Friday, 29 March 2013

The Terry Wogan memorial wig Eurovision preview

For me at any rate, childhood Easter holidays always equated with the appearance of Terry Wogan in a sports jacket, sat on a beige set sniggering at that year's entries for the Eurovision Song Contest. As a family, it was a guilty pleasure to sit down and snigger along with him. The preview shows have long since been dispensed with by the BBC. Post-Wogan, they shuffled between Gloria Hunniford (inane), Ray Moore (controversial) and Ken Bruce (rather good) amongst others before a final, unpopular tenure under that slice of Scottish stodge, Lorraine Kelly.

Well, I've decided to bring them back. You need to picture me wearing a badly fitting wig, sat by a 1970s smoked-glass coffee table with a smirk on my face. All of the ditties mentioned can be found on You Tube but I'm far too lazy to bother including links.

Viewers in the UK can vote in the first semi-final which includes the following masterpieces.

Austria start things off with the musical equivalent of a teenager having a strop. Natalia Kelly, hailing from the USA region of Austria, should sail through without too much of a problem though.
"It's not fair!" - Austria's Natalia Kelly

The clutch of dull-by-numbers ballads includes a charming if forgettable song from Estonia's Birgit Õigemeel and Russia's Dina Garipova who sounds as though she is just having a bit of a whinge. Cyprus also pitch in with An me thimase, a meandering effort, the memory of which evaporates as soon as you have heard the last note.

If you are looking for something different, try Anouk who's representing the Netherlands with Birds. It's a bit weird in an edgy, fairytale kind of way. Or how about Montenegro's rap act, Who See? The plucky Montenegrins still have not worked out what does and does not float the Euro-voters boat. Whilst daring to be different, it manages to marginalise itself out of existence.

Playing safe can also be a dangerous option as Denmark's Emmelie De Forest may discover. Her tin-whistle laden, breathy Only teardrops, is vintage middle-of-the-road Eurovision. Currently it is favourite to win the whole thing and it certainly has charm. Another one to keep an ear open for is Ireland's Ryan Dolan. it would appear that the Irish have finally escaped from their recent comedy entries and are taking things seriously. Only love survives is about as contemporary as dance numbers get.
Not Jedward for Ireland . . .

Slovenia pushes the envelope a bit further with some dubstep but singer Hannah Mancini gives a shouty performance. Near neighbours Croatia have assembled a bunch of blokes who specialise in the traditional klapa performance, often heard whilst staggering around Split. Despite the title, Mizerija doesn't wallow in self-loathing and it's quite a cheery performance from Klapa s Mora.

If it's Eurotrash that takes your fancy, then feast your eyes on Serbia's Moje 3. Take three unsure female vocals, add some inappropriate clothing and let them bellow at the cameras for three minutes. Their entry, Ljubav je svuda, could quite easily be the stuff of which musical car crashes are made of.
Cheap Spice . . . from Serbia

Of the remaining entries, there is something vaguely electronic and eighties from Lithuania's top-hatted Andrijus Pojavis, a truly nasty holiday song shoutalong from Belarus' singer Alyona Lanskaya and a droning ballad from Zlata Ognevich of Ukraine.

Ten of the sixteen masterpieces will qualify for the grand final in Malmö on May 18th. I'll take a dip into the second semi-final as well as taking a peak at the six guaranteed finalists, soon.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Mad march days . . .

I could use this blog to drone on about the weather. I could use it to drone on about the people I know who are forever droning on about the weather. It's weather. We have it every day. End of story. Still, living in the capital, I also have to contend with people chewing over every minute of their train journey into the city. "Ooh the 7.06 came in at 7.10 and so some other woman was stood in my space on the platform and I didn't get my regular seat three quarters of the way down the carriage and . . ." SHUT UP!! I don't need to know these excruciating details!

Anyway, enough of that. As a non-Catholic I was mildly interested in the election of a new pope this week, in the same way that an appearance of a new Blue Peter presenter still has the power to intrigue me. For BBC News, it was a chance to speculate, ad nauseum, about who the new pontiff might be. Would he be from Africa (flick to Oddschecker to see what's being offered on Peter Turkson)? Could it be the comedy cardinal from Boston. According to some grim-faced harridan in St Peter's Square, no. The church isn't ready for an American, she prissily stated. Long after the white smoke had been blown to the four winds, as my eyes focused on a balcony and my mind wondered if the new man would emerge in one of those papal Vera Wang gowns, out toddled . . . another old man. Yes, 85 year old Benedict XVI had made way for 76 year old Pope Francis I. The BBC frothed and waxed lyrical about his status as a Jesuit, his humility and so on. Would he be a liturgy man like Benedict or more approachable and jolly like John XVIII? By now it was time for Coronation Street so that was as far as I got. Anyway, I wish him well and hope that eventually, I won't keep thinking I'm looking at Jim Bowen in fancy dress.
More importantly though, I'm gearing up for the Eurovision season. In reality, the season began last autumn but by Monday we will have the full list of runners and riders from 39 countries. I think it's fair to say that 2013 is far from a classic year. Amongst the shrieking Bulgarians and prog-rock Albanians sits our own challenger for Malmö, Bonnie Tyler. For those of us of a certain age, she will forever be associated with doomy Jim Steinman tracks (let's draw a veil over that hideous duet with fellow Welsh crooner Shakin' Stevens) and turning around with bright eyes. For Eurovision though, a mellow, country and western tinged offering which while not sounding like a winner, will probably not lead to Engelbert-style meltdown on the big night. Bonnie will be up against kilted Greeks, a Russian power ballad, a brace of Americans and a former Nobel prize nominee so at least the chit-chat in the Green Room should be a little more cerebral than usual.

Bookwise, let me recommend the wonderful How I Killed Margaret Thatcher by Anthony Cartwright. Set in 1980s Dudley, the story tells of a young boy called Sean who watches in dismay as Thatcherite policies come to bear on his family life. Very funny in places but also heart-breakingly sad. Much of it is also written in Black Country brogue which makes for an interesting read. Like Sean, I spent much of the early 1980s expecting nuclear obliteration courtesy of the Soviet Union and wondering why our forces were being sent to rescue distant islands off the Argentine coast. I wonder what Pope Francis, native of Buenos Aires, has to say on the matter? We may never know.