Category Archives: Music

Into The Sixties

Winter Dance Party - Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Dion

It is sixty years ago tomorrow that a four-seater Beechcraft Bonanza crashed at around 1am in bad weather near Clear Lake, Iowa. All four on-board were killed. A tragedy but nevertheless an event where reports would normally be limited to just local news.

But this time the deaths of pilot Roger Peterson with singers  Ritchie Valens (17), Jiles Perry “Big Bopper” Richardson (28) and Buddy Holly (22) made news around the world. Not least in Australia and the UK where Holly’s popularity was high having toured both during the year before.

Even so at the time of his death Buddy Holly’s records had only appeared in the UK music charts for just over a year. With Peggy Sue, Listen To Me, Rave On, Early In The Morning and Heartbeat being the ones that charted before the crash. Despite this brief and restricted career his music and influences can still be heard today – some sixty years on.

For many 3-Feb-1959 was not The Day That Music Died but a tragic loss that shaped a new and highly successful era of popular music – Rave On!

Australia Back In Europe

In March 2016, a deal was announced between the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Australian broadcaster Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) awarding the rights to create a version of the Eurovision Song Contest for countries in Asia.

Eurovis2Initially the contest was expected to start in 2017 but that slipped to October 2018 due to organisational and political issues.

This week we heard that the Eurovision Asia Song Contest was cancelled, and as of now, the EBU has no plans to hold such an event. But this news came solely from Wikipedia – and with no confirmation from the EBU it could be that a 2019 launch is still possible.

However it looks like Australia will get another entry in the next European contest – and, no doubt, get a better result than the British entry … again!

Never Heard Again

Tomorrow sees the first part of seven and half hours of live TV coverage this week marking the culmination of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2018. As usual Britain hopes that its entry will attract enough votes to avoid the final being another night of national embarrassment in front of a huge audience.

EuroNorton1If you think that this introduction looks familiar – that may be because it is a direct copy of what was posted here two years ago. Grandad could have also said much the same for 2017 – but didn’t bother.

Everything has become so predictable. The British entry is attracting long odds in the betting (150 to 1) meaning that it is positioned somewhere in the mid-20s in the field – again. Graham Norton will be providing the UK commentary – again. And trying to sound as positive as possible about the British entry even though he must know that there is no way that they can win – again. Meanwhile the BBC are putting out free Eurovision party packs again – despite not being able to support St George’s Day; or it seems any of the national days around Britain.

So a safe bet that we face another year of national embarrassment – but at least the BBC can be consoled by the knowledge that no heads will roll and they will not need to find a venue for the 2019 edition. To quote Mr Norton OK… That’s three minutes we’ll never get back, but look at it this way: We’ll never have to hear that song again.

Another Song Victim?

Hyper-active dancer Bruno Tonioli, local girl Sophie Ellis-Bextor and vocal coach CeCe Sammy will appear at the Hammersmith Apollo next Friday as the judging panel for the UK’s entry in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.

EuroVis2017Looking back over recent contests it is clear that it’s neither the singer nor the song that determines who gets the most votes in the final. A statement that is clearly supported by the way in which Australia was robbed of victory by the unoriginal and politically-themed song from Ukraine in 2016.

This year both Russia and Australia are back in the lead in the betting. But considering the UK’s political position within Europe the chances of any British song – no matter how good – getting in the top half of the results are next to zero. Even Lily Allen singing about the emotional torment of having to leave the EU against her will would struggle …

But this year the result of a song contest seems just too trivial to justify serious consideration when compared to all the other national and international issues we are facing.

So Soon!

Grandads may find this hard to believe but .. submissions for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest have to be in by next Tuesday.

EuroSong1As always finding the UK entry is down to the BBC – and their plan is that all public entries will be carefully considered and shortlisted by a representative panel of official UK Eurovision fan club (OGAE UK) members. At the same time, entries are also being sought from leading professional songwriters, including BASCA members, with guidance from Record Industry Executive and Music Consultant for the BBC, Hugh Goldsmith.

And we expect the same dismal result for the UK as last year unless the in-built voting bias can be overcome with a truly spectacular song. However, after the Brexit vote, the quality of the song may not be a deciding factor. But perhaps Graham can reduce the damage, in Kiev next May, by issuing a groveling apology on behalf of the senile old voters who forced such a terrible result on the elite and glitterati …

The Best Laid Plans

After all those hours spent watching this year’s Eurovision Song Contest we should have learnt something. But many Grandads will today be wondering what?

Eurovis2Certainly the Swedish hosts laid out a spectacular show; one of the best. And the presenters managed to carry off their multi-talented performances in all three live shows with few, if any, glitches. And right up to the final round of scoring things looked set fair. Australia were well ahead in the jury voting and the UK entry was about midway down the field – a situation that seemed to fairly reflect the quality of the songs and their performances. But then the scores from the phone-in votes hit the fan and everything fell apart. Britain’s placing went down like a burst balloon. Poland went from having just 7 points at halfway to suddenly having 229 points and eighth place. Australia’s substantial lead over everyone else evaporated as Ukraine was given a massive 323 points for reasons that were clearly unrelated to the appeal of the song. Favourite Russia finished third.

