Eurovision at 60: a Celebration


My playlist is a musical odyssey around Europe to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Eurovision. Some winning songs, lots of contest trivia and places visited will take you from France to Vienna in 14 songs.
Eurovision began 60 years ago in the Italian speaking canton of Switzerland in the city of Lugano. The European anthem heralds the start of the show.
1. CHARPENTIER’S TE DEUM PRELUDE (Noel (NOT Nigel) Rawsthorne on a church organ: France)
Ireland the “Emerald Isle” the most successful country with seven wins. So I will assume for this show that Dublin could be considered the “Emerald City”.
2. SEEKERS with EMERALD CITY (Ireland; tune Ode to Joy by Beethoven-Germany; Seekers-Australia)
Australia invited to participate in the 60th anniversary contest. Aussie DNA runs through the contests history really, especially since Seekers member Keith Potger formed and managed the New Seekers. They represented the UK in 1972 coming second with Beg, Steal or Borrow. Other UK representatives with Australian roots include Olivia Newton-John in 1974 coming 4th and Gina G in 1996 coming 8th. And Ireland’s Mr Eurovision Johnny Logan with 2 singing and 2 composer Eurovision wins is also Australian born!
3. DANA with ALL KINDS OF EVERYTHING (Ireland’s first win in 1970)
Ireland has been happy hunting ground for the UK with two of our five wins (81, 97) being there. We have also won in Austria 67, Spain 69 (first equal with Spain, France & Netherlands) and in The Netherlands 76.
4. DANA INTERNATIONAL (Israel win in 1998)
Israel was the last country to win on British soil and the difference in style between the two “Dana’s” is marked. The 28 year difference gives the Israel song the advantage of disco, big ballad, dance and possibly trance elements within it.
Nana Mouskouri represented Luxembourg in 1963 coming in 8th.
Considered the most important song from Eurovision is the Italian entry for 1958 which came in third. Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu sung by Domenico Modungno went on to win the Grammy Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It has been recorded by several artists and is better known by another name Volare.
6. DEAN MARTIN with VOLARE (Italy)
The least likely place for the contest to be held is in Portugal, as the country has failed to secure a win since participating for the first time in 1964.
The UK has held the Eurovision Song Contest eight times although we have only won it five times. 1960 London Royal Festival Hall; 1963 London BBC TV Centre; 1968 London Royal Albert Hall; 1972 Edinburgh Usher Hall; 1974 Brighton Dome; 1977 London Wembley Conference Centre; 1982 Harrogate International Centre; 1998 Birmingham National Indoor Arena. But although the UK has won five times the country has come second 15 times so all in the UK is probably the most successful country in the competition statistically. At least two of those second places was by a mere point-Sir Cliff Richard with Congratulations and Scott Fitzgerald with Go. At least Scott came second to an artist who became a global star Celine Dion (1988 Switzerland-Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi).
The Netherlands was the scene for Brotherhood of Man winning with Save All Your Kisses For Me. In the twelve point era (adopted in 1975) this has been the song with the highest percentage of marks 80.39% (164 from a potential 204 points). Other songs have scored higher but at a time with far more countries participating and voting. Ironically as there has been no “nul point” country since 2003, the UK’s only zero scored song Cry Baby by Jemini has gained the lowest score statistically as well.
When the UK has held the contest France has been the most successful with two wins (60, 77) with Spain (68) , Luxembourg (72), West Germany (82), Israel (98) and Sweden (74) being the others. I inadvertently left out Denmark’s win in 1963 during my show and wrongly attributed a third French win instead (they had won in 62).
10. NICOLE with A LITTLE PEACE (West Germany win in 1982)
Great alumni of the Eurovision Song Contest who have represented the UK include Matt Monro (64), Kenneth McKellar (66), Sir Cliff Richard 68 & 73), Mary Hopkin (70), The Shadows (75), Bonnie Tyler (2013), Engelbert Humperdinck (2012).
Engelbert Humperdinck was 76 when he performed but is not the OLDEST PERFORMER. That accolade goes to Emil Ramsauer the 95 year old who represented Switzerland in 2013. In contrast the YOUNGEST WINNER is Sandra Kim singing J’Aime La Vie for Belgium in 1986.
12. ABBA with WATERLOO (ABBA for Sweden 1974 win and Waterloo for Belgium)
The Vienna Boys Choir was the interval act when Austria held the contest in 1967 and Sandie Shaw won for the UK with Puppet On A String. I wondered if the interval act this year might involve the Boys Choir or the Lippinzer White Horses (possibly a bit messy). Of course Vienna would be an ideal place for a ball room dance perhaps involving Austrian composer Mozart. In 1974 the interval act was very British.
13. THE WOMBLES with MINUETTO ALLEGRETTO (UK dancing to a Mozart symphony)
The 60th anniversary Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Vienna on May 23rd. Can Electo Velvet find success there as Sandie Shaw did in 1967? We shall have to wait and see. My musical journey ends here…
14. ULTRAVOX with VIENNA (Austria)
You can listen to my show here:


Prime Minister David Cameron has more than the minimum requisite number of seats to hold a Conservative majority government. The outcome seems to have surprised the TV pundits who expected days of negotiations to form another coalition alliance. My more politically savvy husband Rob is absolutely crest-fallen at the election results, although he admits that I sagely predicted weeks ago the shock waves that have reverberated from this vote.

