Jan 09

BUCKS FIZZ – “Making Your Mind Up”

FT + Popular96 comments • 5,953 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.



  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 5 Jan 2009 #

    For an eight year old, this was the apex of pop craftsmanship; The hooks, the primary colour costume, the daring and memorable stage routine. We could all follow and emulate this (The verses set up a premise that is resolved in the chorus, encouraging the listener to memorise the whole thing) – and a significant proportion of us bought the single or had it bought for us (up till this and Shakey, we might have generally been aware of the number one songs, but they were actually bought by older brothers and sisters) What is more, it could be verifiably shown to be a superior pop song and performance, having won a competition to prove so.

    28 years on, the greatest appeal of this fresh-faced thing is in the arrangement and instrumentation, not just the jittering sax, but the swoopy keyboard bits. There’s an odd thing that goes on in my head whenever I think about this song – it turns into a medly with ‘Here Comes The Weekend’ by Dave Edmunds.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Making Your Mind Up, the TV show, has now been supplanted by the horror of Andrew Lloyd Webber begging Vladamir Putin to vote for the UK in Eurovision: Your Country Needs You.

  3. 3
    peter goodlaws on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Cheryl Baker was lovely as long as she didn’t open her gob and then we were faced with a cod Eliza Doolittle. But this one not even Higgins could save.

    As for “Making your mind up”, well obviously it’s grim but the ripping of the skirts probably won the contest for them, which, I have read, did not exactly amuse the Irish hosts. Little did they know that they would make Eurovision their own annual parade a few years later. And little did we in the UK know that Bucks Fizz would not be going away any time soon.

  4. 4
    Malice Cooper on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Back in the days before tens of thousands of Eastern European diaspora decided who won eurovision by texting for their country of birth, UK used to feel it had a chance to win.

    In reflection it was a crap novelty song with appalling live vocals (Cheryl was auditioning for “Cats”. Not the musical but just trying to scare away the Feral Tom in her back garden). It narrowly beat a Lithuanian woman singing for Germany about a blind boy with a guitar by just 4 points and only thanks to Switzerland giving Germany 0 and UK 8 in the penultimate vote. Bucks Fizz went on to make some great pop records, especially when Jay took the lead vocals for “When we were young”. Superior production and top session musicians make most of their recordings still sound strong today.

    Because of this victory, The UK tried to pick the same style for a few more years. Bardo the following year and then Sweet Dreams featuring a very “out of tune” vocal coach of today and in those days the Uk thought finishing 6th was failure.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking the public will choose this year’s eurovision singer either. Sir ALW has conveniently thrown in a young shouty ballad woman at the last moment to compete with the 5 karaoke acts to pick the song that is bound to bring eurovision success back to the UK….
    “Get Leona Lewis” the Russian fans advised him and he misheard them and instead decided to get an unknown young female with a Mariah Carey type voice so he can write one of his torch songs and wonder why UK finishes 20th.

  5. 5
    Erithian on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Ah, the memories this evokes – I still recall a college magazine article about “the moment when the pretty ones in Bucks Fizz rip the skirts off the other two”. And the RHC Rugby Club version: “then you decide that the time’s arrived… for throwing your guts up”.

    It was perky, fun and irresistible for a while. Cheryl Baker was making a speciality out of this sort of thing, as she’d been a member of Co-Co, who sang “The Bad Old Days” in Eurovision 1978 (IIRC – I quite possibly don’t). A distinguished career of being everyone’s favourite juvenile fantasy or big sister figure followed. Even now our local ASDA is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her opening the store.

    This was part of a wave of acts who were given a lot of credit for “quality pop” – the Fizz particularly on their next number one and “Now Those Days Are Gone”, Dollar for a while, even the Nolans had a string of good ‘uns culminating in “Attention To Me”. Who would have thought that nice David Van Day would end up as one of the bitter opponents fighting the Bucks Fizz Wars years later?

    Yes, the Lloyd Webber/Putin interview has set an early lead in the Most Toe-Curling TV Moment of 2009 stakes.

    Number 2 Watch – Ennio Morricone’s “Chi Mai”, theme tune from the “Life and Times of David Lloyd George” TV series. An oddity but a goodie.

  6. 6
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 5 Jan 2009 #

    alw: “vlad i think it only fair that guestworkers from YOUR mighty sphere of influence consider voting for the musicworks of the PEOPLE PAYING THEIR WAGES”
    vp: “quid pro quo my dear chap, why not make pop that the migrant eastern masses think is ANY COP AT ALL, eh?”

    alw: *hires laibach for 2010*
    wogan: *speechless* <-win-win

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Wogan speechless for he has thrown in the towel. Norton is doing it now.

