pretending that all life will be wonderful if we all just sing a song and think happy thoughts.

In other words, I find the 1985 German entry a bit challenging these days. More because of the words and it's wide-eyed approach to life than the male falsetto voice.

When I was nine, however, I really loved this song. It was catchy and instant and highly likeable. I was really fond of these people and wanted to hang out with them. I liked their song, I liked their look and I happily sang along.

Sometimes when I let my guard down, I can recall how happy I felt when listening to "Für alle" and actually appreciate it almost the same way I did way back when. I can miss being less critical at times.

I think I just decided to try and like it a little bit more, like I used to. Not least to honour the memory of its songwriter Hanne Haller who would never make it to the ESC stage again.

A deserved 2nd place?
Well, why not. It fitted its zeitgeist perfectly. There were much better songs in the running, but I'd rather see this in second place than as the runaway winner it looked like halfway through the voting.

Wind - Für alle (Germany 1985)

Runner-up: Russia 2006

Russia really wanted to win and sent in an excellently written and impeccably produced little pop song, well sung by a hot young rising star.

The slow-motion drum loop alone is pure brilliance and worthy of victory all by itself, but not leaving anything to chance it was decided to build also an impressive visual image around the entry.

So we have ballerinas, millions of rose petals and - to top it off - a ghost emerging from a grand piano. That might sound a tiny bit over the top but somehow they managed not only to make it work but also to look elegant and tasteful.

You can say many things about the average Russian eurovision entry, but elegant and tasteful hasn't always been among their most typical traits.

Any other year this could have been a runaway winner but in Athens a bunch of monsters were standing in the way of victory and Dima Bilan would have to wait another two years before winning with a song far inferior to this one.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely yes. Three minutes of perfection that I never grow tired of.

Dima Bilan - Never Let You Go (Russia 2006)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1959

This is more than just an entry - this is a big clue as to why BBC were so late at embracing the pop culture that made London the capital of cool and England the home of universal zeitgeist during the 1960's.

The first UK entry had been a failure - dated and unremarkable, not even recorded by its original performer - and BBC sat ut a year in 1958 trying to get their act together.

Their 1959 entry is the first ever UK entry to end in second place - until now no fewer than 15 of their entries did just that - and one that fully displays their ambitions for this contest.

Television was an important tool to celebrate family values and in post-war Britain, the family was considered very important indeed. This idea is still very strong within the BBC and made them protest vividly when Aqua used the f-word during the 2001 interval as well as when Poland showed the world a generous amount of cleavage in 2014.

"Sing Little Birdie" is so wholesome it is almost parodic: a married couple singing about falling in love and starting a family and having children that in turn can fall in love, marry and have children of their own. At the moment the performers bring out the tiny toy bird to whistle along with them, you reach some peak at what you could possibly get away with before the audience would start throwing things at you.

What totally saves the song and turns it into a loveable classic is the conviction of Teddy Johnson and Pearl Carr who are totally fearless and totally convincing. Rational thinking tells me I should hate this and yet I love it.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. Happy and sweet and very professional. Somebody should erect a statue of Teddy and Pearl (and that annoying little bird could very well be part of it too).

Teddy Johnson & Pearl Carr - Sing Little Birdie (United Kingdom 1959)

Runner-up: France 1957

Paule Desjardins has the distinction of being the first ever official runner-up in the Eurovision Song Contest. It is believed that Walter Andres Schwarz ended in second place in Lugano the year before with one of the two German entries, but it has never been officially confirmed.

Paule was a former fashion model that had a short but successful career as a singer before she felt the musical trends change and decided to leave room for a new generation singing rock instead of chanson.

Chanson is exactly what "La belle amour" is - and let us all remember that the original name for the Eurovision Song Contest hinted that chanson was a most suitable genre to enter with.

Just as Paule felt in her musical bone, there would be a big and profound change in light music only a couple of years after this. That's why the first years of the ESC can look like a completely different planet for younger viewers, as it took a few years for pop music to work its way into this family friendly programme.

However, anyone should be able to appreciate "La belle amour" as it is a beautiful timeless piece of chanson, elegantly performed. A child of its time but a most endearing one.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely. No other song in this edition has aged as gracefully as this. Perhaps not quite as personable as the winner, but a most qualified runner-up.

