5 moments when Eurovision was nearly cool
The annual Eurovision Song Contest has nearly always scored nil points when it comes to credible artists belting out top-notch songs. Yet, there have been a few moments across the decades where it seemed like cool might prevail against the onslaught of kitsch.
Here is a selection of well-known artists that put their career on the line in hope of a Eurovision win.
France Gall – ‘Poupée de cire, poupée de son’
Serge Gainsbourg; to some, he was the epitome of cool French pop, to others the master of double entendre and lowbrow sleaze.
Those worlds collided in his collaboration with France Gall, ‘Poupée de cire, poupée de son’ (trans: ‘Doll of wax, Doll of sawdust’) - a song which overtly implied that Gall was nothing more than Gainsbourg’s singing puppet.
This 1965 entry from Luxembourg caused a ruckus at the time, taking home the Eurovision crown and ending a long run of turgid ballads, essentially kick-starting modern Eurovision as we know it today.
Sandie Shaw – ‘Puppet On A String’
There’s more than a hint of Gainsbourg’s winning composition in Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet On A String’, which followed in 1967. Not least in the title.
Shaw already had a string of hits in the UK pre-Eurovision, including an excellent cover of Bacharach & David’s ‘(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me’. But it was her Eurovision victory that launched her as a British fashion icon, imbuing all that was chic about the ‘Swinging Sixties’.
In 1983, the then-unknown Morrissey invited her to sing on The Smiths’ debut single ‘Hand In Glove’, instantly delivering her a new generation of fans, who – much like the previous generation – fell deeply in love with her effortless cool.
Ofra Haza – ‘Hi’
Ofra Haza’s 1983 entry for Israel might not be much to get excited about, but her appearance preceded an unexpected trajectory that found her thrust into the midst of the nascent British hip hop community.
Her 1984 recording ‘Im Nin'alu’ was sampled by Coldcut in 1987 for their remix of Eric B & Rakim’s ‘Paid In Full’. The remix eclipsed the chart success of the original source track, and has since made its way to near-legendary status as of one of the greatest remixes of all time.
‘Im Nin'alu’ was subsequently re-released as a single, selling three million copies worldwide.
Telex – ‘Euro-Vision’
Founded in the late-’70s, Belgium’s Telex are a curio in the Eurovision catalogue. They’re a band who have carved a credible trajectory through the history of electronic music – collaborating with Depeche Mode, Sparks and Pet Shop Boys – but who nonetheless took a brief sidestep into Eurovision with their dry, nonchalant self-titled modular-synth driven ‘Euro-vision’.
They stepped onto the Eurovision stage, swathed in matching white scarves for a steely, DGAF performance. They were reportedly disappointed that they didn’t achieve their goal – to come last, with nil points.
Tatu – ‘Ne’ver, ne boisia’
Everyone’s favourite Russian lesbians represented Russia in 2003, 12 months after their global hit ‘All The Things She Said’ split audiences into lovers and haters.
They entered the Eurovision arena to rapturous applause, but sadly their schtick came unstuck as the audience was treated to off-key, shrill vocals, more high pitched than a dog whistle.
They nevertheless came in a respectable third, allowing their juggernaut to roll on a little further.
A journalist famously asked Morrissey what he thought of TaTu’s cover of The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’, helpfully explaining that TatTu were “those teenage Russian lesbians”. To which Moz replied, “Well, aren’t we all?”
BONUS MOMENT: Hawkins & Brown – ‘They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To’
That moment when Justin Hawkins from The Darkness teamed up with soul singer Beverlei Brown to enter a BBC talent show, designed to choose the official UK entry for Eurovision in 2007.
They were pitched against (deep breath) a former member of Atomic Kitten, and one-time East 17 buffoon Brian Harvey. Yet they still lost out in the public vote, to the execrable Scooch with their hi-energy disco take on Pan Am’s comedy career.
Hawkins does look characteristically awesome and hams it up like Boss Hog, making for a bizarre ‘what if’ footnote in Eurovision history.
For more of the best music from all around the globe, tune into Stu Buchanan on Fat Planet every Wednesday from 8pm. Or listen anytime online.