The one where Celine Dion got engaged
Written by: Andrew Brook
When Johnny Logan stepped onto the stage in Dublin to open the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest he was the first singer to reprise the winning song from the previous year. He sang in total darkness, captivating the audience with a perfect rendition of “Hold Me Now”. At the end of the song the stage was revealed in all its glory, and Eurovision entered a new era.
It was the first shiny-floor Eurovision
Clever use of lighting made it look as if the stage went on forever, and two giant screens gave it a futuristic look. It is hard to remember how groundbreaking the set was at the time, and it still looks fresh today.
The set may have been a triumph, the songs, less so. The 80s are not remembered for many classic Eurovision songs and 1988 gave us precisely none. The orchestra seemed to fight against the singers all night long and the natural acoustics of the hall (a show-jumping arena) weren’t ideal. And yet somehow it doesn’t spoil the show at all.
The presentation was slick, professional and up to date. We ooh-ed and aah-ed when the name of the song fluttered across the screen with lovely new-fangled graphics, and seeing the singers projected on the giant screens was a novelty too.
The U.K. sent Scott Fitzgerald, a crooner who would have been more at home in the 1968 contest than in1988. He had a terribly old-fashioned song, but at least he knew how to belt his tune out. The grannies watching no doubt loved him.
Luxembourg were represented by a young Lara Fabian who sang a well-regarded gentle ballad… which the orchestra proceeded to ruin. Luckily it didn’t ruin her career, and she never risked a return to Eurovision.
Yugoslavia had the most up-to-date song, and and they came sixth, following their fourth place the year before. Their luck was finally changing!
But it was always going to be Celine Dion’s competition to lose. Mlle Dion, a French Canadian, had won the Swiss national final with a song written by a Turk, ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’. It seems that Celine is not fond of the song, as she has rarely sung it since.
It’s a song that is difficult to categorise – part ballad, part oom-pah – and it certainly isn’t fondly remembered as a winning song. But as a vehicle for Celine’s voice, it was absolutely perfect. Celine’s dress made her look like a cake decoration. Had she not won, the dress would definitely have taken the blame.
The best new song of the night came during the interval - from the Hothouse Flowers, a sort of grown-up version of the Irish entry that year. ‘Don’t Go’ was a mixture of live performance and a video that was shot in eleven different countries. Had they been competing, Ireland may have achieved its first double victory in 1988.
When the voting started the presenters unveiled a computerised scoreboard that the Irish were rightly chuffed to bits with. And they were blessed with exceptionally exciting votes. The contest became a fight between the two best singers of the night, from the UK and Switzerland. Not only did it go down to the last round of voting, but to the very last vote of the night.
Having performed last, Yugoslavia had the honour of announcing the deciding votes. They didn’t care much for Celine’s song, giving her six points, and edging Switzerland into a one point lead over the UK. So it seemed certain that the UK would celebrate its fifth victory, as there were still four votes to be announced. But it wasn’t to be – the Yugoslavs liked Scott Fizgerald’s songs so little that they didn’t give it a single point and so, by the narrowest of margins, Celine Dion won the Eurovision Song Contest 1988.
That night Celine’s manager René Angélil proposed to her, and they remained married until his death in 2016.
‘Ne partez pas sans moi’ didn’t launch Celine’s European career in the way that ‘Waterloo’ did for Abba, but by the following year she was well on the way to international superstardom, and opened the 1989 contest with “Where does my heart beat now” , a song that was a massive hit in Canada and America. If it is a little disappointing to Eurovision fans that Celine doesn’t hold the contest close to hear heart, we should remember her Canadian upbringing, where Eurovision is almost unheard of, and the lack of commercial success of her winning song. However, she did score a massive hit with a song written by a Eurovision champion. In 1995 she had a worldwide smash hit (and a seven week run at No 1 in the UK) with “Think Twice” – co-written by Andy Hill, of ‘Making your mind up” fame.
Since the second Swiss victory in 1988 Switzerland has seen very little action on the Eurovision scoreboard. But they had waited 32 years from Lys Assia’s inaugural victory to Celine Dion’s in Dublin, so we’ll be looking closely at them in 2020 for their third victory!
The one with tea-cups and polar bears
Written by: Andrew Brook
The 23rd Eurovision Song Contest took place 40 years ago, on 22nd April, 1978. Following the surprise win by Marie Myriam it was hosted by France, for the first (and so far, only) time, in Paris. Other notable firsts for Eurovision were the two presenters, the use of a split screen during the voting, and a laser beam. Oh, and the word for word enunciation of the entire rules, in English as well as French, during the interval, whilst the laser did its best to entertain the audience.
