Music trends may come and go, but the Eurovision Song Contest has endured for six decades and is arguably more popular now than it’s ever been, with a global audience of 197 million watching the 2015 event in Vienna.
But, it’s one thing for a song to do well on the night – aided by a performance that might just include the ripping off of a long skirt to reveal a mini underneath, contortion, mine, puppets or, if you’re lucky, a grandmother banging a big drum. It’s another thing altogether for the winning tune to become a bona fide chart hit.
Over the years in Australia, a number of winning songs have entered our singles top 50 – and although no victorious entry has ever reached number 1 locally, some have come close. For your listening and viewing pleasure, we’re proud to reveal the highest charting ESC winners. Not included on this list: songs like “Congratulations” by Cliff Richard and Gina G’s “Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit”, both of which reached the Australian top 10 despite not winning Eurovision.
10. “All Kinds Of Everything” by Dana (Ireland, 1970)
Australian chart peak: #37
Our first winner comes from a country that has taken out the ESC the most times – seven, including four out of the five years between 1992 and 1996. Back in 1970, 18-year-old Dana’s triumph with a cutesy song that sounds like a leftover from The Sound of Music was the first time Ireland won the competition. You wouldn’t think it to look at her, but the participation of Dana was somewhat controversial since she was from Northern Ireland (and therefore a UK resident) but was representing the Republic of Ireland at a time when political tensions in the region could not have been higher.
In Australia, a spoil sport cover version by Melbourne singer Pat Carroll actually charted higher – reaching number 28. Fun fact: Dana beat Julio Iglesias, who came equal fourth that year with “Gwendolyne”.
9. “Euphoria” by Loreen (Sweden, 2012)
Australian chart peak: #36
The 2010s have seen ESC winners return to the ARIA top 50, thanks in no small part to their ready availability as downloads and inclusion on official Eurovision compilations (releases which began in 2000 but weren’t always widely promoted in Australia). The songs don’t tend to hang around on the chart very long, but Sweden’s Loreen generated enough interest to see her winning tune, “Euphoria”, peak at number 36.
The former Idol contestant opted for a fairly minimal stage performance (which mirrored the song’s music video), letting the pop/trance track speak for itself – and it did, receiving the highest number of douze points in ESC history. It was Sweden’s first win since 1999, but would not be their last…
8. “Apres Toi” by Vicky Leandros (Luxembourg, 1972)
Australian chart peak: #23
The rule about which language countries can perform in has changed and changed again over the decades, but in 1972, entrants were required to sing in an official language of their nation. For Luxembourg, that meant they had the choice of three (French, German and Luxembourgish) and French song “Apres Toi” was chosen to represent them.
Selected to sing the ballad was Vicky Leandros, a second-generation singer from Greece whose father, Leo, co-wrote the song. In Australia, it was the re-recorded English-language version, “Come What May”, that was released and spent 22 weeks in the top 100. Vicky’s next Australian hit was something a little closer to her roots: “When Bouzoukis Played”.
Fun fact: Luxembourg has not competed at Eurovision since 1993. One of seven countries ineligible for the 1994 event (due to their lousy score the previous year), they withdrew from the competition entirely and have never returned.
7. “Heroes” by Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden, 2015)
Australian chart peak: #19
And it’s back to Sweden for the most recent winner of the ESC. It was third time lucky for former Idol finalist Måns Zelmerlöw, who’d previously competed in Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national contest to find a song for Eurovision, in 2007 and 2009.
The Avicii-esque “Heroes” not only won Melodifestivalen but went on to triumph at the ESC despite Måns being embroiled in controversy when a remark he’d previously made about homosexuality on a Sweden reality show was resurrected. The singer apologised for the miscommunication and even went so far as to say he’d be open to dating a man. The furore didn’t hurt his fortunes on the night, neither did the cute animation he performed in front of.
6. “Boom Bang-a-Bang” by Lulu (UK, 1969)
Australian chart peak: #15
Not to detract from Lulu’s achievement in 1969, but it didn’t actually take much to win that year, with four countries – the UK, Spain, France, the Netherlands – tying for first place with a tally of 18 points. With no rule then in place about how to separate the winners, all four shared the victory, although only Lulu charted with her song in Australia! The 20-year-old had been scoring hits here for the previous few years, including her biggest single, the theme song from To Sir with Love, which peaked at number 14 locally.
