A Swede who lives in Finland and who is lost in Euroland - the wonderful world of Eurovision
There is always some matter to discuss or just a song I want to share
Very welcome - I hope you'll like it here!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Song Of The Day: Netherlands 1993

Many moons ago, the world looked mighty different in many ways. Imagine the Netherlands being a progressive, exciting and interesting competitor - a competitor that would send in progressive, exciting and interesting songs, sung by impressive performers.

Hard to picture after some ten years of Treble, Re-Union, Sieneke and Toppers.

But once upon a time, the Dutch were determined to make a difference and decided to enter a splendid artist like Ruth Jacott. Not only, they also dressed her up with a song like "Vrede".

Maybe it didn't age all that well, but back in 1993 it was shockingly modern for Eurovision. The song incorporated modern elements and Ruth wrapped it up in a warm and sensual air of sparkle and sexiness, back in the day when sexy didn't necessarily mean "minimal outfit".

I would be so happy if the Dutch would find that sparkle again, burst through to the final and achieve their best placing since 1993. So happy. Not to mention so surprised.

Ruth Jacott - Vrede (Netherlands 1993)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Song Of The Day: Yugoslavia 1991

We didn't know it at the time, but this would be the last entry ever entered by Former Yugoslavia as a united nation. Whoever expected a tasteful and dignified last kiss had something complete different coming.

While Yugoslavia was falling apart politically, the country had finally started doing really well at Eurovision and I for one expected this outburst of Serbian samba to score quite heavily as well.

At least the preview looked very promising (apart from the dodgy lip-sync).

Baby Doll - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991 preview clip)

In Rome, apparently, Baby Doll spent her week being unfriendly to staff, singing out of key and telling journalists she was not willing to reveal her exact date of birth but insisting on being in her early twenties (uh, yeah, right).

Despite being the first song in the running and being one of very few uptempo songs in the line-up, Yugoslavia recieved only one poor little point (from Malta) and made its worst showing since 1984.

The year after, Yugoslavia would still be on the scoreboard, even though the country represented had ceased to exist.

Baby Doll - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991)

Baby Doll, or Bebi Dol as she spells it way back home, was a big, established star at home (she still is) and had already come close to representing Yugoslavia on several occasions.

Her 1991 victory had very little to do with music, as the entire voting is tainted with politics. TV Belgrade had decided to win at any cost, but why they decided to promote themselves with "Brazil" of all songs remains a mystery.

The version performed at the national final in Sarajevo was also radically different to the one used in Rome. Had this heavier beat attracted more points or would even the Maltese have made thumbs down?

Bebi Dol - Brazil (Yugoslavia 1991 national final)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Germany 1980: Beware of apples!

If I keep on like this, I'm afraid the German embassy will soon call me in for a serious discussion on the picture I paint of German music, but I can't resist sharing this masterpiece.

A good friend reminded me about this via Twitter , so here you all get to enjoy Adam & Eve from the 1980 German final. You'll never forget them.

Adam & Eve - Hallo Adam! Hallo Eva! (Germany 1980 national final)

Of course, one's mind fills up with questions after seeing this. How would this song have fared in The Hague? Is that giant apple a real apple? Who decided that the fabric of her dress would pass as skin-coloured? And who are these people?

Adam & Eve were actually a successful schlager act for many years, created by Eva "Eve" Bartova who came to Germany from her native Czechoslovakia in the early 60's. She formed her own band, then set up the duo Adam & Eve.

After a few years, she had the original Adam replaced with Harry Schairer and then the duo really took off. The couple got married and had a number of hit singles, most notably perhaps "Ungarische Nächte" which made it to the no 1 spot of the ZDF-hitparade.

When success ebbed away, the couple split up and Eve again emigrated, this time to the US, where she died of cancer in 1989.

Adam & Eve - Ungarische Nächte

Germany 1996: Surfen surfen, Tag und Nacht!

I gave you "Can Can", so there is no reason why I should not share "Surfen Multimedia" from the 1996 German final.

Germans always had a strong fascination for new technology and more than once stated this fascination in song. So, when the internet came into our lives, why not make a Beach Boys-esque song to celebrate it?

The link is obvious, right? Beach Boys - surfing! Internet - surfing! You're with me, right?

These girls are impossibly happy and cheerful, while something tells me they were yet to see a single webpage.

What the EU-flag tops and the flag skirts has to do with anything is a subject far too deep for my shallow analysis, but click the link. I know you want to. And the EuroCats know it too!

