the pictures above for a review of the 70s, 90s, 00s and the
Not quite ready to grow up yet ;-/
1980 I was 17 and starting to think that maybe I should move on from the
Contest to cooler music. Sure, other pop was in my head and on my
turn-table, but was there room for Eurovision too? Well, sure there was!
My pen pals were still enthusiastic and after all, it was just one
night a year….
the Netherlands stood in for Israel as 1980 host and Israel was not even
there – something I could not fathom at the time, but I was happy to
tune in anyway, especially as we had won in this very hall just 4 years
earlier. I really wanted Greece or Turkey to win that year, but it
was not to be. A dull ballad won – that’s how I saw it then – what a
waste. But Ireland was close to Wales, so that was cool, I
thought. Johnny Logan would be a name to reckon with too..
exams in 1981, ‘A’ levels this time, but I still needed my annual
Euro-fix! From the previews, it seemed obvious that the UK would win, although (as
often happened then) Turkey was a big favourite too
for me. Cyprus had joined in and that
made it seem even more popular – the contest was growing – I had to
stay with it! On the night, I thought we had blown it, Bucks Fizz sounded
awful! But somehow, we did it. I knew the song was already a big hit over
Europe (the ‘Pop over Europe’ show on BBC Radio once a month had
taught me that – well that’s a blast from the past!), so maybe it was
an early example of promotion working its magic…
older, more mature, a little college study, looking to start work…. did
this all fit with my annual passion? What did I care! It was too much fun
to resist, although it was still a very private affair. Gearing up for the
previews, waiting for the Radio Times to mention them on a Sunday in
April, but which Sunday? Simple days without the internet then, but the
Radio Times (TV magazine) invariably had good coverage of the Contest and
most of the national papers would devote 2 pages or more to all of the
songs and singers. It seems paltry now, but then it was pretty exciting I
can tell you!
1982 was no exception – Turkey was up there again for me and I had
played ‘Hani’ to death since the preview show (hold the rewind button
down, try to guess where the song started on the tape… and press play…
ah simple days)…. I ended up pretty good at guessing a 3 minute song’s
rewind time on my little tape recorder! The iPod generation have no idea
how easy they have it!
is Harrogate ?’ came the
opening titles. I was asking a similar question – why Harrogate ?! A strange
choice, although they did have a new concert venue, but I thought it was
all flowers and old people up there! Germany won. Nicole had the
UK ’s 500th Number 1
with the English version ‘A Little Peace’ and Turkey
finished 15th. I seemed out of tune with the rest of the continent, but my
long-suffering pen friends were a little more in tune with me, as I like
to remember it.
was a good year – we now had our first video recorder. I’d be able to
watch this contest again… and again…. and again! The previews too!
Amazing! What would they think of next! The local paper in Cardiff had
mentioned Finland’s eurosong several weeks before the contest – an
article saying that the Finns thought they would finally win with a song
which was like Kim Wilde’s ‘Cambodia’. I would look out for that
one! But, it was Yugoslavia for me this year – a Shakin’ Stevens
sound-alike who had the catchiest song in the Contest. But it wasn’t to
be… another boring ballad took the prize (as you can see I was not a
great fan of ballads in the early days). Yawn.
Not to worry, I could watch
the ones I did like over and over – and you can be sure I did….
Yugoslavia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Israel… not a great set
in Munich but some classic songs and Ami Aspelund’s ‘Cambodia’
sound-alike song is a big favourite to this day! Kuka
it was to Luxembourg in 84, with an American
sounding (slightly merry?) presenter and what seemed to be a very small
venue. The orchestra seemed to be hidden in a cellar… but the sound was
and 85, I watched with a Welsh-Greek friend (my international links were
growing) and while I think he was a little bemused, he did enjoy them, as
long as we went out clubbing afterwards with the lads and girlfriends.
