When choosing a Top 10 of Eurovision entries, what is “best” exactly? What makes one memorable is not always a stonking song or a great performance. Well it IS Eurovision, isn’t it, and we wouldn’t feel totally sated without some wacky outfits or dodgy dancing. Some of those below could easily feature in both best performance and best outfit lists, so indelibly linked are the two in some cases.
And the nominees, in no particular order, are….
TOP 10 PERFORMANCES
1. Abba, Waterloo, 1974 (1st). Predictable, I know, but you can’t have any list of the best of Eurovision without reference to the spangly and endurable Swedish foursome. With the name of a tinned-fish company, they have seemingly conquered the universe, and continue to do so.
2. Dana International, Diva, 1998 (1st). Probably not the greatest song in the Eurovision cannon but Israel’s Dana – not to be confused with Ireland’s 1970 winner Dana (Domestic) – did it for transsexuals everywhere. As Terry Wogan remarked of the Gaultier-garbed songstress, she didn’t even wear a polo-neck.
3. Teach-In, Ding Dinge Dong, 1975 (1st). Again, technically not great but this Dutch ditty is my personal favourite as a song that sums up old-style Eurovision. Bouncy and chirpy, how can you not love the lyric “Dinge dong every hour, when you pick a flower, even when your lover is gone, gone,gone”? And the ending. Ting!
4. Celine Dion, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi, 1988 (1st). Singing for Switzerland, old leather lungs (pre-makeover) belted out this chanson with all the subtelty of an airport-sized bar of Toblerone and wearing an outfit modelled on anavalanche. Probably the most successful Eurovision act after Abba.
5. France Gall, Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son, 1965 (1st). The contest finally got hip and swinging with the first proper pop song to win (The Beatles had already got big by then, mind you), written by Serge Gainsbourg, of soft porn Je t’aime Moi Non Plus fame, and performed for Luxembourg by his 17-year-old protege, blonde gamine France Gall.
6. Guildo Horn, Guildo Hat Euch Lieb, 1998 (7th). This falls
into the memorable rather than best category, and not just for the turquoise crushed-velvet suit. Shaggy-haired German Guildo made the Hunchback of Notre Dame look attractive as he clambered willy-nilly over the NEC Birmingham set, played cowbells and – shudder – manhandled Katie Boyle.
7. Baby Doll, Brazil, 1991 (21st) What makes this memorable is that the misnomered Baby Doll, representing Yugoslavia, would probably only see 40 again in a rear-view mirror. An excitable flurry of peroxide, blue chiffon and matching eye shadow, she attempted to summon up the mood of the Rio carnival. Baby Doll (yes, she still goes by that name) performed for fans in Belgrade last year, giving us her version of Puppy (sounded like Poopy) Love.
8. Pan, Bana Bana, 1989 (21st). A personal favourite for the sheer delirious histrionics of it all. The song sounded like a James Bond theme filtered through a souk, and one half of the Turkish quartet (the two guys) clearly had more than their fair share of left feet. Meanwhile, the enthusiastic conductor was having some kind of fit on the podium.
9 Mocedades, Eres Tu, 1973 (2nd). This lovely Spanish ballad was performed by a frumpy-looking group who belied their name, which translates as Youth. Their song, while unknown in the UK, went on to be a huge hit in the US. And Spain finished just ahead of Cliff again in his second (failed) attempt at Eurovision glory.
10. Sandie Shaw, Puppet on a String, 1967 (1st). My first Eurovision saw barefoot SS annihilate the opposition in the UK’s first victory. A monster hit around Europe that summer, it spawned similar oompah, fairground-style entries in the contest for years after.
Mark’s Top 10 Best Eurovision Outfits are coming soon…
Mark Cook (watching Eurovision since 1967)
Mark Cook is a journalist and theatre critic for the Guardian Guide and The Big Issue
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