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Ten Memorable Eurovision Moments

Ukrainian drag queen Verka Serduchka (center) whose nutty ditty "Dancing Lasha Tambai" flabbergasted Eurovision audiences in 2007.
Ukrainian drag queen Verka Serduchka (center) whose nutty ditty "Dancing Lasha Tambai" flabbergasted Eurovision audiences in 2007.
As the Eurovision final draws near, the Internet is awash with "best of" and "worst of" lists featuring songs from the contest over the past seven decades.

Given the sheer nuttiness of a competition that includes anything from septuagenarian Russian grannies to hyperactive Irish goblin-twins, we believe such value judgments are kind of impossible as far as Eurovision is concerned.

Instead, we've decided to compile a list of our most memorable Eurovision moments, focusing on those songs which -- for better or worse -- have left an indelible mark on our consciousness.

Naturally, it's by no means a comprehensive list, so feel free to add your own suggestions and links in the comments section.

10) FRANCE GALL -- "Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son" (Luxembourg, 1965)

Given that it is generally regarded as the event that put the word "euro" into "eurotrash," it may surprise some people that there was once a time when the Eurovision Song Contest was considered to be, well, quite good.

In its 1960s heyday, Eurovision gave a major fillip to the careers of international stars such as Sandie Shaw, Lulu, and (ahem) Cliff Richard.

Arguably the best song from the golden age of Eurovision is "Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son" ("Doll Of Wax, Doll Of Sawdust"), which won first prize for Luxembourg in 1965.

This infectiously catchy number helped bring singer France Gall and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg's own unique brand of "ye, ye" pop to a wider audience.

9) JAHN TEIGEN -- "Mil Etter Mil" (Norway, 1978)

In recent decades, Eurovision has become such a byword for kitsch cultural pap that failing to score any points at the contest is almost considered an achievement.

The legendary phrase "nul points" has also entered the English lexicon as a jocular way of referring to a "hopelessly inept performance."

One man who deserves more credit for this than most is Norway's Jahn Teigen. His worthy, but otherwise innocuous, "Mil Etter Mil" ("Mile After Mile") is famous today for being the first-ever song to be unanimously panned after the voting format had been changed to the classic 1-12 point-scoring system.

In hindsight, Teigen's emotive, live-orchestra-era ballad definitely doesn't seem so awful by Eurovision standards and there have undoubtedly been far worse songs performed at the contest.

Happily, Teigen was undeterred by his setback. He returned to Eurovision in 1982 ("Adieu") and 1983 ("Do Re Mi") and managed to score enough points to finish 12th and 9th respectively.

8) OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN -- "Long Live Love" (United Kingdom, 1974)

Eurovision 1974 is perhaps best known for launching the career of Swedish superstars ABBA, whose winning song "Waterloo" put them on the road to international stardom.

It's often forgotten, however, that another global star announced herself at Eurovision the same year.

Years before she became a household name after starring in the hit musical "Grease," Olivia Newton-John represented the United Kingdom with "Long Live Love," which finished in a respectable fourth place.

7) LORDI -- "Hard Rock Hallelujah" (Finland, 2006)

Scandinavian countries have something of a legendary status at Eurovision for their occasional offbeat approach to the song contest.

Finland, in particular, has a habit of ripping up the Eurovision rulebook and coming up with something completely different (more on that later).

This was particularly true in 2006, when it's safe to say that most Eurovision fans had never seen anything quite like Lordi.

Their heady mix of monster masks, power chords, and pyrotechnics had audiences gaping when they stormed onto the stage to perform "Hard Rock Hallelujah" in 2006.

Their heavy-metal approach seemed to pay dividends, however. Telephone voters embraced the novelty and the band romped home as winners with a record 292 points.

6) DANA INTERNATIONAL -- "Diva" (Israel, 1998)

In view of its reputation for high-camp, it's not surprising that the flamboyant transsexual Dana International was welcomed with open arms by the Eurovision community.

Although her international hit "Diva" easily won the song contest for Israel in 1998, she caused a major controversy in her home country, where many Orthodox Jews objected to her representing the Jewish state.

In this sense, her victory was more that just about music, and gave her an opportunity to round on her critics.

"My victory proves God is on my side," she said defiantly after winning. "I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness and say to them: try to accept me and the kind of life I lead. I am what I am and this does not mean I don't believe in God, and I am part of the Jewish nation."

Dana International has since gone on to represent Israel twice more at Eurovision and was voted the 47th greatest Israeli of all time in 2005.

5) DUSTIN THE TURKEY -- "Irlande Douze Pointe" (Ireland, 2008)

Many people would say that plenty of turkeys have been performed at Eurovision down through the years.

Only Ireland, however, can claim to have deliberately sent a turkey to sing at the contest.

Despite being Eurovision's most successful contestant (with seven victories), Ireland last won the competition way back in 1996.

Consequently, after being starved of success for more than a decade, in 2008 the Irish eschewed their traditional power-ballad approach to the competition and opted to send the hugely popular TV presenter Dustin the Turkey instead.

His "Irlande Douze Pointe" was supposed to be a playful parody of the Eurovision contest. Unfortunately, many voters didn't get the joke and Dustin failed to make the final (prompting allegations of "fowl play" in some quarters).

4) VERKA SERDUCHKA -- "Dancing Lasha Tambai" (Ukraine, 2007)

One of the most demented Eurovision performances in recent years has to be controversial drag queen Verka Serduchka's hilariously flamboyant and upbeat "Dancing Lasha Tambai," which wowed audiences in 2007.

Although the song eventually finished runner-up in the contest to Serbian singer Marija Serifovic's "Molitva" ("Prayer"), it was the accordion-powered Ukrainian ditty that went on to become a major international hit.

3) DSCHINGIS KHAN -- "Dschingis Khan" (Germany, 1979)

It's safe to say that Germany has been responsible for some of Eurovision's most memorable moments.

For wildly differing reasons, the Teutonic nation has given Eurovision watchers tons of golden moments to savor, including Nicole's "Ein Bischen Friede"("A Little Peace" 1982), Stefan Raab's "Wadde Hadde Dudde Da" (2000), and Alex Swings Oscar Sings "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang" (2009).

The song that has to take the cake, however, is "Dschnigis Khan" by the band of the same name.

To be fair, this outrageously camp affair probably didn't seem so outlandish in 1979 given that Boney M were riding high in the charts at the time, but the song certainly stands out like a sore thumb more than three decades later.

2) SCHMETTERLINGE -- "Boom Boom Boomerang" (Austria, 1977)

Despite the Germans' wonderful Eurovision pedigree, their Austrian cousins have also frequently given them a run for their money when it comes to sublimely ridiculous musical offerings.

To this day, nobody is quite sure whether Schmetterlinge (Butterflies) were deliberately trying to send up the kitsch nature of Eurovision in 1978, or whether they were deadly serious.

Unfortunately, the song's lyrics failed to shed any further light on the subject, and several decades later Eurovision aficionados are still scratching their heads over verses like these:

Boom boom boomerang, snadderydang
Kangaroo, boogaloo, didgeridoo
Ding dong, sing the song, hear the guitar twang
Kojak, hijack, me and you

It's not the only time Austria has memorably baffled Eurovision audiences, however.

Alf Poier's air-drumming antics during "Weil Der Mensch Zahlt" ("Man Is The Measure Of All Things") finished in sixth place in 2003 when Icelandic songstress Birgitta's far less memorable "Open Your Heart" was the winner.

1) FREDI AND THE FRIENDS -- Pump-Pump (Finland, 1976)

The 1976 Eurovision Song Contest was a particularly good vintage, giving the United Kingdom's Brotherhood of Man an international smash hit when their "Save Your Kisses For Me" cruised to victory for the United Kingdom.

In the decades since then, however, it is perhaps Finland's Fredi & The Friends for which that year's contest is best remembered.

In fairness, in view of ABBA's success a couple of year's previously, you can see what Fredi and the gang were trying to achieve here, but let's just say they didn't quite scale the same heights as the Swedish combo.

Not surprisingly, the band didn't do terribly well in the contest, but at least they (and the audience) seemed to enjoy themselves.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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