Eurovision: Always terrible but at least it used to have a novelty value

Bucks Fizz in 1981.

Bucks Fizz in 1981.

Eurovision: A party political broadcast on behalf of Euro-sceptics if ever there was one.

Anyone wishing to persuade their compatriots that Britain really should leave the European Union as a matter of urgency simply has tell them to tune into BBC1 tonight for this annual cheese-fest.

Masquerading as a music contest, this bloated televisual nightmare is simply an excuse for all the other countries of Europe (especially France) to show just how much they dislike us.

Mind you, we don’t do ourselves any favours, do we?

I mean, Bonnie Tyler is this year’s United Kingdom Entry. Really?

Don’t get me wrong I’m as fond as the next man of her massive Eighties hit Total Eclipse Of The Heart.

The video alone – with its weird imagery taken at an all boys school where nudity and the consumption of drugs which make your eyeballs turn into small suns seems commonplace – is frankly unforgettable.

But if we are reduced to wheeling out stars from 30 years ago then surely we’d be better off opting for Duran Duran or asking Wham to reform.

I’ve nothing against the Welsh warbler selected to champion this Sceptered Isle in Malmö tonight, other than that she appears to be somewhat past her best.

I guess we’ll see when the block-voting by members of the former Soviet Union commences this evening.

Maybe it’s my age but I don’t remember it always being a foregone conclusion that the UK would receive fewer points than Lichtenstein.

Although, to be fair, during the 1980s the countries taking part in the competition were at least in Europe.

Nowadays they’ll take anyone – including Israel, Cyprus and various intercontinental countries such as Russia and Turkey.

My first memory of Eurovision is of the year when family-friendly Bucks Fizz were the toast of Europe.

The grinning four-piece, with their daring outfit change, won the contest in 1981 with Making Your Mind Up – a song so bad all the other countries in Europe voted for it so that we were forced to keep listening to it and seeing the group’s garish outfits on Top of the Pops.

These days, Eurovision has its own website and there’s even an app to download – should you run out of chores to do – which allows you to immerse yourself in competition trivia and learn all the words to Moldova’s entry.

Of course, 30 years ago – even though the contest was well-established there was still a huge novelty factor when countries most of us only knew from O-Level or GCSE geography came together on the same night via the wonder of the small screen in our living rooms.

Back then we laughed at the idiosyncrasies of Europe’s smaller nations – until, that is, they started beating us with songs which sounded like they’d been made up by a drunken medieval peasant.

We didn’t mind so much when Ireland’s Johnny Logan kicked off the decade by winning with What’s Another Year. At least we could understand what he was saying.

But did the Aussie-born singer really have to return in 1987 and win again with Hold Me Now? Surely there should be rules against that sort of thing.

I bet Terry Wogan agrees with me.

Of course, Eurovision in the Eighties also introduced the watching public to a little-known, Canadian-born singer by the name of Celine Dion whose Ne partez pas sans moi won first place for Switzerland in 1988.

She was 20 at the time, years before she hit full diva mode with her epic theme from the movie Titanic.

That victory launched Celine Dion on the path to global stardom. Yes, it’s Eurovision’s fault.

Oh well, at least we can thank it for the music of Abba.

Pick up a copy of The Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia.

Euro-drivel shows how different we really are

It is fair to say that, like my late Sentinel colleague John Abberley, I have no great affection for the European Union.

With its straight bananas and accounting anomalies which dwarf our MPs’ expenses scandal, it is both absurd and corrupt.

What’s more, I fail to see the benefit we Brits actually gain by being part of this great bureaucratic blancmange.

In fact, it seems to me that we pour inordinate amounts of cash into an institution which exists only to line the pockets of politicians and prop up small countries with basket case economies.

If we are being honest we have absolutely nothing in common with our European counterparts – as evidenced so neatly by Saturday’s televisual treat, the Eurovision Song Contest.

If ever there was an advert as to why being part of the EU is a bad idea, Eurovision is it.

Conversely, if there was one thing that was guaranteed to cheer up crestfallen Stoke City fans after the anti-climax of the FA Cup Final it was this annual crime against music and decency.

Eurovision is billed as a celebration of all that is good about Europe: A meeting of minds and a blending of cultures.

In truth it simply serves to underline how different we are to every other country which is separated from us by the sea.

Yes, even Ireland.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not completely xenophobic.

In fact, I still have a poster of Port Vale’s Austrian international Andreas Lipa stuck up in my shed. (Although, to be fair, he was rubbish too).

I have also driven to France, wandered into a patisserie and murdered the French language by ordering a baguette.

In spite of these clear demonstrations of the entente cordiale, I just don’t feel European and, after sitting through the Eurovision love-in once more, I think I understand why.

This isn’t sour grapes, by the way. I never expected the United Kingdom’s entry to win – no matter how much Duncan James pouted at the cameras.

Granted, it didn’t help that their song was eminently forgettable, but the boys in Blue surely deserved better than to finish 11th behind such musical power-houses as Bosnia/Herzegovina and Greece.

For my money, all of the finalists in Stoke’s Top Talent are of a higher standard than many of the artists representing their nations at Eurovision.

Take, for example, Italy’s entry – The Madness of Love by Raphael Gualazzi.

It was, if I am being kind, music to shop by: The kind of tedious warbling and piano-twinkling you used to have to put up with when navigating the frozen vegetable aisle.

In spite of this, Raphael finished second. Enough said.

Then there was Moldova’s entry which consisted of a pretty girl dressed as an icicle and riding a unicycle surrounded by half a dozen blokes wearing Marge Simpson wigs screaming inanities and grinning maniacally.

All of which was better than Ireland’s entry.

I don’t know… we bail them out of an economic crisis and they give us Jedward.

Next year I may try to persuade Jonny Wilkes to have a go.

On second thoughts, our Jonny is way too good for Eurovision and, in any case, unless he entered on behalf of a former Soviet state he wouldn’t stand a chance – given the block-voting that goes on.

The slogan this year was ‘Feel your heart beat’.

I dare say Terry Wogan’s heart almost gave out when he saw the Ukraine garner 10 points or more from each of its neighbours – Georgia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia and mother Russia.

Let’s face it, the Eurovision Song Contest is 30 per cent surreality and 70 per cent fix.

I reckon the other countries take it in turns to keep the top prize away from the UK amid the kind of voting shenanigans which go on when FIFA is deciding where to stage the World Cup.

So determined are the Eurodrivel power-brokers that the country which gave the world Buck’s Fizz is never again to hold the crown that they have started giving it away to places which aren’t even in Europe – such as Israel.

I have nothing against Saturday’s winners – Ell/Nikki from Azerbaijan who amassed an impressive 221 points.

But I just can’t see their song making Q magazine’s top 100 anytime soon. The only saving grace was that it was in English.

Eurovision’s own website bills it as “without doubt Europe’s favourite TV show”.

Only because they can’t get Corrie in Azerbaijan.