In 1978 the thing that really caught people’s attention was the orchestra. Gone were the days when they were seated in the pit. In 1977 they had been centre stage, with the stage moving around them, and for the 1978 edition the French went one better, and seated the orchestra in a massive rotating tea-cup. It must have been a strange experience for the musicians to be moving whilst playing.
The competition should have belonged to Baccara. They were riding on the success of their pan-European smash-hit single ‘Yes Sir, I can Boogie’. But instead of representing Sweden, they went for Luxembourg, singing in French, with a song that was just that bit too close to their big hit. As so often happens in Eurovision, the big stars were overlooked. Parlez Vous Francais? came 7th. At least they beat their own country, with Spain finishing in 9th place.
They were not the only contestants to under-achieve. Both Italy and the UK were expected to do well, only to find that the orchestra and sound mixing fought against their songs, both of which relied upon the harmonies of the groups. The UK suffered its worst result so far, even if 11th would be seen as quite a result these days.
1978 was the first year since 1972 that all contestants had to sing in their own language, and Björn Skiffs wasn’t happy. He decided to sing his Swedish entry in English, only to change his mind at the very last moment. This caused him to forget the Swedish lyrics, and the first few lines turned out to be gibberish. He still managed to beat six other acts.
The contest will be remembered equally for the winner and the loser. 1978 saw the first nul points of the douze-points voting system. Jan Teigen needs no introduction and is arguably more famous than the winners.
Israel was never fancied to win in 1978. But on the night their disco number shone out, and they won by a big margin over second placed Belgium. Five singers joined Izhah Cohen on stage for their tightly arranged up-beat number - and, for the first time for a winning song, a woman conducted the orchestra. ‘A-Ba-Ni-Bi’ became a hit across Europe, though not of the level the contest was used to producing. It is fondly known as ‘I wanna be a polar bear’ in English-speaking countries.
So - is it worth 90 minutes of your time if you haven’t seen it before?. The contest has a completely different feel to today’s events. The concert hall atmosphere and backstage shots of the singers getting ready to perform let you get close up to the competition itself. And the songs, whilst not containing any classics, are mostly toe-tappers.
At the end of the contest the laser operator valiently tried to make the beam project the Star of David on the back of the stage. It didn’t quite work, but that didn’t matter. Israel had finally arrived on the Eurovision stage. And, of course, they would host and win again the following year, in Jerusalem. Halleluia. I wanna be a polar bear.
Sonia, a ginger-haired beauty from Liverpool, was born on 13th February 1971. She shot to fame in the late 80s with the Stock, Aitken & Waterman hit ‘Never stop me from loving you’. This would be Sonia’s only ever solo number one record, lasting thirteen weeks in the U.K. chart. We shouldn’t forget that Sonia was a contributing artist in the 1989 Christmas band aid single ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ which also charted at number one.
Between 1989 and 1993 Sonia recorded an impressive eleven top 30 hits. In 1991, after a falling out with Stock, Aitken & Waterman, Sonia released ‘Only fools (fall in love) which made the U.K. top ten.
In 1993 Sonia was selected as the artist for A Song For Europe, where she performed all eight songs. ‘Better The Devil You Know’ won by a landslide, with 156,955 votes, to 2nd placed ‘Our World’ with 77,695 points. Sonia was delighted to represent the U.K.
The Eurovision Song Contest took place in Millstreet, Ireland, following a fabulous win by Linda Martin in Malmo, the previous year. I remember it vividly, as 1993 was my first ever Eurovision. The final votes were due in from Malta (who were delayed casting their votes from earlier in the evening, due to technical difficulties). Malta’s jury awarded 12 points to Ireland and nothing at all to the U.K - the shock vote of the night. Niamh Kavanagh won the contest for Ireland. A great song and worthy winner and the U.K. had yet again achieved second place!
In the coming years Sonia performed in London’s West End, taking on parts including Sandy in Grease, whilst still releasing music including, one of the songs from Greece, ‘Hopelessly Devoted to you’.
In 2002 Sonia returned to the Eurovision stage as a panellist on the one time only ‘Liquid Eurovision’ show, presented by Jenny Eclair - an alternative to the usual Terry Wogan presentation - on the now dissolved station BBC Choice.
In 2003, Sonia returned to tv on ITV’s ‘Reborn in the USA’ reality show, which featured stars from yesteryear trying to rebuild their careers.
In 2007 Sonia released her greatest hits album and in 2009 released her first single for nearly fourteen years. Three years later, Sonia performed with other former Stock, Aitken and Waterman artists, including Kylie, in their ‘Hit Factory Reunion show, performed at the O2 in London.
