Saturday, 16 May 2009

Teach-In sing Ding-a-dong

It's that time of year again, when the U.K representative for the Eurovision Song Contest gets publicly humiliated with a long line of nul points from our continental cousins, except for a few sympathy points thrown our way by Ireland and the decent handful from plucky Malta (they've long memories on that island) this is an event much like Marmite, you either love it or hate it and I'm firmly in the former camp, there's another word you often associate with this spectacle.

For the benefit of our American readers who must be wondering what on earth Scratchy is blathering on about.. a quick explanation of this event can be sought here. The gist of Eurovision is that since 1956 lots of European countries have each year entered a song, with the hope of becoming the most popular tune in the annual contest. Each member awards a number of points, up to a maximum of twelve points and it's all meant to be done in the spirit of unity and harmony.

It was taken quite seriously in the early years with many established pop stars, such as Lulu and Cliff Richard, entering quality pop songs and it was also the springboard for the careers of some internationally renowned acts, most notably Abba in 1974. However, there has always been a strong whiff of cheese to the event, with more than it's fair share of nonsensical lyrics, silly songs and ludicrous costumes. It's creditability has been a bit suspect for many a year in the U.K with the Great British Public not taking it as seriously as the organisers would like. It's nadir for the British arrived in 2003 when Jemini finished in last place with the dreaded 'nul points' This was widely seen as a backlash and an anti war protest about Tony Blair's involvement and the U.K's participation in the American led invasion of Iraq.

The integrity of the show has recently been cast into further doubt with old alliances, block voting, and traditional enmities overtly influencing the voting. This reached the depths last year as to rankle Terry Wogan so much (the much loved BBC presenter who had been the face of Eurovision for the BBC for donkeys years) that his wry commentary of the proceedings turned into ire as he all but announced his resignation from the job on air as the winner entry from Russia was being crowned, amidst bitter recriminations of undue favouritism coming from their allies in the former Soviet republics, who had strangely, nearly all given maximum marks to their powerful neighbour.

Fear not, my American friends, if Eurovision was a dastardly plan by 'cheese eating surrender monkeys' to turn us all into one big commie loving "United States of Europe" then it's failing miserably and the bickering is louder than ever..that's why we love it! This year I'm hoping for one of the representatives of the former members of the Soviet Bloc, to just lay their cards on the table and have an act performing a song called "Please Don't Turn Off Your Gas in January" before awarding the obligatory douze points.. It'll be a lot more straight forward for everyone involved..

I have dug out my one cheesy record featuring a Eurovision winner, bought mainly for the hideous cover and fashion nightmares being worn by the band. I was particularly taken with the look of the guy top right who is the spitting image of the Les McQueen character from the cult television comedy The League Of Gentlemen The sketches highlight the tragic life of the ex rhythm guitarist from fictional band Crème Brulee, played to perfection, by Mark Gatiss. The story is of a Seventies soft rock band, who entered the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981, and were nearly signed to Pickwick in 1976. Their big hit was "Voodoo Lady" and Les desperately hankers for a return to the limelight and recapture his youth.

had a rather more successful career than Crème Brulee. Now, usually thought of as Abba clones, they were actually a successful band in their home country Holland, with three chart hit hits already under their belt by 1974 and were no spring chickens to the pop scene, having formed way back in 1969. The line up in the halcyon years had Getty Kaspers on lead vocals, John Gaasbeek (piano) Ard Weeink (trumpet, bass) Chris de Wolde (guitar) plus founder members Koos Versteeg (piano, accordion) and Ruud Nijhuis (drums)

The Dutch entry's night of glory, at the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest, with Ding-a-dong propelled them to have a hit with the winning song in most European countries, reaching number thirteen in the U.K. In fact, trivia fans, they were the the first winners under the now-familiar Eurovision voting system, whereby each country awards scores of 1 to 8, then 10 and 12, it's worth storing that little titbit of knowledge for future reference at a pop pub quiz! Their career fizzled out in 1978 after six albums but since then, the occasional reformation, with new members enlisted to fill the gaps, has kept the spirit of 75 ding-a-donging along.

As a postscript to the event, my personal favourite song from the 2009 contest, the Portuguese entry Flor-de-Lis, headed straight for mid table mediocrity on the night and my predictions of disaster for the U.K entry Jade weren't borne out as she was placed in a respectable fifth place, where as my friends' two year old daughter showed a keen ear for a winning pop tune, by dancing most animatedly on the sofa to the Norwegian entry Alexander Rybak, which blitzed the field with a record breaking 387 points. So much for my pop punditry prowess, the lesson learnt here is, next time ask a toddler if you want to predict a chart topper.

Teach-in performing their winning song Ding-a-dong at the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm,Sweden.

No comments: