ESC 1987: The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself…

Dear readers, we’re finally facing our Waterloo or to be precise the place where it actually is. Belgium was the last of the original seven to win the Eurovision Song Contest. The Flemish broadcaster BRT agreed to co-organize the event with the Wallonian broadcaster RTBF, but in the end the latter took the sole responsibility of staging the contest. Still BRT was in charge of selecting the host entry. Regardless of the Flemish-Wallonian catfight the postcards that featured images by several different Belgian cartoonists are one my all-time favourites and also featured last year’s winner Sandra Kim as seen here:

Loving her life: Sandra Kim enjoying a sinful golden shower

Class of 1987 was packed with hits, both local and continental wide: “Lass die Sonne in dein Herz” peaked inside the Austrian, Belgian and German top 20, “Gente di mare” entered the top 10 in Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Italy and Mr. Eurovision himself scored one of the biggest hits of the year with top 3 entries in the UK, Germany, Sweden and claiming the top spot in Belgium, Israel and his native Ireland – escaping the winner’s curse of ending up as a one-hit-wonder. But the hit potential didn’t stop there. One of the forces of jazz pop to emerge in the mid 80’s along with Sade Adu or Matt Bianco was Viktor Lazlo, the host of the show. I’m more of a John Galliano fanboy, but Viktor Lazlo dressed up all in Mugler haute couture was leaving me breathless, breathless, breathless… . Literally. Lazlo did a good job hosting, but it lacked a bit of life. Allegedly inspired by the Atomium that was just a stone’s throw away her earrings played a major role in transmitting the signals across Europe.

It’s also the only year to feature entries by songwriting powerhouses Siegel/Meinunger, Johnny Logan, Dujmić/Cvikić and Rolf Løvland all together.

Encouraged by Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika Georgiy Veselov, then Minister of Education for the Soviet Union, proposed to look seriously into participating in the Eurovision Song Contest, but the idea was quickly rejected. I hope Mr. Veselov carried on to live a happy life. The “What if…” question circulates frequently in the minds of many Eurovision fans from the former Eastern bloc. Personally I think it’s a shame that songs like “Kolorowe jarmarki” by Maryla Rodowicz never had the chance to enter the Eurovision Song Contest, but just like Cher I can’t turn back time so I say bollocks to it.

On a little side note: That same year Hape Kerkeling who would present Germany’s points in Oslo, 2010 (“Lena! Go for gold!”) did a parody of the 1987 contest slipping into the roles of various spokespeople, shining as “Mr. Austria” (“For Germany it’s business as usual: 0 points”).

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Plastic Bertrand after the contest, he now goes by the name Jean-Marie Kerquelain, but hasn’t been seen since. If you do, please call 1-800-KING-OF-THE-DIVAN. Thank you!

But he wasn’t the only one to do that…but more on this later. And now on to the songs:

22 Switzerland: Carol Rich – “Moitié-moitié”

Switzerland’s pathetic attempt to recreate Sandra Kim’s juvenile energy in hope for a good result. A song ready to be thrown over the neighbour’s fence.

21 France: Christine Minier – “Les mots d’amour n’ont pas de dimanche”

Even I as someone whose French is limited to “bonjour” and “Mylène Farmer” think that the title sounds weird. France stubbornly persisted on the chanson, but the times have changed.

20 Norway: Kate Gulbrandsen – “Mitt liv”

Being a frontrunner in producing renewable energy and paving the way for affordable electromobility Norway may seem a haven for green consciousness, but that’s because it exports its pollution. Determined to wreak havoc on future generations malevolent Kate Gulbrandsen contributed to global warming by applying the contents of 150 cans of hair spray to her mane. So many innocent lives could’ve been spared if she just put a fork into an electrical socket for same results. Needless to mention her ballad was trashy as well.


19 Austria: Gary Lux – “Nur noch Gefühl”

“Only feelings” was Gary Lux’s mantra for his 1987 comeback. “Only 8 points” was the juries’, of which 7 came from Greece. Usually ballads have a hard time making an impression on me and the voice crack did the rest. Poor Gary must’ve been traumatized by this experience as he didn’t dare to show up on a Eurovision stage until 1993 as a backing for Tony Wegas.

18 Luxembourg: Plastic Bertrand – “Amour Amour”

In real punk manner Plastic Bertrand used up all royalties from his worldwide hit “Ça plane pour moi” and seeked financial aid in Luxembourg. It’s probably the most punk thing he’s ever done. As soon as the performance ended the security staff from Bertrand’s asylum attempted to catch him in a giant butterfly net, but failed. He’s still on the loose.

