5
Jan 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “Making Your Mind Up”

FT + Popular96 comments • 5,362 views

#478, 18th April 1981

In some ways Bucks Fizz’ Eurovision triumph is pop’s equivalent of England’s 1966 World Cup win. It encouraged a certain complacency in the victorious nation, who began to convince themselves that not only was the competition eminently winnable but that this famous victory had established a formula for more. For passion, grit and English physicality read bubblegum, camp and dollybirds having their skirts whipped off. There the parallels break down. The subsequent failure to win the World Cup has become something festering, a cultural fixation in its own right that Popular will collide with in due course. Not winning the Eurovision Song Contest has only recently started to niggle in English minds, and the response is often that it’s not worth winning.

Of course it helps that we have won it since Bucks Fizz – but only a bit. Bucks Fizz sunk their hooks deeper into British pop culture than any winner since Sandie Shaw: former band members have hung on to the twilights of their fame; “Making Your Mind Up” has given its name to the BBC’s Eurovision talent contest; as recently as Scooch we’ve tried disastrously to apply the Bucks Fizz model to our entries. Alright, alright, age is playing a part here: the Fizz victory – thrillingly close-fought – was the first ESC I watched, and the skirt-flinging seemed as daring a gesture as any pop moment I’d seen.

Even so it seems to me there’s something at least slightly new happening with Bucks Fizz – for all that the music owes more to bobbysoxers than New Pop. Their brazen good-natured cheapness points forward to SAW’s one-sound-fits-all pop as much as it harks back to 70s bubblegum, which tended to be thicker in detail and more clearly crafted. On “Making Your Mind Up” the most intriguing touch is the jabbing, hustling sax in the background, but it’s never allowed to distract from the single-minded jollity. There’s no shame in that: Bucks Fizz and their writers had a competition to win, and they went out and won it. But it means that when I hear “Making Your Mind Up” today I’m hearing its tactical nous more than any inherent joy.

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Comments

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  1. 76
    Dan R on 8 Jan 2009 #

    # 74; From memory it was Latvia or Lithuania and their weird song was a kind of football chant that involved repeatedly chanting “We are the winners! Of Eurovision!” They were all around 60 years old. It seemed, in the context of the show, like a piece of performance art rather than sheer hubris.

    I think some of the posters on here have been unduly hard on Bucks Fizz. There’s nothing about this song that pretends to be any more than it is and the arrangement is likeably envigorating from the first moment. In fact it’s one of those songs that when it comes on I immediately think ‘Oh I like this’ and then realise what it is and feel slightly ashamed.

    Plus, no one ever wore velour quite like The Fizz.

  2. 77
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Jan 2009 #

    surely diggi loo diggi ley was the legendary “nul punkt” norwegian entry? john peel sent my sister a copy as some kind of prize for a letter she wrote him

  3. 78
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Jan 2009 #

    oops as you were, DLDFL is a swedish winner, peel sent my sister “Aldri i livet” byFinn Kalvik (nor is the the only norwegian nul punktum)

  4. 79
    wichita lineman on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Ultimate nul points entry (the very first) was Norway’s super-hammy rocker Mil Etter Mil by Jahn Teigen, three years before Kalvik. Memories of a skinny tie, aviator shades, veins sticking out like knotted rope.

    It was a no.1 in Norway. “According to Wikipedia” Teigen started off in a band called Popol Vuh (not THAT Popol Vuh), and turned down an offer from Genesis to audition as a possible Peter Gabriel replacement.

    But my fav Norwegian entry is 1968’s Stress by Odd Borre, a Jarvis Cocker lookalike, mainly because a song called Stress by someone called Odd Borre was never, ever going to win.

  5. 80
    Erithian on 9 Jan 2009 #

    There are two bands called Popul Vuh? What are the chances of that happening?

    “We Are The Winners” was hysterically funny and should have won.

  6. 81
    Matthew H on 9 Jan 2009 #

    ‘Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley’ was Herreys, wasn’t it? Blonde lads in pixie boots.

    The Norwegian in aviators and skinny tie was singing “Don’t drop that neutron bomb on me”, I think – topical but, strangely, unpopular.

  7. 82
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 Jan 2009 #

    “We Are The Winners” was fairly funny once

    i have somehow all my rockcrit life known there were two bands called popol vuh — it’s the kind of stupid thing i remember (see above for the kind of stuff i remember incorrectly) — but i’ve no idea why i know this, or if the second one was this norwegian one, or if there were actually THREE bands called popol vuh!

    (i actualy think given hippy-prog fascination with mysticism and the provenance of the name “popul vuh” it’s not that surprising it was hit on more than once) (cf also nirvana heehee)

  8. 83
    Pete Baran on 9 Jan 2009 #

    We Are The Winners of Eurovision: Lithuania in 2006. It came 6th.

  9. 84
    Pete Baran on 9 Jan 2009 #

    And for the Lineman above, the physically (if not vocally) very Jarvis Cocker-esque Odd Borre (though in this Youtube still he looks like the missing link between the Two Ronnie’s):

  10. 85
    wichita lineman on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Thanks Pete. Bit of a young John Major thing going on with Odd as well.