In between releasing singles, tv shows and raising her daughter Gracie Rose, Sonia has also performed in various Pantomines up and down the country, often alongside tv favourite Lily Savage.
This year, twenty-five year’s after her Eurovision performance, Sonia is back!! Performing at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on the 26th April, as a one off gig, Sonia will perform all of her hits, including of course ‘Better The Devil You Know’.
the escSocial team will be there in force
Written by: Andrew Brook
This weekend Eurovision fans are gathering in Amsterdam for the tenth ‘Eurovision in Concert’ and the chance to see a record-breaking 32 competing acts as they hone their performances ahead of next month’s competition.
For most of its history the concert has taken place at Melkweg (Milky Way), a cultural centre in the heart of Amsterdam. With a 1,500 capacity, Eurovision in Concert sold out within minutes each year, to the disappointment of many fans.
This year the concert moves to a 5,000 seater arena on the outskirts of the city, and the Melkweg now holds a pre-party the night before. Eurovision in Concert just keeps on getting bigger and bigger, and escSocial will be there in force, and we’ll be bringing you some very special interviews through the weekend.
escSocial is all about bringing fans together, with the focus on fun and friendship, so if you see any of us around town or at the venue, please come up and say hi. We’d love to meet you.
For those of you not lucky enough to be in Amsterdam we’ll do our best to bring you the excitement of the weekend and we will be hoping to have some very interesting chats with this year’s artists.
Have a great Eurovision weekend and remember to check back often for the latest news from escSocial!
The one with Cliff Richard, stuck in the Lavatory
Written by: Andrew Brook
In Great Britain in the 1960s there was only one person who could speak several languages, so when Sandie Shaw won Eurovision it fell to Catherine Boyle to reprise her role as mistress of ceremony in the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. History does not record whether she was wearing knickers (she admitted to not having done so for her final appearance in 1974), but she did wear a diamond broach so big it that could be seen from space.
The Spanish song was originally due to be sung by Joan Manuel Serrat but he was replaced as the singer when he insisted on singing ‘La La La’ in Catalan. Rather than being a political statement, as is often assumed, it was probably an excuse to save him from the humiliation of singing ‘La, La, La’ 138 times in front of an audience of 200 million viewers across Europe. María de los Ángeles Felisa Santamaría Espinosa had no such qualms, as was demonstrated by the mile-wide grin on her face when she reprised the song after beating Cliff Richard by one single, solitary point. The 13th contest may have been unlucky for some, but not for Massiel.
1968 was the first contest to be broadcast in colour, in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden, though, ironically, not in the UK itself. BBC1 was still broadcasting in black and white only. The contest was, however, repeated on BBC2 the following day, in colour.
The venue was the 5,000-seater Royal Albert Hall, by far the largest Eurovision venue at the time.
Among the 17 entries there was only one returning artist, the 1962 winner, Isabele Aubret. She sung a beautiful, moody ballad called ‘La Source’ about a girl who was making her way through woods to the town, dressed in white, looking like a bride… when she was set upon by three men, who raped her, causing her to lose her virginity. Meanwhile, the winning song went ‘La, La, La’.
The biggest hit from the contest was ‘Congratulations’. Cliff Richard was by far the biggest star taking part, and gave a faultless performance. At the end of the song teenage girls in the audience screamed. The song had an impeccable pedigree: the composers, Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, had written the previous year’s winner. And it isn’t as if the juries could have judged ‘Congratulations’ too trite. The winning song went ‘La, La, La’. Maybe it was robbed of victory? Cliff Richard was too nervous to watch the voting, and locked himself in the toilet until the contest was over. Presumably he put his fingers in his ears and went ‘La La, La’.
The voting was especially exciting. France took an early lead, before the United Kingdom took over, holding the lead right up to the penultimate jury, when Spain leap-frogged into first place, though only by one point. When Yugoslavia didn’t give either the UK or Spain any points, the result was confirmed, and Spain had won.
Sandie Shaw, dressed in a lurid green nightdress, handed over the award to Massiel, who then reprised her song in Spanish and – for the first time – in English. The ‘La, La, La’ bit might have been in Catalan. Most of the audience had gone to the bar by this point, but nothing could detract from the joy of Massiel’s win, and she returned home to Spain a star. Meanwhile Joan Manuel Serrat probably turned to drink, realising what he had passed over.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Fast-forward 40 years to 2008 and a Spanish TV production company un-earthed a rumour that the 1968 result had been rigged. In an attempt to boost Spain’s image to the world, General Franco had, it was said, offered to buy up the television output of various European television stations in exchange for Eurovision votes. After being front-page news in both Spain and Britain, the rumour turned out to have been a publicity stunt for the promoter of the 2008 Spanish entry.