17 United Kingdom: Rikki – “Only The Light”

The UK’s worst result at that time. Nowadays they would kill to reach the heights of a 13th place. To be honest I think the juries were still too generous with this half-hearted attempt. The Britains were firmly into B-stock period. From Rikki wailing like a wet cat over the cringy dance routine to the self-penned lyrics that exude the air of sophistication of a preschooler it’s a horror scenario I’d rather want to forget about.

16 Spain: Patricia Kraus – “No estás solo”

Very confident and poised our Patricia, the girl in the green scarf. She pioneered contouring with a spatula a long time before Nikkie de Jager. Once again the Greek jury stepped in to save a country from humiliation giving Spain their only points of the evening, avoiding a 1983 déjà vu disaster with Turkey. I don’t mind the song per se, it’s just the way she sings it that makes it unlistenable to me.

15 Portugal: Nevada – “Neste barco à vela”

As an instrumental I’d like this. It stars quite promising, but then the singer opens his mouth. I just can’t bear his baritone voice. The one backing singer that does not look like she’s off duty from Biblioteca Central de Marinha is a real Eurovision trooper: Fernanda Lopes who provided backings on six (!) occasions between 1987 – 2001. Give that lady – and Gary Lux – an award!

14 Israel: Lazy Bums – “Shir habatlanim”

Pure comedy gold and one of the very few cheerful moments in this stiff contest. Once the camera pans out to show Nathan Datner going meshugge I genuinely laughed throughout their entire performance. Thanks to diggiloo providing the lyrics I got their humour, but sonically “Shir habatlanim” gives me very little to latch on to.

The national selection was packed with repeat offenders: Izhar Cohen, Svika Pick who later went on to write “Diva” for Dana International, Duo Datz and the runner-up Ilana Avital who sadly never got to enter the contest. Yitzhak Navon who served as fifth President of Israel and later as Minister of Education and Culture is often cited to have threatened to resign should Datner and Kushnir represent Israel in Brussels. In the Eurovision Legends podcast Nathan Datner revealed that this politician wasn’t Navon, but former Minister of Tourism and jealous Ilana Avital fan Gideon Patt. Far north another politician, Bert Karlsson, took a liking to the song and decided to cover it for the Swedish market that – together with the original – became a cult classic there.

Blues Brothers while having a seizure

13 Ireland: Johnny Logan – “Hold Me Now”

The return of Mr. Licky Lips and Ralph Siegel’s nightmare. With its epic chorus the song has winner written all over it, Johnny performed it well, but the raw emotion of his other tearjerker from 1980 is missing. Sorry, but if it had to be an 80’s song titled “Hold Me Now” I’d always prefer the Thompson Twins’s one.

12 Sweden: Lotta Engberg – “Boogaloo”

This Swedish entry is a fine song and could’ve been seen as blatant advertising for a soft drink, therefore Pepsi the big EBU suits intercepted and had the cheery summer-hit-sounding song changed to the far less offensive “Boogaloo” instead.
All was going well and Sweden even received 12 points from Israel, until a marital aid company from Amsterdam faxed SVT halfway through the voting to thank them for promoting their top-selling vibrator in such a jovial manner on continental-wide TV.
This hadn’t gone unnoticed by EBU authorities. On her return to conservative Stockholm, Lotta Engberg was thrown into prison for a 1000 years charged with being unwittingly saucy. She managed to escape and now happily enjoys her toast skagen and ginger schnapps for breakfast, but you didn’t hear it from me, ok?

11 Italy: Umberto Tozzi & Raf – “Gente di mare”

Besides from being two of Italy’s biggest male singers in the 1980’s Tozzi and Raf have one more thing in common: Laura Branigan who covered three of their biggest hits which in return were huge hits for her. Once again a fine song that feels very anthemic, but it never clicked with me. Out of all entries this one gets harmed the most by the bad sound system in Brussels and I wonder if it did harm their chances, because “Gente di mare” felt like a contender for the win – more than Wind in all honesty. As the votes kicked in Raf lost his self control and revealed himself to be a chain smoking demon.

Iceland, 1 point: Halla Margrét – “Hægt og hljótt”

The second of Iceland’s 16th place hattrick and in my humble opinion the best song from this lot. It is indeed a “slow and quiet” song, not unlike the ballad repertoire of fellow Icelandic band Todmobile (Personal highlight: “Sameiginlegt” from 1989). Very classy and understated!
And no, no anus jokes. Come on, I got a little more sense than that!

