Categories
Lists

Trains at Eurovision

There was good news for lovers of both railways and the Eurovision Song Contest this year as Moldova’s Zdob și Zdub returned to the competition to celebrate a train journey between Chișinău and Bucharest.

But trains, stations and railway are nothing new to the lyrics of Eurovision, with over 25 songs featuring them in some way. So here is a rundown of the 10 most railwayish entries from 66 years of the Eurovision Song Contest.

I try to avoid subjective comments on songs on this blog so these are ranked entirely by how much they embrace the theme.

Hey ho! Let’s go!

10. Where Are You? – Imaani – United Kingdom, 1998

The UK’s best placed entry until this year’s Space Man, Where Are You? is packed with -ain rhymes of which “train” is one – specifically the ideal commuting experience of “Riding alone on an empty train.”

9. Valentine Lost – Eiríkur Hauksson – Iceland, 2007

In the last chorus, we hear “a train stuck on a broken track” and with that attitude it’s no surprise that Iceland has no public railway system.

8. La mia città – Emma – Italy, 2014

In the chorus Emma tells us in Italian “voglio prendere il treno.” This translates into the admirable English sentence “I want to take the train.”

7. Retour – Henri Dès – Switzerland, 1970

“Et moi qui prends le train pour l’Italie,” sings Henri in the opening stanza, telling us he’s taking the train to Italy, which was appropriate for this year’s Contest even if it isn’t very impressive if you’re only travelling from Switzerland.

6. Mrs Thompson – Just 4 Fun – Norway, 1991

“Undergrunn’ er alltid sen og toget ute av rute” (“The Underground is always late and the trains don’t run”) is the song’s pessimistic opening before it notes that you fall asleep on the train home (“på toget hjem igjen når du sovner”), something I have definitely never done.

Just 4 Fun included Eiríkur from Iceland 2007 who must really like trains – or, based on the lyrics of his two songs in this list, really not like trains.

5. I treni di Tozeur – Alice and Franco Battiato – Italy, 1984

Now we’re steaming ahead: this one has trains in its title! A classic Italian ballad with passing trains providing the scenic backdrop to the lyrics: “Passano ancora lenti i treni per Tozeur” (“Still the trains for Tozeur are passing by slowly”).

4. Ciao amore – Ida and Vlado – Yugoslavia, 1984

We stick with 1984 for this tale of a couple saying farewell at a snowy railway station. The translated lyrics include “We stood on the platform, you and me” and “You had to leave by the first train.” Good railway content.

3. Un train qui part – Marie – Monaco, 1973

Marie too has a train in the title (“A train that leaves”), and more besides as this brassy number features train visuals throughout its lyrics. There is a train ticket crumpled in a pocket (“un billet de train froissé dans une poche”), blue eyes looking at a train that arrives (“des yeux bleus sur un train qui s’approche”), a train scouring the countryside to take the protagonist to Paris (“le train bat la campagne l’emmenant vers Paris”), and the refrain, which translates as:

A train that leaves is a bit like a home
A train that leaves
For the one who never knew a home
A train that leaves
A train that leaves is a bit like a song
A train that leaves
For the one who doesn’t hear songs being sung
At the departure

Aw.

2. Trenulețul – Zdob și Zdub and Frații Advahov – Moldova, 2022

Of course there is a high placing for the song that inspired this countdown. While superficially about a train journey (and the music video leaves you in no doubt about that), the mode of transport is used as a metaphor for the connections between Moldova and Romania, considering the similarities and differences between the two countries.

The train is leaving! Where are you?
Chișinău to Bucharest!

But if they weren’t number 1, then who?

1. Hengaillaan – Kirka – Finland, 1984

Finland win the prize for the trainiest song as we go back to 1984 yet again! They really loved trains at the 1984 Contest – and we haven’t even mentioned that year’s Austrian entry, Einfach weg (“you get on the train and everything is the same for you”), or the Belgian song Avanti la vie, which slips in a couple of train metaphors.