    Bardo’s One Step Further is a pop masterwork which narrowly missed victory and is considerably better than most of our Eurovision entries since.

    I think it may have been scuppered by ridiculous choreography, which was clearly the only lesson we really learned from Making Your Mind Up (the first ten seconds of “dancing” probably held back dance music by five years).

  8. 8
    LondonLee on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Bucks Fizz were just copying the ABBA two blokes/two girls format which obviously worked a treat.

    I had a mate at art college who was a big Bucks Fizz and ABBA fan, in a perfectly serious way with no irony intended. He actually used to wear a Bucks Fizz t-shirt to college which, in retrospect now makes him seem more subversive than all us wannabe outsider arty rebels who were there (which included Tracy Emin)

    I have to go listen to this again.

  9. 9
    Alan on 5 Jan 2009 #

    top 5 bucks fizz songs
    1 Land of Make Believe
    2 New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)
    3 My Camera Never Lies
    4 Making Your Mind Up
    5 Now Those Days are Gone

  10. 10
    Tom on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Top 5 Causes Of Bunny Anguish moar like.

  11. 11
    Alan on 5 Jan 2009 #


  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Re # 5: The correct Dale Winton formulation is “It was a bit of an unusual one, but we loved it!”. Perhaps more true in this instance than usually.

    I’d be really interested to see David Lloyd George again. I remember it as being good, but the only scenes that I have precise memories of are of a candidate about to lose an election complaining bitterly about a spoiled ballot paper that was clearly in his name, and a harrowing scene of a suffragette being forcibly fed.

  13. 13
    Billy Smart on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Light entertainment watch: Eurovision was just the start of a long and distinguished career for the Fizz in TV variety. Highlights included;

    DES O’CONNOR TONIGHT: with Lenny Henry, Bucks Fizz, Will Shriner (1982)

    HARTY: with Peter Cook, Lord Snowdon, Bucks Fizz (1983)

    THE KEITH HARRIS SHOW: with Bucks Fizz, Jacqui Scott, Bernie Winters, Brian Conley, Jim Diamond (1985)

    THE LITTLE AND LARGE SHOW: with Bucks Fizz, Lonnie Donegan (1983)

    THE MAIN ATTRACTION: with Mike Reid, Charlie Daze, Roy Jay, Adrian Walsh, Gerard Kenny, Bucks Fizz, Georgie Brown, Clare Leach (1984)

    THE MONTREUX GOLDEN ROSE POP FESTIVAL: with Elton John, Queen, Madness, Status Quo, The Alarm, Nino De Angelo, Bucks Fizz, Julien Clerc, Thomas Dolby, The Dolly Dots (1984)

    THE MONTREUX GOLDEN ROSE POP FESTIVAL: with Elton John, Queen, Rod Stewart, Adam Ant, The Alarm, Nino De Angelo, Bananarama, Bucks Fizz, Julien Clerc, Roger Daltrey (1984)

    PAUL SQUIRE, ESQ: with Bucks Fizz (1983)

    SIX FIFTY FIVE SPECIAL: with Bucks Fizz (1983)

    STARBURST: with Leslie Crowther, Bernie Winters, Bucks Fizz, Frank Carson, Diane Langton (1982)

    STARBURST: with Bucks Fizz, Mickey Finn, Roy Chubby Brown, Sheila White (1983)

    SUNDAY, SUNDAY: with Bucks Fizz, Thora Hird, Denis Quilley, Ted Rogers, Alan Titchmarsh (1984)

    WOGAN: with Richard Branson, Bucks Fizz, Jessye Norman, Daniel J. Travanti, Andy Williams (1985)

  14. 14
    Billy Smart on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Re #7: I’m keener on the TOTP performance, allowing for an audience response, better camerawork and the single’s original instrumentation: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=NGBUkoFnXf0

    Fantastic song…

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    lonepilgrim on 5 Jan 2009 #

    this is the sound of Butlin’s redcoats for me – a bit too chirpy and cheesy in large doses but rooted in a widely shared culture. Nowadays that culture has been atomised in the UK – I’m trying to imagine what would be the sound of CentreParcs? Maybe the latest Goldfrapp album?
    Subsequent British entries that I can recall largely continue to follow a model based on 50s/60s US pop filtered through UK Stage School routines with a few contemporary production touches thrown in.
    What I’ve noticed about other recent European entries is that many of them appear to draw on influences from their ‘folk’ music (as did ABBA) in a way that the UK acts don’t – unless you consider ‘UK Variety’ to be our ‘folk’ music. For that reason I don’t think a RnB type singer (of whatever colour) is ever going to win it.

