ESC 1988: A New Day Has Come

The 80’s were not the greatest decade for Eurovision. Not only does the music completely disconnect from reality, but we also get a lot of fashion sins that would make Vivienne Westwood vomit with great expulsive force. Speaking of getting out of touch with the real world: Simmonscourt transformed beyond recognition! With a chessboard stage that probably leads to the end of the rainbow where a band of rowdy leprechauns is waiting to beat the living daylights out of any performer who doesn’t hit the note. One of my all time favourite stagings!

Pat Kenny is the man of the show: He succesfully graduated from the Mariah Carey Academy of Throwing Shade (“Beethoven is rolling over”) while Michelle Rocca is just kinda there. But the award for greatest diva moment goes to the loudspeakers that doomed several entries, Germany most noticeably. Or was it an overambitious Céline Dion biting off a few cables? We’ll never know, but I love drama and a good sabotage!

Class of 1988 was like prom night: Multiple cherries were popped on that evening. First (and last) mother-daughter-duet, first time we got to listen to the winner of the previous contest, first computer-generated scoreboard and first music video serving as interval act: The Hothouse Flowers with “Don’t Go”. RTÉ filmed the hair flipping lead singer and his compadres in 11 countries. That’s more than Finland, Greece, Belgium and Portugal put together got points from. Wicked!


My secret for hair that’s flake free and full of life? Head and Shoulders!

Before we go on with the songs let’s talk about votes. It contains two of my favourite moments of voting history. First, the reading of the Israeli votes. A prime example for the word “balagan”, Hebrew for chaos (also in Polish bałagan). For those of you with bad memory, here’s a little recap:

Oh, just you wait, Mr. Naef. THE BEST IS YET TO COME! God, how I miss anarchy and chaos in today’s Eurovision! We get to the second one later on. Let’s do rankings!

21 – Austria: Wilfried – “Lisa Mona Lisa”

This out of tune car crash is unrivalled in its amateurishness. Sometimes I wonder if the lyrics were inspired by the notoriously coke snoring singer himself (“She’s tumbling through the glittering town.”). Speaking of drugs: Check out his song “Highdelbeeren” (a pun on the German word for “blueberries”, “Heidelbeeren”). If you like Falco you’ll love it!

20 – Greece: Afroditi Frida – “Clown”

The whole performance seems very insincere and you can tell by the look on Afroditi’s face that she does not feel comfortable literally making a clown of herself. One of Greece’s worst, but they would come back strong again in the 1990’s.

19 – France: Gérard Lenorman – “Chanteur de charme”

Talking ’bout coming back strong again in the 1990s. It’s France! Absolute shite in the 80’s. And they were a big pop export nation at that time: “Etienne” by Guesch Patti or “Ella elle l’a” by France Gall just to name a few were big hits all over Europe. Gérard used to be a huge star in and outside of France, as well, but that was a long, long, long very long time ago. His 1988 chanson doesn’t leave any impression at all and he was very lucky to finish 10th in the end.

18 – Iceland: Beathoven – “Sókrates”

First of all I find these two creatures of sheer lunacy very likeable and worshipping Mark Twain is always a good thing in my books. Alas I really don’t have anything positive to say about the song, especially the final 30 seconds where it’s just “Oh, we need to fill the gap, let’s chant some la, la la. It worked for Spain!”.

17 – Sweden: Tommy Körberg – “Stad i ljus”

Now I’m not a fan of musicals, but even I knew Körberg from his work with ABBA’s Benny and Björn on “Chess” (Tommy, you had the connections. Why didn’t you team up again?). And Tommy Körberg has an incredible voice. Unfortunately he felt very sick during his stay in Dublin and couldn’t live up to the expectations. That goes for the song as well. The chorus to “Stad i ljus” is anthemic, but I don’t like the rest. He can do so much better.

16 – Germany: Maxi & Chris Garden – “Lied für einen Freund”

A duo which came across as the cold hearted pageant mom and her spoiled brat. You could say this was Ralph Siegel’s version of Mommie Dearest. The piano theme stolen from Elton John’s “Song For Guy” and phoney kitsch lyrics don’t make it any better.


“Don’t you embarass me in front of the reporters!” Chris keeps her eagle eyes on Maxi.

15 – UK: Scott Fitzgerald – “Go”

Another Gérard Lenorman case. Scotty Boy had a big hit with “If I Had Words” in 1978 and hadn’t had a hit or haircut ever since. The fact that this nearly won is mind-boggling to me, it’ll always be mind-boggling whenever the UK came 2nd with a lacklustre song like this or the one from 1992. However, Scotty Boy proved to be a fair loser and was one of the first to congratulate Céline telling her that she was the better singer. Remember how the camera shows Scott sitting in the green room before the announcement of the final two jury votes? See how excited he was:


What a lovely chap! My second favourite moment in this year.