But our winner is Hengaillaan, a whole song about trains, about waiting at the station between the last and first services (that happened to me at Manchester Victoria once), and about leaving your luggage on board.

The last train left at 22.45, but who cares
At 5.30 in the morning from track 2
Another train’s going to leave

Let’s just hang around tonight
And not sleep at all
At the station we’ll play and swing around
While we wait for the train

The last train took my bag away
The trains are busy, not me, no way!
You can catch the train of life anytime!

Read the full lyrics
Categories
Lists

Who were the 2022 jurors?

Last year after the Contest I looked back at the 2021 jurors and – despite six countries’ jury votes being disqualified – this year I’m going to do the same.

The names of the those jurors, for Azerbaijan, Georgia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and San Marino, were not published on the official list so they are not included in the information below.

As in 2021, some of the data is a bit messy – Cyprus’s jurors have no surnames provided, helpfully, and historical data is hit and miss – but we’ll do our best with what we have.

With 34 countries and 5 jurors each, that should leave us with 170 names, but in fact there are 171: one of the French semi-final jurors was replaced for the final (likely they became unavailable and one of the reserves stepped in).

  • Of the 171 jurors, 26 had been jurors before. Rita Guerra was a juror in 1994 (and in between those 1994 and 2022 represented Portugal in 2003).
  • 2 jurors had been on the panel twice before, in 2014 and 2017: Kaspars Ansons of Latvia and Michael Cederberg of Sweden.
  • 7 jurors have written Eurovision songs. Of them, Maian Kärmas wrote a winning song (Estonia’s Everybody from 2001).
  • 3 jurors had previously given their countries’ votes as spokespersons, all of them previous artists: Rasmussen, JOWST and 1993 winner Niamh Kavanagh.
  • 2 jurors were artists who took part in 2021: Montaigne and Tusse.
  • 2 jurors have been involved in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Swedish juror Josefin Glenmark co-wrote San Marino’s 2015 JESC entry Mirror while Gaia Cauchi won the 2013 JESC for Malta with The Start.
  • 26 jurors have taken part in national finals over the years, 12 of whom did not go on to perform at Eurovision. 6 took part in selection shows for the 2022 Contest: Spain’s Blanca Paloma, North Macedonia’s Yon Idy, Norway’s Mari Bølla, Croatia’s Mia Negovetić, Denmark’s DJ Speakr (from Fuld Effekt), and Czech Republic’s Annabelle.

While we’re here, let’s remind ourselves of the voting rules, which state that:

To increase diversity, music industry professionals can only take a seat in a national jury if they have not been in the jury during one of the previous two editions of the contest.

But according to the published data, Finland’s Amie Borgar and Lithuania’s Darius Uzkuraitis were jurors in 2021, while Belgium’s Alex Germys was listed as a juror in 2019 (there having been no edition in 2020). Hopefully there is a clerical error somewhere…

Categories
Website

2022 and all that

Rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 are in full swing at the PalaOlimpico in Turin (aka the Pala Alpitour with its sponsorship removed). Thanks to the official Eurovision channels’ photos and video clips, that’s provided lots of opportunity to spot and identify dancers and backing singers and so the 2022 page has been filling up with new information.

I’ve recently added a new “other” role to the site to capture delegation members who’ve been helping behind the scenes, such as creative directors and choreographers. This is particularly of interest where they have been performers themselves – for example, Austria’s vocal coach Monika Ballwein was a backing singer for the country four times between 1997 and 2013, while Sam Ryder’s vocal coach Annabel Williams did backing for James Newman last year.

This information is much more hit and miss which it partly why it has its own category. I’m aiming to add more over time but hopefully what’s already there will be of interest.

Back to this year’s performers, though, and I’m happy to say that the data is pretty complete. I’ve got numbers of performers for every country but it’s possible that some could have extra people that didn’t appear in the official media. Please let me know if you spot an omission.