EuroCats - Surfen Multimedia (Germany 1996 national final)

ESC reject: Finland 1991

The first Finnish final I ever saw was Euroviisut 1991 - a relative in Stockholm recieved Finnish television on cable, so she recorded it on a VHS videotape and sent it to me in an large envelope. (Oh gosh, this really was back in the day, wasn't it?)

Out of the ten finalists, my instant favourite was Arja Koriseva's "Enkelin silmin". Very direct, very catchy, maybe a tiny bit old-fashioned, delivered in a very cheerful manner by a likeable singer, written by the same successful team that wrote "La dolce vita" in 1989.

The expert jury left "Enkelin silmin" only in fifth place, and opted for Kaija Kärkinen's "Hullu yö" instead.

Kaija Kärkinen - Hullu yö (Finland 1991)

These days, Kaija is a personal favourite of mine as well as another of the songs I can't believe the juries didn't vote for. In Rome, it recieved a grand total of six points and a 20th place.

"Enkelin silmin" became a big hit in Finland and is still seen as an evergreen and is one of Arja's most well-known and loved songs.

I can't help wondering how it would have scored in Rome, also given it would have granted some bouncy sing-along clap-along qualities in a line-up full of ballads.

Arja Koriseva - Enkelin silmin (Finland 1991 national final)

Germany 2006: Vicky should be grateful

The 2006 Eurovision could have seen not just one but two previous winners battling it out for a second victory. Sweden gave Carola renewed confidence while Germany rejected Vicky Leandros in their national final.

Surely Vicky, who sang twice for Luxembourg and who is still a solid name within German showbiz, must have felt a bit deflated when defeated by hobby project Texas Lightning. But in retrospect, maybe she would be grateful rather than anything else.

First of all, her self-composed song may be clean-cut and robust but is, above all, fantastically dull. There is not a single element of surprise during these three minutes, and when the song is so undynamic in itself, Vicky's emotional delivery almost turns comical.

I am a big fan of Vicky and her singing style, so I am quite pleased that she never got to expose herself like this Europe-wide. Now she is left with her dignity in tact.

Also, while Carola's fifth place was not a fiasco it wasn't really a success either. Not a single country had her in their top spot, and no comeback winners have fared well ever since.

Charlotte Perrelli flopped in Belgrade, Niamh Kavanagh crashed and burned in the Oslo final and Dana International didn't even make it out of the semi finals in Düsseldorf. You will not be automatically loved by the audience just because you won the whole thing once.

Vicky Leandros should be very grateful, indeed.

Vicky Leandros - Don't Break My Heart (Germany 2006 national final)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Germany 1998: Everybody Can Can!

I could say a lot of things about this clip.

For instance, I could say that the 1998 German national final in many ways sounded like a musical madhouse and looked like a freakshow but, in retrospect, was the first serious attempt of bringing Eurovision back to its former glory in Germany.

I heard that the blond girl dancer (who gives the impression of not being able to carry a tune in a bucket) later teamed up with DJ Bobo and was the female vocalist in the 2007 Swiss entry. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

I could point out that the presenter is indeed Nena, one of Germany's top stars, who should clearly be taking part instead of hosting.

I could also say that this was the first really scary proof of things falling apart for Ralph Siegel. First you write Dschingis Khan, Theater and Johnny Blue, only to put your name on something as dubious as this?

But I will content myself with stating that this is so wrong on so many levels, but yet so fantastically entertaining. For all the wrong reasons, sure, but entertainment is never out of place.

Ballhaus - Can Can (Germany 1998 national final)

Runner-up: United Kingdom 1992

In the early 90's, BBC really tried turning things around, getting their national Song for Europe-final back on track after being reduced to something of a talent show for some years.

Getting Michael Ball, a hot star from the world of musicals, to do the job was a real scoop. Having a powerful and convincing performer does a lot for a song in the ESC. Michael Ball would get to show just how true this is.

Out of the eight songs he performed, the British audience decided that "One Step Out Of Time", a truly square, old-fashioned and predictable up-tempo belter, was the suitable number to send off to Malmö. Michael Ball put on a brave face, but it was easy to tell he was not all smiles about the outcome.

Michael Ball - One Step Out Of Time (United Kingdom 1992 preview)

In Malmö, he managed to kick enough life and sparkle into his dull little ditty to land in second place out of twenty-three countries.

If Michael Ball was enough for a second place, how heavily wouldn't he have scored had he had something decent to sing? Like the song ending in second place, co-written by Andy Hill - the man behind all of Bucks Fizz' hit singles as well as Céline Dion's "Think Twice".

Could "As Dreams Go By" have beaten Ireland's Linda Martin in Malmö? I'm pretty sure it could.

