Thursday, May 8, 2014
Nobody's favourite but mine, part 5
While making this series it seems one country pops up more often than most and that is Austria. I would perhaps not go as far as naming them my favourite country in Eurovision but few others have done so much for the diversity of the contest and few others have been so constantly ignored or misunderstood as the Austrians.
I often find myself liking Austrian entries more than most people do - at least judging from the not always too impressive scores they gather during the voting sequences - so because of that and in honour of their magnificent Conchita Wurst, who takes to the stage tonight, this is a special edition focusing fully on Austrian entries. And I had to make them ten instead of five…
The Milestones - Falter im Wind (Austria 1972)
So let's start from the top with my all time favourite Austrian entry. The Milestones were the second pop group ever to enter the eurovision stage and added an interesting touch to a contest formerly reserved for solo singers or love duets. The song is also highly personable with a long melodic build-up - and a hook that is played on a flute rather than sung - and when the chorus finally kicks in it is short and snappy and a surprisingly fulfilling climax. Douze points at any given time.
Karel Gott - Tausend Fenster (Austria 1968)
Austria was never afraid to speak their minds or make statements in this apolitical song contest and already in early 1968 they decided to lend their spotlight to neighbour country Czechoslovakia and the slowly nascent Prague spring. Winner Udo Jürgens composed an urban lament, about the loneliness of modern man, for Czechoslovakia's own Sinatra Karel Gott. For some reason, he only scored two points and Udo Jürgens famously stormed out of the green room mid-voting.
The Rounder Girls - All For You (Austria 2000)
ORF in Vienna were never afraid to make statements about Austrian matters either. At least that must have been one of the contributing factors that they chose - at the height of the controversies surrounding Jörg Haider, giving Austria a bad name around Europe - these soul babes to represent them in Stockholm. Unfortunately they didn't quite nail the live performance in the end but this is such a lively, happy and bouncy number all the same.
Westend - Hurricane (Austria 1983)
Austrians can't just yodel, they can also dress in red and yellow and dance in a group. Most of the Westend members - with the notable exception of Gary Lux - aren't really all that impressive singers but do parts nicely and with the aid of that dancing girl they manage to work up quite a storm before the song is over. This one was always one of my big favourites from 1983. Catchy and fun.
Marianne Mendt - Musik (Austria 1971)
If the host broadcaster went through all that trouble to assemble an orchestra for the occasion you could just as well use it to the fullest. I doubt there is a single instrument that isn't put to use in this massive arrangement and Marianne can't be accused of holding back her vocal abilities either. Extra plus for singing in dialect, that always goes down well at Eurovision. Well, it doesn't but it should.
Schmetterlinge - Boom Boom Boomerang (Austria 1977)
There just is no way around this one. Deeply political and deeply engaged and still devilishly entertaining. I doubt no protest song was ever as fun as this one, virtually mocking the record industry in general and the Eurovision Song Contest in particular. The group also scared the living daylights out of the BBC producers as they had interrupted a live show on Austrian television the week before the London final and made a political statement instead of singing. Being part of both this as well as The Milestones also qualifies Beatrix Neundlinger as a Eurovision Goddess in my book.
Wilfried - Lisa Mona Lisa (Austria 1988)
People I know, good friends of mine, would argue this is the archetype of a nul-pointer, that it has every ingredient of a perfect recipe for disaster. I see what they mean but I must disagree. Perhaps this one would have been better off performed by someone else, but I find a depth and an emotion here. Something the juries apparently didn't. Blaming the defeat on politics was not a brilliant move either, but Wilfried is hardly the only zero-scorer to mess up like that.
Bettina Soriat - One Step (Austria 1997)
At first I must admit to finding this pretty hopeless and doomed but at some point I took a long hard look at the live performance and realised what a professional that Soriat woman is. The amount of punch and energy she manages to squeeze into these three minutes is truly impressive.
Blue Danube - Du bist Musik (Austria 1980)
Austrian television was never afraid to be deadly serious and send in poignant entries that actually mean something. But then they could get really tired of that and go for something like this instead: a big fluffy piece of nonsense with five people randomly namedropping famous composers and musical terminology all over the place just to make sure that somebody somewhere understands something. It is perfectly ridiculous but also really rather catchy. Group member Marty Brem would be back again already the next year with the sweet but confusingly staged Wenn Du da bist, featured already in Part 3 of this series.
Anita - Einfach weg (Austria 1984)
This could be a crash course in how to take a perfectly good song, rip it to shreds and crush every single chance it might have had of impressing anyone. If you just listen to it with your eyes closed you'll hear what a good song it is. Then you open your eyes to find that the woman who sings about being strong and independent and gone before you know it is a polite little flower in a pink dress, a sweet hairdo and not a drop of attitude anywhere. Add the dance orchestra background musicians and the stiff backing vocalists - again Gary Lux, not at his finest hour - and your song is doomed. Despite a very clear last place - 21 points behind Yugoslavia placed second last - it was a big hit on home ground and is still seen as a bit of a classic. Made for radio, so to speak.