‘Love City Groove’ by ‘Love City Groove’ (United Kingdom 1996)
Love City Groove may seem an odd choice as a favourite entry from my childhood, but it was the first time I was allowed to stay up and watch the Eurovision Song Contest (well up until the end of the UK performance anyway). Previous memories of the Eurovision Song Contest is solely of ‘A Song For Europe’ on a Sunday afternoon. From that moment on in 1995, the Eurovision Song Contest was an annual viewing fixture for me. At the age of 11 nineties rap and dance was all the rage, so Love City Groove was always going to be an entry to stick with me (well for that period in my life anyway). While it was something I approved of back then, it also proved that that specific genre clearly didn’t work in the Contest and wouldn’t do for a long time!
Why did I like the Contest back then? For me that is a very good question. I was never a fan of things like Geography or Language at school, however the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as the Junior Eurovision Song Contest now-a-days, have widened my knowledge in these subject fields – something I’ll be forever grateful for. Never did little old me back in 1995 suspect I’d ever visit places such as Baku, Tbilisi, Minsk or Gliwice. My musical tastes have certainly grown since the Eurovision Song Contest has expanded over the last couple of decades. Nineties dance music is out of the window and you will generally hear Scandinavian or Baltic tunes been played around my house or in the car.
The Concept of No Riverdance (Ireland hosting in 1995)
We’d always watched the contest together as a family with sweets and fizzy drinks, but because watching started before I could really remember, the first thing that really stuck with me was when in 1995 there wasn’t any Riverdance. I don’t remember watching it the first time round, but I definitely do remember being absolutely furious that we didn’t get it again.
‘Miss Kiss Kiss Bang’ by ‘Alex Swings Oscar Sings’ (Germany 2009)
As my childhood was not so long ago, some of my first Eurovision memories are quite recent. My first kind of Eurovision memories involve watching bits and pieces from the late 2000s. My mum grew up watching Eurovision on the BBC in New Zealand, and continued that tradition in Australia. One vivid memory was when I was 13, because my dance teacher was a dancer for Germany (the blonde one) in ‘Miss Kiss Kiss Bang’, Alex Swings Oscar Sings feat. Dita Von Teese.
Again, I only remember bits and pieces of 2010 and 2011, but it was the 2012 contest that made me go wow! I am a Eurovision fan! My brother and I would watch the pre-recorded show after school for semi 1, 2 and the final. 2012 was also the year where I picked the winner. I haven’t been able to pick a winner since. From then on, I was addicted to Eurovision, getting up to watch it live at 5 a.m. every year after. My favourite Eurovision songs from when I watched the 2012 contest at the age of 16 have not changed since. I still am in love with Loreen, Pastora Soler and Ivi Adamou.
Aka Eurovision royalty.
‘Hora Din Moldova’ by ‘Nelly Ciobanu’ (Moldova 2009)
2009 was the year that Eurovision became the event of the year for me. It was the first year I discovered the semi-finals, and the first time that I was allowed to watch all of the shows. While a number of songs stand out from the contest in Moscow, 13 year-old me was intrigued and blown away by a burst of energy from a country I’d never even heard of. ‘Hora Din Moldova‘ was high energy, engaging and just so different from anything I’d ever heard before. It opened my eyes to a whole world of music that I’d never come across before and sparked an interest that still hasn’t faded. Looking back at the performance, I can still see why the 13 year old me, sat in front of the TV on a school night, loved every moment of it. I didn’t need to know what Nelly was singing about, all I needed to know was that it was an earworm that stuck in my head for days. While my tastes may have changed over the years ‘Hora Din Moldova‘ still sums up what I want from a song. It takes me back to a slice of my childhood and has left a lasting impression.
‘Fairytale’ by ‘Alexander Rybak’ (Norway 2009)
Like Anthony, 2009 was the year that I truly “got into” Eurovision. I was 11 years old at the time, watching the Final on the big family TV in the living room, eyes glued to the screen. A man dressed in a waistcoat and long brown hair, walked on stage holding a violin. This song was unlike anything I’d heard before – at the time I wasn’t really into listening to songs with violins, mainly just generic pop songs from the radio charts. The song, paired with the energetic backing dancers and the wide starry night backdrop, made for a memorable and winning performance for me. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one that thought this! The rest of Europe also fell in love with ‘Fairytale‘, as it won the contest with ease and broke the points records set in previous years.
It’s no surprise that it’s still my favourite Eurovision song, and arguably the one that made me fall in love with the contest from then onwards. And just imagine my surprise and excitement when he returned to the contest in 2018 with ‘That’s How You Write a Song‘! Looking back however, I’d say that my taste in music hasn’t changed too much. I still follow Rybak and listen to his latest releases, as well as listening to the aforementioned generic pop music (though probably not as much anymore).
‘Guildo Hat Euch Lieb!’ by ‘Guildo Horn’ (Germany 1998)
Every May as long as I can remember my parents would gather round the TV to watch Eurovision. I was only allowed to watch the songs and interval act as voting went on way past my bedtime. However my dad kindly taped the last 20 minutes of voting so I could watch it when I woke up! My earliest memory was also Riverdance as the interval act, when I was only 5. But my favourite childhood song was ‘Guildo Hat Euch Lieb!‘. I remember being astounded that he was allowed to climb all over the stage like that. On reflection he probably wasn’t… It was so different to the rest of the songs, and nine year old me loved how bonkers it was. Looking back it’s not really a song I would choose to listen to. But as a performance its hard to match those manic three minutes for their unscripted feel and sheer exuberance. It would be very hard to get away with that level of anarchy in the modern contest.
