20th National Song Contest (RTE1, 1985)
I have watched The Eurovision Song Contest a lot over the years, and I have been thinking of reviewing it as part of my Game Show Memories series, as it does feature a competitive points scoring element, but its history is rather well known, including all of the famous songs and performances from across Europe, so I thought I might try something a little different.
I thought that instead I could review A Song For Europe, the show where it is determined who will represent the United Kingdom on the big night (and there was a famously awkward moment during one of these shows in the 80s when there was unexpectedly a tie for first place and there was no countback or tiebreaker rule in place, and host Terry Wogan had to use all his years of TV experience to deal with the brief moment of panic and confusion).
It was then while looking on YouTube recently I found an edition of the Irish equivalent of this show. The only thing I really knew about their version was from the memorable parody in sitcom Father Ted where “My Lovely Horse” had a surprise win, and I was curious about how the real thing would compare. It was uploaded by Ulrik D F Wiksaas so credit goes to them.
The 20th National Song Contest was the show that would determine who would represent Ireland at Eurovision in Gothenburg, Sweden in May 1985. It was shown live from Dublin on RTE1 in March 1985 and it was hosted by the bow-tie wearing Gay Byrne (who seemingly hosted every single entertainment show on TV in Ireland in the 1980s), what a pro.
Eight songs (narrowed down from the 451 that were entered) competed to try and win the place on offer. This piece isn’t designed to simply laugh at the naff 80s hairstyles of the singers, although there probably will be a lot of that. 11 juries from across the country are on standby to give their votes, and there is also a live orchestra in the studio. Each song is introduced with a brief biography of the composer.
Song A is “Two Hearts” by Carol Ann, in what is her first-ever TV appearance. She really does have some marvellous hair (told you). Unfortunately the song ends with an on-screen graphics cock-up which turns Carol an odd shade of blue. Song B is “Only A Fantasy” by Marion Fossett, who had previously represented Ireland at Eurovision in 1981 as part of Sheeba. She has got a fan.
Song C is “Couldn’t Live My Life” by Jody McStravick. He loves a restaurant. Song D is “The Circus Song” by talented 18-year-old Jacinta Whyte, accompanied on-stage by a bench and a not-at-all creepy clown. Song E is “Long Before” by singer-songwriter Jane Cassidy. Song F is “Hearts” by Mike Sherrard who is wearing his decorations in honour of the night.
Song G is “Hold Her Now” by Trish O’Brien, part of a musical family. And finally, Song H is “Wait Until The Weekend Comes” by Maria Christian, who hits a high note. While the juries consider their verdicts, it’s time for an interval, featuring Linda Martin and Chips with their versions of songs including “Dead Ringer For Love” and “New York New York”, I’m sure that the studio audience were thrilled by it.
Now it’s time to wheel out the old scoreboard for the results as it’s decision time. I know that technology has advanced a lot over the years, but a part of me does miss shows like this using an LCD scoreboard. The votes are given by the 11 juries out-of-vision down a crackly phone line, with ten votes given to the songs. The tension has begun to mount backstage, and one song is beginning to streak into the lead, put it this way, it’s not looking good for the clown.
And the winner with an unassailable score of 28 points is “Wait Until The Weekend Comes”! Maria Christian will close the show with a reprise of the song once she has got her breath back. The winning composers receive a trophy and a cheque for £1,000. As it turned out, “Wait Until The Weekend Comes” finished in 6th place with a score of 91 points. Ireland’s greatest triumphs in Eurovision were yet to come.