It’s Friday Favourites here at Eurovision Ireland and this week we introduce you to a new writer at the site – Nine. We go back in our Tardis to the year 1989.
The first Eurovision I watched was in 1989. I don’t think the rest of my family was especially interested, but I campaigned for control of the TV that night, excited by the prospect of all of Europe getting together for a shindig. Although Eurovision 25 years ago was not as ludicrous as it is in the present day, it was certainly a decent taster for things to come. Notably, this was the first occasion on which Iceland was awarded nul points, following an utterly forgettable song performed by a young man who appeared to have been summoned out of bed and into someone else’s trousers two minutes before he was due onstage. (Sidenote: in the preceding postcard, he and his bandmates relieve a bearded man of a contraption used for carrying cheese on his head.) Rather than kissing his music career goodbye that night, the young man in question, Daníel Ágúst Haraldsson, went on to become the lead singer of GusGus, who are actually quite good.
I recall being captivated by Finland’s entry, which, coming in seventh place, was the country’s most successful offering prior to 2006. With an Italian title and a distinctly Spanish vibe, I’m reasonably certain that Anneli Saaristo’s La Dolce Vita was my favourite, and watching it again today I still can’t fault it.
Then there was Portugal’s entry, Conquistador by Da Vinci, which seemed like a pretty standard eighties pop song, complete with keytars and shoulder pads, but I’m informed by Wikipedia (and Google Translate) that the catchy tune “reminisces about the former Portuguese colonial possessions worldwide.”
The winning entry was Yugoslavia’s Rock Me, and in the years since, I’ve found its tune interrupting my inner monologue far more times than I can possibly count. Wholesome, cheesy (look at that synchronised footwork!) and adorable, they were clearly having fun together onstage, they sang in their own language, and the lead singer, Emilija Kokić, was gorgeous. This was what it was all about, I concluded.
For some reason, I didn’t watch the Eurovision again for almost a decade, and yet 1989 still feels like a formative experience, laying the foundations for a future obsession. At 11, I liked learning about the world and I wanted to visit every country in it, but I don’t know if I really noticed Eastern Europe’s absence from the contest back then, or pondered its significance. Eurovision was to become a lot bigger, a lot queerer and a lot more ridiculous, and I was to gravitate towards its less conventional elements, but the bottom line of everybody gathering to find some common ground in music – no matter how dreadful that music may sometimes turn out to be – never lost its appeal.