There are four countries where I know I’m missing credits, so I’d love you to get in touch if you can help fill in the gaps:

  • Czech Republic: We Are Domi are supported by one unidentified backing singer.
  • Denmark: Reddi have an unidentified backing singer off stage. Sorted!
  • Norway: The three masked dancers are unidentified. (Perhaps one day I will be able to update the names of Jim, Keith and DJ Astronaut too.)
  • United Kingdom: Outside Sam Ryder’s massive light cage are a keyboardist, guitarist and drummer. (As far as I know the people moving the rig are stage hands from the host broadcaster and not part of the permitted six.) Sorted!

Typical that my own country is one of the ones for which I’m lacking information!

Once again, if you know any of the missing names, please drop me an email (ideally with a link to a source) to [email protected]. I will continue to add any new info but I might be slow correcting errors over the next week because I too will be in Turin!

Categories
Lists

With all my corazón

Benidorm Fest has concluded and we have a winner in the form of Chanel’s SloMo. Listening to the entries this week, I was reminded of the word that always jumps out at me as a non-Spanish speaker: corazón, the word for heart.

SloMo features it in the plural, corazones, but it was by no means the only Benidorm Fest entry to use it: both Mejores by boy band Unique and Make You Say by Sara Deop featured the word in their lyrics.

But what about at Eurovision itself? Of Spain’s 60 entries up to 2021, no fewer than 22 feature the word corazón in their lyrics:

  • 1961: Estando contigo – Conchita Bautista
  • 1964: Caracola – Los TNT
  • 1965: ¡Qué bueno, qué bueno! – Conchita Bautista
  • 1977: Enséñame a cantar – Micky
  • 1979: Su canción – Betty Missiego
  • 1981: Y sólo tú – Bacchelli
  • 1988: La chica que yo quiero (Made in Spain) – La Década Prodigiosa
  • 1990: Bandido – Azúcar Moreno
  • 1991: Bailar pegados – Sergio Dalma
  • 1992: Todo esto es la música – Serafín Zubiri
  • 1993: Hombres – Eva Santamaria
  • 1997: Sin rencor – Marcos Llunas
  • 1998: ¿Qué voy a hacer sin ti? – Mikel Herzog
  • 2001: Dile que la quiero – David Civero
  • 2002: Europe’s Living A Celebration – Rosa
  • 2004: Para llenarme de ti – Ramón
  • 2006: Un Blodymary – Las Ketchup
  • 2007: I Love you Mi Vida – D’Nash
  • 2010: Algo pequeñito – Daniel Diges
  • 2012: Quédate conmigo – Pastora Soler
  • 2013: Contigo hasta el final – El Sueño de Morfeo
  • 2015: Amanecer – Edurne

The word also appeared in the national final version of Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing in the Rain before the second verse was switched to English.

Of course it’s not only Spanish entries that are able to use Spanish words. Mendez’s 2003 Melodifestivalen entry Carnaval includes corazón among it’s mix of English, Spanish and Swedish lyrics. Bombo by Adelén was a finalist in the Norwegian selection show Melodi Grand Prix in 2013. One of few Spanish words it used to add a Mediterranean air to its English lyrics? Corazón.

And then there are the Spanish translations of Eurovision songs…

Categories
Lists

Who are the 2021 jurors?

The Eurovision Song Contest may be over for 2021 but the number-crunching is only beginning.

With the names of the 195 jurors now published (five each from the 39 participating countries) and loaded into Six on Stage, I’ve cross-referenced the data to see what previous involvement in Eurovision they’ve had.

There’s always a caveat and in this case it’s that the published data is a bit messy. For example, Finland’s jurors are largely missing surnames, so I’ve had to track down a separate source to fill them. I’ve also made the reasonable assumption that people with very close names are in fact the same person (e.g. Jonas Schroeder from Denmark is clearly Jonas Schrøder).