If so, would Ireland have won as many times during the 90's anyway? I'm not so sure at all.

Michael Ball - As Dreams Go By (United Kingdom 1992 national final)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Song Of The Day: Andorra 2004

2004 was an exciting year with no less than four debutant countries in the line-up (well, Serbia-Montenegro had been in it before under Yugoslav flag, but still), including tiny Andorra.

Most people would have expected the small state to be in it just for a laugh, but when the preview clip landed by our feet quite a few people started thinking the Andorrans could be able to pull off something special.

Their selected song sounded modern, radio friendly, catchy and fresh, performed by Marta Roure who oozed with star quality in the clip. This seemed very promising indeed.

Marta Roure - Jugarem a estimar-nos (Andorra 2004 preview clip)

Unfortunately, Andorra's best discipline in the ESC turned out to be over-choreographed busy little numbers that would try to squeeze too many things into the short space of three minutes, leaving very little room for the audience to pay attention to the song in question.

Marta's performance was possibly a bit too out of breath for comfort, but certainly not the least inspired on the night. The non-qualification came as at least half a surprise, but the fact that Andorra had scored in one country alone (neighbour Spain, awarding maximum twelve points) was a real shocker.

After this, Andorra never really got their act going and never reached the final in its six participations despite some good efforts (getting really close only once, in 2007).

I keep my fingers crossed that they will come back one day to achieve the heavy scoring that Marta Roure and the others never got.

Marta Roure - Jugarem a estimar-nos (Andorra 2004)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Song Of The Day: Germany 1977

In a parallel universe, had everything gone according to plan, Germany would have won the 1977 Eurovision Song Contest with its very contemporary disco sound, effective chorus and flawless performance. Then the BBC technicians went on strike and ruined the whole thing.

It had never happened before and it has not happened again that the ESC was postponed, but the initially scheduled London final had to be pushed back five weeks from April 2 to May 7.

In the world of disco, five weeks equalled half a dozen light years. Silver Convention's hit was timed perfectly to co-incide with the final and to sound as fresh and exciting as only possibly, but was already growing off people when the juries finally sat down to vote.

The world had moved on to other disco songs (and there were plenty of them around at this time) so the glitzy trio had to content themselves with a pale and disappointing eight place.

Unlike most of the disco songs of the era, however, "Telegram" was not going to vanish. It has eaten its way into the eurovision history books as possibly the best disco track ever ignored by the juries, complete with a choreography that anyone can have a stab at on any old dance floor.

Silver Convention - Telegram (Germany 1977)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Would Paola have done the trick for Germany?

Swiss star Paola Felix-del Medico did better at Eurovision than most of her compatriots: both times she represented her mountainous homeland she landed top five placings.

Paola - Bonjour, bonjour (Switzerland 1969)

Paola - Cinéma (Switzerland 1980)

She was also a notable figure in German showbiz, both as entertainer and television presenter, and twice she tried to represent Germany at Eurovision.

In 1979, she ended in third place with the atmospheric "Vogel der Nacht" and three years later she was the only one to give Nicole a run for her money with Ralph Siegel-penned "Peter Pan".

It is never a bad idea to employ anyone as stylish, glamourous and radiant as Paola to sing for you at Eurovision, but Germany did really well with their choices both these years. 

Could "Vogel der Nacht" have topped the 4th place achieved by Dschingis Khan in Jerusalem? And would "Peter Pan" have given Germany its first victory in Harrogate, like Nicole did?

Paola - Vogel der Nacht (Germany 1979 national final)

Paola - Peter Pan (Germany 1982 national final)

Song Of The Day: Switzerland 1970

A most original and slightly bizarre little love song about a man leaving his loved one behind for some time. He will go out and have a good time with other girls elsewhere, but she need not worry as he is sure to return.

And when he does, he will tell her everything he has done - how, where, when and who with. Not a very catholic thing to do.

Surely, all this is to inject some passion and sparkle into this relationship with a most forgiving, understanding and (if you read the lyrics properly) somewhat cold girl.

Henri Dès gave up on trying to make pop music for adults, but cut himself a very successful career writing songs and performing for children. Not a huge surprise, really, when you hear this song.

Love it or hate it, but try getting this chorus out of your head if you can.

Henri Dès - Retour (Switzerland 1970)

You would hardly recognise the Turks

It is hardly an understatement to say that Turkey struggled during their first twenty-five years in Euroland. Whatever star performers or hit choruses they sent in kept coming back home largely ignored and with a minimum of points to their names.