  16. 16
    Billy Smart on 5 Jan 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Bucks Fizz performed ‘Making Your Mind Up’ on TOTP twice;

    19 March 1981. Also in the studio that week were; Sharon Redd, Dave Stewart & Colin Blunstone and Toyah, plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘Lately’. The host was Peter Powell.

    9th April 1981. Also in the studio that (considerably more interesting) week were; Linx, Saxon, Keith Marshall, PiL, and Eddy Grant. All this and Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘Up The Hill Backwards’! The host was Mike Read.

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 5 Jan 2009 #

    re #16: that 9th April TOTP sounds a cracker! that PiL performance must have been Flowers of Romance which I remember watching and which is available on youtube

    re #8 were you at Maidstone Lee? I knew someone from my Foundation Course who went there in 1979 – to do Fine Art or Graphics

  18. 18
    LondonLee on 5 Jan 2009 #

    I was at Maidstone 1983-86. Sadly just closed down apparently.

    So I just refreshed my memory of this and was half-hoping that there would be some minor element of pop genius (or at least invention) in the production that I could appreciate now that the years have diminished it’s aura of naff-ness. But no, it’s just naff isn’t it? Seaside Special music I call this, or what the DJ plays at the wedding reception from hell.

  19. 19
    Steve Ison on 5 Jan 2009 #

    This is truly horrible..Try playing it around in your head for a while and see how irritated its cheap n nasty cheesiness makes you feel…This style of utterly artless manufactured pop would reach its nadir with S.A.W in the late 80s when peoples expectations had been driven to an all time low by ever bigger beats and ever weaker and more numbingly predictable tunes n chord changes..

  20. 20
    AndyPandy on 5 Jan 2009 #

    …but has not winning the Eurovision song contest really started to niggle any English minds?…or just those members of the chattering classes who have to find something to fill up the weekend paper etc

    Surely it’s true to say that Eurovision lost any claim to relevance in about 1963 when the Beatles arrived.

    Possibly one of the only (the only?) times I’d have anything in common with the rockists/guardians of the rock canon is in thinking Eurovision is a meritless waste of time*, even Abba’s winner was crap and probably their worst ever single.

    Whilst IMO ‘Making Your Mind Up’ is particularly bad.

    *Except for the very occasional 60s/70s ballad eg the song Abba beat into second place Gigliola Cinquetti’s ‘Si’ which is undoubtedly pretty wonderful and was completely wasted on Eurovision.

  21. 21
    Steve Ison on 5 Jan 2009 #

    Makin Your Mind Up has a quality of FORCED joy to me(i.e not joyful at all)..The kinda vibe in this song was exploited to the max by S.A.W -and really,really bad pop ever since..
    Altho there was obviously bad pop in the 60s/70s i don’t think you could get away with quite such a forced n manufactured mood and have such a massive hit..
    The feeling of joy expressed in songs like Brown Eyed Girl or I Can Hear Music is a totally different,life affirming timeless feel to me to the mood in this song..There’s such an ocean of difference you can feel and thats why i love the SPIRIT in pop.

  22. 22
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 5 Jan 2009 #

    my favourite eurovision winner is actually from 1963, Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann’s “dancevise”

  23. 23
    Tom on 5 Jan 2009 #

    #20 The last several years I’ve had several conversations – at work generally – in which people have been really quite vociferous about what a fiddle Eurovision is now, how we never win it, etc. I should point out that I’ve never started these conversations: they are thrust upon me as the person in the office who is “into pop”. My officemates I would say are fairly typical middle-class Brits – no perjorative intended!: a mix of Mail, Times, Guardian, Metro readers.

    So while I think it’s fair to say the meme was started by chattering classes looking to fill their paper, it’s found “legs” – something about it chimes with people’s genuine concerns, there’s a little bit of real anger mixed in with the amused outrage. I suspect that these concerns started at around the time “Polish plumbers” et al. became national stereotypes.

    I don’t think Britain remotely cared about Eurovision BEFORE 1963! Certainly from the mid-80s and through much of the 90s it was held in contempt by much of the GBP, it then turned into a kind of St Patrick’s Day equivalent where Brits (from students up) could discover their Inner Gay, and in the last 3-4 years this role has been combined with anxieties about Europeans and our national rubbishness.

    #21 I agree that MYMU has an element of forced joy (what I’d call its tactical side), but whether or not Brown Eyed Girl had that at the moment of recording, its supporters (and karaoke interpreters) have definitely enforced its joy ever since: it’s one of the songs I find really intolerable! (Though not as bad as Moondance!)

