Is Eurovision success a distant memory for UK or can we do it this time?

Fingers crossed the Eurovision Song Contest judges will be as smitten with UK entry Molly as the BBC Introducing selectors were when they first heard her, writes M’s pop aficionado Russell Iliffe.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 6 May 2014
  • min read
Fingers crossed the Eurovision Song Contest judges will be as smitten with UK entry Molly as the BBC Introducing selectors were when they first heard her, writes M’s pop aficionado Russell Iliffe.

Since Molly Smitten-Downes was discovered by BBC Introducing, she’s gone on to support Jake Bugg, Tinie Tempah and Labrinth, and has won accolades at the Best of British Unsigned Music Awards.

Now Molly, and her song Children of the Universe, will be flying the flag for the UK in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Saturday 10 May in front of 120 million viewers around the globe.

It marks a risky new strategy for the UK at Eurovision, but it could all pay off this weekend if voting goes our way.

It's sobering to think that we've been out in the cold since 1997 - although look back a bit further and we've had plenty of glory days.

So who were our biggest successes in the most kitsch of all the talent shows, and how did they do it?

We first won Eurovision in 1967 with pop princess Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String, after a selection process involving the BBC picking a singer and the public voting via postcard for the song.

Today, entering the contest is seen as a potentially career-ending risk for a pop star, but back then everything was different.

During the late sixties and early seventies, many singers had their own TV shows, so Eurovision seemed a natural step.

Cliff Richard competed twice, placing second with Congratulations in 1968 and then third in 1973 with Power to All Our Friends.

Meanwhile another all-rounder – Scottish songbird Lulu - won in a four way tie with Boom Bang-a-Bang in 1969.

Interestingly, both Lulu and Sandie Shaw, along with Mary Hopkin and Olivia Newton-John (who was unluckily up against ABBA) have stated that they were not keen on the songs the public chose!

Things changed in 1976 with the BBC’s A Song for Europe presenting a number of artists each performing their song for the viewers’ consideration.

The public wisely selected Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses for Me, giving the nation a third Eurovision victory while five years later Bucks Fizz triumphed with the iconic Making Your Mind Up.

However, following over a decade without a win, 1992 saw the BBC briefly revert to choosing the singer while the song was decided by viewer vote.

A couple of narrow misses ensued with Michael Ball’s One Step Out of Time placing second and Sonia’s Better the Devil You Know repeating the feat the following year.

It became clear though, as the nineties progressed, that a wider variety of artists and more contemporary material was required.

A Song for Europe was rebranded as The Great British Song Contest and in 1996 led to Gina G representing the nation with Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit.

Despite high hopes, Gina only finished in eighth position though the song became a global smash.

Thankfully, the following year the UK finally scored its fifth win with Love Shine a Light by Katrina & The Waves but 17 years later, we are still awaiting another triumph.

The 21st century has seen a deluge of TV talent shows provide a sea of singers with experience of performing in high pressure situations. Unfortunately, artists like James Fox (Fame Academy) and Andy Abraham (The X Factor) failed to impress continental voters.

In most recent years, songwriters Andrew Lloyd Webber and Pete Waterman, as well as marquee names Blue, Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler, have been drafted in but victory still eludes us.

Interestingly, the British public is no longer given input into the choice of either song or artist in contrast to Sweden where their Melodifestivalen runs for six weeks with many songs becoming hits in the process.

Voting is now so political that perhaps even if One Direction were persuaded to sing for the country, we would still not win!

However, with many Eurovision experts predicting a strong result for this year’s entry, 2014 may just be the year the UK strikes back.