Every year since the mid 1950s, we’ve turned on our tellies to watch the Eurovision’s unique blend of euro-pop, disappearing skirts and smoke machines.
But for Britain the annual talent contest has been something of a rollercoaster ride. We’ve had ups and downs, wins… and years peppered by those pesky ‘nil points’.
This year – the 60th anniversary of the singing contest – the nation rests all their Eurovision hopes and dreams on unknown musical duo Electro Velvet and their song Still In Love With You. We’ll have to wait until later this evening to find out whether their performance be a hit or a miss, but in the meantime, let’s look back at the UK’s triumphs and our, erm, embarrassingly bad flops…
Sing, Little Birdie by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson (1959)
Wholesome, smiley duo Pearl and Teddy were the UK’s first success story, taking second place for their perky rendition of Sing, Little Birdie (you can watch it below, just hold out through the preamble). The contest was a whole different ball game back then. There was no lycra or face paint and they seem to have replaced the strobe lighting and arena stage with a much more refined orchestra and revolving entrance…
Puppet on a String by Sandie Shaw (1967)
Woop! Our first ever winner. Sandie won a very respectable 47 points for this catchy tune. Nowadays the Eurovision props team would have a field day with a song like this. Fairground rides, hundreds of dancers pretending to a puppets, Sandie would probably the lowered down on an elaborate puppet’s string…
Boom Bang-a-Bang by Lulu (1969)
Just two years later and we get another winner. The UK were on fire during the 60s when it came to catchy Euro pop sensations! This time, lovely Lulu sung her heart out for the British public. We’ve gone all Technicolor too, but no Eurovision-style theatrics to be spied just yet. The strange spiky statue behind her could be a hint of things to come though…
Power To All Our Friends by Cliff Richard (1973)
He may have only come third, but old Cliff deserves some recognition for services to Eurovision. This wasn’t his first time representing our green and pleasant land either. He also performed Congratulations in 1968 and came second place.
There’s handy subtitles on this video, so you can sing along if you fancy. Plus there are some ethnic drums in the background. A modern day Eurovision must-have.
Save Your Kisses for Me by Brotherhood of Man (1976)
This Seventies’ quartet came out on top in 1976, bringing home the UK’s third win. There are more subtitles on this video too – we’re half way to putting on a Eurovision karaoke here at RT.com.
It might be worth trying to learn those slick dance moves too. Pretty sure they’d still go down a storm nowadays…
Bad Old Days by Co-Co (1978)
Wow. Suddenly Eurovision has transformed into the tack-tastic competition we know and love. The orchestra is sat on a strange white contraption, someone is sporting clown makeup and these spangly outfits are really something special. I’m fairly sure one of those women is wearing a gold superhero costume with a white cape. Nice.
Sadly though, Co-co’s wacky wardrobe choices (do you ever need a bow tie when you’re not wearing a shirt?) weren’t enough. You could say this was the UK’s first Eurovision failure. Coming in at 11th, Bad Old Days was the UK’s lowest score since the beginning of the competition.
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz (1981)
Fast forward to 1981 and Britain are back on top. This time thanks to Bucks Fizz who remain Eurovision icons to this day for their very clever disappearing skirts.
Band member Cheryl Baker was also in Co-Co but thankfully, this catchy number was much more popular with the voters. If you’re not sure which one Cheryl is, just look for the only band member not sporting a shaggy blonde mullet.
Coincidentally, the lady in yellow recently tried to reboot her singing career on BBC1’s The Voice. Unfortunately, she failed to get past the first round.
Only The Light by Rikki (1987)
This fairly unremarkable tune from Glaswegian singer Richard Peebles fared poorly at the 1987 Eurovision, coming in at a very disappointing 13 and becoming the worst UK entry in the history of the contest. Even some super-speedy backing dancers didn’t manage to distract voters from Rikki’s tuneless rendition. And to add insult to injury the single then failed to make it into the UK singles chart top 75…
The good news is, you can hear Terry Wogan’s dulcet tones at the beginning. It’s like a lovely Eurovision-shaped comfort blanket.
Better the Devil You Know by Sonia (1993)
Classic Eurovision here. Plus you’ll all be glad to see they’ve cracked out the strobe lighting. Sonia came in second in 1993 with a very respectable 164 points for this upbeat ditty. Very good.
Ooh Ahh… Just a Little Bit by Gina G (1996)
She may have only come in eighth place, but can we call Gina G’s Ooh Ahh… Just a Little Bit a Eurovision failure? We’re not so sure. It didn’t get us the Eurovision trophy but the world would be a worse place without the catchy disco classic (probably).
Plus, Ooh Aaah… Just a Little Bit made it to number one in the UK singles chart (no Eurovision entry has managed that since) and was also nominated for a best dance recording at the Grammys. If that’s not success, we don’t know what is.
Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves (1997)
And here we have it. The UK’s last win at the Eurovision Song Contest. A whole 16 years ago. Time we turned that around, eh? (No pressure, Electro Velvet.)
Katrina and the Waves’ groovy power ballad went down a storm with the European voting public. The world peace themed song was awarded an unprecedented 227 points and was given the maximum of 12 points by ten of the voting countries. It’s the kind of Eurovision success story us Brits can only dream of nowadays…
Cry Baby by Jemini (2003)
From the triumph of a Eurovision win to the UK’s biggest failure….
It’s a running joke that Britain has failed to make the grade in Eurovision’s recent competitions. But one terrible year (2003 to be exact) the dreaded thing actually happened. BRITAIN GOT NO POINTS. That’s right, nothing. Zilch. Nada. NIL POINTS.
Since Eurovision revised the rules in 1999, allowing countries to perform songs not in their official language, it’s been a tough road for the UK. But we refuse to offer any excuses for Jemini. The song, the wooden dancing, the completely out of tune vocals are all awful. There’s no doubt about it.
Flying the Flag (For You) by Scooch (2007)
We had high hopes for Scooch, as Terry wisely remarks in the opening voice over. Their perky expressions and gimmicky song was just the thing to win over Europe and end our run of disappointment… or so we thought.
Sadly the aeroplane attendants failed to charm and we wound up in 22nd place with a measly 19 points.
It’s My Time by Jade Ewen (2009)
Jade Ewen’s emotional song, co-written and accompanied by musical mogul Andrew Lloyd Webber, saw our Eurovision luck turn around. Coming in fifth, sentimental hit It’s My Time is our biggest success of recent years.
Jade has since gone on to be a member of girl band Sugarbabes and compete in ITV’s diving competition Splash! Oh, the dizzying heights of celebrity…
I Can by Blue (2011)
Put four former heartthrobs and European chart favourites into the Eurovision Song Contest and you’re guaranteed success, yeah?
Well, it turns out, no. They may have sang the words “I know, I can. I know I can” but they shouldn’t have been so sure of themselves.
Blue’s bland 2011 entry wasn’t a total failure though, they did come in 11th with a very decent 100 points. We just had such high hopes for the foursome… Maybe those semi-naked images of the aging pop stars at the start put off voters?
The Eurovision Song Contest is on tonight at 8:00pm on BBC1
Ellie is an entertainment, TV and film journalist writing news and (hopefully incredibly witty) comment for RadioTimes.com. She loves light-hearted dramas and glossy US series - and is more than a little bit obsessed with Downton Abbey. Foodie, sun-seeker and aspiring novelist in her own time. Likes the fact that her name rhymes with telly.