14 – Denmark: Hot Eyes – “Ka’ du hva’ jeg sa’ “

I said it in my ESC 1996 review, I’ll say it again: Gingers in green should never be seen! Also I’ve got an irresistible urge to wipe dust with Kirsten’s hair. What’s up with her voice? It sounds very squeaky, doesn’t it? In this life I’ll never become a fan of Hot Eyes.

13 – Italy: Luca Barbarossa – “Ti scrivo”

Barbarossa who looks a bit like the lost twin of Gilbert Melki oozes confidence and charm, but I wish he would’ve actually spent some time on writing a proper ending for his song. A problem that a lot of Italian entrants were facing: chopping their songs for the sake of being eligible for Eurovision. “Ti scrivo” was originally titled “Vivo” and a B-side (yes, a bloody B-side! See how much they cared!) to his 1988 hit single “L’amore rubato”.

12 – The Netherlands: Gerard Joling – “Shangri-La”

Enter the biggest resident bitch between Leeuwarden and Limburg. The man who served us a first-class catfight with fellow De Toppers diva Gordon. For his 1988 entry he showed up in a white attire of phoney innocence featuring shoulder pads Alexis Carrington would kill for and a mullet that probably has a mind of its own. As for the song I’m on the fence with “Shangri-La”. I really like the change of rhythm going on, this start-and-stop chorus, but the verses are not as good.

11 – Finland: Boulevard – “Nauravat silmät muistetaan”

It’s an ok effort. This song ain’t no highlight in Finland’s long Eurovision history, but thanks to the German vote fairy of 2010, Hape Kerkeling, this sort of became a highlight. Did Kerkeling make it better? No, but he turned this very guileless song into an eccentric piece of art. Speaking of eccentric: What’s up with the tambourine guy? He’s flashing on the screen only to disappear into nowhere making him look like a stage crasher. Or is that one of the said leprechauns?

Portugal – 1 point: Dora – “Voltarei”

And we enter the top 10 with my 1986 winner – which doesn’t say much, because ’86 was a crap year. Dora returned to the contest with the ugliest and most obviously fake hair extension that looks like it’s made of flat-ironed pubic hair. She might have borrowed the melody from “Save Your Kisses For Me” in that one verse, but Dora puts forth as much force as she can only to be beaten by the next artist.


When people always tell you you’re schizophrenic, but the voices in your head tell you otherwise.

Switzerland – 2 points: Céline Dion – “Ne partez pas sans moi”

We should let Céline speak for herself: “I looked like a horse and I felt like a horse!”. Darling, you are right! She really wanted to win that race. Her late husband René Angélil even placed a bet on her win. All that pressure! The combination of white blazer and tulle skirt has me thinking of Stephen King’s “Carrie” (“Take off that dress, Carrie! We’ll burn it together and pray for forgiveness!”) and I’d have loved to feed her perm to a paper shredder, but my oh my what a voice! It’s the forcefulness of her voice that elevates a mediocre song like “Ne partez pas sans moi”. The West German record labels refused to release the song prior to the contest and even after her victory it didn’t enjoy the success that she would have a few years later. Who would’ve thought at that point she’d be the next big thing after ABBA?


What’s the matter, Artax: Céline channels her inner equus.

Turkey – 3 points: MFÖ – “Sufi”

When I was younger I used to mishear the lyrics in the chorus and thought they were advertising Japanese city cars to party girls (“Dance! Dance! Suzuki! Sophia!”). Now that I’m allegedly wiser I don’t like this song as much as I used to. “Sufi” didn’t age well and keeps dropping on my list. Still I find it enjoyable, maybe not as much as their 1985 entry to which I always associate summer, sun and cheerfulness. Plus they had a better stylist then.


Yes, gramps! Shake your geriatric booty! Show us what you’re working with!

Luxembourg – 4 points: Lara Fabian – “Croire”

Continuing with the poor man’s Céline. “Croire” is not the in-your-face winner ballad and needs one or two listens more to appreciate its composition. Hence why she did worse than the other temporarily employed chanteuse. Obviously Lara received the Maltese business: She did not look like a 20-year-old, but a 40-year-old trying to sell perfume. Maybe it’s the hot pink blazer. Maybe her sleepy looking face (Somnambulistic state?). Fun fact: She had a huge crush on one of the following guys… .


She’s about to swallow the microphone. Lara’s faith is bigger than one can chew.

Ireland – 5 points: Jump The Gun – “Take Him Home”

Such an unusual song for Eurovision standards. I love how it develops from piano ballad to pop rock and the song also reminds me of the band Chicago. Saxophones are a big plus as well. The only thing that bothers me is that they lack the rockband vibe. Their bass guitarist Roy Taylor who has a terrific voice looks like my elementary school teacher. But otherwise this is a well crafted entry and represented Ireland very well on home soil.