Halla farting in relief: Anus jokes are reserved only for UK 1991

Turkey, 2 points: Seyyal Taner & Lokomotif – “Şarkim Sevgi Üstüne”

One of the most undeserved nilpointers. An unforgettable performance by gay icon and leopard print pants fashion queen Seyyal Taner. In Tim Moore’s book “Nul points” she blamed the conductor Garo Mafyan for the bad result, because he picked up the pace significantly. Lies! All lies! Not many people know that, but Seyyal moves quicker than the ray of light. She was already calling it a day before Mafyan raised his baton. That’s efficiency! A certain backing singer deserves to be mentioned: Filled with starpower in her eyes it’s Melis Sökmen who embarked on a successful solo career in the early 1990’s. “Gemiler” is highly recommended!
Fun fact: Songwriter Olcayto Ahmet Tuğsuz would make his comeback 29 years later for the Sammarinese entry “I Didn’t Know” by Serhat.

Seyyal, Lady Gaga or Madonna: Divas know they made it when they’re in their cowgirl era

Cyprus, 3 points: Alexia – “Aspro-Mavro”

We’re now returning into saucy territory with Ms. Puffy Nipples and her Cypriot supergroup entourage packed with Haris Anastasiou, Elena Patroklou and Evridiki serving as backings. Later each of them would get their chance to shine with good to excellent entries for the Mediterranean island, following the footsteps of “Aspro-Mavro”. It’s very contemporary, a little reminiscent of “Chain Reaction” by Diana Ross and “True Blue” by Madonna, and just fell short of a well deserved top 5 placement by mere three points.

My eyes are up here!

Finland, 4 points: Vicky Rosti – “Sata salamaa”

The writers of the 1987 Finnish entry mastered the rare art of writing songs that sound dramatic and boring at the same time. Shifting from minor key in the verses to major key in the chorus wasn’t the best choice. Virve “Vicky” Rosti, the lady who gave her name to the convenience food of the same name, didn’t mind and in an attempt to recreate Sonja Lumme’s success entered the Eurovision Song Contest with “Sata salamaa”.

The song looked set to get the high placing it deserved by scooping the first 10 points of the night, but only received just over 30 at the close of the voting.
Things went further south for Vicky. As she left Palais du Centenaire she was pursued by an angry mob of butchers demanding to know why she was encouraging an entire continent to sit on salamis via the medium of song.
As they chased her down the parking lot, they ran into a crowd of bushy-mustached gentlemen in leather gear. The cowardy butchers took flight, but Vicky froze as the crowd approached her. They wanted to thank her for the best Saturday night they’d had in ages. What was that again about anus jokes?

Finland, land of a hundred lightnings, a thousand lakes and a million open vowels.

Greece, 5 points: Bang – “Stop”

Being a gay on a budget (#knowwhoyouare) sometimes I indulge myself in the pleasure of finding cheaper alternatives. And I thoroughly enjoyed this Wham! knock off. Like Cyprus it’s probably the most internationally appealing Greece had sounded in the Eurovision Song Contest so far.
But it doesn’t stop with the uncanny resemblance to the Michael/Ridgeley duo. The first seconds of “Stop” sound exactly like “You Can’t Hurry Love”, but Bang find themselves in best company with Hall & Oates, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and The Jam who all had nicked bits from this song. Shoutout to the hilarious backings – one of them is Mariana Efstratiou who represented Greece in 1989 and 1996 – who contributed a lot to the cheerful performance.
Bang later went on a short intermezzo with the Billboard Hot 100 where they peaked at #93 with “Holding My Heart” in 1990. The year before they would chart at #74 in the UK Charts with “You’re The One”.

BANG: Cue in Maruv’s sirens

Denmark, 6 points: Ann-Cathrine Herdorf & Bandjo – “En lille melodi”

Viktor Lazlo described Herdorf as “an artist from head to toe” which must have come as a blessed relief. Having a top half more suited to plumbing does not bode well for entrants in the Eurovision Song Contest. S!sters were going to learn this lesson the hard way years later.
There’s nothing really to fault here except the kitschy lyrics and so thanks to Herdorf’s charming performance “En lille melodi” slowly ate its way into my conscience, but my heart has been given to “Danse i Måneskin“, the bronze medal song of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 1987. Performed by a 14-year-old Trine Dyrholm, now one of Denmark’s most decorated actresses, it became an evergreen as I have been told by my friend Lars (Kærlig hilsen!) and I totally can see why. A shame Eurovision had to wait another 34 years for its Måneskin moment.
Song trivia: One of the few 1987 entries to be recorded in multiple languages. There are versions in English, German and Dutch – all of which I highly recommend listening to!

