Eurovision retrospective by Prof O’Hanlon

James O’Hanlon received his honorary chair in history from the University of Bologna for his revolutionary thesis on the history of Eurovision. Let James take you back a decade or 5 into Eurovision glory!

May 6th 2011:

Hello all,

Yes its that time of the week again. Time for another look back at Eurovision at its best… or worst. As I sit here relaxing by a pool sipping a Mojito and reading the complete works of Paul Jennings I think its an appropriate time to look at how far we have come in a mere 55 years of Eurovision song writing. From the humble beginnings of an exercise in co-ordinated television broadcasts to a huge worldwide spectacular, lets see how things have changed over the years.

In 1957 Eurovision was back for the second year in a row. After a stellar first year participation went from 7 to a whopping 10 countries! For a second attempt at victory Belgium sent their most good-looking citizen Bobbejaan Schoepen. Once can only guess as to how this whopper of an entry only came eighth out of ten contestants. What a voice! What a whistle! What hair!

Fast forward 52 years, there are now 42 countries participating in Eurovision 2009. The event is being broadcast not just in Europe but across the entire world. This year Moscow held one of the largest stage productions in history second only to the olympic opening and closing ceremonies. After 52 years of advances in technology, creativity and hairspray it is Ukraine which brings us one of the all time greatest Eurovision moments. Many of you will remember this moment fondly and I hope you enjoy being reminded of it as much as I do. For those of you which are new to our Eurovision shenanigans this year I am happy to share with you what is probably my favourite Eurovision moment. Ladies and Gentlemen the one and only… Svetlana Loboda!

So what do you think? Have we improved? Or are all the acrobatic spartan strippers starting to get a bit off topic? If you have enjoyed our weekly visits to Eurovisions gone by perhaps you would like to know that tonight at 7:30 on SBS there is the first of a 2 part series on the secret history of Eurovision.

Cant wait till next weekend! See you then!


April 30th 2011:

Whilst we bask in the glory of Eurovision’s greatest moments I think it also appropriate to look at the more … unfortunate moments in Eurovision history. Lets face it, some eurovision entries are just awful. The out of tune, bad dancing, poor taste, proper kind of awful. How was I, a mere mortal, to decide on just one song to represent the worst Eurovision has offered us. Well I couldn’t and thats why we’ve got a triple whammy this week.

At the turn of the century Eurovision was in a post 90’s slump. Fumbling disastrously into the new millenium, the global music scene had seriously lost its footing. Geri Halliwell had abandoned the sinking spice girls ship, Robbie Williams’ drug fueled rampages were sending Take That into a downward spiral and East 17 was no more than a fading memory of baggy pants and mis-shapen beanies. Desperately, the Eurovision contestants were trying to revive the dwindling spirit of the same sex-all vocal-all dancing-pop group. But it was not to be, Spice fever had become an epidemic and brought an end to the reign of talentless bubblegum pop groups world wide. What remained writhing amongst the Eurovision entrants of the early 2000’s was a sad sight to behold.

First up, Macendonia’s entry in 2000… I will let the video speak for itself.

But teenage girls were not the only victims of the new millenium Euro-dump. two years later Greece entered the competition with this shocking boy band.

And finally, if you still have the stomach for it, I present to you… Israel’s entry into the 2000 Eurovision song contest entitled “Happy Song” by the band “Ping Pong”.

Hopefully, after watching these videos you may look more kindly on the offerings you have been given this year. When you are writing your reviews just think, it could be much, much worse!

I promise you next week’s will be better.

April 21st 2011:

1979 Italy & Germany

1979 was a stellar year for Eurovision. Voters faced the impossible task of having to decide on winners amongst a sheer gold mine of killer tracks. Even harder still was the challenge I faced in deciding what to include in my double whammy flashback. I could have selected any entrant from that year and given you a brief glimpse of eurovision at its best, perhaps with the exception of Israel which, ironically, won that year.

In the end Italy had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about it that makes it a standout from the crowd. Perhaps its the big hair or the spangly red tights? The matching suits or the electric keyboards?  However you look at it, it makes a perfect music selection for a lazy easter sunday morning.

And of course we couldn’t go past Eurovision 1979 without honoring the efforts of Germany who answered the one question we had all been asking. What happens when campy mongolian warlords write disco music?

April 16th 2011:

Portugal 1981

My dear fellow Eurovisionistas,

I think at this time of year its a good opportunity to look back in history and really think about how far we have come as  a society. This, the first of many eurovision flashbacks to come, takes us back to Eurovision 1981 when Portugal got the wooden spoon for this classic hit “Playback” by the Carlos “the heart-throb” Paiao.

The audience, the sets, the orchestration and the hair have all changed so much in a mere 30 years. The costumes and the music, well they’re pretty much the same really…  So what do you think? Should we bring back the orchestra? Should we all be wearing three piece suits and evening gowns when watching eurovision? Or would these all be futile attempts to try relive glory-days that have passed and may never return?

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