Paule Desjardins - La belle amour (France 1957)

Runner-up: Israel 1983

Once upon a time you could feel pretty sure that if you were watching the Eurovision Song Contest and encountered a happy song with a positive message, performed by a group of people singing together while doing a simple but perfectly synchronised choreography, it had to be Israel.

It was a successful formula that would hit home many times before feeling worn out.

After finishing in second place in Harrogate, Avi Toledano decided to have another go at writing one of those songs and asked Ofra Haza to sing it.

A few years later, Ofra Haza would go on to conquer the world with the remixed version of "Im nin'alu" and gain an international following, becoming one of the best-known and most appreciated performers ever to come out of Israel.

In Munich, her song was seen as a strong patriotic message, especially poignant when performed in Germany, less than forty years after the end of the second world war. What could have been a provocative entry was instead a catchy, likeable pop song and Israel greeting the world with a huge smile.

After a very tight voting, Israel secured its second place in the very last round of voting, leaving Sweden's Carola third.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. A quality song, well performed and with its grand intro borrowed straight from Jesus Christ Superstar. In retrospect, I'm glad Ofra got the second place as Carola would have more chances while Ofra would never return to the Eurovision stage.

Ofra Haza - Hi (Israel 1983)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Runner-up: Belgium 2003

When RTBF told the world they had made a sensational internal choice for Riga and disclosed it would be a folksy tune with a Celtic flavour, performed in an imaginary language, I wasn't exactly blown away.

A Celtic flavour, really? In the 90's, the whole contest had been more or less drowned in fiddles and bagpipes and tin whistles with a Celtic flavour. I didn't long for more.

An imaginary language, really? Belgium has no fewer than three official languages, did they really need to invent one more?

I had discarded the whole entry so completely that I never really paid attention to it in the previews, judged it doomed to failure and found myself sitting with my jaw between my knees as it almost won the whole thing. I couldn't believe my poor eyes.

Rumour has it RTBF officials were just as shocked as I was, terrified at the prospect of hosting the international final they made sure their entries in coming years would run no risk of getting close to any top placings.

Since then, Urban Trad and their folksy song grew on me, I must admit. It is a polished and haunting little song, very well performed, and the imaginary words seem like a good idea since they can mean whatever the listener wants them to mean.

A deserved 2nd place?
I guess it was, since it stood the test of time better than most of the entries back in 2003. But if I had my way, the second place would have belonged to t.A.T.u and nobody else.

Urban Trad - Sanomi (Belgium 2003) 

Runner-up: Ireland 1967

Ireland made a relatively late debut at the Eurovision Song Contest and their 1967 entry was only their third participation. They had already proved popular with the juries, opting was simple and soft ballads, competently performed by male singers.

Sean Dunphy brought a deep and very pleasant voice that added quite a bit of personality to his ballad. So did the very nice orchestral arrangement with it's cute little piano bits.

It's all very nice and pleasant but a critical ear will still hear that beneath all the nice detail and the flawless vocal delivery, there isn't much excitement going on at all. A pretty standard ballad that in no way troubles or disturbs or leave any visible traces anywhere.

Ireland would make this something of their own thing at Eurovision: celebrating the simple and understated and scoring pretty well with songs that were clean-cut and pleasant but not particularly interesting.

A deserved 2nd place?
Let's see. The juries could have love bombed "L'amour est bleu". Or "Il doit faire beau là-bas". Or "Hablemos del amor". Or "Boum badaboum". Or "Anouschka". Instead they went for this one. A victory for the safe (and dull) ballad. Not what I would have wished for.

Sean Dunphy - If I Could Choose (Ireland 1967)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1964

If you take a highly acclaimed and very popular performer - in this case even nicknamed UK's own Sinatra - and give him a song by a highly successful and beloved songwriter with lots of hit songs under his belt, then failure shouldn't be possible.

Matt Monro singing a song by Tony Hatch, that must be a given hit. At least so you would think.

"I Love The Little Things" even managed a second place - already the fourth time the UK ended in second place - way behind the runaway Italian winner but still. A second place is not to be sniffed at.

And yet the song bombed completely in the hit parades. Despite the star quality, the famous songwriter, the good placing in Copenhagen, despite all that the single was totally ignored by the record-buying audience.

Luckily, Matt Monro would find the trip to Copenhagen worthwhile since he recorded a cover version of the Austrian entry by Udo Jürgens. "Walk Away" became a smash hit that made #4 in the UK charts as well as #23 in the US.

Matt Monro would go on to release two more singles penned by Udo Jürgens: ESC winner "Merci chérie" as well as "The Music Played", both moderately successful.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes! This is an irresistible piece of upbeat, positive 60's pop in a fun and sophisticated arrangement. No UK entry was ever closer to the Swinging London mentality than this. A great song, well worthy of the success it never had.

Matt Monro - I Love The Little Things (United Kingdom 1964)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1968

You all know the story how one of the biggest favourites to win in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest famously gets beaten into second place at the very end of the voting and becomes the most famous of all runners-up ever.

Cliff Richard couldn't lose. He was a huge top-selling star and him doing the ESC was an incredibly big thing. Everybody knew he had to win.

Midway through the voting he also took the lead and seemed to be heading for a comfortable victory when Germany, voting second last, made their surprise move and turned the whole situation on its head. Suddenly Spain was in the lead and as the last country - Yugoslavia - gave him no points at all, Cliff found himself a sorely disappointed loser.

Of course it is easy to say he should have won as "Congratulations" became a huge hit and an evergreen, but then you forget the importance of the back story. The song is good but perhaps not as outstanding as people would like to think. People expected it to win and had it won it could easily have been just another winner and perhaps not even a highlight in Cliff's career.

Perhaps it needed to lose for people to fully appreciate it. Perhaps people needed to see their favourite fall in order to fully embrace it and catapult it into the success we know today?

A deserved 2nd place?
Personally I would have placed it third after both Spain and France, but that's just me. Of course it deserved its second place. And perhaps the second place was the icing of the cake needed to make it a huge hit.

Cliff Richard - Congratulations (United Kingdom 1968)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1975

Every year since 1964, the BBC had internally selected a star - often somebody who was flavour of the month - to do a personal Song for Europe and perform all the songs in the national final.

The stars in question were not seldom unhappy about the songs they ended up going to Eurovision with, but the system had resulted in two victories and four second places. Why change a winning concept?

However, for the formula to work you need somebody with star quality willing to take on the task. In 1975, that seems to have been quite a challenge.

Not that The Shadows were unknown; they had been 60's superstars as Cliff Richard's backing group and even scored the odd hit single by themselves as well. They just didn't seem very hot at the moment. Mary Hopkin or Lulu they were not.

Also the song - the first out of four UK entries written by Paul Curtis - was a disappointingly tame little ditty. OK but not much more. And yet it ended up scoring heavily, taking the silver slot in Stockholm.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely not. If the song was plain and ordinary, the live performance was unfocused and lazy. Not very charming at all. How this could beat Italy into third place remains a mystery.

The Shadows - Let Me Be The One (United Kingdom 1975)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1993

It was a popular formula for the BBC: employ one famous act to perform all the songs in the national final. Great visibility for the singer and they were sure to send a big name to the international final.

How big a name Sonia was could possibly be debated, but she had been a Stock-Aitken-Waterman starlet with a couple of hit singles under her belt. Now she had new producers and needed a fresh reboot for her career.

I have no idea what she really thought about the songs she was set to perform. Previous UK entrants had complained about their lack of artistic control and several of them publicly stated their dislike for the entries they had to perform at the ESC.

Sonia's song was the same old UK eurovision song - a moderately updated version of a 60's-esque kind of pop song - but she really belted it out like her life depended on it and really made it work on the night.

A deserved 2nd place?
Well, why not? There were better songs in the running but Sonia give it one hell of a performance, and that alone could be worth a couple of 12-pointers.

Sonia - Better The Devil You Know (United Kingdom 1993)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Runner-up: Monaco 1962

Just like Luxembourg, Monaco's participation in Eurovision had very little to do with showcasing local talent. Instead a popular and influential radio station saw their chance of participating in the biggest entertainment show in Europe and plugging a song that they could launch on their air waves.

Monaco often scored high placings without getting too close to victory. Winning was certainly not anything they desired, as proven by their choice not to host the ESC after Séverine winning the whole thing for them in Dublin 1971.

Back in the early 60's, it might have been possible for Radio Monte Carlo to host the event, given how small it still was. Any old hall would have done, a few cameras would have been enough.

Perhaps there could have been a final held at the Casino, had François Deguelt managed to pull it off. The song was a classical and classy chanson with pretty risky lyrics about a love affair on the verge of turning very physical indeed. The delivery is relaxed and confident, bordering on being cheeky, and Deguelt was a star in the French-speaking world.

He had already represented Monaco once before in 1960 and was also known as an actor and a writer, and would later be the ESC commentator for the French-speaking audience. Perhaps the song proved a little too similar to the 1961 winner and the juries gave twice as many points to Isabelle Aubret instead.

A deserved 2nd place?
Well, why not? It is a good song and the juries obviously wanted a love song in French. Otherwise it had been equally nice had they showered Germany's Conny with points instead.

François Deguelt - Dis rien (Monaco 1962)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Runner-up: France 1991

1991 got off to a very turbulent start as the Gulf war escalated and Italian television decided to move Eurovision from Sanremo to Rome for security reasons.

The political tension that arose would leave a strong mark on the ESC as well as Israel sent in a seemingly highly political song about a people who made the desert bloom and decided to call it their home.

Also France gave a nod to the conflict (possibly) by selecting Tunisian-born Amina Annabi with a very oriental-flavoured song that could be interpreted as a plea for freedom of speech.

Tunisia had almost taken part in the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest but pulled out after the running order had been established. Morocco had, as the only Arab country to date, taken part in 1980, scoring a modest seven points, placing second last on the night.

Eurovision has seldom been a more hopeful symbol of peace and understanding than when Israel awarded France their twelve points and Amina joined Israeli Duo Datz in a warm hug in the green room.

There was, however, a notable lack of warmth coming from the French delegation once the voting had ended in a tie between them an Sweden and the rules stated Carola to be the winner.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. Like so many other bold, original and daring entries it would have deserved to win. But given how juries tended to treat exotic-sounding songs in the past, a second place was not to be sniffed at either.

Amina - Le dernier qui à parlé (France 1991)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Runner-up: Ukraine 2008

Sometimes this big guessing game also known as the Eurovision Song Contest can really become too much for you to take. When you are so sure about how things will end that you can't really register what is happening. When it will take days for the truth to sink in.

2008 was a fine example of just that.

I didn't care much for "Shady Lady" in the previews, to tell the truth. I thought it was slick and catchy but also a bit bland and predictable. Then I saw footage from the rehearsals and was totally blown away.

The stage show that Ani Lorak put on was so perfect, like a human firework. After seeing the live performance in the semi final I was 100 per cent convinced that this must be the winner. Possibly with the largest margin in Eurovision history.

For some reason, the Ukrainian disco stomper missed its target and the televoting public failed to see the obvious. Out of 42 countries that could vote for it, seven awarded nul points to "Shady Lady" and only one country - Portugal - gave it 12 points.

The obvious candidate found itself flatly beaten by one of the weakest winners ever. Writing this, I still have to rub my eyes to realise it wasn't just a bad dream and this actually happened.

A deserved 2nd place?
Let me spell it out for you: It. Should. Have. Won. End of.

Ani Lorak - Shady Lady (Ukraine 2008)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Runner-up: Switzerland 1958

There are so many things you can say about Lys Assia and Eurovision. She is the first ever winner, of course, but she was also the first internationally established star to take part in this new song contest.

She is also a steady presence, wanting to represent her country again as recently as in 2012. She has been a guest of honour at more ESC editions than even Johnny Logan.

She is one of only four acts to have competed three years in a row.

What people tend to acknowledge less often is that Lys also earned the title as First Lady of Bonkers. Her 1958 entry "Giorgio" is the first really quirky entry to find success in the contest, showing the audience it wasn't necessary to stay calm and composed at any cost.

In a furious tempo, Lys makes her way through the lyrics in a mix of German and Italian, telling the story of a heated meeting by Lago Maggiore between herself and her latin lover where they eat and drink and possibly engage is some other activity as well. Eurovision had never seen a woman as easy as this one and for most of the voting it looked like she'd bag a second victory.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. Funny, original and rather risqué for its time. Wouldn't have been a particularly useful winner but is the first wonderful proof that you can be totally crazy in Eurovision and get away with it.

Lys Assia - Giorgio (Switzerland 1958)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Runner-up: Spain 1979

There will always be rumours going around. Rumours of all sorts. Some with a grain of truth in them, some plain ridiculous, some obviously fabricated by people with too much time on their hands.

My favourite brand has always been rumours that are a little bit outrageous, yet potentially true.

One of these rumours is the doubt whether there was ever a jury on duty in Italy in 1990 or if the confused spokesperson just made the numbers up by himself.