In the 80's, Turkish television started to look for qualified help in order to make their own entries more appealing. The song that won the national final was sent off to some music company (often in Germany) that would add a helping touch here and there.

Some years, they did far more than just the odd fine tuning. Some years they added long segments, cut whole verses out and - in severe cases - added a hook or a whole chorus.

Watch and compare for yourself. How would the original versions have fared at Eurovision?

1984 - Luxembourg

Bes yil once, on yil sonra - Halay (Turkey 1984 national final)

Most of this song is fully recognisable from the national final, but recieved a somewhat softer arrangement and a less busy choreography. And - a chorus, including a handle for the juries to hold on to. Result - a 12th place, which was the best Turkish showing until then.

Bes yil once, on yil sonra - Halay (Turkey 1984 eurovision version)

1986 - Bergen

Klips ve Onlar - Halley (Turkey 1986 national final)

For some reason, I can only find a very short clip of the national final version of this one but I think you will get the big picture. This entry is, in short, a complete mess. A heap of good ideas thrown together with no structure and nothing in particular going for it.

The musical helpers slowed down the pace considerably and added a very contemporary sound to the final arrangement, which resulted in Turkey's first ever top ten showing.

Klips ve Onlar - Halley (Turkey 1986 eurovision version)

1988 - Dublin

MFÖ - Sufi (Turkey 1988 national final)

This is a schoolbook example of how little it takes to turn something promising into something really good. These two versions are not so far apart, really. What is added is - again - a more modern touch to the sound as well as a distinctly oriental flavour and an instrumental hook most europeans would understand as typically Turkish.

The final version also has a better flow and sounds more melodic and catchy. It was quite rightly mentioned as a dark horse and possible outside at Eurovision, before finishing in a most disappointing 15th place.

MFÖ - Sufi (Turkey 1988 eurovision version)

1990 - Zagreb

Kayahan - Gözlerinin hapsindeyim (Turkey 1990 national final)

The first minute is almost the same, only the arrangement is different - more pompous and old-fashioned than the final version - but then the original throws itself head first into a difficult, un-catchy chorus. The production company would have nothing of it and cut it all out, replacing it with a much simpler singalong, still with a slightly oriental feel.

This was not a huge success and ended in 17th place in Zagreb, but I suspect the original version would have fought it out in a battle for the very last places.

Not bad, but in no way user friendly.

Kayahan - Gözlerinin hapsindeyim (Turkey 1990 eurovision version)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Song Of The Day: Belgium 1969

There has been quite a lot of Belgium in this blog lately, so why not keep on going with that trend?

I don't have an awful lot to say about this song, only that it is a most contemporary and gentle song with a quality melody line of a kind that was very present in the late 60's, complete with a lyric about one of these enigmatic and multi-faceted women who also populated pop culture at this time.

Everything about this entry is pure elegance (apart from the choreography spasm that occurs at the beginning of the first verse) and is maybe the single entry of 1969 that best represents the musical trends at the time.

Louis Neefs was an institution of Flemish showbiz, and his untimely death in a car crash late 1980 left the entire country saddened. Since 2007, there is a bust of him in his home town Gierle - an honour not bestowed upon just any old singer.

Louis Neefs - Jennifer Jennings (Belgium 1969)

Tobson's Wish List: Jelena Rozga for Croatia

She had a hard act to follow - when the elegant, sophisticated and highly appreciated Danijela Martinović wanted to leave Magazin shortly after their 1995 Eurovision adventure in Dublin, young Jelena was taken in to fill her shoes.

Danijela went on to have quite a successful solo career, perhaps peaking when representing Croatia again in Birmingham in 1998.

Jelena was first entered into the Croatian national final as a solo singer in 1996, and this first try was perhaps not completely convincing. She danced sweetly but struggled to hit the higher notes and seemed not too confident on stage.

Almost ten years with Magazin turned the tables completely, and since going solo in 2006 she is leading a remarkable career in Croatia. She has won the Grand Prix of the important Split festival every year since 2008 and was the first female performer in her country to sell out a concert hall of 12,000 seats.

Given how low interest is for the once so glorious Dora - the Croatian national final - and how popular Jelena is, it wouldn't be a bad idea to select her internally to represent her country in Baku.

After two flops in succession (and not a single top ten finish since 2001) it would be about time for Croatia to make an impression again.

Jelena Rozga - Bižuterija

Israel 1979: Shake it like Sherry

In 1978, the Israeli Song Festival was also used to select the national entry for Eurovision, resulting in instant victory and Jerusalem welcoming all Europe to friendly competition.