  • Of the 195 jurors, 31 have been on their national jury at least once before, and 2 have sat on the jury twice before.
  • 35 have performed on stage at Eurovision, 32 of whom have been lead artists. 3 have been backing performers only.
  • 17 jurors have writing credits on Eurovision songs from previous years. 1 of those wrote a winning song (Lise Cabble and Only Teardrops).
  • 8 have been their country’s voting spokesperson, only 1 of whom has not also been a performer (Monika Lelas Halambek from Croatia).
  • 41 have taken part in national selections – 16 of those without performing at Eurovision, although 1 of them should’ve done in 2020: Tan from off of Denmark’s Ben & Tan.
  • 2 have written Junior Eurovision songs, 1 has performed at Junior Eurovision (Nika Turković in 2004) and 1 has hosted Junior Eurovision (Helen Kalandadze in 2017).
  • 1 has been a conductor at Eurovision (Slobodan Marković, Yugoslavia’s final native conductor in 1991).
  • And, er, 1 member of the San Marino jury (Marilia Reffi) was listed as a member of the Sammarinese jury in 2019 – which isn’t supposed to be allowed…
Categories
Lists

Which countries have never had a returning artist?

Every year at Eurovision the acts are a mix of brand new artists who have never graced the stage before and returning performers ready to have another stab at the trophy.

We’re used to San Marino’s admirable commitment to recycling, which has seen Senhit and Serhat return and Valentina Monetta represent the country no less than four times (three solo, once with a duet).

But have any countries never sent a returning lead artist? Let’s take a look. (Note: I am still counting individuals as returning artists if they have also been solo and part of a group or if they have appeared in more than one group, e.g. Cheryl Baker. I’m not counting backing performers.)

Morocco

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Morocco have never sent a returning act. They only took part in the Contest once so by definition…

Serbia & Montenegro

Their two participations could have featured a returning artist, but no – although 2004’s Željko Joksimović did return for Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2006 and Serbia in 2012, so arguably represented Serbia twice if not under the same flag.

Australia

The country with the next fewest participations is Australia and they too are yet to repeat a performer – with the caveat that Montaigne was of course their nominal entrant in 2020 as well as 2021. Dami Im has expressed a desire to return, though, so they may not be on this list for much longer.

Andorra

Andorra have taken part in Eurovision six times without a returning act – although backing singer Belinda Sánchez Leal has been on stage with them four of those times.

Slovakia

Seven acts; no repeat artists. Like Morocco, Serbia & Montenegro and Andorra before them, Slovakia don’t currently take part in Eurovision so this isn’t about to change.

Czech Republic

Like Australia, their 2020 act (Benny Cristo) has returned for 2021, but other than that they have sent different artists every time they’ve taken part.

Montenegro

They have taken part in Eurovision 11 times but have been sitting it out since their poor result in 2019.

Georgia

Georgia wouldn’t be on this list if they hadn’t withdrawn their 2009 entry, the subtly political We Don’t Wanna Put In, as the group Stephane & 3G included Tamara Milanova, who went on to represent them in 2017. Although if they hadn’t withdrawn maybe she wouldn’t have come back. That’s the problem with counterfactuals.

Ukraine

Across 15 entries, Ukraine have sent new artists every year. Their 2020 act Go_A also return for 2021.

Albania and Belarus

With 16 entries, Albania and Belarus are the two countries that have jointly entered the most times without a single lead artist returning.

No repeat performers at all

If we do include backing performers, there are six countries that appear never to have had the same person on stage twice: Morocco (obvs), Serbia & Montenegro, Australia, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Ukraine – although this comes with the caveat that I’m missing the names of quite a few backing artists for Slovakia and Ukraine so if you can help there, please get in touch!

Categories
Lists

Spokesperson stats

I’ve added the names of voting spokespeople from their first year, 1957, to the present day – so now we can pull out some stats and facts.