Sweden’s 84 win was eclipsed by Norway’s win in 85. Gothenburg
remains one of the best contests ever for me. Great songs, great voting, a
cool presenter (and possibly the first ever live pan-european gasp, when
Lill’s dress “fell apart”). 1985 remains a classic year and the
voting was really exciting too. It was always Germany or Norway for me, so
I was a happy boy.
1984 I'd discovered that I was not alone in my annual obsession. One of my
brothers spotted an advert in a pop magazine (‘Record Mirror’) from
somebody whose Eurovision videos had been stolen and who was hoping to get
them replaced (who would steal Eurovision videos?!). I replied to the ad
and then kept in touch with David Hutchison in Scotland and we became good
friends, along with many many others who contacted him. There were more
people like me out there after all! This could be fun!
was actually on the UK jury for Gothenburg 85 and he gave me the contact details to
try for 86. He did the same to another euro pal (David Elder) in Scotland, so David E and I
bombarded the BBC contact with letters
(remember, no email or text options back then). Then one day, at work, my
mother called me to say there was a letter from the BBC – I asked her to open it and read it to me… they
were inviting me to be a member of the UK jury for 1986!! I was jumping
around the office! Train tickets, hotel, taxi pickup and a small fee
included. What a result!
E had a similar response and we met up in London (representing Wales and
Scotland, no less) and had a blast. Lots of BBC wine, dinner in the BBC boardroom, a tour of the
studios, a sit through rehearsal for a popular quiz show (‘Bob’s Full
House’) and an audio link to the final rehearsal in Bergen, so that we
knew the songs (of course, David and I knew them inside out already and
pretty much knew how we were going to vote). Then the big moment, a little
sozzled, but more excited than I had ever been before, this was it! A
score out of 5 for each song with the voting slip taken away for adding up
after each one. David and I signalled our scores to each other…. I still
remember a look of disgust from David when his five fingers for France were met by one finger
from me! Haha…
Jury had a show of hands between Turkey and Spain, then Yugoslavia and Denmark, as each had tied scores
from the jury. Then our UK scores were ready.
- Jury Service in London with David Elder - VALENTINO and a LUVBUG wink at
the Irish Tourist Office
jury, in the depths of BBC Television Centre was
disconnected from the Bergen transmission. We had to wait until after our votes had been
cast before we could tune in again. When we did, I was amazed to see Belgium far in the lead, even
though we had given the song 10 of those points. It
was a long, exhausting but amazing day. I thought this was the peak of my
Eurovision addiction, but little did I know that more was to come.
in 1987, one of my brothers announced his was getting married and the date
would be May 9th….He
asked me to be best man (how could I refuse), but then the date for Brussels was announced and it was
the same day! As the date came closer, my nerves about being Best Man
overcame my disappointment of missing the event live and the evening
turned into one of those times where you have to avoid the result at all
costs. When we came home, I sat and watched the whole show on video from
start to finish, ending at around ! And how disappointed I
was that yet another dull ballad (now seen as a bit of a classic), had
won. My Greek and Turkish favourites had faltered.
was looking forward to 1988 being a little more traditional, but that was
not to be. Some months before the contest was to be held in Dublin, David
H in Scotland, suggested we ask RTE (Irish television) if we could get a
day pass to the event (they were offering day passes to locals who wanted
to see inside the Simmonscourt Pavilion). RTE agreed and as Dublin was a short hop, we
excitedly booked a few nights in a B&B and headed to Ireland in May. I was going to
had been allocated a day pass into the arena for the Thursday before the
Contest and I can still feel the thrill of walking into the hall and
seeing the set, as Maxi and Chris belted out "Lied für einen
Freund"… We were glued to our seats and bemused as groups of school
children, some nuns and what looked like farmers were ferried in and out
to watch the rehearsals too. Later, during a break, we took a walk around
and wandered into the Press Room (yes, wandered in….). We met the lovely
Kato from Norway and some other fans and
got chatting with a very nice press lady called Mary who said we should
take some tickets for the Friday night rehearsal and why not pop to the
official reception at DublinCastle too…? Was this really
- Gary and the Davids meet Yardena Arazi, Karoline Krüger, Anita Skorgan,
Silver Wings and Céline Dion!