In 2010 Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg faired very well in the 3 party election debates, and gained far more seats than expected as a result. This enabled his party (third in size) to form a partnership with the Conservatives to govern the country. However, that un-holy alliance I believe caused the support harnessed five years ago to disappear. Thus the 57 seats from 2010 have diminished to just 8 today. Areas deemed a bastion for Liberal Democrat support have become mainly Conservative. It is a great shame, because Nick Clegg seems a very decent man and the middle of the road voice needs to be heard. When in coalition the Liberal Democrats were the moderating foot on the brakes, and no doubt stopped the more unpalatable policies of the Conservatives from going through. Oddly enough without Nick Clegg’s coalition support in this parliament, David Cameron now has the trickier task of keeping his own party MP’s happy!

All three main British political parties have just one representative each in Scotland after the rout of the SNP. Although the independence referendum from a few months ago voted (narrowly) to keep Scotland within the UK, it also ignited the desire for more autonomy and a better say within the Westminster parliament. Not surprisingly therefore SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon campaigned along these lines, perhaps even believing her party would hold the balance of power this time round. As figures go the SNP are now third in size, but the utter decimation of the Labour party in Scotland has undoubtedly worked in favour of a Conservative majority.

I realised this morning that David Cameron played a very shrewd game during the election campaign, using a FEAR FACTOR that worked very well. By constantly suggesting that a Labour government would be wagged by an SNP tail, Cameron probably scared a lot of voters in England, who may well have opted for the Tories instead of Labour as a result. This was a clever move, which effectively forced Labour leader Ed Milliband to totally dismiss the possibility of a coalition with the SNP. I have no doubt the consternation this may well have caused in Scotland, a nation taken for granted as a Labour stronghold for too long. Frozen out of any prospect of being in coalition, the Scots voted along nationalist lines rather than old socialist ones.

David Cameron has stated that as Prime Minister he wants to govern a one nation UK, but I think he began the Union breakup process by allowing the Scottish Referendum to take place. His fear factor rhetoric has heightened English/Scottish suspicions and the Northern Irish voice wasn’t even heard during the election debates. The Prime Minister’s actions in the last eight months speak far louder than the hollow words uttered this morning. And I’m sorry to say that the 2015 election results show just what a divided, fractured and un-united kingdom we now are.

Remembering TAYLOR v DAVIS the Black Ball Final

Thirty years ago at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Dennis Taylor faced Steve Davis in the World Snooker Championship Final. My custom at the time was to enjoy dipping into the action occasionally during the tournament, whilst eagerly awaiting the final which I would watch and savour. The 1985 finale proved to be an amazing spectacle and provided one of THE sporting moments of the century. But there were two other reasons why this final was so special to me.

I remember the weekend so vividly because the snooker final straddled the start of my O’levels at high school. My first ever national exam had been on the Friday, when I sat Arithmetic and my next one was English, which was scheduled for all day Monday. So although the weekend TV family viewing was sorted (and the telly took precedence in our house) I tried to keep an eye on the sport AND review my study notes and literature texts to be examined. I recall Steve Davis taking an 8-0 lead before Dennis Taylor clawed his way back to 7-9 going into the next day. On the Sunday, Taylor repeatedly came from behind to level the scores at 11-11, 15-15 and then 17-17. This was the backdrop as I made my final study preparations surrounded by tomes of good English literature. I recall that the style of the exam paper meant that you couldn’t discard any of the literature genres studied. My novel was Animal Farm by George Orwell, the play was Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the two poems I had decided to analyse were Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen and Robert Burn’s To A Mouse. There were short stories in the mix as well, but I don’t recall which ones they were. Added to that was ensuring my grasp of the grammatical rules and regulations of English was in order, and wondering what essay topics might turn up on the paper. Obviously in my own little world, the sporting greatness that unfolded that weekend was shrouded in the realms of great literature quotes. Certainly Dennis Taylor on potting the final black at his third attempt to become world champion was no “cow’rin tim’rous beastie”!

The game went into the small hours of the Monday morning and lasted 14 hours 50 minutes, the longest ever recorded for a 35 frame match. An estimated 18.5 million TV audience (including me bleary eyed but enthralled) watched the incredible final frame go down to the wire. Steve Davis had an 18 point advantage with 22 points still remaining on the table and Dennis Taylor then potted the brown, blue and pink balls. That final black became the decider and each man missed the pot twice before Dennis Taylor sealed victory to win his first World Championship. Who can forget the wee stocky Northern Irishman with the upside-down looking specs holding aloft his cue, dancing a wee jig and wagging his finger?

Taylor won against the odds in the most extraordinary fashion and yet I was the only one who wasn’t surprised. You see once in a while I get a gut-feeling about something and it won’t go away. In the February I had spotted a list of snooker players and the name Dennis Taylor leapt out at me. I said to my Dad he would win the World Championship and he laughed at me on seeing the odds of 150-1. By March my feeling had not diminished, in fact it had crystallised into something more and I predicted the “last ball in the last frame” scenario. My Dad laughed even more at this and said “that just proves that YOU (a mere lassie) know nothing about betting, sport or snooker”. When Taylor won I punched the air in delight and squealed “I TOLD YOU THAT WOULD HAPPEN”. I looked over at my Mammy who sat open mouthed in shock and my Dad had gone a funny puce colour and looked absolutely sickened. As I scooped my books up and said I was off to bed, my Dad put his head in his hands and mumbled something as he shook in disbelief. I think he might have been crying!