Last weekend saw the 60th annual Eurovision Song Contest take place in Vienna, Austria – won this year by the, let’s be honest, Gods of the annual shindig, Sweden. 60 years is a lifetime in most institutions, but for a contest that has slipped way under most people’s estimations in recent years here in the UK, it’s historic. What started all the way back in 1954 as a polite, orchestral led sejourn between European countries has now escalated into a yearly full on live spectacle with dancing nuns, fireworks, crazy staging and, just once in a blue moon, has been the springboard to several artists’ world dominating careers – ABBA are the most famous example of all, having had their break after winning in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’.
One of the most constant – and dare I say – boring criticisms levied by the British public at Eurovision in the last 15 years has been that we don’t ‘need’ to do it, and that the BBC more often than not grudgingly do it so as not to disturb EU relations, and that it’s a bit of disposable ‘fun’. Only because, I would argue, we’ve sent such unrepresentative drivel in recent years – and that includes this year’s entry Electro Velvet, who were so mind numbingly awful I feel embarrassed that they represented us. So to this end, I have compiled a new #CrazyStupidPlaylist of what I feel are the UK’s best Eurovision entries from the last 60 years…
5. JESSICA GARLICK – ‘Come Back’ (2002)
Highest UK chart position: #13 / Finished joint 3rd
It seems to be de rigeur these days that every second year we send the latest rejected hopeful from either ‘The X Factor’ or ‘The Voice’ to represent ol’Blighty. Back in 2002, and with ‘Pop Idol’ fever gripping the nation though, it was a new concept altogether, as Jessica Garlick, one of that year’s finalists, took us to our highest place on the leaderboard since 1998 – and what was to be our highest placing for six years after with this beautiful, understated power ballad from the same team behind Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’.
4. PRECIOUS – ‘Say It Again’ (1999)
Highest UK chart position: #6 / Finished joint 12th
And speaking of Atomic Kitten, here’s future member Jenny Frost in her original girl group, formed by the management responsible for 90’s R&B pop babes Honeyz and Eternal. ‘Say It Again’ has dated as well as an R&B flavoured European pop record from the turn of the century can do, but we’ve always had a soft spot for this one, even if it was never gonna beat – surprise surprise – Sweden’s Charlotte Nilsson with her ABBA-esque offering at that year’s contest.
3. BUCKS FIZZ – ‘Making Your Mind Up’ (1981)
Highest UK chart position: #1 / Finished 1st
Aka the song responsible for naming the BBC’s haphazard renaming of the selection process post the whole ‘Jemini nul points’ saga of 2003. And also one of it’s best loved winners, all blippy bloppy early 80’s synths and swishing skirts. I won’t lie though – it’s largely on my playlist because of Miranda and Stevie’s reenactment of it.
2. KATRINA & THE WAVES – ‘Love Shine A Light’ (1997)
Highest UK chart position: #3 / Finished: 1st
Boring though it may be with each failed entry in recent years to be reminded by Sir Terry Wogan or Ken Bruce of ‘that glorious year in 1997 when Katrina won it for us’, they have a point nonetheless. Originally touted as a charity single for the Samaritans, the 80’s power pop outfit had their biggest hit of their career with this song and also saw it glide to a landslide victory with this rousing number.
1. GINA G – ‘Ooh, Aah…Just a Little Bit’ (1996)
Highest UK chart position: #1 / Finished: 8th
Ah. God bless Gina and those legs of hers. A little bit more indeed. I digress. A thumping, pumping 90’s Eurodance banger that was perhaps just too ahead of its time for the then still traditional looking Eurovision audience, ‘Ooh, Aah…’ was produced by Steve Rodway, alias founder of 90’s dance giants Motiv8 – also behind brilliant singles for the likes of Saint Etienne and Pet Shop Boys.
Not only is it to date the last Eurovision related chart topper in the UK, and also one of the few to smash the Billboard charts and be Grammy nominated, it also shares a very tenuous link in that one of the young keyboard technicians at Motiv8, Brian Higgins, was to eventually work quite closely with one of Gina’s backing dancers, well spoken blonde top knotted Miranda Cooper…
Click below to listen to my Spotify playlist with all my choices: