There’s a curious section of Eurovision fandom who have vowed never to watch a National Final.
They do this, they say, so they can come to the songs fresh on the night of the contest itself, watching the show with the eyes of a regular rank and file telly viewer. Now that’s all very laudable, but these people are denying themselves a massive amount of fun, and missing the many rare treats and pop culture car crashes that fall by the wayside on the way to that big show in May.
Each year, hundreds of budding songwriters put the fruit of their creation up for Eurovision election, and all bar a small handful are quickly cast aside, never to be seen by the watching masses.
For me this is the best bit of Eurovision, a glorious army of musicians stuffed to the neck pipe with mad thrills and surprises. Indeed, every so often a National Final throws up a song that’s so wild, so original, or just plain strange that, even though it would never get through to Eurovision proper in a million years, will live on in the memories of everyone who saw it forever.
So with the selection process for the 2012 contest now well under way, let’s cast an eye over ten of the most unusual, groundbreaking or downright weird songs that didn’t quite make it.
Super-Extra-Wonder-Shop, by Nina (Finland 1973)
Back in the innocent seventies, when child labour was still positively encouraged in Eurovision, the Finns reckoned this little school drama project gone turbo was just the thing to change their fortunes and finally tap into the Eurosong zeitgeist. Unfortunately it wasn’t even good enough to come last on its own, and tied for the bottom slot in a twelve song final. But once heard, never forgotten, and its optimistic chirpiness will both delight and horrify you all at the same time.
Door In My Face, by Fruit Eating Bears (United Kingdom, 1978)
Now dear old Blighty have never been known for their forward thinking when it comes to its national finals, so we’re not sure what chain of events led to this manic pub rock band gracing the illustrious boards of the Albert Hall. Their chugging Dr Feelgood-style punky blues, coupled with singer Neville Crozier’s wide-eyed bounding energy clearly troubled Lord Wogan, and his slightly dismissive air after their performance probably contributed to their equal bottom ranking. The UK would never be this bold again.
Opera on Fire, by Joel De Luna, Mati Kõrts, Jassi Zahharov & Mait Trink (Estonia 1999)
Even the slightest hint of the operatic has been the kiss of death ever since Çetin Alp’s Turkish nul-pointer back in 1983. But I’d still love to have seen this fin de siècle Estonian oddity in Jerusalem. Coupling a slightly uncomfortable-looking reggae boy with three ludicrously garbed tenors, it was car crash telly in the purest sense. Somehow this only managed a lukewarm sixth place in that year’s Eurolaul, but it definitely merits another few looks.
Ick Wer Zun Schwein, by Knorkator (Germany 2000)
Back in the year 2000, no one ever imagined that a metal band could take part in Eurovision, let alone win the thing. But around that time the Germans were up for taking a risk, and scared the hell out of Eurovision’dom with this unhinged spot of noisy fun about a man who was turning into a pig. It damn nearly made it too, finishing in a very respectable fourth place. Make sure you watch it right through to the end for some cracking on stage insanity.
Hvar Ertu Nú? by Dr Spock (Iceland 2008)
Recent years have seen a much less rigid view as to what a potential Eurovision song could be. But this schizophrenic little number confused even the most avid friki fan. The germ of the song saw a heavily bearded glam rocker spitting out some of the most brutal grind ever to be seen on a Eurovision-related stage, while every now and again a fat bloke in a suit crooned out some loungey swing, all in front of a band wearing giant rubber gloves on their heads. It was utterly incomprehensible, but the trusty Icelanders clearly have a great sense of humour, placing it third in their final. What fine people they are.
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I Love The Girls…, by Sasha Bognibov (Moldova 2008)
One of the greatest joys of the early stages of the national finals is sifting through Moldova’s long list – but we’re always most excited of all to discover just what this withering uber goth has to offer each year. This was his debut effort – and what an introduction. Sasha’s haunting whine of a voice extols the virtues of slightly-too-young girls in a way that makes you feel instantly mucky. All the same, it’s a proper earworm, and once you’ve heard it you’ll find yourself absent-mindedly singing it out loud in the most inappropriate situations. Funnily enough this didn’t make the final that year – and it’s possibly best that you don’t play this out loud at work.
La Bicicletera, by Antonio El Gato (Spain 2008)
It was a great but all-too brief chapter in Eurovision history when the Spanish decided to get all democratic and open their selection process out to the masses with an callout for songs on MySpace. All kinds of crazies and wannabes tried their luck, but none tapped into the national consciousness more than El Gato’s hypnotic slice of warped minimal techno. With only days to go, the song led the public vote by a street, until a worried TVE accused it of cheating, and docked it just enough votes to ensure it missed out on the televised final. So next time you’re moaning about Rodolfo Chikilicuatre, remember that it could so easily have been this representing Spain in Belgrade!
My Family Home Is Europe, by Mariaana Seppern (Lithuania 2010)
A beautiful girl, an impossibly catchy song, and a quirky, light-hearted stage act – what could possibly go wrong? Somehow this didn’t even get past the semi-final stage – Europe’s loss indeed.
2010 Moldova – Pavel Turku – Im Eurovision
Arguably the biggest cult hero in Eurovision history. When supermarket security guard Pavel decided to write an ear-bending homage to his favourite telly show, little did he know that before the week was out he’d become a massive internet sensation, and go on to have the most downloaded ringtone in Moldovan history. Adopted by the local intelligensia, there were protests in the streets when he failed to make the final. But when reinstated following a massive popular campaign, he sputtered to a disappointing sixth place – but not before he became one of the most recognisable faces in Moldova.
Dlinnaya-Dlinnaya Beresta I Kak Sdelat’ Iz Nee Aishon (Long Long Birch Bark And How To Make Ayshon From It), by Buranovskie Babushki (Russia 2010)
One of the most beautiful moments ever to be produced by this funny old contest came when six old nans from an out-of-the-way Russian village shuffled onto the Moscow stage in their regional costumes and won the hearts of a continent. Had they qualified for Oslo they would have won by a street, but thankfully for the TV company’s budget they came a respectable third. This performance is so perfect that even now I can’t watch it without a tear coming to my eye.
Roy has done himself proud here, but with over five hundred songs each year in the closing stages of the National Finals, there must be something we’ve missed that you hold dear to your heart. Let us know! And while you’re at it, keep up with Roy’s adventures through the national Final archives over on Eurovision Apocalypse