From singing grannies to hard rock monsters and drag queens, the Eurovision Song Contest has it all.
With its sequins, sparkle and unreliable performers, it’s less a singing contest and more a patriotic spectacle in gold lamé and Lycra.
What started out as a talent competition of just seven European nations in Lugano, Switzerland back in 1956, has now evolved into a televised behemoth that is bigger than Europe, attracting contestants from countries far flung as Australia and global superstars as big as Justin Timberlake and Madonna.
Part of Eurovision’s appeal is its addictive cocktail of campiness, song and spectacle, the approach to which is best summarised by the late, great Terry Wogan’s advice to his BBC Eurovision commentator successor, Graham Norton: “Don’t start drinking until song nine.”
The other part of Eurovision’s enduring appeal is the controversy surrounding it. The longest-running annual international television contest has seen its share of drama.
From bearded ladies to plastic turkeys, by way of Australia, we relive some of the best, wackiest and the most controversial moments of the Eurovision Song Contest in its 60 plus years.
1. KATIE PRICE’S ENTRY – 2005
In 2005, the mother-of-five famously made a bid to represent the UK at the Eurovision pre-selection show, Making Your Mind Up.
Singing a song entitled Not Just Anybody, the reality star was heavily pregnant at the time and emphasised the fact in a ghastly pink latex cat suit that had a Teletubbies vibe to it.
Needless to say, the song failed to make the cut and during her appearance on last year’s Celebrity Big Brother, Ms Price admitted it was one of her biggest regrets.
“I wouldn’t change anything apart from Eurovision,” she said. “I looked shocking, I sounded shocking and I couldn’t sing the song now, I couldn’t sing it then!”
2. THE DENMARK KISS – 1957
Eurovision has seen its fair share of sexy moments over the years but one of the first – and most shocking – came in 1957 courtesy of an on-stage kiss between Danes Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler.
Having performed Skibet skal sejle i nat (The Ship Will Be Leaving Tonight), the pair ended their routine with a kiss that went on for 11 seconds – the result, reportedly, of a stage hand failing to give them the cue to stop.
3. BLUE’S HAD ITS DAY – 2011
Ten years after the boyband formed, Blue marked their return to showbiz by performing the song I Can.
The song placed 10th, and the band complained they were the victims of political voting.
Their limited company, Blueworld, collapsed in 2013, and since then every member of Blue has declared themselves bankrupt. Blue have brought out two new albums, but you’d be forgiven for not having noticed. After the most recent, 2015’s Colours, sold fewer than 4000 copies in its first week on sale, Blue were dropped by their record label.
Poor Blue. Their Eurovision appearance may have been responsible for their relatively unsuccessful reunion, but equally to blame may be the fact that it is no longer the early 2000s, and just like Napster and Nokia 3310s, they’ve kind of had their day.
4. CLIFF RICHARD’S VOTE-RIGGING SCANDAL – 1968
Politically motivated vote-rigging has left a bitter taste in many a Briton’s mouth over the years, with the UK able to rely only on fellow nil points specialist, Ireland.
One of the most memorable instances came in 1968 when Cliff Richard’s Congratulations lost out to Spain’s Massiel singing La La La by just one mark.
Rumours at the time suggested Spain’s General Franco had sent emissaries to bribe participating countries with offers of buying their home-grown TV series.
Regardless of their veracity, Cliff has since gone on to sell more than 250 million records and is still loved today, while Massiel, although still a singer, has enjoyed a rather less stellar career.
5. ABBA’S ALMIGHTY WATERLOO – 1974
One of the most famous – and successful – Eurovision winners is Abba, who triumphed in Brighton in 1974 with Waterloo.
Following the win, the band went on to enjoy worldwide fame and in 2005, the chart topper was voted the best ever Eurovision Song Contest tune.
6. OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN’S NEAR WIN (FOR THE UK) – 1974
Australia might have entered for the first time in 2015, but performers from the country have already made cameo appearances, notably in 1974.
That was the year that Olivia Newton John, later famous for her career-defining turn as Sandy in Grease, appeared in the competition representing the UK.
Although the song, Long Live Love, was a good one, it was steamrollered by the Abba juggernaut and finished a disappointing second.
7. JAHN TEIGEN’S NIL POINTS – 1978
Eurovision’s point scoring system is notoriously unforgiving, with the leader board proving a source of anxiety for those languishing at the bottom.
One contestant who knows all-too-well how that feels is Norway’s Jahn Teigen, who in 1978 became the first person to achieve the infamous nil points.
His entry Mil etter mil (Mile After Mile) didn’t fare well with voters, leaving him red-faced when the rankings were announced.
8. BUCKFIZZ’S OUTFIT CHANGE – 1981
Bucks Fizz won the contest for the UK at the Dublin final in 1981. But while the song made headlines, the performance is remembered for a risqué outfit change halfway through.
While singing Making Your Mind Up, the male members of the group whipped off Jay Aston and Cheryl Baker’s skirts in what has now become known as the ‘skirt rip routine’.
So memorable did the manoeuvre prove, it has repeatedly been referenced in sitcoms and sketches by comedians such as Miranda Hart.
9. DANA INTERNATIONAL – 1998
Israeli Dana International wasn’t expected to win in 1998 but has since become one of the most iconic symbols of Eurovision.
Born male, Dana’s Birmingham triumph has led to greater acceptance of transsexuals, both within Eurovision and without.