“Boom Bang-a-Bang” would later be parodied by Monty Python as “Bing Tiddle-Tiddle Bong” and would remarkably be banned decades later by the BBC during the Gulf War – the same hyper-sensitivity that resulted in Massive Attack being known briefly as Massive.
5. “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz (UK, 1981)
Australian chart peak: #6
Comprised of Jay Aston, Cheryl Baker, Bobby G and Mike Nolan, Bucks Fizz was formed in order to perform “Making Your Mind Up” in A Song for Europe, the UK’s contest to find a ESC entry. But despite only having a couple of months’ experience working together, the quartet provided one of the most iconic moments in Eurovision history with the now-legendary, much-imitated skirt-rip manoeuvre.
Given the rest of their rather shambolic performance, it’s a wonder they, er, pulled that move off smoothly, but its execution no doubt helped them sneak to victory. A top 10 single in Australia, “Making Your Mind Up” was followed by two further local hits: “Piece Of The Action” (number 26) and “Land Of Make Believe” (number 15).
4. “Save Your Kisses For Me” by Brotherhood Of Man (UK, 1976)
Australian chart peak: #5
Although Britain’s Brotherhood Of Man had visited the Australian singles top 10 previously, reaching number 8 in 1970 with “United We Stand”, the vocal group had a completely different line-up on their return. Singers Martin Lee, Lee Sheriden, Nicky Stevens and Sandra Stevens (no relation) comprised the group in 1976 when they represented the UK at Eurovision – and, despite a small line-up hiccup during the mid-’80s, still do today. The quartet’s winning song, “Save Your Kisses For Me”, had already reached number 1 in the UK two weeks before Eurovision and would wind up as the year’s biggest selling single there. Locally, it proved even more popular than their first hit.
3. “Waterloo” by ABBA (Sweden, 1974)
Australian chart peak: #4
Hands up who expected this to be at number 1? Despite being the song that launched the pop juggernaut that was ABBA, the Swedish foursome’s comparison of love to the surrender of Napoleon Bonaparte ends up as the third-biggest ESC winner in Australian chart history.
After years of ballads and tender love songs dominating Eurovision, “Waterloo” was a revelation. From the appearance of ABBA’s conductor dressed as the French leader to the band’s garish outfits and the song’s boogie woogie feel, the ESC audience hadn’t ever seen anything like it. The song became Sweden’s first of six (to date) wins, stormed charts around the world – including in the usually Eurovision-resistant US – and kicked off a string of massive hits throughout the next decade for ABBA, including six Australian number 1 singles.
2. “Hold Me Now” by Johnny Logan (Ireland, 1987)
Australian chart peak: #4
He’s Eurovision royalty – the only performer to have won the contest on two separate occasions, but Ireland’s Johnny Logan (who was actually born in Australia) earns his place on this list thanks to the second of those winning songs. Like his 1980 entry, “What’s Another Year?”, “Hold Me Now” was a big ballad, but with the emotion turned up to 11. Its 35 weeks on the Australian top 100 (compared to the 22 weeks spent by “Waterloo”) make it the second most successful winner locally. Bizarrely, the song received a new lease of life in the UK 20 years later when it – and Johnny – were featured in a series of McDonald’s ads. To add to his victories as a singer, Johnny also wrote “Why Me?”, the winning entry for Linda Martin in 1992.
1. “Puppet On A String” by Sandie Shaw (UK, 1967)
Australian chart peak: #2
Here it is – the highest charting Eurovision winner on the Australian singles top 50. As with Lulu, barefoot pop star Sandie Shaw had chart pedigree here with hits like “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” and “Long Live Love” to her name.
Talked into representing the UK at Eurovision as a way of redeeming her image following her involvement in a divorce scandal, Sandie was far from thrilled when “Puppet On A String” was chosen by the British public. She told the Huffington Post last year that “it was the antithesis of everything I was endeavouring to do in my work… It just wasn’t ‘me’ either in style or content. Certainly not the liberated young Sixties girl I was trying to become.”
Still, Sandie performed the song with gusto and its simplistic charms, combined with her existing popularity across Europe, ensured she sailed to victory – becoming the first ESC winner for the UK.
* Chart information taken from David Kent's Australian Chart Books (1940-1969 and 1970-1992) for releases up until June 1988 and the ARIA chart for releases thereafter.
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The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on SBS’s Eurovision Weekend - Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Grand Final Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm on SBS, with LIVE early morning broadcasts from 5am on Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May.
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