Caveats: some of the sources for earlier spokespeople have conflicting information, so I’ve done my best to untangle it, and there are 30 occasions for which I have no data (spokespeople for Denmark 1963; Germany 1980-82; Luxembourg 1960-61, 1963-65, 1967-75 and 1992-93; Malta 1975; and Monaco 1959-1970). If you can fill in any gaps or have any corrections, please let me know.

Spokespeople who became hosts

Eleven people who gave their countries’ votes have gone on to host a subsequent Contest – 10% of all hosts.

  • Helga Vlahović, who co-presented Yugoslavia’s only time hosting the Contest, in 1990, was the country’s jury spokesperson in 1969, 1974 and 1981.
  • Israel’s 1999 host Yigal Ravid announced their votes in the year before.
  • Renārs Kaupers of Brainstorm gave Latvia’s votes in 2001 before hosting the Contest in 2003.
  • Korhan Abay, who hosted the 2004 Contest, read Turkey’s scores in 1990 and 1992.
  • Pavlo Shylko – who also wrote the lyrics to Tina Karol’s Show Me Your Love – hosted 2005 in Ukraine having been their spokesperson in 2004.
  • Jovana Janković hosted in Belgrade in 2008 having given Serbia & Montenegro’s unique non-participant votes in 2006.
  • Leyla Aliyeva revealed Azerbaijan’s votes in 2008 and presented from Baku in 2012.
  • Copenhagen 2014’s Lise Rønne previously announced the Danish votes in 2011.
  • Filomena Cautela, one of the four hosts of the 2018 Contest, was the Portuguese spokesperson the previous year.
  • Similarly, Lucy Ayoub from Tel Aviv 2019 gave Israel’s votes in 2018.
  • And 2020/21 host and two-time entrant Edsilia Rombley has given the scores for the Netherlands on three occasions: in 1999, in 2015, and – following her failure to qualify for the final that year, in 2007!

The first performer to become a spokesperson

Edsilia nearly leads us on the next question. Spokespeople initially tended to be TV station employees, radio presenters, commentators, newsreaders and the like, calling in their votes unseen. So who was the first entrant to go on to announce a country’s votes? And what about the first winner?

The answer is Luxembourgish singer Camillo Felgen. He represented his country in 1960 and 1962 and went on to call in their jury’s scores in 1966.

It was nearly 30 years before another entrant gave their country’s votes, when Switzerland’s 1994 scores were announced by their 1991 singer Sandra Simó.

But since 1996, every Contest has featured at least one former entrant calling with the votes. In 2019, no fewer than 11 of the jury spokespeople were prior entrants, the earliest being Izhar Cohen from 1978 and 1985.

The first winner to present her country’s votes was Corry Brokken, who did so for the Netherlands in 1997 – and only a few minutes later, Marie Myriam did the same for France. Corry Brokken also hosted the 1976 Contest, making her the first entrant and first winner to present in a subsequent year.

Who were the most frequent spokespeople?

Over the years we’ve come to recognise familiar faces like Alexis Kostalas of Greece. So who’s given their country’s votes most often?

It may not be a surprise that the answer by some margin is Colin Berry, who announced the United Kingdom’s votes on 24 occasions.

Michel Stocker of Switzerland is the runner-up with 20 occasions, followed by Sverre Christophersen of Norway with 18.

The highest woman on the list is Anna Partelidou of Cyprus, who is sixth with 13 occasions.

Alexis Kostalas, in case you’re wondering, presented the Greek votes 11 times – which is a lot of occasions to have to say “12 points to Cyprus” with a straight face.

Which countries have been the most consistent?

In other words, which countries have had the fewest number of spokespeople per year participating?

Albania has had only three spokespeople across 16 Contests so is the clear leader with 5.3 years per spokesperson.

Next is Turkey with 10 spokespeople over 34 Contests (3.4 y/s), Luxembourg and Austria with 3.3 y/s, and Greece with 3.1 y/s.

The most fickle countries are Andorra and Serbia & Montenegro, who switched up the spokesperson every time they took part, followed by Latvia with 19 spokespeople for 20 Contests.

