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Monday, April 13th 2009

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Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu) Domenico Modugno Italy, 1958 (3rd) The song originally titled Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu had won the 1958 San Remo Song Festival (out of which the Eurovision contest was born), then went on to represent Italy in that year's Eurovision final. Despite finishing in third position (and the song having to be performed twice because there was a break in transmission in some European countries) it reached No. 1 in the US Billboard Hot 100 (becoming single of the year in the US), and became a UK Top 10 hit six months later. It has since become the most covered Eurovision hit, most notably with Dean Martin having a major hit with it (with lyrics in English), as well as an uptempo version by The Gipsy Kings in 1989. Domenico returned to Eurovision in 1959 with Piove (Ciao Ciao Bambina) which finished sixth, but gave him another hit. However in 1966, he represented Italy again in Luxembourg with the San Remo winner Dio Come Ti Amo - which ended up without a single point. Domenico entered the politics in the 1980s, being elected to Parliament in 1986 until his death in 1994, following a heart attack, aged 66.

Are You Sure The Allisons UK, 1961 (2nd)
The UK's answer to the Everly Brothers or the Kalin Twins (though the Allisons were not brothers) went to Cannes with this very popular song, which gave the 'le Royaume-Uni' their third consecutive second placing - and a No. 2 hit in the charts. The duo were John and Bob Allison (Brian Alford and Colin Day in real life) and following on from their major hit they only had one further minor hit. Ultimately, the Allisons, in common with many of the musicians whose popularity peaked in the 1960s, have found themselves in great demand again. Although now 50 years have elapsed since he first felt compelled to sing, John Allison is still at it- and Are You Sure is still going strong. John and Bob now reunite regularly and they still harmonise their voices beautifully.

Come Back To Stay Dickie Rock Ireland, 1966 (4th)
Dickie's status in Irish showband music is, of course, legendary. Unlike Brendan Bowyer and other singers who imitated the gyrations of Elvis, Dickie chose to emulate the great crooners of the day like Sinatra and Bennett. His appeal was rooted in a sexy gesture or a playful wink, not his good looks or athletic ability. He joined the Miami Showband in 1962 as its new lead singer and they enjoyed huge success throughout the 1960s. Dickie tried for Eurovision success in Ireland's first National Song Contest in 1965 but lost out to Butch Moore. However in 1966 he won the National final securing his ticket to Luxembourg, where he finished fourth, behind Austria, Sweden and Norway. He actually tied for fourth place with Belgium. Come Back To Stay was written by Dubliner Rowland Soper, and gave Dickie his sixth Irish chart-topper (he had two more in 1968 and 1977).

L'Amour Est Bleu Vicky (Leandros) Luxembourg, 1967 (4th)
Vicky (then 17, and performing under her first name only) went to Vienna with this, one of the hot favourites, but had to be content with fourth place. She lost out to the UK's Sandie Shaw with Puppet on a String, who achieved more than twice the points of Ireland's Sean Dunphy who finished in second place. France came third. The song became an evergreen, however, and in 1968 the French musical director Paul Mauriat turned it into an 'easy listening' classic, giving him a US No. 1 hit. Like Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu), it remains one of the most covered Eurovision hits. Vicky, of course, went on to win the 1972 contest with Après Toi, which she recorded in English as Come What May, giving her another worldwide smash hit, giving her a No. 2 hit in both Ireland and the UK.

Congratulations Cliff Richard UK, 1968 (2nd)
Still performed at parties all over the world, this Bill Martin/Phil Coulter song was expected to pull off the double for the UK (the 1967 UK winner Puppet On A String was also written by them), but lost out by one point to the Spanish song La La La, sung by Massiel. However, it became the biggest-selling Eurovision hit across Europe in 1968.
Derryman Phil Coulter originally wrote the song as "I Think I Love You", but was unsure of the lyrics and it was up to Scotsman Bill Martin to changed it to "Congratulations". The song was immediately popular in the UK and became a number one single. On the day of the contest, it was the favourite to win, so much so that the British press were posing the question: "What will come 2nd to Congratulations?" During the voting, Congratulations was leading for much of the way until the penultimate vote when Germany gave Spain six points, putting them one point ahead of the United Kingdom. It finished second losing to Spain's entry La La La by just one point, and was a huge hit throughout Europe. In 2008, documentary film-maker Montse Fernandez Vila claimed that the loss was the result of rigging of the Spanish vote by their state broadcaster TVE on behalf of General Franco's fascsit regime. The song is still popular and was chosen to lead the show which celebrated 50 years of Eurovision and which was named after it: Congratulations.

