Eurovision – And the Band Played On

Eurovision 2014The Eurovision Song Contest is like herpes. There is no cure. The overblown glittery bandwagon pulls into Copenhagen this year, no doubt costing the Danish economy more than the Nazi occupation. Reduced to back-slapping bonhomie between neighbours and century-old foes, the songfest has been given an extra political frisson this year by the nasty homophobic laws in Russia and Tsar Putin’s annexation/repatriation (delete according to taste) of the Crimea; continued unrest in eastern Ukraine might earn Kiev a few sympathy votes from other former Soviet Republics and old Warsaw Pact nations. In a strange twist of fate, the people of Crimea can vote for Russia because the telephone service hasn’t yet switched sides, so it could be douze points from Ukraine. They may be the only points Russia gets. We can only hope.

Last year, Turkey threw a hissy fit and withdrew from the competition. It hasn’t entered this year either but nobody’s noticed, well apart from Liam who is terribly upset. In any case, Prime Minister Erdoğan’s probably banned the extravaganza along with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Alan Carr’s Chatty Man. Britain’s entry is Children of the Universe sung by Molly Smitten-Downes. No, me neither. We could enter the Teletubbies for all the difference it would make. Our money’s on the Austrian drag queen if only to get up the noses of our more reactionary cousins east of the Oder-Neisse Line.

The lead up to the show always causes a flurry of excited emails between Europhiles and Eurosceptics. This year was no different in the Scott-Brennan household. Here’s a small selection:

“Talking of Eurovision, your thoughts on Molly’s effort? We like Sweden, and there are a few anti-Russian efforts which should add to the event. I’m sure the TV sets in Moscow will go blank when the first bars of Austria’s entry wail in. We can only hope. Really looking forward to the annual camp-fest. Oh, I’m such a cliché.”

“Actually, we’re not quite in the Euro groove yet – we’re fashionably late this year with our research. Yes, we have heard the Brit entry- bit of a screamer who’ll probably sing flat on the night. They always do, you know. So what’s the Russian entry this year? Orthodox nuns with Kalashnikovs trying to reclaim the Kattegat?”

“For the record, my votes go to the Albanian diva and the Austrian drag queen. Not that I’m gay or anything. And I haven’t got a clue why the awful Armenian dirge is hot favourite. Especially looking forward to the Irish muscles boys and their out-of-sync diddly-diddly dancing, the Latvians on how to bake a cake and possibly the worst song ever presented to Eurovision, a misguided torch song massacred by a fat Belgian. It’s gonna be a corker.”

And the band played on.

Song for Eurovision

MalmoPack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. Forget the worst recession since the South Sea Bubble, dust off that cracked glitter ball and drag out those tarnished bacofoil hot pants. It’s time to get crushed by the sequined juggernaut that is the Eurovision Song Contest, the rightful heir to the fall of Communism. This year, the travelling freak show has pitched the big top in Malmö (pronounced Malmurrrr), Sweden. Expect high camp, a blizzard of glitzy ticker tape and enough dry ice to halt global warming. Expect virginal visions in white, gay-bar strippers, fake blonds where collars and cuffs don’t match, notes as flat as the Fens and tunes once heard, never remembered. Don’t expect ABBA. The land of the midnight sun and real blonds is throwing an enormous street party like a UEFA cup final but without the drunken thuggery. The annual warble-fest costs so much to stage it attracts its very own IMF bail-out. Let’s hope nobody votes for the unkindly named PIGS (Blighty might be joining that popular club any day now). Winning will send them over the fiscal cliff.

Turkey has thrown a hissy fit and withdrawn from the competition. TRT (the Turkish broadcaster) does not like changes to the voting rules in recent years (50/50 between the public and a panel of music experts) which it claims disadvantages the Turkish entry by reducing the influence of the Turkish diaspora across Europe. That’s the point, silly. TRT also objects to the automatic qualification of songs from the so-called ‘Big Five’ broadcasters (the BBC among them) that pay the lion’s share of the costs. If TRT wants a free ride to the final, it’ll have to sign a much bigger cheque. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune. To top it all, TRT got its pantaloons in a twist over a lesbian kiss live on stage. At the semis, Finland’s Krista Siegfrid landed a sloppy smacker on the lips of one of her backing dancers. Krista doesn’t actually drink from the furry cup in her day job, she just objects to the Finnish Parliament’s refusal to vote on marriage equality. Her song ‘Marry Me’ is through to the final where she’s threatening to repeat the tonsil-tickling outrage. Whether Krista has qualified because she kissed to be clever or despite of it is anyone’s guess. Overcome with moral indignation and shock, TRT has pulled the show completely. As we all know, watching a bit of girl-on-girl action turns you lesbian and there are no lesbians in Turkey, the land where men are men and goats are nervous.