‘White and Black Blues’ by ‘Joëlle Ursull’ (France 1990)
When I was a child my first huge Eurovision moment was Joëlle Ursull’s performance of ‘White and Black Blues‘, composed by Serge Gainsbourg. I was only 8 when this song was released. I really loved the mix of cultures this contribution to the Song Contest offered, where West Indian, Caribbean and South American melodies melted together, sung with Joëlle’s delicate and clearful voice.
It was a smash hit in France in 1990, and it was one of the last songs written by Serge Gainsbourg before his death a year later. It also started a huge comeback from the French delegation after a lacklustre 1980s. It was the kind of success (at Eurovision and in the charts) that we also saw with Amir in 2016. Even today, Joëlle Ursull’s song is still successful in France and a sign of a great period for the French Eurovision fans. Personally, I still love listening to the Eurovision songs from the 90s, where live orchestra could give powerness and timeless contributions (like ‘Fiumi Di Parole‘, ‘Insieme: 1992‘ or ‘Mamma Corsica‘).
‘One Step Further’ by Bardo (United Kingdom 1982)
If there’s one thing I love today about the Eurovision Song Contest, it lies in the ten thousand songs that are submitted to broadcasters every year, hoping to win through internal selections and National Finals and get to the Song Contest stage in May. Looking back, that drive to discover new music started with my first Contest.
During my younger years, the Eurovision Song Contest was a chance to listen to music that wasn’t just from the UK Charts or my Dad’s collection of albums by ‘The Shadows’ (side note, I quite liked ‘Specs Appeal’ and the one track where they allowed Hank Marvin to sing, but none of my school friends had ever heard of ‘Let Me Be The One’).
Actually… I know in my heart that my first Contest was Harrogate 1982, but I don’t have a distinct memory of watching it live. What I do remember is that one of the few 7” singles that I purchased when I was young was Bardo’s ‘One Step Further’ after watching my first Eurovision. That was the one I wanted to listen to again. And again. And again.
‘Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit’ by ‘Gina G’ (United Kingdom 1996)
Growing up in the United States, precious few songs from Eurovision ever really entered the American pop musical landscape, and even fewer were marketed as contest entries. It took me years to realize that “Ooh, Aah…Just a Little Bit” had its origins at a musical festival on the other side of the world. But before I knew what Eurovision was, and how much of an effect it would eventually have on my life, Gina G’s bouncy, infectious slice of mid-90s Europop confectionery was one of the nearly unavoidable songs of my tweenhood. I was almost twelve when it was released into the US market, and it would have fit in beautifully next to Amber’s ‘This Is Your Night‘ and Quad City DJ’s ‘C’mon and Ride It‘ on my local radio station and on all the cool kids’ B’nei Mitzvah playlists. With age, of course my tastes have evolved and shifted, but I’ll always be a little wistful for the hypercaffeinated soundtrack of my youth.
‘Diva’ by ‘Dana International’ (Israel 1998)
It’s hard to overstate today just how revolutionary Dana International was back in 1998. At the time I was a mere twelve years old, and in the very early, predictably painful stages of discovering that in some quite important ways, I wasn’t like the other boys in my class. They all loved Oasis, South Park and WWF. I loved the Spice Girls, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the Eurovision Song Contest. The latter was an early stage love affair, but already something I keenly anticipated every year. In those less enlightened times, I genuinely had no idea what it meant to be a trans woman – not that anybody was using terminology anywhere near as sensitive as that at the time anyway. But I did know that Dana’s participation was a big deal. She was a huge tabloid story and the source of frenzied debate long before she actually landed in Birmingham. When the night itself finally came, I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but the divinely glamorous creature who strutted onto the stage that night made an indelible impression. The song was, of course, an instant anthem. I was hooked, and in a small but not insignificant way, my horizons were forever broadened. Viva la diva!
‘Jugarem a Estimar-nos’ by ‘Marta Roure’ (Andorra 2004)
I wasn’t brought up in a Eurovision following household, and my first exposure I remember was the Spanish entry ‘Dime’ being played for us in Spanish class. A year later the BBC website (which I usually frequented for sport news) had the Eurovision songs highlighted. I listened to each one with the volume turned down upstairs while everybody thought I was just a studious 13-year-old. When I had the house to myself would belt out ‘If My World Stopped Turning’ and absolutely murdered Jonsi’s ‘Heaven’, such was my taste as a musical theatre kid, but the Andorran entry was my one that went into Istanbul as my first ever pre-contest favourite. It’s a little ditty of a song which I could pretend to understand with my Spanish knowledge. I loved the way the chorus melody kind of ‘slides’ as it tells this story of pretend romance, which resonated with puberty-ridden me. Also, as a sport fan, I do love an underdog, and Andorra’s debut was prime example of a Goliathan task just to reach the Grand Final.
On the Semi Final night I was mightily disappointed when I snuck upstairs to watch the live stream. Gone was the band and the ‘real’ feel for a cheap dance routine that left Marta breathless, haggard and struggling. There was never to be an Andorran qualification to Saturday night. My tastes have changed dramatically from my youth. At the time Athena’s ‘For Real’ was the opposite of my music, but now I realise that even uncool me could buy into that cool. One of my favourite artists on the planet is now Mr. Zeljko Joksimovic, but at the time I had ‘Lane Moje’ as one of the worst of the competition. 13 year old me judged 2004 very wrongly.
And now it’s over to you. What Eurovision songs did you like as children? How have your tastes changed as you’ve grown up? Comment below and let’s see if any of our childhood memories have rekindled yours.