were amazed by the reception at DublinCastle, not least that we had
been let in! Here we had the chance to chat to some of the participants
– amazing! I particularly remember Yardena Arazi being very surprised
that we knew her songs from Kdam 88 and Gerard Joling, Jump The Gun, Scott
Fitzgerald and La Decada being more than happy to chat and sign
autographs. We even bumped into Céline Dion, but I hadn’t rated her or
her song (wrong yet again!). What a great night!
had managed to get 3 tickets for the Friday rehearsal, so David E flew out
from Scotland to meet us and we sat
wide-eyed through the whole thing, even the dummy voting. I’m glad we
did, as we got to see a Yugoslav ‘win’ and a reprise in English…
(‘Rascal’). Sweden’s song (‘Stad I Ljus’)
was performed by the composer Py Bäckmann, as Tommy Körberg had a throat
problem. The final was watched in our Dublin B&B lounge much to the
surprise of the owner and some of the other residents - great fun as
always though with incredibly exciting voting, but we felt we’d already
hit a high the night before.
Dublin 88 could never be beaten,
could it?! And maybe it really was time I grew out of this too?! Hmmm
not….! Switzerland was the host in 1989. By
now I was writing to the EBU around Christmas to find out the draw for the
next Contest. This in hand and having met some fellow Eurofans in Dublin who had Press
Accreditation, we thought we’d take our chances and ask Swiss TV if they
would grant us Press Accreditation for the Contest. To great surprise,
accreditation application forms arrived by post and we eagerly completed
four of them and sent them straight back. Was this really happening too?!
Another new experience…. Wow!
few months later and the 4 of us (2 Gary’s, a David and a Douwe) were
flying to Geneva to be met at the airport
with a lift to the Arena (the newly named LYS ASSIA hall….). They were
actually giving us a lift on a Eurovision themed coach with the Danish
group HOTEYES who had arrived at about
the same time. We were in Heaven! The Turkish group PAN were also at the
Hall when we arrived to pick up the accreditation badges. Life may never
be the same again!
were in the strange position that having flown out on the Sunday before
the Contest, we had missed the second preview show, so the first time we
would hear many of the songs was at rehearsals. Oh how times have changed
soon fell into the swing of rehearsals, press conferences, receptions and
excursions. Interviewing and mixing with all the performers and having a
front row view of all the rehearsals really was a dream come true. A boat
trip on Lake Geneva was also a highlight
where we spent time with the artists from Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland and the UK of course. The magic of
the accreditation badge was such a privilege and we spent a non-stop week
of lapping up the atmosphere and everything that Lausanne had to offer.
- Céline Dion, Atilla Sereftug, Daniela Simons, Birthe Kjare, the Group
Pan, Ana Oxa, Fausto Leali and Thomas Forstner
- Looking the part and meeting Ray Caruana
sat through the final rehearsals, we did not have tickets for the final
itself. Finally plucking up the courage to ask the head of press at the
event (Mr Wolf) whether there were any left, he surprised us all by
handing us 4 tickets and told us to enjoy the event. This was within an
hour of the final….! Nobody said OMG those days, but we’d
have said something similar to suit the times. Amazing! We were in and we
loved it! My first Eurovision in the arena - Rock me Baby! OMG!
home with a bag full of singles, the first Eurovision CD-single from the
Netherlands and all sorts of promotional materials including a “one-size
drowns all” ‘Dolce Vita’ T-shirt from Finland, we probably didn’t
need the plane we were in – we were flying high all the way!
Eurovision had stepped up a gear for us and the bug had really taken hold.
Surely, we would have to try to get to Yugoslavia in 1990?