  24. 24
    LondonLee on 5 Jan 2009 #

    I remember in those 1970s wilderness years between Sandie Shaw and Bucks Fizz my sister and I proclaiming “Why don’t they enter someone like Gary Glitter? We’d win it easily!”

  25. 25
    Matthew on 5 Jan 2009 #

    My brother and I were big fans of Buck Fizz at the time, if I recall… at the time of this record we would have been 6 and 4. I don’t think I had any conception of there being a difference between them and ABBA. There was a harrowing day though when my brother used his favourite record as a frisbee and it shattered into many pieces (roll on mp3’s, eh); to this very day I remembered this as having been a Bucks Fizz record, but now that I reflect, it may have been “Seven Tears” by the Goombay Dance Band. All pop blurs into one song in the ideal world of our childhoods.

  26. 26
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 5 Jan 2009 #

    just had a look at the youtubes of the eurovision winners 56-63, and the key figure in all of them is the conductor of the eurovision orchestra — the announcer describes him as the “eric robinson of denmark” which made me laugh without leaving me any the wiser

  27. 27
    Malice Cooper on 5 Jan 2009 #

    To AndyPandy : There have been many superb entries in eurovision over the years, but sadly the winners were often the most simple, catchy and banal tunes

    2 examples below :

    Check this shortfolk ditty from 1966


    and this fabulous bit of progressive pop for Yugoslavia in 1974


  28. 28
    rosie on 5 Jan 2009 #

    I associate this with going out on the night of the competition, and riding a hired bike to get there. The trip involved cycling up a short stretch of the A604 north of Cambridge. It looked pretty innocuous on the map. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared as I was on a bike on that road!

    Apart from that, it’s pop with all the charm of a lump of plastic-wrapped supermarket cheddar. It marks a boundary in in my Popular career: I’m not ready to retire yet but I won’t necessarily have anything to say about everything that comes up from now on.

  29. 29
    Steve Ison on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Tom..Agreed about Brown Eyed Girl..But many ‘karaoke classics’ have suffered the same fate due to endless drunken wedding party abuse-‘specially the utterly sublime Dancing Queen (REAL joy!)…..The ‘tactical’ side you mention (the cynical mood-manufacturing of the writing), is akin to the clodhopping ‘hoof the ball forward’ of some 4th division duffer,compared (say) with the magical World Cup Brazil ’70 skill of Holland-Dozier-Holland..

  30. 30
    peter goodlaws on 6 Jan 2009 #

    # 12 – Dale Winton does say that a lot, Billy. The other day, he played “Day trip to Bangor” and declared it to be “a bit unusual, written by a housewife from Kent”. After he’d played it he added “I’ll bet you’ll have that going through your head for the rest of the day, now!” Our lightfooted jock was only too right, I’m afraid. Whilst still full of the enforced Welsh seaside air, I repaired to Google and learned that the song was actually about a day trip to Rhyl, some distance to the east of Bangor. Since Bangor fitted better into the song, though, it was used instead. Just as well. Rhyl is a toilet.

    # 24 – “in those 1970s wilderness years between Sandie Shaw and Bucks Fizz…” Er, sorry to be Peter Pedantic but there was, in fact, the case of Lulu winning in 1969 (albeit with 3 other songs), this splitting Sandie and The Fizz.

    # 25 – BUNNY!!!!

  31. 31
    Mark G on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Bucks biz:

    The follow-up single (often the true litmus test for Eurowinners) was a strange thing:

    “I know it may sound funny but I don’t want to be in love, just want a piece of the action. And no amount of money could ever be too much for a piece of the action”

    Shades of early Elvis Costello?

    I actually told the man himself my thoughts. “That’s very strange” he said.

  32. 32
    Billy Smart on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Re #29. I was very excited to hear ‘Day Trip To Bangor’, as I hadn’t heard it for 29 years, and I was interested to discover if it tallyed with my playground memory. Wow! – it sounds cheap, like they could only afford an hour of studio time and four musicians. That really is a recording that could have been better made.

  33. 33
    Pete on 6 Jan 2009 #

    The two girls I was in the Meryfield upper playground Bucks Fizz with were Clare and Allison. Clare was Cheryl and Allison was Jade, though between myself and Steven, we never designated the male parts. School cardigans belted loosely with the arms made a perfect substitute for the “over-skirt” for the songs gimmick, though we would often race to that part.

  34. 34
    Martin Skidmore on 6 Jan 2009 #

    I kind of like this, except for me the forced nature of the ‘up!’, the way it goes up in pitch a little too much and is hit a little too crisply, tips it over the edge into the over-forced jollity some of the above dislike.