Eres Tú Mocedades Spain, 1973 (2nd)
Mocedades were a sextet from Bilbao (originally formed in 1967 as an eight-piece) who were taken under the wing of composer Juan Carlos Calderón, who wrote Eres Tú (You Are) for the group. They were favourites, alongside the UK entry Power To All Our Friends sung by Cliff Richard, to win the contest in Luxembourg. Despite losing out by just four points to the home team that year, it became a bigger success in terms of record sales, including a Top 10 hit in the US. They recorded an English-language version (Touch The Wind) but the original Spanish version proved more popular, not to mention that over 50 cover versions of this song have been recorded.

Sì / Go (Before You Break My Heart) Gigliola Cinquetti Italy, 1974 (2nd)
The girl from Verona (b. 20 Dec. 1947) had previously won Eurovision in 1964 with Non Ho L'Età giving Italy its first victory. Ten years and many continental hits later, she was back with a song that the Italian state broadcaster RAI could not play, nor indeed could it show being performed live at Eurovision '74 in Brighton. Why? It was thought that the song Sì (Yes) would heavily influence the electorate into voting in the affirmative in the following month's divorce referendum. The first line of the chorus translated literally as 'Yes, my mind says yes.' However, the rest of Europe did broadcast the song, rewarding Gigliola with second place - six points behind Abba's Waterloo - ten years on from her victorious moment in Copenhagen when she was just 16. She also recorded Sì in English, French, German and Spanish. The English version was retitled Go (Before You Break My Heart) and earned Gigliola a No. 6 hit in Ireland, and a UK No. 8.

Un, Deux, Trois Cathérine Ferry France, 1976 (2nd)
23-year-old French singer was one of the favourites to win in The Hague on 3rd April. In fact for the first half of the voting France was constantly in the lead, until by the second half constant 10s and 12-point scores were being awarded to the UK's Brotherhood of Man, who eventually won comfortably by 17 points clear of the French song. Cathérine continued to record up until the late 1980s.

Su Canción Betty Missiego Spain, 1979 (2nd)
Again, one of the hot favourites to win Eurovisión '79, hosted in Jerusalem, fought one of the closest contests in a decade as the lead kept changing throughout. Before the last country voted, Spain was leading by one point ahead of hosts Israel. But it was Spain who were last to vote - of course they couldn't award any points to themselves - and gave Israel 10 points to secure the home team a second consecutive victory. According to the official Eurovision website, it was rumoured after the contest that Spain gave high marks to Israel to prevent their own country from having to host the Contest in 1980, thus saving themselves the high expense of an international production.
The song was performed from the point of view of 'una mujer mayor' (an old woman, ostensibly Missiego, who was then only 34!), who lived a solitary life until she found joy in the world around her through children who asked her to sing a song with them. At the end, she implores everyone to sing along with her, so the song can become theirs as well. Uniquely that year was her use of children as backing singers of sorts, joining her in 'her song'. At the end of the song, the children unfurl small banners, with "thanks" inscribed on each in English, Spanish, Hebrew and French, respectively.

Terminal 3 Linda Martin Ireland, 1984 (2nd)
Written by 1980 winner Johnny Logan, the song itself is a moderately uptempo number, with Linda (who had just left the band Chips) singing about her feelings while waiting for her lover to disembark from a flight from the USA. She sings that her own feelings for him have not changed and that she hopes that the same is true of him, although "He's been away too long now". The central motif of the song is the line "Terminal Three: flight's on time", which Logan is on record as admitting was written simply because he was in Terminal Three of London's Heathrow airport at the time he wrote the song. The voting in Luxembourg was a two-horse between Ireland and Sweden (represented by the Herreys with Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley) but Sweden finally won by eight points ahead of Linda, giving them their first victory in ten years (since Abba's Waterloo in Brighton).

Somewhere in Europe Liam Reilly Ireland, 1990 (equal 2nd)
Former Bagatelle frontman Liam comfortable won the national heat held in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre, 25 points clear of Linda Martin and Friends, to secure his place in Zagreb in then-Yugoslavia. The song is a ballad, in which Reilly sings about his desire to meet a former lover once again. He sings that he is "back in Ireland", which implies that the romance took place during a trip through Europe. He then reminisces about the relationship they had (in places such as Brussels, Amsterdam and the Black Forest in Germany), as well as begging his former lover to "meet me in Paris on a Champs-Elysées night" among other locations in order to rekindle the romance. He tied for second place with France in the final count (Italy won 17 points ahead) with 132 points but on a countback, he would have finished third having received two lots of 12-point scores (Sweden and Austria) compared to France's six times' maximum scores. Somewhere in Europe, written by Liam himself, reached No. 6 in the Irish singles charts.