So this Grandad didn’t learn anything new from Stockholm. Most countries still vote with a strong political bias, Britain is still Johnny No Mates and Russia is still a bear to be baited. Sweden tried so hard to create a musical Utopia – but in the end their dream was an illusion. Just sing c’est la vie ….

You Cannot Be Serious

Tonight sees the first part of seven and half hours of live TV coverage this week marking the culmination of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2016. As usual Britain hopes that its entry will attract enough votes to avoid the final being another night of national embarrassment in front of a huge audience. And this year, to be fair, the British entry has shown some signs of doing a little better. Better than recent years that is.

Pretentious_moiHowever the Swedish producer of this year’s contest, Christer Björkman, has put the blame for Britain’s attitude – amongst both the public and any potential performers – down to Terry Wogan’s commentaries. Björkman claimed that Wogan’s commentary style had raised a generation of viewers believing this was a fun kitsch show that had no relevance whatsoever.

And it is true that Wogan would snipe at the acts and the political manoeuvring in the voting but they were all light hearted, amusing comments.

When he retired from the role in 2009 Wogan himself said Eurovision is an exciting, camp, foolish spectacle. You can’t top it. It is fun, light entertainment. It is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. It is not about politics or asserting your place in the community, not even about national pride. It is not an opportunity to show your neighbours how much you love them. It is about picking the best popular song in Europe. He described the annual contest as a triumph of appalling taste… Everybody in the UK knows it’s rubbish. I think I have brought the British public along with me and we now share an interest in it. Many of you may have heard my comments and don’t think I take it seriously enough and you are right, I don’t. But I am a friend of this contest, possibly its oldest friend. How do friends behave to each other? They tell each other the truth. They don’t indulge in idle flattery.

The Eurovision director of the time, Bjorn Erichsen, critised Wogan for not showing the contest enough respect, saying Terry Wogan is a problem because he makes it look ridiculous. I know he is very popular and maybe that is the reason why a lot of people watch. Views pretty much repeated last month by the current producer. But coming too soon after Terry’s death for some, Björkman’s comments seem to be those of a producer painfully aware of the show’s lack of mainstream music credibility.

So for a contest where the best entry for 2014 was a bearded Austrian drag artist – a camp, foolish spectacle seems to be a fair and accurate description.

Higher Notes

With just four weeks to go before the next Eurovision Song Contest all the songs from all the countries are competing for air time and media exposure. And this year’s UK entry, Joe and Jake, have been doing a bit better than many UK entrants in recent years.

JoeJakeCDIn fact they even made the charts! It was an unofficial iTunes chart, in 69th place and for just two days – but it was a start. And tonight’s scheduled appearance on the Graham Norton Show could be a big enough boost to get You’re Not Alone back in the charts again.

However after so many failures over the decades the UK is still sitting around 30th in the betting as at this morning. Which is a bit harsh considering that there are only 25 songs in the final this year. And the mystic signs are good – BBC executives did not choose the entry this time, fewer copies of the promo CD are for sale on eBay and our forthcoming EU referendum might just encourage some Euro voters to be a bit more generous this time around.

Even so the chances of Joe and Jake equaling Katrina and the Waves (1st in 1997) or even Jessica Garlick (3rd in 2002) are still very slim …

Eurovision: You Decide?

After some notable failures in recent years the BBC has decided to go back to selecting the entry for the Eurovision Song Contest [ESC] through a public vote. As it was in the days of A Song For Europe etc – and still is in many other countries. So this year you will be able to head to London’s O2 Forum in Kentish Town on Friday 26 February and be in the audience – for just £40. Six acts will be competing but who they are will not be announced until the week of the contest.

ESC2016With the demise of BBC3 the UK contest – and the two semi-finals from Sweden in May – are moving to BBC4. A choice that disappointed fans hoping for a BBC1 or 2 slot. However the channel should make little difference how that all the digital services are fully operational nationwide (so they tell me).

The Swedish hosts have adopted the slogan Come Together for this year’s contest. And the executive producer is quoted as saying “We believe that the idea of unity is as important today as it was in the 1950s when the Eurovision Song Contest started. The Eurovision Song Contest is never about borders, politics or ideologies. It is about reaching across all the boundaries that separates us human beings from each other“. An ideal that still seems far from reality when looking back at partisan voting in previous contests.

Hopefully the shortlisted UK songs and singers will be able to at least be competitive – and get a fair hearing – in the final in three months time. But that will be hard when the UK is seen as a nation reluctant to embrace the European unity doctrine. So despite most of the songs not yet being announced the bookmakers have already picked Russia, Sweden, Germany, Norway and Australia as the 2016 favourites.