  35. 35
    Mark G on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Yeah, I felt like the song was originally called “You’re making it mine”

  36. 36
    dickvandyke on 6 Jan 2009 #

    No mention of Brotherhood Of Man .. quite remarkable.

  37. 37
    peter goodlaws on 6 Jan 2009 #

    That’s because it was Bucks Fizz, Dick!

  38. 38
    LondonLee on 6 Jan 2009 #

    We’re trying to cleanse them from our memories.

  39. 39
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Tom #23 – I hear what you say about Polish plumbers et al (I spotted a Sun cartoon once depicting a globe with three signs stuck in it – at the top “North Pole”; at the bottom “South Pole” and in GB “All The Other Poles” – seriously nasty). But I think the grumbles about Eurovision basically stem from the change in the voting system a few years ago from juries (which could maintain some semblance of impartiality, Cyprus/Greece excepted!) to phone voting (where demographics take over and, for instance, the Turkish-descent community in Germany will always give the Turkish entry a heavy vote). The extension of that is of course the inevitable voting for fellow former-Soviet or former-Yugoslavia nations (wartime hostilities taken into account).

    Plus of course, as several people have pointed out, the fact that last year’s Russian entry was a bona fide star already very popular throughout eastern Europe. If we’re not winning it because we don’t take it seriously enough (Daz Sampson and Scooch made Jemini look like Coldplay) then replacing Wogan with Graham Norton is a right old step forward.

    Intriguing thoughts about the “tactical side” of songwriting and SAW from Tom and Steve. SAW were pretty upfront about it – use an instrumental version of the chorus as the intro to establish an earworm, and that sort of thing – and 00s reality-show songs are just as shameless. Westlife, Will Young and successive X Factor winners’ songs deploy the “obligatory key change” all the time and it rarely fails. But then what’s the dividing line between cynical mood-manufacturing and writing effective pop hooks? Even the Beatles used to talk in terms of “let’s write ourselves a swimming pool”…

  40. 40
    Tom on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #40 – the thing is – and this is really noticeable if you listen to winners back-to-back, the introduction of phone votes also means that recognisably modern (dance-oriented) and/or ethnic pop suddenly starts winning for the first time. The shift to phone votes improved the quality of winners enormously – in terms of hooks and showmanship there’s really no comparison between “Viva La Diva”, “Wild Dances”, “Hard Rock Hallelujah” etc. and the Irish horrors of the mid-90s that Wogan still seems to look back on with fondness.

  41. 41
    Mark G on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #40, you are number forty …

  42. 42
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #40 – I’d say it’s pretty debatable whether that’s cause and effect, Tom. I certainly wouldn’t say Dana International or Lordi were indications of greater quality – successful gimmickry more like. Ruslana and Dima, yes, but I’d dispute two of the three you cite. What does appear to have happened since phone voting is that some of the western “former powers” are sulking or going for ever more outlandish entries (France and Germany last year) in the belief that that’ll help them.

    I was surprised at the idea that “Diva” from 1998 was a beneficiary of phone voting – has it been that long already?! If so the winning nations in the phone-vote era have been, in order, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Serbia, Russia. Perhaps five of those, albeit five of the last seven, could have benefitted from a voting bloc.

  43. 43
    Erithian on 6 Jan 2009 #

    sorry, make that five of the last eight.

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    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 6 Jan 2009 #

    the public vote def began with dana international — it was a famous gay bloc-vote triumph! (not so much cellvote voting though)

    there’s definitely a cause-and-effect change on the CHANGE in quality (setting aside the question of what direction this change is), because it’s brought in a vast and quite intense investment in the results — this was picked up quickest in the east, and very well exploited (the issue i;ve always had with wogan’s complaints — apart from the fact that i hate him more than any other public figure i can think of and always have — is that the balkan effect is clear a “symptom” of actually caring about the result)

    (there’s an interesting parallel actually with the upsurge in “nationalist” composers at the end of the 19th century, when figures like sibelius were hugely involved in their respective non-imperial local struggles for independence, cultural recognition and respect…)

  45. 45
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 6 Jan 2009 #

    here’s last year’s discussion of eurovision btw

    haha also the rightful heir to all that is popular having his say in 2007

  46. 46
    wichita lineman on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Re 23/29: Short defence for Brown Eyed Girl (which only seemed to become a staple when the newly-released Best Of Van Morrison was on every pub jukebox circa 89/90): “Making love in the green grass behind the stadium” – sex, pop and football never mixed better.

    Re 20: Gigliola’s catalogue is full of gems. The ‘underwater’ bass sound on her 1964 Eurovision winner is something to behold.

    As for the ‘Fizz, I have to agree with the consensus that this was one of their weaker 45s, too Butlins by half.

