Jul 172012
 

Last week a guy I only know through Internet means but really enjoy “seeing” posted something about how much cooler Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac are than Bruce Springsteen. I’m not a fan of either band, but thoroughly dig 6 to 8 songs by each band. Stevie Nicks solo, however, is atrocious. What’s that “Tears Like a White Winged Dove” song, or whatever she’s going on about? She should have been gagged once that thing hit the airwaves.

I can understand Boss Backlash as well as anyone, but although I once did a few weeks’ time trying to convince myself of the “genius” of Lindsey Buckingham, the long-running mystification of Fleetwood Mac baffles me. They were a pretty cool, pretty weird mainstream band with a half dozen killer songs. However, I’m too old and was too-cool-for-school as an outwardly dorky teenager to pretend these days that “Landslide” and deep cutz from Buckingham’s Go Insane album should get me looking off into the distance or reflecting on missed opportunities to snort mounds of cocaine.

Fleetwood Mac, Steely DanABBA, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band have been discussed here before, I’m sure. Who approved their Critical Upgrades? Each band has its charms. I’m not immune to the best songs by those bands in small doses, but for the last 20 years their stature as Important Mainstream Rock Artists Who Were Hipper Than We Originally Thought has exploded. I can’t buy into this. There were hipper bands then, and there have been hipper bands since. The fact that they were relatively hip doesn’t make them hip. I’ve scoured enough used bins to find relative gems from an era’s music I generally (and probably rightfully) ignored.

What I want to know is which of these bands will lose their Cinderella powers first? Whose limo will turn back into a pumpkin? I think the clock is ticking on at least 2 of the following 4 artists, while 1 artist’s belated hip status is ascending. What do you think? What other bands fall into this category, and what perhaps rightfully looked down-up (by music snobs) ’80s artists are now becoming unfathomably hip?

Which '70s mainstream band that became hip long after the fact is due to revert to its previously uncool status first?

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Mar 302012
 

It’s coming…

I have been watching the Eurovision Song Contest since about 1971, which means that, even allowing for the years when I have had other demands on my time, I have devoted something like a whole week of my life to the event.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, there were a group of European countries, who just ten years previously had either been at war with one another, occupied by or occupying one another, or keeping out of it by pleading neutrality. An organisation based in Switzerland called the European Broadcasting Union put forward the suggestion that an international song contest should be held, primarily to test the limits of live television broadcasting technology, but also to promote international harmony.

And so in 1956, in Switzerland, seven countries tested the technology, and ever since then, on a Saturday evening in the Spring, Europe pauses to come together in a festival of music to unite the continent.

By the time I became aware of the competition, sometime around 1970 or thereabouts, it was well established, and the format had shown itself to be quite adaptable, with an increasing number of nations taking part. The national broadcasting organisation in each participating country is fairly autonomous, so I can only attempt to describe the Contest through a British pair of eyes.

I have a compilation of every winner since 1956 (including all four tied winners from 1969 – they ran out of medals and after the Contest had to go away and work out how to stop it happening again), which I have been known to play on long car journeys.

As a service to the Hall I have edited the highlights among the winners down to just under eighteen minutes. The sound quality is highly variable, but I am sure that this will be the least of the worries of some Townsfolk when faced with some of the music contained herein.

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Alternatively, here’s Lulu.

Early in the year, each broadcaster selects, in whichever way it sees fit, an artist and a song to represent the country. In the early 1970s the British entry was selected through the Cliff Richard Show, with somebody like Olivia Newton-John, The Shadows (without Cliff), or Cliff himself singing a song each week and viewers would vote for the song they preferred, which would then proceed to the Contest. If I remember correctly, this was done by viewers cutting out a coupon from the Radio Times (the BBC’s TV listings magazine, in existence since before telly – hence the title) and posting it to the BBC. This was in the days when British homes tended to have small black and white televisions, but tended not to have telephones, so it probably was the most democratic selection process available at the time. I remember my Grandma telling me in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t waste her money on the Radio Times, so I don’t think we ever voted.

From very early on in its history, the Contest has been hosted by the winner of the previous year’s competition. Every country works to put on a show more impressive than those which have gone before, a bit like the Olympic Games, which inevitably costs quite a lot to stage, but works quite well unless a country has a winning streak for several years. In the 1990s, Ireland won it 3 years on the trot, and again a couple of years later, and their Government were seriously concerned that the Irish economy would collapse if it had to pay for another one – at which point they decided to ensure that they selected a song which couldn’t possibly win. This may at first glance appear quite straightforward, in a “Springtime for Hitler” sort of way – but doesn’t always pay off. I’ll get to the songs themselves in a bit.

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