When Eurovision Went One Step Further

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Continuing lasSATt week’s glimpse back at 80’s Eurovision with Johnny Logan, I was delighted to chat recently with Sally-Ann Triplett. Hugely popular amongst listeners of Absolute 80’s Forgotten 80s’ radio show, for her role as the female half of Eurovision duo Bardo, Sally-Ann first entered the contest in 1980 as a member of the group Prima Donna. I knew that her double appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest made her the perfect interviewee for a Eurovision feature in this year’s 80’s annual. However, until we spoke, I was unaware of the fabulous tales she had to tell about my favourite decade and some of its most famous faces.

Currently living in New York, the former pop songstress was walking through Central Park as she told me how she went from panto to Eurovision to the West End and Broadway. Those recollections are wonderfully entertaining, but then Sally-Ann went one step further (see what I did there??) and spoke about hanging out with Limahl, lending a helping hand to Samantha Fox, and snogging Sting. The fact that she also loves the Eighties as much as I do meant our interview was every bit as fun as you would expect from someone whose hip-wiggling, high-kicking dance routines were copied by a generation of forty-somethings.

Although you will have to wait until November, when The 80’s Annual, vol. II is published, to read Sally-Ann’s interview, you can see our 1982 Eurovision favourite in action in the video below. Just be careful you don’t pull something trying to copy the routine!

Logan’s Running Back On Track

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While the media is bursting at the seams with coverage of the imminent local and general elections, it is important we do not forget about a much more entertaining evening of voting which takes place in under two weeks’ time. I am, of course, referring to the Eurovision Song Contest which will take place later this month on 13th May.  Who better to comment on the forthcoming popfest than Mr Eurovision himself, Johnny Logan? Having twice won the contest for Ireland during the Eighties with ‘What’s Another Year’ in 1980 and the self-penned ‘Hold Me Now’ in 1987, the singer/songwriter went on to write the 1992 winning entry ‘Why Me’, sung by Linda Martin. It is no wonder he jokingly told me “Someone once asked me what it was like to win the Eurovision. I said ‘I don’t know, I’ve never lost one!’”

Johnny Logan (11 von 120)

Photo: Manfred Baumann

My memories of Eurovision are predominantly of the Eighties, when what seemed like a golden age of songs and fun dominated. It feels like a far cry from today’s predictably political scoring and uninspiring entries.

“It’s still great fun to watch if people can look at it for the fun of it,” answers Johnny “and just vote for the countries you like, but even the songs that are written are no longer written by people from their own countries. I think the Irish entry this year is written by a Swedish guy. It’s just a group of songwriters who get together and write songs for all over Europe. There was a time when you had to have a song written from your own country, and couldn’t release it before the contest. It wouldn’t really be heard before the contest, it wouldn’t be played before the contest. Now, all that’s gone.”

I suggest that it is part of a bigger picture in which we are very much part of a ‘fast food’ culture, where no one is prepared to wait for anything.

“That’s just where we are,” he replies. “That’s just the world we live in now. There are lots of things about the old way I miss, but there are lots of things about the new way I like. I think I’m a bit like an á la carte human being. I like to look at the menu and be able to choose what I want.”

Choosing what he wanted was something Johnny was able to do when putting together ‘It Is What It Is’, his forthcoming album, which is out on 5th May.

“I think, what I’ve had the chance to do with this album is, what I’ve discovered over the years, is the music I really enjoy playing for my audience. The stuff that’s fun to play and I can have fun with the audience, and I can actually express myself.”

That expression is not limited to his choice of tracks but also how the album will be made available, reflecting Johnny’s opinion of the current state of the music business, an industry which has strangled artists’ ability to make a living through recording music.  It “really needs people like me and people with a career in the industry to fight and try to get some of the music industry back for the artist,” he says. “When I did this album, I funded it myself and I’m releasing it now through Universal. They will distribute it but I will have my own record label [Shake It Easy] and it will not be streamed. You will have to buy the album in its entirety from Amazon or my website johnnylogan.com. There will be a web shop open on the 5th [May].  I’m going to make a limited edition of vinyl, but just need to discuss with the pressing plant the best way of doing this. First of all, I wanted to set my record label up and make sure it was ready on the 5th for all the fans in Scandinavia and Germany, and all over Europe. I want the same option to be available in England and Ireland as well because it’s been so long since I had music out there. It would be nice to have it out and if anyone wants to buy it, that’s great.”JL Ireland Flag

I am sure those of us who remember his Eurovision successes will be only too eager to purchase Johnny Logan’s latest tracks. As the man says: “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done, to be honest, and I’m really very, very proud of it. It is what it is.”

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Read more on Johnny’s thoughts and memories of Eurovision and the Eighties in The 80’s Annual, vol. II, to be released later this year.

Revision of Eurovision

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Listening to Ken Bruce’s Radio 2 show this morning being broadcast from Copenhagen, in preparation for tomorrow’s Eurovision Song Contest, I was reminded of past entries, about which I thought I had completely forgotten. One of my favourite UK entries was in 1982, when Bardo sang “One Step Further”. They were beaten to the prime position by Germany’s Nicole, singing “A Little Peace”, another song that was etched in my memory. However, it wasn’t until this morning that I was reminded of Sweden’s 1984 entry, The Herreys singing “Diggiloo Diggiley” and Norway’s Bobby Socks singing “Let It Swing” in 1985. Catchy, cheesey pop at its very best!

Even those songs I knew I had stashed in my memory held a little surprise for me. No one was more shocked than I, when I sang along word-for-word to Johnny Logan’s 1980 winning entry, “What’s Another Year?” The more I listened to Ken’s show this morning, the more I realised how much I had absorbed from the Eurovision of my youth. Most of it is Eighties-based, although I can’t write about my Eurovision favourites without mentioning Brotherhood of Man. I may have only been 5, when they won the contest with “Save All Your Kisses For Me” in 1976, but I remember learning and practising the dance routine to the song, with my Auntie Sharon (who will probably disown me now!).

Another Eurovision dance routine I used to know off by heart was the routine to “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz, the UK’s 1981 winning entry. This one was ‘performed’ with friends rather than family members though. I’m sure we weren’t the only kids singing and dancing, pretending to be Cheryl, Mike, Bobby and Jay, or maybe living in a remote, rural community meant that we were more likely to make our own entertainment. Whatever the reason, it was a time when Eurovision was still fun, and we still stood a chance of winning. Yes, the Scandanavian countries would vote for each other; yes, we could always rely on Malta for douze points, but a good performance and a good song would still find its way to the top of the scoreboard. Now that the competition is heavily dominated by an Eastern European mutual appreciation society, a return to that scenario is unlikely.

Despite our chances of winning being as likely as Russia giving Ukraine top marks (no reflection of the quality of Molly’s rendition of “Children of The Universe”), I will make a long-overdue return to watching Eurovision tomorrow evening. My enthusiasm for the contest has been re-ignited by this morning’s blast from the past, and with promises of a bearded lady and a Greek rap entry, what’s not to like???