And finally… what’s the most simultaneous spokespeople a country has had?

Three! On two occasions, a country’s votes have been given by three people at once – when Alcazar, in a trio phase, announced Sweden’s scores in 2014 and when O’G3NE did so for the Netherlands in 2018.

Categories
Lists

The winners who tried again

Eurovision Song Contest winners have achieved a feat shared by few others. But even within that hallowed group, some try to return to Eurovision, whether just to relive the experience or to attempt to match Johnny Logan’s unique two wins as an artist.

Where people already in the Six on Stage database appeared in national finals, I’ve now added this information too. As a result, it’s now possible for me to cross-reference appearances at Eurovision with participation in national selections.

While no-one else has done the double, a number of winners have indeed made it back to the Eurovision stage – so let’s look at 27 winning performers who didn’t make it through a national final despite their gilded status.

The early winners

The first two winners of the Contest tried to represent their countries again in later years.

Lys Assia won the Swiss selection the next two years after her victory in 1956, but she was unsuccessful when she tried again – for the 2012 Contest, more than 50 years after her last go.

Corry Brokken too represented her country in the first three years of the Contest. She tried again much sooner, unsuccessfully entering the Dutch national selection in 1959. She would instead return as host, in 1976.

Melodifestivalen

No fewer than six previous Eurovision winners have tried and failed to win Melfest – and only half of them won the Contest for Sweden!

  • Elisabeth Andreassen of Bobbysocks took part in 1990, in 2002 (with Kikki and Lotta) and in 2011. She has also entered Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix five times since La Det Swinge, representing Norway again in 1994 and 1996 but not winning the selection in 1998, 2003 or 2015.
  • Katrina Leskanich of “and the Waves” fame competed as Katrina & The Nameless in 2005.
  • Carola took part with Andreas Johnson in 2008 (she did, of course, win two years previously).
  • Charlotte Perrelli returned in 2012 and 2017 (after winning for the second time in 2008). And she is back this year to try again.
  • Helena Paparizou, 2005’s Eurovision winner for Greece, took part in 2014 with Survivor.
  • Loreen in 2017 notoriously failed to make it out of Andra Chansen with Statements.

The 1991 hosts (allora)

Gigliola Cinquetti took part in the Sanremo Music Festival the year after her 1964 win, reaching the final. She actually won again in 1966 but, as each song was performed by two artists, it ended up being Domenico Modugno who made the ill-fated trip to Luxembourg with Dio Come Ti Amo.

Toto Cutugno took part in 1997’s edition of Sanremo, finishing 17th.

Chanteuses of 60s and 70s

  • 1962 winner Isabelle Aubret, who also represented France in 1968, took part in their national selection again in 1970, 1976 and 1983.
  • Grethe Ingmann, who won for Denmark with her then-husband in 1963, tried again in 1978, 1979 and 1980.
  • Having represented Luxembourg twice, Vicky Leandros entered the German selection in 2006.
  • The French contribution to 1969’s four-way tie, Frida Boccara appeared in their national finals in 1980 and 1981.
  • Séverine won for Monaco in 1971 but went on take part in Germany’s national finals in 1975 and 1982.

Returning men

Izhar Cohen won alongside the Alphabeta in 1978 and represented Israel again in 1985. He was, however, unsuccessful in Israel’s national selections of 1982, 1987 and 1996.

Dima Bilan won Eurovision for Russia at his second appearance. He tried to represent the country again in 2012, competing in the national finals with Julia Volkova from t.A.T.u.

Band members

Our last set of returnees may be less well known as they all won Eurovision as members of groups.