No wonder that a great deal of zeal and enthusiasm went into organising the 1979 Israeli Song Festival. The enthusiasm would only be topped a couple of weeks later, when it turned out that also this year's winner would go on to win Eurovision.

The Israeli Song Festival has an incredible track record in other words: twice it was used to select the Israeli entry, twice it produced a Eurovision winner. In 1981, the special Kdam Erovizion contest was created to act as national final, and it is yet to produce a single ESC winner.

The festival did more than finding a future world smash winner, it also produced a real sleeper hit. More than fifteen years later, the entry of Sherry hit the domestic charts and became a real evergreen.

I'm more surprised to find it wasn't a real hit back then. This is a fine track with a very convincing chorus as well as a very lively performance. What wouldn't I do to be able to shake it like Sherry's backing group? Those clever moves and those wonderful outfits leave me with a slight sense of regret that we never got to see Sherry on the Eurovision stage.

Could this song have done the same thing that Hallelujah did? Could it have been a second consecutive victory for Israel?

Sherry - Leolam be'ikvot hashemesh (Israel 1979 national final)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Belgium 1979: what if Micha Marah had it her way?

A number of countries have a tendency of getting it wrong at their national finals and end up sending weaker acts off to Eurovision, leaving stronger songs behind. Finland, Slovenia, Latvia and many others do this on a regular basis.

However, few national heats create the kind of chaos that has ensured after a number of Flemish finals.

Like in 1979, when Micha Marah sang all the songs in competition and was sent to Jerusalem with a song she truly hated (ending in shared last place with Austria once all points were cast).

Micha Marah - Hey Nanah! (Belgium 1979)

The song Micha had been backing all the way was a not too different number called "Comment ça va", and I can't help wondering how this song would have fared in the voting.

It is a bit of a loud monster of a song, maybe not quite as catchy and easily accessible as Micha herself seems to think. But just look at the conviction she puts into the performance. She transforms from a somewhat coldish chanteuse into a wild-eyed powerhouse.

Look at those eyes! Look at those hand movements! Look at her complete attack and dedication! And this is just the national final. Imagine how much energy she could have worked up on stage in Jerusalem.

All you people out there who have seen film noir classic "Sunset Boulevard" - don't you also almost expect Micha Marah to end this performance by saying "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"?

Micha Marah - Comment ça va (Belgium 1979 national final)

Finland 1980: Goodbye, night (and goodbye, points)

Just like Yugoslavia, Finland was a country somewhere in between East and West during the days of the cold war. While looking west culturally, there was a large neighbour in the east that should be kept happy at any cost.

One of the things this resulted in was Finland taking part not only in Eurovision of the West, but also in the socialist equivalent - the Intervision Song Contest in Poland.

For some years, Yle decided to devote equal time to both contests and organised a national final split in two: during the same show, seven songs competed for a Eurovision ticket, seven songs competed to go to Intervision.

Intervision never gained any real popularity in Finland, though. There was little, if any, interest for the songs from the other countries, Intervision was never broadcast live and it lacked in excitement as there was no voting sequence during the show.

In an attempt to make Intervision more appealing, Yle asked Marion Rung (who sang for Finland at Eurovision in 1962 and 1973 and was, until the victory of Lordi, the best place Finlander ever at the ESC) to sing all seven entries for Intervision. The winning song, "Hyvästi yö" (Goodbye, night), didn't only turn into a big hit and a real evergreen, it also went on to win first prize (in one of the many categories) of Intervision.

Marion - Hyvästi yö (Finland 1980 Intervision)

At the same time, the national final for Eurovision held a remarkably low standard, offering a line-up of surpringly un-catchy songs, resulting in victory for actor Vesa-Matti Loiri equipped with a song that was not bad but complete shark feed in a commercial pop contest. At the final in the Hague, "Huilumies" (Flute man) ended on nineteenth and last place.

The big question remains why Yle threw away a brilliant song with big hit potential to a song contest nobody cared for while sending a no-hoper to the most watched and loved song contest of the year.

Vesa-Matti Loiri - Huilumies (Finland 1980)

Song Of The Day: Spain 1986

In a moment of rare clarity, Terry Wogan stated that Spain had been drifting away from the European mainstream in Eurovision, sending entries that stood out in a different light compared to most others.

Indeed, Spain had been doing this and would keep on bending the rules concerning what an ESC entry could/should look like and sound like.

In 1986, Cadillac sported a very contemporary sound and offered a song that was far more laidback and slick, far less depending on any typical formula and with not even the shadow of a proper key change in it. Instead it relies on it's hook, the very instant "Valentino"-singalong in the chorus.