Spain went on to win Eurovision in 1969 – the first back-to-back win, and the only shared victory. Cliff Richard let himself out of the toilet just in time for ‘Congratulations’ to hit number one in the UK and across Europe. Together with ‘Volare’ and ‘Waterloo’ it is one of the great sing-along hits from the early days of Eurovision, even if the congratulations belonged to Spain.
or How Many Acts can you cram into one Cafe Paris
Written by: Stuart Wilders
Next Thursday, the UK’s major pre-eurovision event takes place. On the 5th April, 700-or-so eurovision fans will flock to Cafe de Paris in London’s Piccadilly Circus, looking forward to hearing a live rendition of their favourite songs of this year and yester-year, in the most intimate of environments, along with the prospect of potentially hearing the winner of the contest, set to take place on the 12th May in Lisbon.
Confirmed acts so far include: Alfred & Amaia (2018 Spain) Ari Ólafsson (2018 Iceland) Benjamin Ingrosso (2018 Sweden) Cesár Sampson (2018 Austria) Corinne Hermès (1983 Luxembourg) Eugent Bushpepa (2018 Albania) Equinox (2018 Bulgaria) Felix Sandman (Melodifestivalen 2018, second place in final) Gromee ft. Lukas Meijer (2018 Poland) Ieva Zasimauskaitė (2018 Lithuania) Jessica Mauboy (2018 Australia) Jessika and Jenifer Brening (2018 San Marino) Lucie Jones (2017 UK) Madame Monsieur (2018 France) Margaret Berger (2013 Norway) Michael Schulte (2018 Germany) Mikolas Josef (2018 Czech Republic) Rasmussen (2018 Denmark) Ryan O’Shaughnessy (2018 Ireland) Stella Mwangi & Alexandra (MGP 2018 final , Stella Mwangi 2011 Norway) SuRie (2018 UK) Suzy (2014 Portugal) The Humans (2018 Romania) Vanja Radovanović (2018 Montenegro) Zibbz (2018 Switzerland)
This years London Eurovision Party is expected to be one not-to-be missed event and the #escSocial team including James Sheen, Stuart Wilders, Andrew Brook and Rachel Dutton will be in attendance.
Stuart Wilders commented ‘This year is shaping up to be one of the most diverse Eurovisions in years. It’s really difficult to predict a winner. One fan might choose one country they believe will win and another will have that same country in last place. It really feels like an open race, which can only be a good thing for the contest and of course the fans. I think it will ultimately come down to the live performance and I have faith in the U.K. entry this year. SuRie is an excellent ambassador and deserves to be successful in Lisbon. I think Bulgaria, Norway, Sweden and Israel will do well and I also believe Cyprus, Slovenia and Lithuania, who are current rank outsiders will surprise! The London Eurovision Party is an excellent event in a very intimate venue. The artists are so close you can almost touch them, without fear of getting arrested. Congratulations to the London Eurovision team for organising another excellent event!’
London Eurovision Party takes place on Thursday 5th April. Visit London Eurovision for more information. Tickets can still be purchased @ TicketWeb
1958: the one where the juries couldn’t spot a worldwide smash hit
Written by: Andrew Brook
In the run-up to the 2018 contest we’ll be taking a look back at earlier editions from years ending in ‘8. And to begin with we go right back to the 1958 contest, when Eurovision was in its infancy.
Things could hardly have been more different; the contest took place on a Wednesday, and lasted just over an hour. The first of just ten songs started barely a minute from the start of the show, whilst the presenter – the wonderfully named Hannie Lips – didn’t take to the stage at all until all the songs had been presented.
The venue for the contest was the small town of Hilversum. And if you have to ask “Où est Hilversum?” then you’re too young to remember the bakelite radiograms, with a dial that proudly displayed the name of Hilversum alongside Florence, Vienna, Paris and London.
The set for 1958 was modern in design. The names of the songs were presented on the new-fangled scoreboard in thrilling lower case. The logo for the contest was a funky piece of modern art, which was intended to be represented on the tiny stage, but ended up looking more like a rickety window frame with some net curtains draped over it. And flowers. Tulips everywhere. It is a wonder the orchestra didn’t spend the evening sneezing!