  • Reuven Gvirtz, Shmulik Bilu and Yehuda Tamir were victorious in 1979 as three-quarters of Milk & Honey. Those members of the band tried to represent Israel again in 1981 and 1989, and Yehuda Tamir also tried as a solo artist in 1986.
  • Emilija Kokić was the lead singer of 1989 winners Riva. She took part in the Croatian national finals three times, in 2001, 2003 and 2008.
  • Five years after their win in Sweden, Olsen Brothers Jørgen & Niels entered Danish Melodi Grand Prix again with Little Yellow Radio. Jørgen returned to the competition as a solo singer in 2007.
  • 2XL won in 2001 with Dave Benton and Tanel Padar and three of the four members have since taken part in the Estonian national finals. Kaido Põldma, Lauri Pihlap and Sergei Morgun were all members of Soul Militia in 2007 and 2012. Additionally, Lauri Pihlap took part in 2009 and 2014, and Sergei Morgun in 2018 as one-third of Tiiu x Okym x Semy.
  • Sampsa Astala, aka Kita from Lordi, returned to Finland’s national selection in 2011 as Stala in Stala & So.
Categories
Uncategorised

1978, six backing singers, five countries, Eurovision Again and a mystery solved

Last night I watched the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest and ended up solving a mystery that’s been bugging me for three months.

From a Six on Stage perspective, the 1978 Contest is particularly interesting because it features the same backing singers on four different songs – or that’s what I’d been led to believe.

There aren’t a lot of primary sources you can go to when it comes to identifying backing singers from 40+ years ago, so there are some excellent secondary sources I fall back on: in particular the no longer updated Diggiloo Thrush and the comprehensive Dutch Eurovision Artists site.

Both sites agree that Georges and Michel Costa, Martine Latorre and Francine Chantereau provided backing vocals in 1978 for France, Germany, Belgium and – sans Michel – for Monaco. (It’s Michel’s absence there that means his brother has performed the most songs at Eurovision with 17, while Michel has sung on 16.)

But then I watched the French entry, illustrated here via a screengrab from one of the low-res copies of the Contest floating illicitly on YouTube:

Joël Prévost with three female and two male backing singers

Voici Joël Prévost, accompanied by not four but five backing singers. We know that two of the female singers are Francine Chantereau and Martine Latorre, but who is the third?


Let’s take a diversion to the 1986 Eurovision Song Contest in Norway. There, Georges and Michel Costa made their final appearance as Eurovision backing vocalists on a song they wrote themselves, Européennes by Cocktail Chic. Cocktail Chic comprised sisters Dominique Poulain and Catherine Bonnevay and their cousins… Francine Chantereau and Martine Latorre.

The four singers of Cocktail Chic
I’m not sure if you can tell but this was the 1980s.

A bit more research reveals that these four formed a group at the end of the 1960s first called Les OP’4 and then, as Les Fléchettes, primarily providing backing vocals for singer Claude François. They also performed as Dominique et les Fléchettes, with Dominique (third in the image above) taking lead vocals. And in the 1970s they performed with the Costa brothers under the name Chance.

Cover of "Une Fille est Toujours Belle" by Les Flechettes

Francine and Dominique also sang backing vocals for Marie Myriam on the winning song in 1977 that brought the Contest to Paris.

So it stands to reason that the third female singer supporting France in 1978 is either Dominique or Catherine. Better check the other performances to see if they have the extra singer too!

Here’s Belgium:

Three female and two male backing singers

Aha! Yes indeed. It’s a blurry picture but once again there are three female backing singers. Except… even in this low-quality copy it looks like those are not the same three.

What about Germany? Although that’s odd in itself as Germany isn’t a Francophone country. This interview (in French) with the Costa brothers sheds some light there. Translated:

Michel: There was a year when we sang for five countries, in Paris: France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Belgium and Germany. We changed jackets between songs.
Interviewer: Under what circumstances did you accompany Germany?
Michel: We went to rehearsals, and Germany was in the room, they did not have any singers and said to themselves “These singers must be very good because they represent everyone!” (laughs)
Interviewer: Wasn’t it too hard to sing in German?
Georges: No, it was just “Feuer” to sing, and the rest was the “Ah”, sounds like that.

NB: Baccara representing Luxembourg did not appear to have any backing vocals.

