Thursday, May 18, 2006

Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley & All That...

Dear Friends, those of you who know me or who've read some of my earlier posts will know that je suis fanatique of cheese, especially the old and ripe varieties. Indeed, I should also make you aware that I am, in addition, particular to pickled herring, the schmaltzier the better. With all this in mind, it should really therefore come as no surprise to you that I LOOVE the Eurovision Song Contest, which on 20 May will be celebrating its 51st annual outing. "But Fil," I hear you cry, "what about Joey Ramone, Billy Childish, Johnny Rotten, Donita Sparks, Peter Murphy, Lux Interior, and Polly Jean Harvey? Is there really room in your bed alongside them for the likes of Bucks Fizz, Nana Mouskouri, and Baccara?" To which I reply: "My bed is a big one, and there is plenty of space for everyone.* Just bring cheese and/or herring." But soft! Methinks the metaphor police approach...

The Eurovision Song Contest was launched in 1956 by Frenchman (but of course!) Marcel Baison, who thought a songfest was just the ticket to promote unity in a still-fragile, post-war Europe. Rather ironic then that years later the French Minister of Culture called it "a monument to drivel." But then again, Ase Kleveland, who represented Norway in 1966, went on to become his country's Minister of Culture. Ah, the mercurial, mystical nature of it all. The contest even became a beacon of hope during the Cold War for a group of Balts behind the Iron Curtain, desperate for tacky glamour and lucky enough to have a clandestine TV antenna. Indeed, politics have always permeated the contest, with bloc voting rampant. Cyprus and Greece always exchange high marks for each other's entries, while the significant Turkish community in Germany translates into generous Teutonic points for Turkey. Denmark's victory in 2000 was largely due to Nordic votes the "Viking bloc." And don't even ask about the Balkans. What, you doubt me? Let me refer you to the vast quantity of scholarly research on the subject. But, my Dears, politics are sooo boooring, n'est-ce pas? We want music, we want glitz, we want kitsch...

There is something frighteningly grotesque about Eurovision; I find myself drawn to it in a horrifically voyeuristic way, much like I am to Jocelyn "Bride of" Wildenstein's continuing plastic surgery train wreck. There is much that is screamingly awful about the contest, not least the bulk of the songmanship on offer. A much favoured tactic over the years has been to go for the lowest common denominator, in the hopes that bland music and meaningless-yet-catchy lyrics will transcend borders. Your Honours, I submit for your consideration Exhibit A: Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley (Sweden 1984), Yamma Yamma (Finland 1992), and Ding Ding-a-Dong (Netherlands 1975). But what draws me in, apart from the Schadenfreude at the insipidity on offer, is the hope, nay, expectation that among the dross will be moments of genius. And, Dear Friends, I posit that there are such flashes of pop perfection that precisely capture the Zeitgeist. I submit for consideration Exhibit B: Waterloo (Sweden, of course, 1974), Poupee de Cire Poupee de Son (Luxembourg 1965), Dschingis Khan (Germany 1979 - you must must must see them here) and Eurovision (Belgium, 1980). As an aside, I must also mention my soft spot for the ethnics, i.e. those countries which actually bother to submit an entry that reflects some aspect of their heritage. They may ultimately be schlocky but they get my full douze points for effort. My favourite in this category is Moldova's stonking 2005 debut, Boonica Bate Doba ("Grandmamma Beats the Drumma"), which somehow fused Moldovan folk with hip hop in a glorious, tasty hash. Plus they had a granny in national dress on stage sitting in a rocking chair and banging a drum - total class, or wot??

If you put the metaphorical pistol to my head and asked me to choose, I'd say the golden year of Eurovision was 1998. That's when both the competition and my heart were carried off by the glorious, glamourous, brave, transgendered, divine, Israeli siren, Dana International, with her shimmering jewel of a pop song, Viva La Diva. Everything about it and her was just so right. Also appearing that year was Guildo Horn & die Orthopadischen Strumpfe (which translates as "Guildo Horn & the Orthopedic Stockings," if you must know), who crooned his sappy Guildo hat Euch Lieb ("Guildo Loves You") while clad in a bile-green velour suit and clambering around artlessly on the speaker stacks. He single handedly destroyed the myth that the Germans are neither funny nor ironic.

Dear Friends, I hope I have managed, however inarticulately, to explain my love for the Grand Guignol of cultural contradictions that is Eurovision. I understand plans are afoot to introduce a US version with the 50 states compteing, but I can't imagine it coming anywhere near the sublime ridiculousness of the original.

But I end on a note of disappointment, since as far as I can tell Eurovision will not be broadcast in Canada. Sigh. Had I known, I might never have emigrated. Is there no-one out there who could burn it to DVD for me?? I had hoped to cheer on the Finnish entry; for reasons known purely to them, the wise Finns selected Lordi, who are basically the national answer to GWAR, to carry their country's torch. I can only cross my fingers, throw devil horns, and pray that Hard Rock Hallelujah moshes forward to victory. Lordi, Lordi, Lordi, they'd probably eat 1956 Swiss winner Lys Assia for lunch like a piece of young gruyere...

*That is, everyone except Celine Dion, who won for Switzerland in 1988. She's not getting anywhere near my bed and if she tries, I'll sic my Gina on her.

Those Eurovision delights yet again:

Herrey - Diggi-loo Diggi-ley
Pave Mayanen - Yamma Yamma
Teach In - Ding Ding-A-Dong
ABBA - Waterlo
France Gall - Poupee de Cire Poupee de Son
Dschingis Khan - Dschingis Kha
Telex - Eurovision
Zdob si Zdub - Boonica Bate Doba
Dana International - Viva La Diva
Guildo Horn & die Orthopadischen Strumpfe - Guildo Hat Euch Lieb
Lordi - Hard Rock Hallelujah
Lys Assia - Refrain

(For a whirlwind intro, buy this and this)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

great news! Lordi are through to the final and they rocked it like no other in the semi. In a more dissappointing turn of events, the very wonderful Icelandic entry didnt make it through.

FiL said...

HALLELUJAH!! Thanks for the update!

FiL

Anonymous said...

I think, at the moment, it's a pity that the Belgian and the Icelandic melodies didn't made it to the final. Other favourites was: Ireland (q), Macedonia (q), Andorra, Finland (q), Estonia, Monaco, Turkey (q), Ukraine (q). (q) = qualified to final. And before someone bites the head of me, I do also like Prong, Danko Jones and Electric Eel Shock...

Mary said...

Waterloo is fine!

Anonymous said...

lordi won!

sandpaperhearts said...

Lordi's Upcoming tourdates!
20.04.2007 Anaheim, California – House of Blues
21.04.2007 Hollywood, California – Avalon
22.04.2007 San Francisco, California – Slims
24.04.2007 Denver, Colorado – Gothic Theatre
27.04.2007 Chicago, Illinois – Metro
28.04.2007 Detroit, Michigan – Harpo's
29.04.2007 Toronto, Ontario – Phoenix Theater
01.05.2007 Montreal, Quebec – Le Spectrum
02.05.2007 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Trocadero
03.05.2007 Baltimore, Maryland – Recher Theatre
05.05.2007 East Rutherford, NJ – Bamboozle
06.05.2007 East Rutherford, NJ – Bamboozle

Dont forget to check out Lordi's new video for
"Would You Love a Monsterman?" at:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRhbOFlTA5g