By Ade Blackburn
The Eurovision Song Contest has been one of the most anticipated music events in the world for over six decades, bringing together countries from across Europe and beyond to compete for the title of the continent’s best song. Eurovision always provides a great deal of fun and is renowned for having some jaw-dropping moments. From hardcore rock to bizarre fairytales, the contest seldom disappoints.
With the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest set to take place in Liverpool this May, now is the perfect time to look back on some of the competition’s most memorable performances.
Here’s a selection of historical moments from the competition.
1. Sandie Shaw
The first British Eurovision triumph was Sandie Shaw with Puppet on a String in 1967. A convincing winner but of the five songs she was offered to perform, Puppet on a String was Shaw’s least favourite.
In her own words, ‘I hated it from the very first ‘oompah’ to the final ‘bang’ on the big bass drum’ and even went as far as describing the song as ‘cuckoo-clock’ music.
Puppet on a String won the contest hands down though and became her third number one hit in the UK and a big worldwide smash.
One of the greatest and most iconic performances to ever grace the Eurovision stage. Eurovision had always been popular but it was Abba with Waterloo that lifted it into the pop culture stratosphere.
Their glam-inspired performance in 1974 gave Sweden their first-ever win in the contest. The title and lyrics reference the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, and use it as a metaphor for a romantic relationship.
Abba, of course, went on to become one of the biggest groups in the world and their hits remain part of the cultural zeitgeist to this day, with stage shows and two movies made based on their hit songs.
3. Conchita Wurst
Austrian singer and drag queen Conchita Wurst became famous around the world after winning 2014’s Eurovision with Rise Like A Phoenix.
Stylistically, the power ballad recalls classic James Bond songs, while Wurst’s victory helped make the singer a global gay icon. Conchita was also the first singer to win without backing singers or dancers since 1970.
Using her newfound fame for a good cause, the singer brought attention to homophobia and legal restrictions on gay rights in many European countries.
Lordi’s 2006 performance was one of the most iconic from the competition. Representing Finland with their song Hard Rock Hallelujah, the costumed rock band blew everyone away and left many others a touch disturbed.
Their masked stage-act was heavily inspired by the band Kiss and vocalist Gene Simmons became a fan of Lordi, even offering to publish their music.
They did more than enough to secure victory for their country with a score of 262 – which was a record at the time and only surpassed in 2019 by the Netherlands.
5. Dustin the Turkey
Another unforgettable Eurovision moment was Dustin the Turkey taking to the stage in 2008 to represent Ireland in the competition. Dustin had first appeared on the television show The Den with madcap Irish puppet duo Zig and Zag.
The song of choice was called Irelande Douze Pointe, which did not persuade the judges to hand out that many points, sadly for Dustin. The performance did not go as well as Ireland would have hoped and they failed to make it out of the semi-finals that year.
Undeterred, Dustin made a surprise comeback in 2005 on a duet of Patricia the Stripper with singer Chris De Burgh, reaching #3 on the Irish charts.
6. Bucks Fizz
Bucks Fizz’s classic 1981 performance of Making Your Mind Up was Eurovision at its best. The upbeat song and colourful performance captured many of the contest’s endearing qualities.
The act was even slightly risqué for the time, with the velcro-ripping moment in their dance routine raising a few eyebrows at home and all over Europe. Bucks Fizz went on to become a major 80s chart act, with three number one singles and sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Three of the original band members are now back performing under the name The Fizz and playing live in 2023.
7. Dana International
The Dana International win was an iconic moment and an important one that paved the way for inclusivity in the contest.
Dana International’s Diva was the first ever transgender winner of Eurovision, when she successfully competed in the 1998 contest on behalf of Israel. Her performance reinforced the message that everyone is welcome in Eurovision, and her win was celebrated by people all over the world.
Dana had many chart hits before and after Eurovision, and even wrote the 2008 entry for Israel in the competition.
8. Buranovskiye Babushki
Some performances are just too surreal to forget, which more than applied to Buranovskiye Babushki (The Grannies from Buranovo) and the bizarre show they staged for Russia in 2012.
Dressed as local villagers, the eight elderly women took part in some baking, as they all danced around an oven performing their song Party for Everybody. In an attempt to add some clarity, a member of the ensemble stated ‘We sing about lighting the oven, kneading the dough and spreading the tablecloth’.
It almost did the trick though as Russia came second that year!
9. France Gall
Penned by the notoriously controversial French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg for Paris-born singer France Gall, this winning entry for Luxembourg brought a touch of French yé-yé to Eurovision in 1965.
Mixing chanson with an upbeat song inspired by British beat music, Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son – whose title translates as Wax Doll, Rag Doll – inspired a host of toy-themed Eurovision efforts from 60s pop artists, including, Sandie Shaw’s Puppet On A String.
With its charm and addictive melody, Gall’s song went on to sell more than half a million copies in her French homeland.
For full information on this year’s contest, see the Eurovision 2023 website