Germany was represented in 1978 by the glorious Ireen Sheer, who had sung in French representing Luxembourg four years earlier. Here she is in Paris:

Ireen Sheer with three female and two male backing singers

Right. The gang is back but they’re different again. And Monaco is the very next song. Will they have time to change?

Monaco's singers with one male and two female backing singers

No, no they won’t.

Although the picture quality is grainy, one helpful aspect of the ’78 Contest is that instead of postcards there is backstage footage of each act making their way to the stage. In most cases the previous act is waiting to wish them good luck (well, waiting for them to vacate the lift so they can go back to their dressing rooms).

When Monaco and Germany cross, we see the Costa brothers backstage with four women in purple dresses. Four!


As you’ve probably worked out, the whole Fléchette family was there and rotated the backing vocal honours amongst them. So the next challenge was to identify who was who in order to list them correctly on Six on Stage.

I crudely classified them based on height and hair, because that’s pretty much all there is to go on in this video. So we have:

  • France: ginger, short with dark hair, tall with dark hair
  • Belgium: ginger, blonde, tall with dark hair
  • Germany: blonde, short with dark hair, tall with dark hair
  • Monaco: ginger, short with dark hair

I told you it was crude. The next step was to name them. Helpfully, the Diggiloo Thrush’s page for Cocktail Chic identifies them in their 1980s personas. Francine is the taller of the dark-haired women and Dominique the shorter. Catherine is blonde and Martine is not really ginger.

This video from 1970 endorses the identification of Dominique.

All that was left to do was to update Six on Stage with the correct backing singers:

  • France: Martine, Dominique, Francine
  • Belgium: Martine, Catherine, Francine
  • Germany: Catherine, Dominique, Francine
  • Monaco: Martine, Dominique

They’re all there now on the 1978 page. Job done!

But that wasn’t the mystery that had been bugging me. I said this involved five countries, not four, and we haven’t even touched on Eurovision Again.


It’s Ireen Sheer’s fault.

She cropped up representing Luxembourg in 1985 during the most recent Eurovision Again. But she also represented them back in 1974.

Eurovision Again and the BBC treated us to that Contest as welcome lockdown relief in the middle of May. At the time, a number of eagle-eyed viewers tweeted that Ireen’s backing singers stayed on stage in exactly the same outfits to provide vocals for the immediately following act, Romuald from Monaco. Frustratingly, I’d been unable to identify these four singers, none of whom was recorded in my go-to sources.

Screengrab of Six on Stage showing unknown backing singers
This made me sad.

But then I started thinking: Ireen Sheer. Francophone countries. Four female singers. 1970s. Maybe there was more to Germany’s choice of backing singers in 1978 than the Costas remembered. You can hear the cogs turning.

Sometimes the only evidence is the Contest itself.

Romuald with four female backing singers
Ireen Sheer with four female backing singers in 1974
Short with dark hair. Tall with dark hair. Blonde. Possibly ginger.

I’ve looked at contemporary photos and videos. I’ve squinted at the 1978 footage. I’ve pored over Cocktail Chic.

Yep. I’m calling it. That is, left to right, Dominique Poulain, Francine Chantereau, Catherine Bonnevay and Martine Latorre.

Mystery solved.

Screengrab of Six on Stage showing Luxembourg 1974 with backing singers recorded
That’s better.
Categories
Data visualisation

Visualising the winners

We all know that Ireland is the all-time Eurovision champion with their seven wins, but I’d been wondering who was in the lead before them? Sweden are in second place now, but three of those wins came after Ireland’s last. What about in, say, the 1970s?

Thanks to a bit of data animation I’ve thrown together, you can now answer that question while being entertained by flying bars. Watch the leaderboard change over time:

This shows that the countries in joint lead before Ireland’s mid-90s dominance were France and Luxembourg. And it also highlights that from 2001 to 2008 eight countries consecutively got their first ever wins – soon after the rule that they had to sing in their own languages was abolished…