The 2013 Eurovision Song Contest is tonight! I won’t be able to fully digest what happened for another week or so, so in the meantime let’s have another preview…
It’s hard to underestimate the importance of what happened at the 2006 contest in Greece. Every year, a couple of countries decide to take it very seriously and put in old crooners or traditional folk music; a couple of countries decide to usurp the formula by putting in things that actually are good; and then someone comes up with something totally off the wall and throws the whole thing into disarray.
For it was in 2006 that Finland decided to enter their Slipknot-inspired rock band Lordi, who, dressed as orcs, had such an impact on the contest that they had to host the following year’s contest. Here’s Hard Rock Hallelujah:
Britain has an odd relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest. We hate the politics of it all, but we vote just as politically as everyone else. Somehow we think we’re better than it all, but we still want to win. We laugh at how cheesy everybody else’s entries are, and then we submit total rubbish ourselves.
1995 was a case in point. Someone decided that Britain needed to update the song contest by putting in rubbish pop/rap tracks, and so they put together a group called Love City Groove to perform a track called, um, Love City Groove. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t great, although it actually did pretty well, coming in seventh place.
The band’s creator Stephen Rudden went on to work on U Krazy Katz for PJ & Duncan (Ant & Dec – remember them?); tried again for Eurovision a couple of years later; and did some other bits and bobs, and hasn’t done a huge amount in the public eye since. To remind ourselves of just how bad it was, here it is in its full glory:
Unlike you, I don’t know a lot about The Eurovision Song Contest, apart from the fact that it’s coming up in a few weeks time. With that in mind, all I can do if throw out a couple of my favourite moments from previous years to help get us in the mood.
Stefan Raab is a massive TV celebrity in Germany, not unlike a less irritating Chris Moyles. In 2011, when Germany won what they confusingly like to call the Grand Prix (Eurovision to you), he even got to present it, but that wasn’t his first encounter with the contest. It wasn’t even the second.
In 1998, he wrote Guildo Horn‘s entry for Germany Guildo hat euch lieb; in 2004 he wrote Can’t Wait Until Tonight for Max Mutzke. He was the mentor for the 2010 and 2011 entries. But his finest moment came in 2000, when he performed his own track Wadde hadde dudde da? in Stockholm. Here it is:
Sometimes you can only long for the simpler days of the novelty hits of the 1960s. No flashy videos, no autotune. Back in those days you had to rely on trombones and tubas if you wanted it to be clear that it was a comedy song.
And in 1968, that’s what The Scaffold did, taking the folk song The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham, switching the lyrics to an altogether sillier set, and recording Lily the Pink, which got to number one in the UK and Ireland:
Obviously in this set of posts I’ve been using Gangnam as a synonym for “novelty,” which as I’m sure we all know isn’t really what it means. But it amused me, briefly. Which tends to be what novelty hits do.
This week, the person inside the pink and yellow spotty fat suit is an actor who regularly appeared as a human being on ChuckleVision and by 1993 was appearing on Noel Edmonds‘s TV series Noel’s House Party. The spin-off song came out on the run-up to Christmas, and proceeded to knock Meat Loaf off the top of the charts (a good thing), and even managed to hold onto it for long enough to keep Take That‘s Pray from being Christmas number one! Not having seen the video before, it’s quite an interesting experience. Keep an eye out for Jeremy Clarkson, in one of his less embarrassing roles, and Carol Vorderman also turns up:
Now let’s all go and buy some blobby merchandise…
Gangnam Style ain’t all bad. Some of the artists who fall into the Gangnam trap are pretty serious. Our second piece of evidence is the sadder tale of Scatman John.
The California-based musician suffered his whole life with a severe stutter, and in his early career from the 1970s had also struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. Finally, in 1995, he was spotted by some German dance producers, and made it big for an extremely short career. But while it lasted, he was huge, and Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop) was of course number one pretty much everywhere on the planet:
Particularly check out the middle eight, in which he turns his stutter into an artform. Truly masterful!
Sadly, just four years after his big break, and after his third album as Scatman John, John Paul Larkin died at the end of 1999 in Malibu, aged 57.
Gangnam Style is truly an internet phenomenon. There could never have been anything that silly in the days when “online” meant plugging a cable into the wall and “like” had a small L. Right?
Wrong. I’ve postponed an entire series of posts, just to prove you wrong with that theory. Please enjoy the first piece of evidence, Rednex. With their unique brand of lazy but very catchy pop, they conquered the world back in 1994 with a quite dreadful song called Cotton Eye Joe:
The Germans loved them so much that their second single Old Pop in an Oak, which proved that recycling isn’t always a good thing, peaked just short of the top spot; Wish You Were Here scored them a second number one; and their 2000 comeback The Spirit of the Hawk, which actually wasn’t all that bad, was their third chart topper.