Britain’s entry is an old-school power ballad sung by the gravelly-voiced Welsh chanteuse of yesteryear, Bonnie Tyler, she whose heart was totally eclipsed in ’83 after she got lost in France in ’77. The song’s not half bad (and half good either) but it hardly matters. We could put up Sooty for all the difference it would make. Mark my words. It’ll be a heartache for Bonnie. She’ll need more than a hero to fight the rising odds against a rout by the former Warsaw Pact.  Well,  I suppose it serves us right for Iraq. Poor old Auntie Beeb keeps wheeling out the golden oldies with their careers behind them, presumably because no-one with a career in front of them would touch Eurovision; it’s the kiss of death. Despite the parochial politics and regional gerrymandering, we’ll be waving our little union flags, raising a glass of bubbly to the campest show on Earth and hoping against hope that we don’t come last.

Here’s Bonnie at full gritty throttle:

Singing For His Pension

Soft focus image courtesy of the BBC

Remarkably, wrinkly Engelbert (aka Arnold Dorsey) can still hold a note at 75. Mr Humperdinck will be singing for his pension at the 57th Eurovision Song Contest with a sweet little ditty called Love Will Set You Free. It’s actually not a bad ballad in a Lionel Bart musical kind of way. Come Eurovision night in May, the streets of Soho will be empty, the middle aged ladies of the Carpathians will be chucking their knickers at the screen and Caucasian grannies will be swooning in the aisles in Baku. But, can Engelbert win and bring glory back to Blighty after 15 luckless years? Not while the Baltic league and Balkan cartel are in the driving seat, methinks. What do you think?

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Eurovision Helps the Aged

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Living as do at the heart of old Bodrum Town, we are both regaled and disturbed in equal measure by the glorious non-stop cacophony that surrounds us – the silly-speed mopeds farting down the street, the earth-quaking Turkopop vying with the impatient horns from every four-wheel Nissan tank, the catcalls from the randy rooftop pussies, the amplified ezan bouncing about in surround sound, the discordant cock-a-doodle-doos from the roosters in every courtyard and lonely mongrels barking incessantly until they’re hoarse.

One of the charming aspects of town centre living is the twice daily water-man who heralds his arrival by ringing his little bell. He’s a hairy giant of a beast who effortlessly swings his 19 litre bottles around like a Herculean water carrier. It’s enough to make a boy go weak at the knees. For a while, we were waterless. Our dusky su-seller’s familiar ding-a-ling was missing from our noise-scape. Maybe he was ill or away visiting relatives? A week went by before, one afternoon, we saw him silently pass by our window. Liam rushed out, empty bottle in hand. “Where’s your little bell?” he asked. “Finish,” was the shrugged response. “Many complaint because of noise.” Liam struggled to understand above the roar of the traffic. “But I like your little bell,” he said. Su-man smiled the warmest of smiles and shook Liam’s hand. “I know, my friend. I know.” It’s a real shame. We miss our big man’s little ding dong.

Now for the tenuous link. Sit back and feast on Ding a Dong, Teach In’s Eurovision Song Contest entry for the Netherlands some time during the Seventies (judging by the outrageous glam drag).

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Eurovision Helps the Aged

After the epic drama of yesterday’s post, I give you something light and frothy. Eurovision fever has come early this year. Armenia has withdrawn from the competition because of a problem with the Azeris (all about the frozen dispute of Nagorno-Karabakh), the Russians will be represented by a group of grannies called, er, The Grannies and Blighty has chosen our very home-grown wrinkly in the form of Engelbert Humperdinck, 75 years young. And why not? It gets camper every year and we love it.

The Turkish entry was selected last month. No doubt it was an instant hit right across the smoky salons of this wintry land. Zimmerless Can Bonomo (that’s Jan Bonomo to non-Turkish speaking pansy fans – C is a hard J in Turkish) will be bouncing about the stage in Baku, the Azeri capital, to the beat of his energetic ditty, Love Me Back. It’s in English (well, Globalish) and features a gypsy riff. The jury’s out on whether jumping Jan will make it through the semis. What do you think?

Eurovision trivia – In the history of its involvement, Turkey has awarded the most points to the UK and received the most points from Germany. I didn’t think anyone voted for Blighty these days.