And so to the songs. In what was only the third contest the winners of the previous two editions returned, with mixed results. The reigning champion, Corry Brokken, performed second - and came last, with a song that didn’t seem noticeably worse than her winning song the year before. An early example of the curse of performing second? Corry is the only singer to have come both first and last. She is very fondly remembered by Eurovision fans for her appearance during the voting at the 1998 contest, where a pre-rehearsed exchange presenter Ulrika Johnsson went wrong, and Ulrika’s comment “A long time ago, was it?” sent the entire audience into hysterics.
Returning to the contest for the third and final time was the grande dame of Eurovision, Lys Assia. She sung a jaunty little ditty called ‘Giorgio’, which had more than a passing resemblance to ‘The Ballad Of Davy Crocket’. It went down well with the judges, and after the penultimate round of voting was one point behind the leader.
The contest was won by France with ‘Dors, mon amour’, sung by André Claveau. The song itself is long forgotten, and turned out to be the swan-song for M Claveau’s career, who fell into obscurity shortly afterwards and retired from the music industry.
But if the winner of the competition itself didn’t set the world alight, one of the also-rans certainly did. The winner of the San Remo Festival ‘Nel blu dipinto di blu’ came a distant third, in spite of being performed twice as a result of a technical difficulty. Maybe Domenico Modugno’s performance was deemed a little too eccentric for the jurors. Maybe they found the brass accompaniment to be too avant garde. Maybe they couldn’t get their heads round the title (The blue painted blue). Maybe they all just had cloth ears.
Better known as ‘Volare’, the song went on to win Song of the Year at the inaugural Grammy Awards (the only Eurovision song ever to do so) and went to number one around the world, including in America. The song went on to sell an estimated 30 million copies, and has been covered hundreds of times, notably by Dean Martin, the Gipsy Kings, Luciano Pavarotti and Il Volo.
All the main participants in the 1958 competition have, sadly, passed away; most recently, of course, Lys Assia. But whilst memories of the participants will fade, Volare will live on as one of the most popular songs in the western world. It will be remembered when it is a hundred years old in 2058, when it will almost certainly still be the best selling Eurovision song of all time.
Hello Melanie, Thank you so much for agreeing to an exclusive interview with us at escSocial.
Tell me, what have you been to since we saw you on the Eurovision Stage in 2015?
Well, during the first year following the contest, I took part in various Eurovision events in both Switzerland, and around Europe. But after a while it became important to me to work on a more personal and authentic musical project.
If my memory serves me correctly, we last met up in 2017 and had a good catch up over some milkshakes.
Ah yes, we had a lot fun didn’t we? You probably remember me telling you that I had met a cool guy called Phil Braithwaite and together we wrote a couple of songs including “Dancefloor”. When I came back to Switzerland I met up with two great producers, Eric Anderson and Stephane Chapelle. They were just brilliant, helping me to define my music style with much more precision, and gave it a more modern and current feel. It’s a “Pop Electro” vibe, in the style of MØ, Dua Lipa or Tove Lo.
It then dawned on me that I needed a catchier stage name, to match the new music style. So beginning of this year I launch this new concept under the name Melyz, which is a combination of my name and the name of my sister Charlyse.
How do you think your Eurovision Fans will react to this?
At first I was really concern and worried that people might feel like I’m changing my name because I don’t want to carry the “Eurovision name”.
Eurovision has brought me so much in my debuting career, and I will forever cherish this incredible experience! It has giving me a lot of opportunities, opened quite a few doors for me, and has given me the chance to meet so many amazing people. Thanks to ESC, I was able to travel whilst doing what I love: singing and performing!
I like to think that Eurovision is like a big family, and so my goal now is to bring everyone who has supported since the very beginning on this new adventure with me :)
Mélanie René to Melyz, does not mean going back to square one in order to start over; it is more of an evolution process, growing and developing as an artist.
So tell me about Dancefloor
Dancefloor was written in a time of my life where big changes were happening.
I guess the song can have different meanings: it can be about relationship games, when we always want what we can’t have, and we don’t often care about what we already have (seducing but never committing) and we end up losing ourselves in these love games.
But it can also represents change in general; how we are often scared of looking deeper in ourselves to find what we are, and what we stand for, because it often makes us feel vulnerable…
So when we can hope to hear this publicly?
The song is scheduled to be released on Friday 23rd March, my debut single under the name MELYZ.
There will be a music video that will be released soon after. I did not want to release it at the same time as the single.
Because I am launching this new concept “Melyz” with a new musical direction, I wanted people to focus on the music first. So thy could listen to it without being influenced by the visuals of the music video.
I am actually very excited to share all this with you guys!
And I want to thank you guys so much for your continuing support! It means the world to me.
Thank YOU Melanie, for giving us an insight into what is coming up so soon, we are very excited for you, and hope all goes amazingly well.