Sunday, 20 May 2012



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Bucks Fizz are the UK’s most successful Eurovision act
Sunday May 20,2012

IS THERE life after Eurovision? Following recent UK results you might wonder, what with nul-point Jemini and last-placed Andy Abraham or Josh Dubovie. Indeed, if you’re British, the Eurovision Song Contest can apply the kitsch of death to your career, be you a big name or the result of a “talent search” show.
Even so the 42 acts strutting their stuff in Azerbaijan on Saturday, when Engelbert Humperdinck will sing the UK’s Love Will Set You Free, would still aspire to the kind of success enjoyed by some of our “losers”.

Their continuing fame is based largely on our memories of being allowed to stay up late and watch it as a child with our families.

Today it is must-watch TV; the biggest non-sporting event on the planet and a visual and aural fest of the bizarre, the sparkly and the just plain dodgy.

This nostalgia (always popular when times are hard) has nevertheless prolonged the careers of some UK winners and even for some of the lesser names on the Eurovision honours board there is a reliable round of panto, holiday camp entertainment, fundraising performances and the odd gay pride gig too.

Even if things go with a Boom Bang-a-Bang, there will still be people who will say Don’t Play That Song Again, it doesn’t Light My Fire, just Go. Yes it’s that time of year again so we looks at the pros and cons of the Eurovision Song Contest
For some though, victory brought a bitter taste. Sandie Shaw, the first UK winner in 1967, refused to talk about the whole shebang for decades, and that included Puppet On A String, her winning song. Mind you, former EastEnder Samantha Janus (now Womack), would probably prefer it if nobody spoke about her 10th-placed A Message To Your Heart in 1991 or her unsuitably risqué costume that night. However, Eurovision didn’t do Jade Ewen, singing a Lloyd Webber song in 2009, or Jenny Frost, part of Precious in 1999, any harm. After finishing 5th and 12th respectively, they ended up in the Sugababes and Atomic Kitten.

Bucks Fizz are the UK’s most successful Eurovision act with their hit Making Your Mind Up. Created specifically for the contest, the winsome foursome performed one of its most iconic moments: Velcro and tear-off skirts; a simple gimmick that has since been eclipsed by multiple costume reveals, drag queens and such on-screen distractions as spot-welding. The bouncy Making Your Mind Up topped the charts in nine countries, including the UK, and the group went on to sell 15 million records worldwide and have three further UK No. 1s. After a protracted legal battle over use of the name Bucks Fizz, three of the original quartet (Cheryl Baker, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston) are still hanging in there, relaunching themselves as OBF, Original Bucks Fizz, with an album and tour to coincide with this year’s contest.

And, yes, the slightly larger skirts are still being torn off for Making Your Mind Up. “Now I have to rip off two skirts at the same time. It’s incredibly difficult while singing as well,” says Nolan.
They were asked to do Eurovision again but turned it down. These days they can be seen at such events as West End Eurovision, an annual fundraiser for the Make A Difference Trust where casts from London musicals perform old Eurovision numbers in competition against each other.
This year’s winner was Sweeney Todd with One Step Out of Time, which came second in 1992 sung by Michael Ball. He now stars in Sweeney Todd and made an unexpected appearance in the West End Eurovision. Javine Hylton performed her 2005 song, Light My Fire, in the interval.
April and May are busy times for Eurovision acts. In Gateshead last month a fundraiser for children’s cancer charity the Toma Fund included Josh Dubovie, last seen in panto in Kettering, Scooch, now touring with a Glee-style show, Scott Fitzgerald sang his 2nd-placed Go for the first time since 1988, plus contest winners Bobbysocks, Johnny Logan and Brotherhood Of Man.
Brotherhood Of Man’s Save Your Kisses for Me won in 1976 and, with more than six million sales, it is Eurovision’s biggest selling single. It was number one in 33 countries, including six weeks at the top of the UK chart. Was it the goofy little dance or the fact that the lyrics were addressed to a three-year-old?
The band, Martin Lee, Lee Sheriden, Nicky Stevens and Sandra Stevens (no relation) went on to have number one hits with Figaro and Angelo. Nowadays, being of more mature years, they have a gentle, genteel even, touring schedule, mainly of holiday camps. They have also taken their own nostalgia trip, The Seventies Show, on tour and are now performing The M Factor with comedian Jimmy Cricket.
The UK entrant who has probably embraced Eurovision the most is Nicki French, a fans’ favourite who can regularly be seen at Eurovision-themed concerts and parties. Not bad for someone whose song, the ill-advisedly titled Don’t Play That Song Again, came 16th in 2000. At that time it was our lowest position. Little did we know what dross was to come. Even with a worldwide hit, a disco cover version of Total Eclipse of the Heart in 1995, five million sales, plus reaching No. 2 in the US under her belt, representing the UK in Eurovision was always Nicki’s dream. She’d had that dream ever since she wasn’t allowed to stay up and watch Clodagh Rogers singing Jack in the Box in 1971.

U nlike some UK entries, who profess a love of the contest but can barely name a Eurovision hit apart from Waterloo, she has a string of favourites (Après Toi, any Johnny Logan song, Ding-Dinge-Dong). Eurovision failure has taken her around Europe, including Stockholm Gay Pride, and last year she performed to a boatful of fans in Düsseldorf, when it hosted Eurovision: “one of my favourite gigs”, she says.
Nicki recently compered a preview party for some of this year’s entrants at London’s Shadow Lounge, an event organised by UK fans. Next Saturday she will be stomping her stuff in glamorous Lewisham.
She swears she never tires of doing her losing song, and often wears the lavender coat she had over her outfit in Stockholm. “I just love doing the Eurovision gigs,” she says.
“I have such a ball that I am almost embarrassed about asking for money for doing it. I embrace Eurovision and I really do like the fans. I enjoy meeting them and chatting to them, and they know that.”

STnS The Eurovision Song Contest, May 26, BBC1 8pm

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