Cadillac - Valentino (Spain 1986)

It managed to sneak into the top ten but not more. Perhaps the juries wanted something more easily digested (the victory of Belgium could suggest this), perhaps the visual presentation was not as exciting as it could have been. The preview, for instance, is more dynamic and suggestive.

But a good little 80's pop song it is, and a welcome reminder of the good old days when Spain made a difference at Eurovision.

Cadillac - Valentino (Spain 1986 preview)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tobson's Wish List: Mika for France

Five years ago, Mika was an international pop smash with his very own mixture of styles and sounds. At some point, around hit singles as "Relax (Take It Easy" and "Grace Kelly", he was quoted as saying he'd love to go to Eurovision at some point. For his country of birth, Lebanon.

Maybe it was a joke. Maybe he thought it was safe saying so as Lebanon is quite unlikely to enter. I can't even remember what magazine asked the question, whether it is the least bit reliable.

But I think Mika would be great for Eurovision - an established pop act, whose runner-up album didn't quite affect the charts the way it was intended to.

Especially as he recently released his first ever French-languaged single, and French television has made it a thing of their own to walk their own original ways, he would be an excellent representative for France.

He is just as international and multi-cultured as French society in itself, and despite being renowned for heavy ballads, the French have always had a soft spot for bubbly pop à la chewing-gum.

The presence of Mika would surely make Baku a livelier place come May. I say go for it. I say danse! danse! danse! (And if he would bring Fanny Ardant - leading lady in this clip - to Baku, I would promise him my personal 12 points on the spot.)

Mika - Elle me dit

Monday, October 10, 2011

Everybody wanted to be Abba

At some point in life, all children just want to close their eyes, make a wish and transform into something else. At some point, every little girl would want to be a princess and every little boy an astronaut.

In the late 70's, quite a few groups entering Eurovision really wanted to be Abba.

Not surprising, given Abba's remarkable success at the ESC itself and even more so afterwards, when conquering the world.

But being Abba takes a little bit more than just being two girls and two guys singing together. As the juries cast their votes, it was time for these acts to wake up and face the music.

(At some point, maybe Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida watched the ESC, looked at each other with puzzled facial expressions, thinking to themselves: "is this really what these people think we sound like?")

The Swarbriggs Plus Two - It's Nice To Be In Love Again (Ireland 1977)

Gemini - Dai-li-dou (Portugal 1978)

Nazar - Sevince (Turkey 1978)

R.I.P. Ingvar Wixell

The internationally renowned opera singer Ingvar Wixell has passed away, at the age of 80.

In 1965, he was selected internally to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in Naples. His graceful appearance and smooth voice was meant to make the judges focus on melodic qualities instead of voting for the young lasses performing the songs.

The winning song of the national contest caused a bit of a stir on home ground, as it beat the slightly more commercial bossa nova "Stilla och tyst" and was considered a bit too sophisticated to go down well. A musical gourmet meal thrown at an audience that usually prefers hamburgers.

Ingvar Wixell - Annorstädes vals (Sweden 1965)

In Naples, the Swedish delegation deemed themselves chanceless but, in an attempt to increase the possibilities of anyone understanding, it was decided for Ingvar to perform the song in English. This was not against the rules, but the EBU officials were not amused and added a clause about everyone having to sing in (one of) their native languages from 1966 and on.

For me, this stands out as a most enchanting and appealing little song with a superb delicacy and finesse, especially the original Swedish lyrics were written with a very light and poetical touch.

And again, the great masses understood nothing. Apart from the three Swedish entries never recorded by the original performer (1958, 1960 and 1966), this one possibly has the distinction of being the least selling Swedish eurosong ever (in a tight battle with the 1994 entry).

Ingvar Wixell - Absent Friend (Sweden 1965)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Song Of The Day: FYR Macedonia 1996

During all the years Former Yugoslavia participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, TV Skopje did not manage to run off with victory even once. In 1996, they wanted to enter under their own flag for the first time, but it wasn't to be.

Kalopi Grill impress the jurors of the Skopje festival with her self-penned number "Samo ti", but in the odd, non-public, pre-selection for Oslo - where 29 candidates were cut down to 22 - the juries made thumbs down.

It's not that I don't see why. I can sort of understand why this passes over the heads of the masses.

But Kaliopi sings wonderfully and this song is an unusual, demanding and intriguing little soul number that could have made more than a tiny difference in Oslo.

