A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tobson's Winners: 1981 - 1985

Now we are quickly approching the times that formed my idea of what Eurovision was and what it was supposed to sound like.

The first ESC I know I saw at least fragments of is 1983. The night of ESC 1984 was spent at my uncle's and as he had no functioning tv set, I had to content myself with the radio broadcast. Then we came home in time for the voting, so I remember seeing my native Sweden win.

In 1985 and 1986, I was allowed to sit up until Sweden had performed, then it was time for bed. And 1987 was the first year I saw in full.

My ideas of these years and songs have been formed through cover versions on tape, the odd newspaper article I happened to come across and very fluid memories from here and there.

And then, when I finally saw the live versions, I had to change my mind. Again and again. My old ideas and likes and dislikes crashed into what I really saw and heard. And if I was the judge now, these are my winners.

1981 - Portugal

Carlos Paião - Playback (Portugal 1981)

I admit that this is a pretty odd choice. But 1981 is a pretty odd year. It contains a handful of real pearls mixed up with a whole bunch of mediocre songs that are not really bad (not a single song is outright bad in 1981) but that fail to make a difference.

This portuguese piece of plastic pop surely makes a difference. It is obnoxious, repetitive, pokes fun at showbiz in general and is performed in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion by Carlos and his strutting backing vocalists.

I love the entries that come to Eurovision not craving to be loved. A great portion of attitude and a distinct will to be different is more than enough for me.

Real winner:
Bucks Fizz - Making Your Mind Up (United Kingdom)

1982 - Spain

Lucia - El (Spain 1982)

Provocation seems to go down well in my list. At the time, this had a pretty distinct taste of politics, aimed at the host country.

But provocation alone is boring. The urge to do something different in a contest that was turning more and more streamlined is a far more interesting trait.

And this song may be political, but it is also furious, tempestuous, sexy and funny. Again, completely lacking a will to kiss up and be gentle and loveable.

The european juries wanted a little peace but I'd rather like a bit of tango.

Real winner:
Nicole - Ein bisschen Frieden (Germany)

1983 - Luxembourg

Corinne Hermès - Si la vie est cadeau (Luxembourg 1983)

The last real outburst of The Classic French Ballad, up until this point crushingly superior to most genres in the ESC but now rapidly losing in strength.

Other winds were blowing, other tempos climbed the charts, other moods hit home better with the audience. But once Corinne Hermès stepped onto that stage in Munich, it was as if nothing had ever happened and that a big ballad in French would always beat everything else.

The French ballad wouldn't sink away over night, there would be more songs of this kind. In 1988 and 1993, Luxembourg and Switzerland would actually place rather high with this kind of song.

But the era was over. And what a worthy ending, with one of the strongest and most elegant winning songs ever.

Real winner:
Corinne Hermès - Si la vie est cadeau (Luxembourg)

1984 - Italy

Alice & Franco Battiato - I treni di Tozeur (Italy 1984)

One question will always haunt me. When there is a song like this one in the running, what kind of jury favours a ditty like "Diggi-loo diggi-ley" instead?

What do they look like? Do they have ears? What do they have for breakfast? And who decided that they, out of all people in the world, should be on the Eurovision jury?

This Italian entry was stylish, original and immensly beautiful, the kind of victory that could have injected some well-needed commercial interest at a point were just that started to ebb away from the ESC.

Shame on the juries.

Real winner:
Herreys - Diggi-loo diggi-ley (Sweden)

1985 - Finland

Sonja Lumme - Eläköön elämä (Finland 1985)

Gothenburg 1985 looked very exciting as two countries that had never fared well in the contest were tipped as likely winners: Norway and Finland.

We all know how the story goes as Norweigan Bobbysocks stormed to victory and Sonja Lumme from Finland somehow slid into oblivion and ended in a ninth place. If it had anything to do with being drawn at the dreaded second starting position or not, we will never know.

"Long Live Life" has anyhow turned into a eurovision evergreen, well loved by fans as well as the general audience in Finland. And rightly so. A powerful chorus and a powerful performer who squeezes every drop of schlager juice out of her song.

Eurovision in Bergen 1986 was a very attractive setting. But Helsinki would not have been out of place either.

Real winner:
Bobbysocks - La de swinge (Norway)


  1. You surprised me again, and why not! It seems that for every Eurovision fan the first few contests they saw in full are always special.


  2. Sonja Lumme suffered in 1985 of the same problem that the whole 1973 contest, a dreadful sound mix. Eläköön elämä would have deserved a bombastic string arrangement. It probably had, you can see the strings playing but you cannot hear them. All you can hear, again, are the guitar, drums and horns. What a waste!

    I cannot remember if the same mixing disaster applied to all the songs (it did in 1973), but to Finland it gave disasterous results.