Eurovision has always had a reputation for bringing idiosyncratic and bizarre acts to the public eye, magnificent one-shots that enjoy one burst of glory before disappearing forever. But occasionally a performer brings so much heat that their reputation extends beyond the show. Or maybe they were already huge before they Eurovisioned it up. Either way, these are their stories.
Celine Dion made the English-speaking world’s acquaintance in 1988
It seems like she was always a fixture of the entertainment landscape, but when Celine Dion took the stage for Switzerland with the French-language number “Ne partez pas sans moi” (Don’t Leave Without Me), most of us had never heard of her. She won the competition, and a few years later she was duetting on the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack, releasing self-titled albums, and setting herself up for stardom.
Bucks Fizz hit No.1 across the continent (and No.6 here)
“Making Your Mind Up” is the perfect Eurovision song. Brightly coloured outfits, synchronised dance moves, borderline nonsensical lyrics about not letting your “indecision take you from behind” and an insidiously catchy chorus that makes other earworms look like Mulligrubs. In the wake of their 1981 victory, Bucks Fizz topped the charts in the UK, Ireland, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Israel and Denmark, and reached top-10 status in seven other countries.
Lulu got her second-biggest hit with a nonsense song
Before she took the stage with “Boom Bang-a-Bang” for Britain, Lulu was already a household name with her own TV shows. But that bizarrely titled song, which came equal first with three other entries in 1969, became her second-biggest UK hit ever (after her appearance on Take That’s “Relight My Fire” in 1993). Lulu went on, of course, to become a national treasure and remains in that role today... evidenced recently in her appearance in the Absolutely Fabulous film as herself.
ABBA began their global domination in 1974
You knew they were coming. “Waterloo” brought Sweden its first Eurovision victory, and also launched Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid into the stratosphere. Not only did they proceed to become a monolithic force in pop music for decades, including eight consecutive No.1 albums in the UK and six No.1 singles in Australia, ABBA also inspired the most joyous moments of the film Muriel’s Wedding and the Trundle ABBA Festival in central-western NSW. In 2005, for the 50th anniversary celebration, “Waterloo” was chosen as the best Eurovision song ever.
Barei is still in my Spotify playlist
Sure, “Say Yay!” came 22nd in last year’s competition before disappearing from the public eye, but the Spanish entry from Barei is still in high rotation on my personally curated Spotify playlist of excellent songs. From the moment you hear, “Hallo hallo meestor fighter...” you can’t help but get fired up to say “yay”, as ordered. Check out the clip and wonder how 21 songs could ever be better than this!
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.