    Now Those Days Are Gone, on the other hand, is on a par with Miss You Nights and If You’re Looking For A Way Out, one of the most powerful ballads of the period that could never be called a power ballad. I’m always pleasantly surprised at friends’ (one of whom should REALLY post on this thread – I’ll prod him!) record-playing sessions by yet another classy Bucks Fizz single I’ve never heard that struggled to no.63.

    Record Mirror in 81/82 would have filed Bucks Fizz (and the Nolans) under New Pop. I’d be happy to do the same in 2009. Anyone care to join me? They are Wizzard to ABC’s Roxy, no? With Tight Fit as Hello, maybe…

  47. 47
    AndyPandy on 6 Jan 2009 #

    Tom at 23 – (notwithstanding The Allisons and a British entrant from circa the late 1950s about a “little birdie” which my dad said had been well known when it was played on Radio 2 once)I’d agree that much like the England football team and the early World Cups Britain was probably a bit sniffy about Eurovision before 1963. Probably for similar reasons too ie “we invented it so are obviously best at it (in the case of football)/we’re obviously the best at it so why should we compete against Johnny Foreigner?” (in music after British pop had conquered the world)etc

    But what I was trying to say was that the from the advent of the Beatles/Stones etc and pop as we know it today, and the start of a significant body of opinion starting to take it seriously most of those people (who gradually became ‘serious rock’ opinion)would have looked on Eurovision as showbiz and not worth bothering themselves with. For example from day one of their careers the idea of the Beatles, Stones competing in Eurovision would always have obviously been ridiculous.

    Wichita at 46: I couldn’t agree more about Gigliola the ’64 winner when she was only 17 is extremely classy, imaginative and well constructed and her ‘Dio Come Ti Amo’
    is one of my favourite tracks of all time. And her vocal range is really something to behold.

    And yes especially with the relatively ‘state of the 80’s art’ production of ‘My Camera Never Lies’ Bucks Fizz were positioning themselves squarely in the region of the New Pop World already staked out by Dollar.

    Finally I was looking at one of the old Abba threads where it was debated when Abba became “acceptable” to “serious musical” thinking and some said it was as late as the early 90s. I’d say that was way way too late and that was the era of them as camp icons and mainstream press reassessment and completely distinct from serious music opinion.

    What I remember as a fan of synthpop/new pop in 81-83 is people like Phil Oakey amongst others often praising them in interviews, the 12inch only import of “Lay All Your Love On Me” featuring in James Hamilton’s column and his ‘serious’ club charts and Blancmange even releasing their own hit version of “The Day Before You Came” in (I think)1983.And by then I don’t remember that being looked on as a particularly surprising move.

  48. 48
    wichita lineman on 6 Jan 2009 #

    I agree, Andy. I have some vague memory of One Of Us being taken seriously (quite rightly), probably in Record Mirror again, whose New Pop theorising I found easier to take than the NME’s when I was 16. Shame, then, that two of their very best 45s – Head Over Heels and The Day Before You Come – were brushed aside by their inheritants in the New Pop World.

    Tight Fit are to New Pop what Kenny are to Glam. Apols to Hello.

    Chi Mai at no.2 was originally on the soundtrack of a 1971 film starring Lisa Gastoni called Maddalena, one of Morricone’s most beautiful. It’s also stupidly rare. Don’t know anyone who’s seen the film.

  49. 49
    Kat but logged out innit on 6 Jan 2009 #

    #30 and #32 – the Cassetteboy version of ‘Day Trip to Bangor’ is really rather marvellous (though to appreciate it fully you probably have to be at a Bangface night).

    I like this song! I also like Cheryl Baker, first known to me as host of Saturday morning kids cookery programme Eggs’N’Baker (which featured Blur’s first tv appearance IIRC). I knew she was in a pop group though – they appeared on the programme every so often, between recipes.

  50. 50
    thevisitor on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Re 46: My ribs are still smarting from that prod. Bucks Fizz hung around a lot longer than anyone expected them to, because once in a while, they would release an undeniably great pop tune. No-one has mentioned 1982’s If You Can’t Stand The Heat, which boasted a killer chorus and a TOTP performance which saw them dressed in something that my dad would use to clean the car. Not even half of Mike Nolan’s brain falling out on the icy roads of Tyneside could push the superb 1984 single I Hear Talk into the top 20, but it felt quite exciting when they finally returned, albeit without Jay, for New Beginning (Mamba Seyra) – which had bonkers drums no less exciting (but uncooler) than the ones on Sat In Your Lap by Kate Bush. As such, excusing the clunky, almost tautological hook, “New beginning has just begun” was a formality. On the 12-inch version, the drums go on for sodding ages. Really exciting!