Kaliopi Grill - Samo ti (FYR Macedonia 1996 - rejected in the pre-selection)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Song Of The Day: Austria 1987

Gary Lux is a real eurovision trooper who sang solo twice, sang in a group once and acted as backing singer no less than three times. He should have a medal for his devotion and endurance.

Not that he ever came home with a real success under his arm. In 1983 and 1985 he was tipped to do a lot better than he did in the end, and in 1987 he only scored a humble eight points.

Rightly so, most people would say. They would use words like "tedious", "insignificant" or "hopeless" to describe this soft little pop ballad. And I have to admit it is no real blockbuster. But I like it anyway. It has a certain something, a touch of je-ne-sais-quoi, that makes me really fond of it.

I like the vague and soft intro, and I like the tone of Gerhard's voice. There is something about the bridge and the saxophone break. And how it finally falls back into the same vague but pleasant little part that keeps running like a red thread through the entire song.

I wouldn't give it twelve points, certainly not. But I would never push fast forward either.

Gary Lux - Nur noch Gefühl (Austria 1987)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Annica could have been Kylie

The youngest participant in the 1988 Swedish national final was Annica Burman, only 15 years of age when she entered the circular stage of Malmö Stadsteater in the end of February.

She made the super final and ended in 6th place with the song "I en ding ding värld" (almost identical to the Swedish title of the 1963 hit comedy "It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world).

Annica Burman - I en ding, ding värld (Sweden NF 1988)

The song was written by Bruno Glenmark, whose record label took on Annica with the purpose of making her a Swedish equivalent of Kylie Minogue. Unfortunately, the label folded, taking its acts (beside Annica also quirky pop band Carmen Kane and poodle rockers Talk Of The Town) with them into obscurity.

A shame, given the material they had to work with. Annica's follow-up single (complete with a most entertaining video clip) could have been a smash hit given the right promotion. (Or any promotion, actually.)

Now it was just another good pop single to pass unnoticed. Annica moved on to the States, where she worked as a secretary (according to an old newspaper article) and also as a singer (according to Swedish Wikipedia).

Annica Burman - I Can't Deny A Broken Heart

Preview clip: Yugoslavia 1989

Back in 1989, aged only 13, I might have been the only person alive to see Yugoslavia as a serious contender for victory after seeing the previews. Everyone else claims to have been deeply surprised by Riva taking the crown, but I loved this from the word go.

Especially I loved the cute preview clip, re-telling the story of the English lyrics (while the original lyrics say something completely different). I just loved the happy ending, I loved the movement, the colours and, above all, the sense of fun.

Former Yugoslavia usually made really fun video clips, packed of shiny, happy people who ran around town and did crazy and wonderful things.

I was convinced Yugoslavia was a country where everyone was happy all the time and where fun reigned supreme all day long (and quite a bit into the night as well). Two years later Yugoslavia collapsed into horrific civil war and I realised I am an impressionable fool who knows nothing, and that I should never try to understand the world with the aid of eurovision previews only.

But I still think the clip is really cute.

Riva - Rock Me (Yugoslavia 1989 preview)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Song Of The Day: Israel 1973

Israel made its eurovision debut in Luxembourg 1973, seemingly because singer Ilanit really wanted to take part and represent her won country.

She surely must have felt the need to impress as many people as possible, and commissioned a specially crafted song from well renowned composer Nurit Hirsh. She listened to several successful ESC entries in order to find a structure that would appeal to an international contest before writing "Ey Sham".

And what a piece of art that song is. It starts gently with a plain piano introduction before Ilanits warm voice blends into the mix, singing a few lines before the whole thing erupts into a long, dynamic chorus, where the lyrics by Ehud Manor makes Hebrew sound soft, poetic and appealing.

Cleverly, the song never repeats the exact structures - short verse followed by long chorus, then a long verse followed by a short chorus, then an instrumental break before another short chorus wraps the whole thing up.

IBA could not afford sending any backing singers along to Luxembourg, but the clever arrangement almost makes up for that. The orchestra is conducted by Nurit Hirsh herself, being the second female conductor ever at the ESC (out of a grand total of three).

Ilanit - Ey Sham (Israel 1973)

In my book, Israel is yet to send any song as powerful and convincing as this one. Even if it sounds even a tiny bit better in its studio version, thanks to a certain atmosphere the Luxembourgois orchestra could not create (as well as the lack of backing vocals).

Ilanit - Ey Sham (Israel 1973 preview)

Happy Birthday, Eurovision

Whenever there is a reason to celebrate, there should be cake and a toast. And singing. A birthday is never good enough without some jolly singing.

At eurovision, singing also falls very neatly into the picture and some countries have taken on the task to celebrate this old contest in song.

