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.