The old age kicks in: I can’t believe I’m starting to like Danish schlager. My 16-year-old self would laugh at me.

Germany, 7 points: Wind – “Lass die Sonne in dein Herz”

Welcome to the sunny and exotic island of Germany. Hear the windy chants of letting the brightest star shine in your central blood pumping station. The tropical nations of Iceland and Denmark heard the call and rewarded it with their douzies.
Lotta would’ve had a genuine shot at a top 10 position if it weren’t for Wind. Like Sweden this is schlager disguised as pseudo reggae, only better, i.e. a tenacious Siegel/Meinunger penned earworm. I loved the song as a child – not knowing it had anything to do with ESC at all – and genuinely thought that reggae would always sound like this. Later in my life I had to make peace with the fact that songs of the genre do not necessarilly have four semitone key changes.
Not a regular member of Wind, but joining them for this song was lip-sync wunderkind Rob Pilatus (RIP) who only a year later was swept up in the whirlwind of success as one part of Milli Vanilli and became the subject of mockery after their producer Frank Farian admitted that the duo was only moving their lips to the music. It’s a cruel world.

Meanwhile in L.A. a young Kate Yanai has lifted her face from nipping on her bacardi and taken song inspiration for a summer hit.

The Netherlands, 8 points: Marcha – “Rechtop in de wind”

The counterpart to Finland where the change from minor to major key in the chorus did not work. In “Rechtop in de wind” it does, because of its uplifting catchiness. I used to play that song A LOT when living with my ex who couldn’t stand it, which was honestly half the fun! Linda Evans stand-in Marcha is the star of the show: shoulder pads Joan Collins would’ve killed for and a dress that looks like an expressionist protective bunker with inbuilt anti-aircraft guns. Of course neither light winds nor hurricanes could ever take her down. It’s almost a shame wind machines weren’t a thing in Eurovision performances until Carola made them fashionable a few years later.

Withstanding any storm: Marcha sucked in all the wind with her big mouth

Belgium, 10 points: Liliane Saint-Pierre – “Soldiers Of Love”

Please stand up for the anthem of the Flemish holebi community. Liliane is a big gay icon there as I have learned in a bar in Oostende, especially this song that is fondly referred to as klassikertje. “Soldiers Of Love” always sounded vaguely familiar to me, but I could never pin down what exactly it made me think of.
Liliane Saint-Pierre came close to representing Belgium in 1981 already with “Brussel“, if you will Liliane’s answer to Maggie McNeal’s “Amsterdam” from the previous year, but lost out to Emly Starr’s “Samson”. 1987 would be her year. In my opinion “Soldiers of Love” is one of the best host entries of all time. It’s filled with tiny nuggets woven into an iconic moment in ESC history: The slick, dramatic performance with militaristic dance moves, fist pumping, gun-shaped guitars, Weird Al Yankovic as a backing, the laser show… . Unfortunately Liliane’s Make love, not war message fell predominantly on deaf ears. 11th place is a schandaal.

Vuur liefde af: We all know what that’s a metaphor for

Yugoslavia, 12 points: Novi Fosili – “Ja sam za ples”

The precursor for what’s to come from Yugoslavia for the next three years. Zabavna music (lit. popular music) was…well…extremely popular at that time in Yugoslavia with bands like Zana or Srebrna krila that took their listeners on a nostalgic voyage to the founding years of Yugoslavia’s music industry. After a myriad of attemps Novi Fosili won their ticket via NF to the big stage with a song spiced with English lines and an infectuous hiccup hookline. Lead singer Sanja Doležal probably emptied a bottle of Babić wine just before recording the song. This is more than just ok and it does indeed make me wanna dance. Hic! Hee!
The highest form of flattery will always be the good, old parody: As a New Year’s Eve ’87 special TV Zagreb recorded a spoof on the Eurovision Song Contest, titled Yugovision Song Contest, where some of the biggest names of Yugoslav music industry sang in a faux song competition (the UK entry f.e. was Brenda Goodlooking & Sweet Sin played by Lepa Brena all dressed up in tartan clothing) and they’re taking a piss at everyone not shying away from making jokes at their own expense. Not using the postcards for the 1990 contest was a missed opportunity!

Dirty Dancing: Sanja didn’t shower for two weeks

And that’s it for 1987! Thank you for reading!

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