When Eurovision turned 25, Belgium entered a Kraftwerk-inspired hommage to the Queen of Song Contest, not without a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek. Telex was a big name within the world of progressive synthesizer music and managed to confuse the greater part of the juries, barely missing out on the last place that would have granted them a most visible spot in the history books.

Telex - Euro-vision (Belgium 1980)

Twenty-five years later, at the next big celebration, it was Bosnia-Herzegovina that lit the candles on the cake and had cheerful girl trio Feminnem turn their entry, originally a love song while in their own language, into a birthday serenade.

The icing on the birthday cake was the ESC history/Abba tribute preview clip, resulting in every credible eurofan regularly bursting into a high-pitched "Hallooo Kopenhagen!".

Feminnem - Call Me (Bosnia-Herzegovina 2005 preview)

In between these almost compulsory celebrations, also Israel threw in a birthday song for reasons best known to themselves. It did way better than the other two, but that must be due to host country politeness...

Eden - Happy Birthday (Israel 1999)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Song Of The Day: Belgium 1975

This is a song I have very strong feelings for. Simple and sincere, heart-warming and tender, this is one of the best entries Flanders ever sent to the ESC.

Ann Christy had already scored a big hit after coming third in the 1971 Belgian final with "Dag vreemde man" and would now create a true evergreen on home ground. Highly appreciated already then, it was a hit again in a cover version some twenty years later (this time sung by the group Mama's Jasje).

Since the rules stipulated free choice of language, and BRT both wanted to show their language to the world as well as securing a respectable score, it was decided that "Gelukkig zijn" would be performed in a bilingual version. The singer was not too keen on this idea, but a contract is a contract, and BRT had the last word.

Despite the juggling with languages, the song didn't score more than a modest seventeen points and had to content itself with a fifteenth place among nineteen contestans. Clearly a disappointment, but the song lived on despite its eurovision failure.

I have heard people saying that the lyrics deal with the subject of lesbian love, but then these people know something that isn't stated clearly in the song. It could be, but it could just as well be about any couple, regardless of sexual orientation.

The vocal delivery of Ann Christy is pure beauty: her voice is tender, intense and powerful at the right moments, showing what a remarkable performer she was.

Ann Christy died in 1984, at the tender age of 38.

Ann Christy - Gelukkig zijn / Could It Be Happiness (Belgium 1975)

Switzerland: a familiar face among the entrants

Switzerland is busy assembling eurovision hopefuls of all shapes and kinds at the moment. Anyone can upload a suitable entry on the website of Schweizer Fernsehen and hope to become one of the shortlisted lucky ones for the national final.

Expectations are higher than an many years, after Anna Rossinelli managed to bring the Alpine country into the ESC final in Düsseldorf after four years out in the cold.

Among the hopefuls, there is at least one familiar face for Finnish fans (with good memory).

Flavio Cristilli, who is entering the song "Ancora uno sbaglio" for the 2012 Swiss selection, took part in the 2007 Finnish selection as a backing singer for Laura Voutilainen in one of her two semi final entries.

Despite clearly being the better out of the two on offer, the Finns turned all incomprehensible on us and turned down "Kosketa mua" in favour of a cheap, dated re-write of Laura's 2002 entry.

In the end, "Kosketa mua" had more airplay anyway and was the title track of Laura's album. And rightly so.

Laura Voutilainen (feat Flavio Cristilli) - Kosketa mua (Finland 2007 national final)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Song Of The Day: Albania 2006

Most people who win talent shows like Pop Idol, X-Factor or similar do that thanks to their bubbly and intense personalities. Singing talent alone is not enough, most of them are extrovert and talkative, cheerful and upbeat.

Luiz Ejlli is a different kind of Pop Idol. He is a shy and gentle little flower of a performer. He has a strong voice but hardly dares to look into the camera.

Also his song is different from what you would normally associate with Pop Idols - a not too obvious folksong dressed up in a soft syntesizer outfit, complete with bagpipe and a backing male vocalist in a folksy gown.

After a couple of listenings, when you find the hidden handles in the chorus, this turns out to be a catchy little number which, admittedly, failed to qualify but that sounds dignified and sincere. Surely, the choice of Albanian as singing language probably helps to achieve the latter.

Even cautious Luiz throws himself enthusiastically into the mix, finally daring not only to face the camera but also to let out some powerful notes - powerful enough to surprise himself, by the look of it - right before the last chorus.

Not everyone's cup of tea, surely, but a tasty praline for the ones of us who get it.

Luiz Ejlli - Zjarr e ftohtë (Albania 2006)