    I’d never heard the whole song before; structurally it’s positively a Macarthur Park compared to most Eurovision entries. And I like the way it includes the lyric “blah blah blah blah blah blah.”

    (Seeing as that year’s winner had a chorus that went “La la-la la, la-la la, la-la la”, Odd wasn’t that far from the Euro zeitgeist).

  11. 86
    Malice Cooper on 9 Jan 2009 #

    Interesting reference wichita lineman makes in post 79 . I bumped into Jahn Teigen in Dublin at the ’95 contest, well not really bumped as he was sitting in the Foyer reading some silly Eurovision fanclub magazine from OGAE NORGE (quite appropriate considering the interests of most eurovision fans). I went into sad anorak mode and told him it was unfortunate that he was remembered for getting zero points when he finished second in 2 Norwegian national finals with songs that could well have won the contest, if selected. He agreed and told me all about his marriage to and separation from fellow songwriter/performer Anita Skorgan whose song had beaten him into second place in 1988.
    All this from a man who used to dress up as a skeleton.

  12. 87
    Brian Barker on 11 Jan 2009 #

    The only thing I am unhappy about the Eurovision Song Contest is that the use of English, in the Eurovision Song Contest increases year by year.

    As a native English speaker I think this is unfair!

    It’s certainly time to break the habit of “language imperialism”, in the Eurovision Song Contest, and use a song, sung in Esperanto instead!

    This is a serious suggestion, as you can see from the Esperanto music which is already available at http://www.vinilkosmo.com/?prs=listen or at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    There’s even cheesy Esperanto music available! See http://www.ipernity.com/home/56084

  13. 88
    Tooncgull on 21 Oct 2009 #

    #51 – Matthew songs… Martin Stephensons “Me and Matthew” .. ?

    and Making Your Mind Up is schlock pop, annoyingly catchy, and with the added gimmickry of the girls losing their skirts! How could it fail?

  14. 89
    Philip Arlington on 24 Aug 2014 #

    The first single I bought (and I only ever bought one other, as I am an album man all the way). The main motivation for the unprecedented unauthorised dip into my savings was that I fancied the girls because of the skirt thing, but I don’t believe I realised that at the time.

  15. 90
    PurpleKylie on 29 Aug 2014 #

    Call me unpatriotic but if it was up to me, we wouldn’t have won that year *hides*, I prefer the German song that came second.

    I do kinda appreciate it for its goofy nostalgia factor, who doesn’t like a bit of skirt-ripping?

  16. 91
    swanstep on 2 Jul 2015 #

    Abba tore off of the long skirts from their (iconic? dreaded?) ‘cat’ dresses in 1976, e.g., here at the beginning of Waterloo on Countdown in Australia.

    I think it’s fair to say that Buck’s Fizz polished and maximized the moment, both building it into the song (“see some more”) and adding more dancerly/theatrical stage-craft. Whereas Frida and Agnetha weren’t really dancers and seem a little embarrassed by the moment, maybe even eager to get it over with, Buck’s Fizz (and the gals in particular) clearly see this as their big chance, their ace to be played as adroitly as possible. Good for them. But at least to those of us down under, the skirts shenanigans marked BF as Abba-esque even more than the Eurovision connection and the music.

  17. 92
    Phil on 2 Jul 2015 #

    “If you want to see some more”. That line – particularly with the way it’s delivered – has never not made me want to bang my head against the wall. As if sexual objectification were a guilt-free pleasure. The Abba move is interesting, but I agree that it’s a bit thrown-away. But Abba were never really Something For The Dads in that way.

  18. 93
    punctum on 2 Jul 2015 #

    Really good piece by Wichita Lineman of this parish about the Fizz, though I disagree that the Nolans were ever New Pop (seventies Light Entertainment hangover, morelike): http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2015/jul/01/bucks-fizz-abba-bob-stanley-eurovision

  19. 94
    Phil on 2 Jul 2015 #

    He does a pretty good job of convincing me that they came out of seventies LE and went somewhere else, for a few years at least. The Pete Sinfield connection is surprising, to put it mildly. I was also intrigued by the percussion-and-choral-vocals arrangement of their last single, “New Beginning” (ironic title – but then, as WL points out, they’d spent half their career releasing singles with elegiac “so this is the end” titles, so it’s symmetrical at least). I can’t quite date that sound vis-a-vis 1986: it’s the year of Graceland, so presumably not influenced by that. Donna Summer’s “State of Independence” was 1982, though, and the big indie percussion boom (as it were) was 1981. On that topic, does anyone else remember “Taboos”? Possibly Dick Witts’ finest hour. There’s a link, which I think is still functional, halfway down my post on the Passage.

  20. 95
    punctum on 2 Jul 2015 #

    Yes, a brilliant, brilliant record. Did you know that “New Beginning” was originally recorded by the Dooleys, but they put it out under a different name so that people wouldn’t know it was then and therefore be put off?

  21. 96
    Mark G on 2 Jul 2015 #

    and if you want to hear it, here is a very strange disco album..

    http://www.discogs.com/Various-Disco-Joker/release/2691275

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