Another one is whether the Maltese jury in 1993 deliberately stayed offline in order to get to vote last and - in case of a tight finish - possibly alter their points to change the outcome.

Then there is always the claim that Spain lost the 1979 contest on purpose.

As Spain was to vote - as the 19th and last country - they were also in the lead one point ahead of host country Israel. Many people have suggested that TVE officials panicked at the thought of having to organise next year's contest and therefore tampered with the points given by the jury, making sure their own entry would lose.

I wouldn't be surprised if TVE didn't want to host under their current circumstance, as the country was going through enormous change on its transition to democracy, but the idea of a television executive physically running into the room to alter the points... Doesn't that strike you as a bit melodramatic?

And if you'd go out of your way in order to sabotage your own chances of winning, why not enter a weaker entry in the first place? This rumour is intriguing but hardly more than just a rumour.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. Catchy and cleverly staged with a backing group consisting of children that actually come across as genuinely charming. Perhaps the song in itself didn't age all that gracefully, but that is another story.

Betty Missiego - Su canción (Spain 1979)

Runner-up: France 1990

After winning in 1965 and placing 5th in 1967, French music legend Serge Gainsbourg entered Eurovision a third time, less than a year before his death. True to his own style, and very much like during his previous attempts, he was determined to again push the limits for what you could get away with in this competition.

What he achieved was nothing less than a revolution. In the past, ethnic and exotic entries had been praised for being "genuine" and "real" before getting completely ignored by the juries who left them to crash and burn and the end of the results.

Joëlle Ursull deemed the original title "Black Lolita" unnecessarily provocative, thinking the set-up in itself being rather risky. Never before had a non-white performer been trusted to represent France at Eurovision and Gainsbourg agreed to alter the lyrics.

"White And Black Blues" entered the contest the way a tropical storm would. Not only was it very different but it also felt modern and hit-friendly and the juries almost bought it.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes. In retrospect it's a bit of a shame that Joëlle Ursull didn't win but at that time, a good placing for a breakaway entry like this was as good as a victory. Also it would broaden people's idea of what kind of song could work at Eurovision, paving the way for a lot of modern, inspiring and successful etno-songs in the years to come.

The video can not be embedded but you can watch it here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Runner-up: Germany 1980

The year before, Ralph Siegel had finally managed to produce his first eurovision mega smash hit in the form of Dschinghis Khan. Now the witch doctor of modern schlager wished to show the world  he was able to win the whole contest.

In The Hague he had composed not only one but two entries: a youthful ditty about penguins, aimed at a younger audience, representing Luxembourg as well as an updated take on German cabaret tradition competing for his own country.

"Theater" showcases a whole lot of ideas that Siegel would later stretch far beyond reason but here they felt new, fresh and exciting.

There is the theme or idea that the whole song and performance is built around instead of just writing a straightforward song. There is the cheerful backing group. And also you'll note the presence of clowns - something Siegel would develop an almost unhealthy relationship to throughout the years.

It is a catchy little number but what really makes this whole package work is of course the almost electric presence of the magnificent Katja Ebstein, now representing Germany for the third time after ending in third place in both 1970 and 1971. Without her, this could easily have been reduced to a big pile of cheerful rubbish.

A deserved 2nd place?
Yes, thanks to Katja Ebstein. There were several better songs in the running this year, but few people know how to work the stage like she does.

Katja Ebstein - Theater (Germany 1980)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1970

It looked like the Eurovision Song Contest was about to die as only twelve countries signed up for the 1970 edition in Amsterdam. Perhaps no wonder as the ESC had lost a lot of credibility after allowing four countries to win the previous year.

If the main goal was to restore credibility, then the BBC scored big time when convincing Mary Hopkin to represent the UK. Not only had she had a big international hit with "Those Were The Days", she was also the first eurovision participant signed to the Beatles' own record label Apple.

As the contest took place in March, the Beatles hadn't yet officially disbanded and having a Beatles-related act in the ESC was a big thing.

However, the top act was to be beaten by an Irish schoolgirl with an icky-sweet love song that would go on to be a eurovision evergreen as well as a huge hit all over the continent. Mary Hopkin didn't mind as she - like many other UK entrants at the time - profoundly disliked the song she had been set up to compete with.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely. This is a lightweight but very likeable little number that still feels fresh. Much more so than the Irish winner. Unlike Mary Hopkin I say this should have been the winner with Germany in second place and Ireland third.

