Over the years, the Eurovision Song Contest has evolved from being a platform for our continent’s very best songwriters to a competition between nations on who’s crazies are truly the most crazy. A bit like the World Cup, but for asylums, and with monstrous costume and pyro budgets. Ahead of tonight’s vote on who to send as this year’s British representative, here are 17 memorable moments from Eurovision’s, ahem, colourful history that underline its standing as the most bonkers event in the music calendar.
Oh Lordi: With their viking corpse costumes, pyrotechnics and heavy riffs, Finnish metal heads Lordi really captured Europe’s imagination back in 2006 with their song ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’, romping to victory with a then-record 292 points. Eurovision purists may have scoffed, but no one can deny that the band are surely the most memorable 21st century act to grace the competition.
2A pirate’s life for Latvia
A pirate’s life for Latvia: Pirates were the shit in 2008 (thanks Johnny Depp), so Latvia attempted to cash-in on the trend with the track ‘Wolves of the Sea’. This being Eurovision though, the group were backed not with the sound of accordions, pianos or any other instrument you might expect to hear a sea dog sing over, but instead a grating and derivative dance beat. Fetch the plank.
3Dustin’s performance is a real Turkey
Dustin’s performance is a real Turkey: Ireland remains the most successful Eurovision nation with a record seven wins, but has been on a losing streak since 1996. Perhaps it was that frustration that led to the 2008 entry of TV presenter Dustin the Turkey, whose song ‘Irlande Douze Pointe’ slyly parodied the contest. Needless to say, he didn’t win either.
4Romania turns to Dracula for inspiration
Romania turns to Dracula for inspiration: Though created by Irish writer Bram Stoker, Dracula is synonymous with Romania and the region of Transylvania. It was this that inspired fellow creature of the night Cesar and his 2011 Eurovision entry ‘It’s My Life’. Sporting a blinged-out Dracula-esque cloak and some sinister facial hair, Cesar levitated like only a true half bat/ half man can.
5Jemini go down in history
Jemini go down in history: UK duo Jemini’s ear-bleedingly off-key and out-of-time 2003 entry ‘Cry Baby’ is the only time the nation has suffered the ignominy of receiving nil point. Such was the embarrassment, it prompted Louis Walsh, a man with such shit taste he makes fellow X Factor plank Gary Barlow look like Dr Dre, to label the recital “a disgrace”.
6Azerbaijan arrive in Europe with Elnur & Samir
Azerbaijan arrive in Europe with Elnur & Samir: That’s Samir, not Shamir, in case you were hoping for the XL dance-pop maverick. Azerbaijan made their first appearance in 2008 with ‘Day After Day’, and what a first appearance it was. Dressed as an opposing angel and demon, the pair’s seriously high-pitched vocal performance won them a respectable 8th. Welcome to the fold, fellas!
7Estonia’s piano-humpingly good amphibian-themed 2008 entry
Estonia’s piano-humpingly good amphibian-themed 2008 entry: Estonia may be responsible for the most unashamedly mental performance in Eurovision history. 2008 entry ‘Leto Svet’ featured frog-voiced trio Kreisiraadio humping a piano, with scantily-clad backing dancers waving European flags and holding up signs of various types of food. Obviously.
8Blue fail in Germany
Blue fail in Germany: The UK attempted to dazzle voters back in 2011 by sending superstar (ahem) boy band Blue to perform. Weirdly, however, audiences weren’t actually that impressed with the lads’ shiny suits and their track, ‘I Can’, featuring a cheap, grating dance beat, slumped to an 11th place finish. It was the group’s lowest charting UK single, peaking at number 16.
9France get feline
France get feline: If there’s one thing the internet’s taught us, it’s that people love cats. That must have been French band Les Fatals Picards’ thinking when they attempted to turn their pretty unmemorable guitar pop song ‘L’amour a la Francaise’ into a winner by having one member perform with a stuffed feline on his shoulder a few years back. Think again, mon amies!
10West Germany’s Genghis Khan-themed disco classic:
West Germany’s Genghis Khan-themed disco classic: A true Eurovision classic, West Germany’s 1979 entry was a full-on Genghis Khan-themed disco number that saw the group Dschinghis Khan don costumes, spout lyrics about “nobody resisting his strength” and mock-seduce each other to parallel the warlord’s notorious sexual appetite. Of course.
Wogan’s gaffe: The Eurovision has suffered since the retirement of long-running, brilliantly wry commentator Terry Wogan, but ol’ Tezza is responsible for a classic blunder himself. While hosting BBC’s 2007 Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up show, which allowed the public to select the United Kingdom’s entry, the veteran broadcaster accidentally announced that the wrong artist had won. Whoops.
12Scooch fly the flag for the UK
Scooch fly the flag for the UK: In theory, Scooch’s ‘Flying the Flag (For You)’ – complete with overdone airline concept – is exactly the kind of thing the Eurovision loves. Their gloriously camp performance was peppered with double entendres for the grown-ups (“Would you like something to suck on for landing, sir?”) but, sadly, the song could only manage a 22nd place finish.
13Sweden’s 1985 “wardrobe malfunction”
Sweden’s 1985 “wardrobe malfunction”: Sweden certainly left an impression in 1985 when host Lill Lindfors suffered something of a clothing mishap, losing the bottom half of her frock on-stage. The joke was on us though, as the pre-planned comedy bit saw Lindfors quickly transform her top into a whole new dress. Lolz.
14Russia’s folically-conjoined twins
Russia’s folically-conjoined twins: What’s that? You’ve got twins performing? Big deal – you’re gonna have to do more than that on Eurovision. Singing their track ‘Shine’, the 17-year-old Tolmachevy Sisters were unveiled on-stage with a conjoined hair do, clutching translucent sticks before moving to separate ends of a giant seesaw. BEAT THAT, JEDWARD.
15Estonia’s upside down drummer
Estonia’s upside down drummer: They may have only reached the qualifiers, but Estonia’s Winny Puhh are still one of the competition’s classic acts. Performing ‘Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti’ (snappy title), the group’s lead singer donned a wookie-esque mask while the rest of the band wore full wresting gear and the drummer hung upside down from the ceiling. They woz robbed!
16An Israeli scandal
An Israeli scandal: Israel’s culture minister Yitzhak Navon threatened to resign if comedy duo Lazy Bums and their song ‘Shir Habatlanim’ were allowed represent the country at the 1987 Eurovision. His threats proved hollow, and the pair actually managed an 8th place finish with their flailing dance moves and the song’s nonsensical “Hupa, Hole Hupa, Hupa Hole” chorus.
17Lithuania declares itself the victor
Lithuania declares itself the victor: The 2006 finals saw Lithuania feeling pretty confident that they were going to triumph. So much so, in fact, that the country’s entry, ‘We Are The Winners’, saw sharply dressed six piece LT United unashamedly repeat the lyric, “We are the winners of Eurovision/We are, we are! We are, we are!”. They were not the winners.