    While I’m at it, anyone with the disappointing MYMU follow-up, Piece Of The Action, should flip it over to hear Took It To The Limit – a weird, wonky splicing-together of what sounded like three distinct bits of potentially great tunes. Something you could almost imagine hearing (albeit modernised) on a Girls Aloud album now.

    Re 48: Trivia time. Can anyone spot an unlikely connection between Tight Fit’s Fantasy Island and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden?

  51. 51
    Conrad on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Morning Richie. Morning everyone.

    And first up in 2009 is a nice juicy half volley that can be dispatched easily enough. It’s fun (in very small doses), its formulaic, it’s more likable than it should be really.

    What a remarkable transition – from flimsy pop-by-rote to agile, confident and sinuous pop in the space of a few months.

    Others on the thread have already remarked on the many fine Fizz singles that followed this inauspicious beginning. August 1981’s “One of Those Nights” was the first evidence that we were dealing with one of the great New Pop acts of the era (tho I haven’t heard the b-side to Piece of the Action – sounds intriguing).

  52. 52
    Conrad on 7 Jan 2009 #

    50 – they’re both better than Led Zep III???

    Actually, Talk Talk group member Tim Friese-Greene produced Fantasy Island, no? (OK, I looked that up on Wiki…but it helps explain why “Fantasy Island” was so much better than anything else Tight Fit produced)

  53. 53
    pink champale on 7 Jan 2009 #

    #20 and everyone else – have to say that, rivalled only by ‘you’re gorgeous’, ‘brown eyed girl’ is my official least favourite record ever made – for fifteen years i have had a bit of a prejudice against hugh laurie simply because he picked it on desert islands discs.but i will concede that van morrison did manage to bring off careless tumbling joyfulness on ‘like young lovers do’.

    i quite like mymu. it’s undeniably woolworths (rip) but it’s got a real tinny energy that’s quite exciting and i like the fact that throughout it seems to be about to start speeding up absurdly and unstoppably like that bit in ‘are you being served?’

  54. 54
    Matthew H on 7 Jan 2009 #

    I like ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ because he says “Matthew” in it.


    ‘Making Your Mind Up”s success seemed very exciting to eight-year-old me; I had funny stirrings for Jay Aston and the tune was ultra-catchy – mind you, I think I could happily go another 28 years without hearing it.

  55. 55
    dickvandyke on 7 Jan 2009 #

    51. Sir Geoffrey Boycott here.

    Get down the pitch on the front foot. Spend some time at the crease as a pop star. Come through the county youth teams and serve your apprenticeship. A fly-by-night pop act can’t just be thrown together without solid technique and a good action.

    Ripping off the skirts is all well and good, but you’re batting on a sticky wicket if you think it will get you into the record books. A good tune needs to be caught behind like a thick edge. Bucks Fizz dug in and saw off the quickies. But for the Fucks Bizz Spoonerism, they had a robust average in the hit parade.

    We’ve all grown a bit around the middle with Cheryl and aren’t as quick between the wickets. Nonetheless, we can look back at that old helmet-less footage and be proud of a good innings.

    Anyway, on to Brotherhood Of Man …

  56. 56
    Erithian on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Songs featuring the name Matthew – I’ll start you off with “Karaoke Queen” by Catatonia.

    And as for Karel Fialka, don’t even go there.

  57. 57
    peter goodlaws on 7 Jan 2009 #

    # 56 – A five minute break and that’s all you take for a cup of cold coffee and a piece of cake…

  58. 58
    LondonLee on 7 Jan 2009 #

    “Matthew and Son” by Cat Stevens to state the bleedin’ obvious one.

  59. 59
    wichita lineman on 7 Jan 2009 #

    Matthew Brought Me Flowers by Mandy More (the British 70s proto-Kate Bush, not the scary plastic one)

  60. 60
    Snif on 7 Jan 2009 #

    There’s probably a tune or two in Jesus Christ Superstar that mention Matthew.

  61. 61
    CarsmileSteve on 7 Jan 2009 #

    i had odd little stirrings for Jay (NOT JADE) as well, bless her…

    i think seven year old me chimed in with the rest of the “it WON therefore it must be good” school of thought at the time, i always feel sad that BARDO’s clearly superior number was beaten by some bird with a guitar in a nightie…

    also, Erithian @ 42:

    Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Serbia, Russia.

    i make that 8 block votes, viz:

    no, scando, scando, baltic, baltic, no, former soviet, no, scando, balkan, former soviet…

  62. 62
    AndyPandy on 8 Jan 2009 #

    pink champale at 53: I’m glad someone else detests ‘You’re Gorgeous’ as much as me…whenever i think of my worst tracks of all time ‘You’re Gorgeous’ never fails to put in an appearance. Actually it probably is the absolute worst -compeletely appalling in every way.

