The UK Selections: 4 Getting It Wrong

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The 1984 Song For Europe saw a lot more variety in the eight song final. Out went the glut of identikit boy-girl groups and in came a camp Motown clone, and a couple of soon-to-be gay musical icons. The Motown retro-ness took victory, but both Sinitta and Hazell Dean (back eight years after her first attempt) would soon be atop the hi-energy charts and then bona-fide pop princesses in the Stock Aitken Waterman stable.
As the all-female trio in ’84 fared no better than the mixed groups, the BBC stipulated that only solo artists and duos could compete in 1985. As happened quite often in the weaker 1980s fields, the opening song took the crown, and Vikki fared well in the contest itself. Notable contestants this year included 70s star Alvin Stardust and TV presenter Fiona Kennedy
By 1986 groups were allowed back, and to celebrate, a new incarnation of the 60s hitmakers Vanity Fair turned up. They were joined by quite a variety of styles, at least compared to the previous few years. The outcome was the first British Eurosong that could be classified as “rock” – well light rock, but still something of a departure. Ryder’s lead singer was the son of veteran actor Bill Maynard, who entered the very first SFE in 1957.
1987 saw somewhat less variety and nobody remotely famous among the participants, despite the number of finalists being upped to ten. As in 1983 and 1985 the first song performed took the crown, presumably because the jurors had awarded Rikki points in the hope that something better would come along, but nothing did. After the UK’s poorest result to date in Europe, the regional juries were scrapped and replaced by telephone votes.
The 1988 final reverted to eight songs, and for the first time, “experts” passed comment on the songs after each was performed. This practice was to continue for the next two years until it was deemed too prejudicial to the voting. Scott Fitzgerald was the only “name” and his final song easily saw off the opposition.
In 1989 one very powerful singer swung the contest in a field of unknowns. Pony-tailed Ray Caruana lifted “Why Do I Always Get It Wrong” to new heights above a field of more traditional Eurovision styles. One of the big ballads, “Shame” was later covered by Elkie Brooks.
1990 saw the first contest after the downfall of the Berlin Wall and across the continent composers were penning ditties about the world, peace and love. In this context it’s no surprise that Emma’s bang-on-the-money song romped to victory, leaving in it’s wake contributions from TV presenter Kim Goody and seventies pop stars John Miles and Bay City Roller Les McKeown.
The same vibe was alive and well in 1991 as Samantha Janus song (from the same composer to boot) bizarrely married the on-topic message with a presentation in the style of Belle and The Devotions seven years earlier. Honest old fashioned singers like veteran Malcolm Roberts were left standing. The strange juxtaposition was too much for Europe and the BBC knew that another revamp was necessary.