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!’”
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.”
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.”
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.