  63. 63
    Erithian on 8 Jan 2009 #

    Carsmile #61 – I wasn’t counting the “scando” bloc as such because they’ve been in Eurovision for a long time and besides are too few to have that great an influence even if they did vote for each other – and Swedes and Finns for instance aren’t necessarily bessie mates even though there’s a minority Swedish population in Finland. The Baltic bloc are also former Soviet republics of course. Somewhere there must be a Eurovision über-nerd who has a database of how each country has voted since the introduction of phone voting, and that would tell us a lot!

    Another minus vote for “You’re Gorgeous” by the way.

  64. 64
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 8 Jan 2009 #

    “aren’t best mates” — ok (and i know i say this very time) but the yugoslav region of the so-called “balkan block” of course went through a BITTER CIVIL WAR since the soviet republics and etc declared their irrevocable differences and filed for divorce

  65. 65
    Mark G on 8 Jan 2009 #

    Is it really because they ‘vote for their mates’ nationpalling?

    Or is it more because they “share taste in music”

  66. 66
    Pete Baran on 8 Jan 2009 #

    Indeed the nationpalling of nearby countries which may well share record release dates, radio stations, are local markets for more that one band (being the biggest band in Estonia isn’t going to be the most lucrative thing in the world unless you open up to a few more local markets). Nearby countries breed local scenes – which may or may not effect voting.

    Bear in mind as well that there are a few obvious exceptions to the above. I don’t think anyone who saw Ruslana’s Wild Dances did not think that it was the winner straight off, and ditto with Lordi (not becuase it was necessarily so great, but it had a Europe wide metal audience primed for it).

  67. 67
    Erithian on 8 Jan 2009 #

    sukrat #64 – of course that goes without saying, but the loyalties within each territory are too complex to go into here, and the voting pattern does suggest alliances. I’m not trying to suggest the evidence is conclusive – the abovementioned über-nerd would have to advise.

  68. 68
    peter goodlaws on 8 Jan 2009 #

    I think that Wogan is a bit rich slagging off the block voting in the East. I can’t remember him piping up when the Paddies won every year. I can even remember a year when Ireland went out with a firm intention to pick a song which they thought couldn’t possibly triumph. It was a couple of old lags on acoustic guitars warbling a gentle misty-eyed ditty about when they were young and discovering rock and roll.

    It was complete crap.

    It won.

  69. 69
    Mark G on 8 Jan 2009 #


  70. 70
    peter goodlaws on 8 Jan 2009 #


  71. 71
    Erithian on 8 Jan 2009 #

    To be precise, “Rock’n’Roll Kids” by Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan. Ireland’s third consecutive win (they won again in 1996), and the Father Ted storyline that Ireland were desperate to lose and avoid the expense of hosting it again quite possibly derived from this particular entry. According to Wikipedia it won by the third biggest margin in the contest’s history, behind Katrina and the Waves and some woman we’ll be talking about this time next year.

  72. 72
    Erithian on 8 Jan 2009 #

    Wikipedia also points out that the last eight contests have been won by a country winning for the first time. Tch, I must get a life…

  73. 73
    Pete Baran on 8 Jan 2009 #

    Yes, there are a lot more countries in Eurovision these days. The odds of winning should be about 1-40 which makes our once every ten years demand seem a bit unrealistic.

  74. 74
    peter goodlaws on 8 Jan 2009 #

    A couple of years or so ago, someone performed a song called (or at least stating) “We will win Eurovision”. They didn’t and unless I’m mistaken, there was booing in the hall when they’d finished. I bet that’s never happened in Vienna on New Year’s Day!

  75. 75
    Billy Smart on 8 Jan 2009 #

    From memory, I can remember one Swedish winner from circa 1984 that seemed to be a nostalgic song about ABBA’s victory a decade before. It went something like “Diggi Loo, Diggi Ley, What a great day for Sweeeeeeeden”

    Though now that I’ve typed that down it does look like precisely the sort of thing that I’d dream.

  76. 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.

  77. 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

  78. 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)

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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)

  83. 83
    Pete Baran on 9 Jan 2009 #

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

  84. 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):

  85. 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).

  86. 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.

  87. 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

  88. 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?

  89. 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.

  90. 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?

  91. 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.

  92. 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.

  93. 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

  94. 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.

  95. 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?

  96. 96
    Mark G on 2 Jul 2015 #

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


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