With the sad news that Romania won’t be participating this year, due to non-payment of EBU debts by its broadcaster, I’ve been thinking a bit about other entries that for one reason or another didn’t make it to Eurovision. I love looking into items of historical ESC trivia and there’s something fascinating about the missing piece of a contest that gets lost from history. I’ve dug up a few what-could-have-beens from Eurovisions past.
France 1974 – Dani – La Vie a 25 ans
This is probably the latest withdrawal of the lot. Dani was all set to compete in Brighton for the 1974 contest. She’d been drawn to appear at no. 14 in the running order and was there at the Dome to rehearse, but her Eurovision adventure got cut short when French president, Georges Pompidou, died four days before the contest. With Eurovision set for broadcast on the night of his funeral, the French broadcaster decided to withdraw. Dani instead watched from the audience and was shown on camera in between songs 13 and 15.
It was a pretty good song too. A strong top 4 aside, I don’t consider 1974 to be a great year. France would have been a welcome addition and would have got a high placing. I wouldn’t even rule out Dani beating ABBA. Georges Pompidou’s death could have changed music history.
Georgia 2009 – Stephane & 3G – We Don’t Wanna Put In
If you’re going to get yourself disqualified from Eurovision, then this is one helluva way to do it. I wasn’t yet a committed Eurofan in 2009, so only heard about the Georgian controversy in the newspapers. I presumed at the time that a song protesting against Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by hiding a reference to Vladimir Putin in its lyrics was going to be a serious and slightly mournful affair.
It took a couple of years for me to discover it was actually a clownish disco stomper advocating the shooting of someone, so that everyone can disco tonight and give sexy-ah.
United Kingdom 1956 – Dennis Lotis – Everybody Falls In Love With Someone
This may be pushing it a bit. The United Kingdom was never due to enter the inaugural Eurovision Song Contest. Exactly one week before the EBU decided to launch an international song competition, the BBC had given the green light to its own Festival of British Popular Songs. This contest would feature six monthly heats with the final in October, long after the contest in Lugano. The BBC decided to concentrate on this programme and observe the first Eurovision from a discreet distance. Had the dates matched up properly, though, the UK could have easily sent the winner, Everybody Falls In Love With Someone, as its first entry (or rather, one of its first entries, as each country had two that year).
The song was performed by Dennis Lotis in the final of The Festival of British Popular Songs, but he never recorded it. The show was more a competition for songs than singers. It was even performed by someone else in the heats. There are a few recordings around though; the one I’ve found on Youtube is by Matt Monro, who went on to represent the UK in 1964. I much prefer this to the UK’s eventual debut in 1957.
Turkey 1979 – Maria Rita Epik and 21. Peron – Seviyorum
You’ve got to know your obscure geopolitics for Eurovision. While these days you need a working knowledge of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war, in the late 70s it was the Oil Crisis. In the run up to the 1979 contest, Turkey had come under a great deal of pressure from its Arab neighbours to boycott the event in Israel, partly due to the crisis. Unfortunately for Maria Rita Epik and 21. Peron, this meant their song was eventually withdrawn. On the bright side, it did mean that the following year Turkey gave us one of the stranger Eurovision songs, in Pet’r Oil (Petroleum).
This song’s lively enough and features the same mixed gender group standing in a line formula that Turkey seemed to send every other year. It’s no Pet’r Oil, but it would have been one of Turkey’s better efforts of the era. Like their other early entries, though, I can’t see Seviyorum troubling the scorers if it went to Jerusalem.
Greece 1982 – Themis Adamantidis – Sarantapente Kopelies
This song was pulled out of the contest just two weeks before the show in Harrogate. There seems to be no great political incident for this withdrawal. It was just due to the fact the Greek minister of culture, Melina Mercouri, didn’t like it. Imagine having that power. One hopes John Whittingdale, the UK culture minister, never takes a moment between his searches for topless models and dominatrices on match.com to google our entries.
One also hopes he has better taste in music than Mercouri did. This song is great. It’s got a funky little groove to it.
Serbia and Montenegro 2006 – No Name – Moja Ljubavi
It’s long been one of my favourite items of Eurovision trivia that the 2006 Serbia and Montenegro national final is considered by some to have been a contributing factor to Montenegro’s vote to become an independent country. Montenegro’s referendum was due just after Eurovision and national final night became the moment the campaign turned nasty. As the Montenegrin jurors voted en masse for Montenegrin boyband No Name’s song, boos rained down from the Serbian audience in Belgrade. The protests would continue as No Name attempted to do their winner’s reprise. Eventually, in an effort to avoid a riot, the Serbian runners up, Flamingosi, took to the stage in No Names’s place and performed surrounded by the other Serbian representatives.
The result of the subsequent row was that Serbia and Montenegro withdrew from Eurovision. They would be back as separate countries the next year. What makes the whole thing even weirder for me is that Flamingosi were an embarrassing novelty act. The Montenegrin juries were right to pick No Name.
Israel 1980 – The Brothers & The Sisters – Pizmon Chozer
After winning the contest for the second time in a row in 1979, Israel decided that they weren’t going to be able to host it again in 1980. The costs were going to be too high. After hunting around for a replacement host, the EBU eventually settled on The Netherlands who would be able to put on a scaled-down Eurovision in The Hague on 19 April. Unfortunately this clashed with a national holiday in Israel, so the defending champions had to withdraw.
It was a shame because this is a very charming little thing. It would have been a worthy successor to Hallelujah, although Israel wouldn’t have had to worry about hosting again.
Romania 2016 – Ovidiu Anton – Moment Of Silence
Poor Ovidiu had tried five times to represent his country at Eurovision, only for his eventual victory to be taken away by the mismanagement at TVR. I met him briefly at the London party. I was being too shy and retiring to ask for a photo, but his delegation came to me and included me in a toast they were doing. He seems a really nice guy.
Romania will definitely be back at some point. I think Ovidiu will be at the front of the queue to represent them when that time comes.