“Winning was huge for me and my country,” says Dana, now 43. “But also for the gay and transsexual community all over Europe. I became a big gay icon all over Europe.”
10. TATU’S FROSTY RECEPTION – 2003
However bad the song might be, most entrants get a warm reception and a smattering of applause from the Eurovision crowd.
One entry that didn’t was Russia’s t.A.T.u who, in 2003 got a frosty reception after failing to turn up to rehearsals and insulting the other entrants, including calling Germany’s Lou a ‘witch’.
When the pair finally did make an at appearance at rehearsals they were met by boos and jeers from the audience.
11. JEMINI’S FLOP – 2003
Although the UK is no stranger to low scores, in 2003, a dismal new low was reached courtesy of brother and sister duo, Jemini.
Their dreadful ditty Cry Baby became the first British entry to score zero – comfortably beating the previous worst placing of 16th.
12. LORDI’S SHOCK WIN – 2006
The Finnish heavy metal band Lordi caused quite a stir in 2006 with their entry Hard Rock Hallelujah.
Looking like a quartet of orcs from Lord of the Rings, the band screamed themselves to first place at the Athens final.
What’s more, they also managed to rack up a record-breaking 292 points and remain the first and only entrant to take first place for Finland.
13. THE CYNDI/SCOOCH MIX-UP – 2007
He might have been much loved during his 37-year stint fronting the Song Contest in the UK but Terry Wogan doesn’t have an entirely unblemished record.
In 2007, the presenter made his most famous faux pas when he announced that the wrong act had been chosen to represent the UK at Eurovision.
While his co-host Fearne Cotton announced the correct name, Scooch, Wogan simultaneously shouted ‘Cyndi’ leaving the audience confused and Cyndi less than impressed.
14. VERKA SERDUCHKA’S SPACE-AGE MADNESS – 2007
Prior to Conchita Wurst’s winning turn, the title of Eurovision’s most memorable drag artist belonged to Ukraine’s 2007 entry, Verka Serduchka.
Her bizarre offering, Dancing Lasha Tumbai, saw her emerge clad in a tinfoil ensemble and singing an unfortunate tune, which nevertheless proved surprisingly popular.
Despite her popularity at Eurovision, the music fans of Russia had other ideas and she was banned from performing there for one year.
15. DUSTIN THE TURKEY – 2008
Ireland is no stranger to Eurovision success and have won an impressive seven times, despite also having a track record of fielding bizarre entries such as Jedward.
Most unusual of all was a puppet called Dustin the Turkey who in 2008, entered the contest with a song called Irelande Douze Point.
Unfortunately Dustin failed to secure douze point and finished 15th in the semi-finals – thus failing to progress to the grand final.
16. FINLAND’S LESBIAN KISS – 2012
In 2012, Finnish entrant Krista Siegfrids’s performance of Marry Me became a landmark moment for her country after she kissed her girlfriend during the performance. The move was in protest at her country’s ban on gay weddings.
17. LOREEN’S SMASH-HIT – 2012
While early winners tended to go on to enjoy stellar careers, in recent years, Eurovision successes have been few and far between.
One singer who has bucked the trend is Sweden’s Loreen, who in 2012 went on to top the charts in 17 different countries with her hit Euphoria.
Since then, she has gone on to release several albums.
18. CONCHITA WURSTS BEARDED TRIUMPH – 2014
When Austria announced that a bearded drag queen would be representing them in the Eurovision Song Contest it is fair to say that a few eyebrows were raised.
However, far from the novelty act that had been expected, Conchita provided a flawless vocal performance and attracted votes from countries which actively inhibit LGBT rights.
Ahead of her smash hit performance several countries threatened to cut the song until they were forced into a U-turn by the European Broadcasting Union. Conchita came first and has since become a symbol of tolerance and freedom in the EU.
19. STAGE INVADER RUINS UK’S SURIE’S PERFORMANCE – 2018
The UK’s SuRie was performing ninth on the billing of 26 entries at last year’s competition when she was rudely interrupted.
Half-way through her performance of Storm, a stage invader ran on, took her microphone and shouted: “For the Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom,” before being tackled by security.
SuRie opted to carry on with her performance and had to wait for a new microphone to be brought to her.
Despite coming in 24th out of 26th, SuRie was praised by everyone for her professionalism, with Graham Norton describing her as a ‘national heroine’.
20. SIX GRANNIES HAVE A PARTY – 2012
Six grannies called Buranovskiye Babushki from Russia came second in 2012, and won the crowd over with their cute lyrics about lighting the oven, kneading dough and spreading the table cloth while waiting for the children to come home.
They had a combined age of 300 years.
21. JEDWARD – 2012
Irish singing and television presenting duo John and Edward Grimes, collectively known as Jedward, sang at the 2012 song contest, finishing in 19th place.
They later used their song, Waterline, as the opening track on their album Young Love.
22. JOSH DUBOVIE’S EPIC FAIL – 2010
Emerging from a giant IKEA KALLAX shelving unit, Josh Dubovie looked beyond delighted to be representing the UK in Oslo back in 2010 – and his wide-eyed ambition makes the immense failure of ‘That Sounds Good To Me’ even more painful to bear.
Penned by ‘80s pop veteran Pete Waterman, it possesses all the dated swagger of a cheesy show tune, and Dubovie inadvertently resembles a Canary Wharf banker undoing the top button and ‘letting loose’ on a Tuesday afternoon.
Led by the worst odds in UK Eurovision history, the dud ultimately scored a paltry 10 points.