Mary Hopkin - Knock Knock Who's There? (United Kingdom 1970)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1988

This was a great return to form for the UK after a string of lacklustre placings. Following the victory of Bucks Fizz, the contest had taken a real nosedive and recent UK acts had failed both in the ESC and in the local charts.

Not that Scott Fitzgerald stormed the pop charts either but for a while near the end of the voting it looked like he would return home from Dublin with a trophy in his luggage.

Then came one of the most exciting finishes in eurovision history as the jury in Ljubljana put Céline Dion back on the throne and left Scott without a single point.

I must admit to fully supporting the Yugoslav jury in this respect. "Go" is a clean-cut but old-fashioned ballad that wouldn't have stood a chance had it represented Greece or Portugal, performed by a singer with a good voice but totally lacking the slightest bit of on-stage charisma.

The UK has often done well with pretty halfhearted efforts through the years and this is clearly one of those occasions.

A deserved 2nd place?
This one placing above Lara Fabian for Luxembourg? You must be joking. My answer is no.

Scott Fitzgerald - Go (United Kingdom 1988)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Runner-up: Belgium 1978

The Belgians didn't have to travel far as the 1978 final was set in Paris. Culturally and style-wise they also kept rather close to the French this year.

Perhaps they let themselves be inspired by last year's contest where a timeless and stylish French ballad beat all the modern disco-sounding hit songs in competition.

Belgium had found themselves an equally classy chanson and on the day of the final at least Swedish newspapers seemed to regard Jean Vallée - who had already represented his country in Amsterdam 1970 - as the big favourite to win.

The eurovision history book on the shelf was not about to repeat itself at Palais de Congrès and the  classy chanson was to be beaten by a jaunty and simple disco number with lyrics in Hebrew pig latin.

The real nail in the coffin was probably that the French had been sneaky enough to enter a similarly old-fashioned - but nowhere near as strong - entry that most probably stole the votes Belgium would have needed to win. However, Belgium had never been this close to victory before and probably celebrated all the way until ending in last place the following year.

A deserved 2nd place?
Absolutely. It would have been a very worthy winner too, but the zeitgeist sort of called for a more modern winner. That winner should have been Luxembourg, though. Or Germany.

Jean Vallée - L'amour ça fait chanter la vie (Belgium 1978)

Runner-up: Germany 1987

I suspect younger readers might think I have gone absolutely crazy when I admit to absolutely loving this song back in the day. Maybe some older readers will think the same.

This reggae light made of pure plastic in the Ralph Siegel factory really pleased Tobson aged 11. It was simple and catchy and slowly ate its way into your conscience. I kept singing it all summer and held it very dear for many years to come.

I'm not even sure exactly when it grew off me. Not every song from the 80's aged gracefully and this one seems to tick every box on the list of things hard to love.

There is also something about the faux cheerfulness in the appearance of Wind themselves that gets to me. And it feels sad knowing what fate had in store for backing singer Rob Pilatus as well.

In short I don't hate it but it does nothing for me anymore and that feels strange given how much I loved it at the time.

A deserved 2nd place?
No. If Johnny Logan absolutely had to win in 1987, then Gente di mare should have been in second place. Wind deserved a top ten but surely not a top two.

An extra bonus here is the lovely postcard - I loved that almost as much as the song.

Wind - Laß die Sonne in dein Herz (Germany 1987)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Runner-up: Switzerland 1969

Switzerland 1969 has the distinction of being the only runner-up in Eurovision history not to end in second place.

Since the jury system collapsed in a most spectacular way during the live broadcast - ending the 1969 contest not only in a tie but in a tie that included 25% of the participants - and the rule book clearly stated that a tied first place meant a shared victory, then all four winners won and the song in fifth place was the official runner-up.

It's not a bad song at all - catchy and cheerful. Almost as cheerful as the performer herself, ever-smiling Paola.

It also has a very positive set of lyrics and feels like a good way of kicking off the new year. If it could always be as happy and carefree as the mood of "Bonjour, bonjour" it would be nothing short of fantastic.

A deserved runner-up?
It depends how you look at it. The 1969 ESC has quite a few really fine songs that were neglected by the juries - Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, Norway - and would have deserved this position equally well. But everytime Paola starts singing, I melt a little. So my answer is yes.

Paola - Bonjour, bonjour (Switzerland 1969)