It is scarcely surprising that Sweden takes the Eurovision Song Contest so mirthlessly seriously. 42 years ago, ABBA burst onto the stage with the politically incorrect reminder of past discord amongst European nations – ‘Waterloo’. A grateful Swedish nation has raked in millions of Krona in taxes ever since; they are so fond of the piles of Krona that they never did join the Euro…
Two years later, the BBC, politely overlooking such musical triumphs as ‘Leap Up And Down And Wave Your Knickers In The Air’Â asked Jonathan King to organise Britain’s next entry to Eurovision. The ‘Great British Public’ chose ‘Love City Groove‘ – Russia managed to work up the enthusiasm to give it one point. Bosnia and Herzegovina, no doubt smarting from the international response to their memorable entry – ‘Dvadeset prvi vijek‘ – begrudged it even one vote. Should your life be the poorer for having missed the opportunity to listen to the Bosnian oeuvre, there is a hopeful chap in Belgium still trying to flog a ‘rarely played’ CD of the track… Still, in the home market ‘Love City Groove’Â sold a quarter of a million singles, proving yet again that you can leadÂ countries into a European market, but you can’t make them listen to the same music.Â
The following year, Jonathan went for Gina G, and her eloquent ‘You know what I’m looking for..ooh..aah..just a little bit..ooh..aah..a little bit more‘, which surely the Bosnians could not fail to be mesmerised by? Wearing a gold lamÃ© dress designed by Paco Rabane for Cher – and rejected by her – only to have several inches chopped off the bottom and the unfortunate Gina G squeezed into it; Jonathan later remarked ‘What do I know about fashion? You don’t hire a dog and bark yourself. The dog won. And lost’.
‘Lost’ the Eurovision contest – but became a Number One hit in the UK selling millions of copy round the English speaking world, proving that Jonathan understands British tastes but yet again failed to plumb the murky depths of the Bosnian musical soul. They still didn’t give us any points. Bosnia retaliated with ‘Za naÅ¡u ljubav‘ – and only Croatia, Finland, Turkey and Malta even stirred themselves to vote for it.
Jonathan had one last go with ‘Katrina and the Waves’ in 1996. It is the first Eurovision entry I was ever aware of – Katrina’s father was a master sergeant at Lakenheath Air Base, but a couple of miles from my restaurant – any establishment caught not playing ‘Walking on Sunshine’ would be boycotted by the US, so we had it on ‘loop’ ’til we almost went mad. Â Katrina’s entry for 1996 was ‘Love Shine A Light’ and Bosnia, still humming the catchy ‘Zbogom Ljubavi‘ gave us ten points – making us the clear winner.
Katrina had won with 78.82% of the European votes – the second landslide of that week – Tony Blair had brought in a Labour government with 43.2% of the UK votes. Arguably, Katrina’s was the more impressive and less damaging landslide. Jonathan was rewarded with the British Phonographic Industry’s ‘Man of the Year’ award – and a citation by Tony Blair for his – ‘important contribution to one of this country’s great success stories.’
The following year, Jonathan was Shanghai’d by the Yewtree mob, an early example of the perils of winning Eurovision.
Winning Eurovision doesn’t just have personal costs, nor even political, but financial penalties. Despite the much vaunted profit made by Sweden, that was in part due to the ongoing success of ABBA rather than merely winning Eurovision. Other countries have not fared so well.
Azerbaijan reputedly spent Â£42.7m hosting the 2012 contest as the ‘Booby prize’ for their winning entry ‘Running Scared’, sung in English and written by a Swedish team – countries were learning!Â Â£42.7m just as their oil based economy was falling out of bed:
Azerbaijan oil production started to decline rapidly since 2010. In fact, dramatic fall in oil industry continues to hamper the country’s total growth in 2012.
Romania has gracefully accepted the decision to bar them from the contest this year, for failing to pay the Â£7.9m they owe to the ‘European Broadcasting Union’ – possibly a wise decision, for with a catchy little number like Ovidiu Antonâs ‘Moment of Silence’ there was an outside chance that they might win – and incur an averageÂ Â£33m debt next year for the cost of hosting Eurovision 2017.
Which makes me wonder at the wisdom of the Greek entry – Greece, a nation straining under unfathomable debt and austerity, that cannot afford to pay its citizens their pension or for their health care, apparently has paid its dues to the ‘European Broadcasting Union’ and is willing to risk the ‘averageÂ Â£33m debt’ booby prize with ‘Utopian Land’, a jaunty little number sung in English with a ‘Pontian dialect’ – let’s hope the judges are kind to that beleaguered nation and award them ‘nul point‘.
The song invites people around the world to follow and take part in the dream, which requires effort and perseverance. This is the message, noting the lyric phrase: “join with us, for a utopian land”.
A triumph of ‘hope over experience’ you might say.
Britain’s entry this year is ‘You’re not Alone’ sung by the delicate duo ‘ Joe and Jake’ – as interviewed exclusively by ‘Gay Times‘:
Do you have a favourite part of your body?Â
Joe: My ribs. I have a tattoo that runs from the top of my ribs down to my hip.
Jake: Â My chest! Itâs more toned than my abs! [Laughs]
Do you prefer wearing boxers or briefs?
Joe: Boxers as theyâre more comfortable.
Jake: Boxers as thereâs more ventilation. [Laughs]
I’m just surprised it wasn’t the NHS choir singing a remake of Bob Geldorf’s hit – Â “I don’t like Saturdays’. Or returning Jihadists with ‘Do you wanna be in my gang’. Too politically incorrect with its memories of Gary Glitter, I suppose.
Still – back to the Swedes and their hopes and wishes for this year’s ‘non-political’ Eurovision event, held just 6 weeksÂ before we all vote on the wisdom of staying in Europe….
The Swedish event will feature a troupe of ‘dancing refugees’ to remind us all as to how we should be thinking Â – not real refugees, naturally, Sweden is deporting 80,000 0f them – but dancers ‘representing’ the plight of refugees across Europe. They will probably be denounced on social media as an act of ‘cultural appropriation’. Perhaps the Goody bags presented to the visiting dignitaries will each contain a gift wrapped ‘unaccompanied minor’?
Finlandâs interior minister said Helsinki also intended to expel about 20,000 of the 32,000 asylum seekers it received in 2015. âIn principle we speak of about two-thirds, meaning approximately 65 percent of the 32,000 will get a negative decision (to their asylum application),â Paivi Nerg, the ministryâs administrative director, told Agence France-Presse.
Enough to make you wonder whether caterwauling European citizensÂ can ever sing in harmony.