Ooh Aah … Just A Little Bit Gina G. UK, 1996 (8th)
Gina G's music career began back in 1990 as a DJ in Melbourne. However, her profile would begin to grow in 1992 as the lead singer in the Australian Dance music group Bass Culture, which scored a Top 20 hit on the dance charts in her native country with Love the Life, a song that she also wrote. But she would leave the act in 1993 to pursue a solo career in the United Kingdom, where she would find her biggest success. Her profile grew overnight when she was selected by producer Jonathan King to take part in the UK selection to represent the country in Eurovision 1996 in Oslo. Although she came eighth with her song Ooh Aah... Just A Little Bit, the single went to No. 1 on the UK singles chart in the week of the contest. It also had continued success across the world. At the time there was much speculation as to whether the Ooh Aah part of the song's title was dedicated to the football star Eric Cantona, who was at the height of his cult status among Manchester United fans at this time. But Gina G denied that the words of her song had any links whatsoever with Cantona.
It was followed by another top ten hit, I Belong To You. The success of Ooh Aah.. Just A Little Bit crossed the Atlantic to the United States, peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 (the second highest position any song from the Eurovision Song Contest has charted on the Hot 100), #13 on the Rhythmic Top 40, #5 on the Mainstream Top 40, #25 on the Adult Top 40 and #11 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart.

My Star Brainstorm Latvia, 2000 (3rd)
In the year that Latvia made its début in Eurovision, the country sent one of its most popular bands to the event in Stockholm Known in their home country as Pr?ta V?tra, Brainstorm, fronted by Ren?rs Kaupers, were formed in 1989 and released their first single three years later. It was their Eurovision performance at the start of the new millennium that got them noticed internationally. My Star was written by Ren?rs Kaupers, closer to the 'Britpop' style of contemporary music. In the song, he tells his lover that "I will follow my star till the end of my days/And my heart's gonna lead me through so many ways" before asking her to "be my runaway-bride". The Latvian song finished in third place behind Denmark's Olsen Brothers (performing in their twilight years, having been heart-throbs in the 1960s in Scandinavia) and Russia's Alsou (who will be co-presenting this year's semi-finals in Moscow). Incidentally, it was only the Irish televote that the awarded the top four marks to the eventual top four placed countries (Denmark, Russia, Latvia, Estonia), as announced by none other than Mr. Mooney himself!!!

It Hurts (Det Gör Ont) Lena Philipsson Sweden, 2004 (equal 5th)
Lena Ph (as she is also known) participated in the Swedish New Faces in 1982. Her career started with the single Boy/You Open My Eyes in 1984 and with her three entries in the Swedish Melodifestival contests from 1986 to 1988. In the early 1990s her fame increased in Sweden, and she continued to release albums until 1997. In 2001 she had a stage comeback, in the successful Lena Philipsson Show. It was sold out for two and a half years around Sweden. In 2004, she returned after a seven-year hiatus from the album charts. That same year, she entered the Melodifestival for the fourth time as a solo artist, with Det Gör Ont. She made it through the Swedish semifinal process and won the right to represent Sweden in Istanbul. Retitled It Hurts in English, the song was composed by Thomas 'Orup' Eriksson and combined uptempo and disco themes. Lena's stage appearance caused much controversy in the Swedish press and media because her performance, in a short fuchsia pink dress and high heels, consisted of dancing with the microphone stand in a fashion similar to Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler.
Despite being one of favourites to win Eurovision 2004, she finished in joint 5th place with Cyprus, and reached No. 1 in Sweden in its original Swedish version.

Shady Lady Ani Lorak Ukraine, 2008 (2nd)
Ani Lorak (born Karolina Myroslavivna Kuiek on 27 September 1978) was chosen by Ukrainian broadcaster NTU to represent the country at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest.
Ani Lorak became known by her current stage name in March 1995. She had to invent her name when she was participating in the contest of the Morning Star television program in Moscow. There was another Russian singer with the name Karolina, which is Ani Lorak's real name, already enrolled in the competition, so Karolina saved the situation having read her name backwards.
Shady Lady competed in last year's 2nd Euro Semi-Final and topped the list of the 10 qualifiers from that heat. In the final, she took 2nd place ahead of Russia's Dima Bilan, but was a much worthier winner.

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