Jump The Gun are getting portraits done. Check out their choice of 80’s hairstyles!

Yugoslavia – 6 points: Srebrna Krila – “Mangup”

This is bubbly and fun. It makes me wanna scream from the top of my lungs “Yes, you’re a rascal! But you know what? Me too!”. The apparently high on speed Lidija Asanović is a real whirlwind. On another note I love the fact that the jury in Ljubljana was called to give the decisive last votes of the – just like 15 years later in yet another photo finish contest. At this point I’d also like to mention the songwriter of “Mangup”, Rajko Dujmić who died recently after being involved in a traffic accident. He got the inspiration for this song in a café after a woman called him a big rascal and that he wouldn’t want to be with a childish person like her. Savage! I love trivial stories like these. RIP, Rajko! Hvala ti za muziku!


She’s got the moves, baby! She’s got the motion! With her mangup she’ll be causing a commotion!

Israel – 7 points: Yardena Arazi – “Ben-Adam”

Another returnee: In 1976 Yardena represented Israel as part of the fabulous Chocolate, Menta, Mastik. After that the queen of Israeli music had tried for years to win the ticket to Eurovision, most notably in 1983 with the awful “Shiru Shir Amen” when she would lose against her “rival” Ofra Haza. Fast forward to 1988 and Yardena finally made it. Meanwhile Ofra would storm the charts worldwide with “Im nin’ alu”. Now Yardena’s song is what you would expect from an Israeli entry in the 1980s, even though it’s heavily inspired by Eastern European folk music. Her 1987 album “Gypsy Soul” features covers of Roma songs and she really blooms in this stage persona. As if the spirit of Stevie Nicks befell her, she swings her skirt and twists and turns. It’s a livid performance. Prior to the contest she would have her astrologer do some tarot reading for her and she was told that the song performing 9th would win. Israel was originally 9th in the draw, but lost that place to Switzerland due to Cyprus’s disqualification. The rest is history.


Are you a Yardena? Or are you an Ofra? Tag yourself! I’m Team Ofra!

E’Spain – 8 points: La década – “Made In Spain (La chica che yo quiero)”

I do love me some cheese in steady doses. And this is a catchy and gripping late 1980’s tune and morever it doesn’t take itself too serious. The people who chose the wardrobe had to be high. I’m talking Lucy in the sky with diamonds. They’re playing with the iconographic repertoire of Spanish culture – the girl’s red flamenco-inspired dress, the extra large fans, one of the male singers doing some pseudo bullfighter poses. Arriba! Who cares that they’re largely out of tune? I’m enjoying this!


Females poorly made in Spain: “We just broke our joints doing that! Get us spare parts!”

Belgium – 10 points: Reynaert – “Laissez briller le soleil”

I forgot about this song and after rewatching the contest I couldn’t believe that I did. What a revelation this is! Cheers to the backing vocalists who support Reynaert very well, especially the lady. The build up is magnificent and suits this sombre atmosphere of the song. Of course I do love the misty pink background that made the whole staging look like an otherwordly dream sequence. It comes as no surprise that the Belgian result had left me absolutely fuming. The juries had the nerve to put Reynaert on a scandalous 18th place! Why? Because of his facial expressions that made him look like he couldn’t tame his toots any longer? I know I said France was terrible in the 80’s, but they saved this from nil points. Merci, you redeemed yourself!


When you’re squeezing too hard till your butt nearly explodes. #talesfromtheloo

Norway – 12 points: Karoline Krüger – “For vår jord”

Belinda Carlisle fell into the fountain of youth which conveniently washed out her red coloration and gave her this gorgeous dirt blonde lion’s mane. On top of all she took the camouflage name Karoline Krüger and I dare say it she competed with the most contemporary song of the evening. A classic late 80’s ballad that reminds me of the powerballads of that time by Maria McKee or T’Pau. Great job, Anita Skorgan! The song presentation is very simple: A piano and a candlestand. Classy! Belinda…pardon…Karoline banished her unworthy backings – one of them is Anita – to the shadow realm of Simmonscourt just to have them accompany her throughout the rest of the song. Also classy! Only her poor keyboarder is left alone and looks a bit misplaced.

It’s one of the very few Eurovision songs from the late 80’s that tackles a serious topic: environmentalism. But it’s not one of those cheesy “We Are The World” let’s hold each other’s hand and make a better world type of songs. “For vår jord” is about a lone fighter who “sees that the Earth is our mother” and people around her think she lost the plot. Climate change sceptics were a thing in 1988 apparently… .


You can’t fool us, Belinda! We know it’s you!

So that was it, 1988. What conclusion can we draw? Take good care of Mother Earth, ’cause you don’t want her to look like this:

Thank you for joining me on this review!

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