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
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 awayRead the full lyrics
The trains are busy, not me, no way!
You can catch the train of life anytime!