The Eoropievision Song Contest

17 05 2013

In a previous article we saw how, back in 1974, 2 blones and 2 coves from Stornoway went off and won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden. (https://stornowayhistory.wordpress.com/tag/abba/)

But with all the fuss over in Malmo next weekend, it’s easy to forget that it’s not just continental Europe that can stage ridiculous overblown tackfests characterised by abysmal music, constant cultural and linguistic misunderstandings, and a voting system that serves to highlight rather than conceal the old enmities that have driven most of the participants to war against each other for centuries.

Oh no – indeed, many years before Johnny Foreigner came along and pinched the idea, the warring villages of Ness had set up a similar event in an effort to distract their citizens from knocking lumps out of each other in disputes about sheep’s earmarks, bothans, fences and the finer points of the Doctrine of Predestination. This was, of course, the Eoropievision Song Contest.

The village of Eoropie has long been known as “The Switzerland of Ness” due to its tendency to remain neutral during disputes between other townships in the area (and kindly offer to look after their money while they fight each other). It doesn’t have a chocolate industry to speak of, but it is well known for the manufacture of Guga Clocks.

Marcel Beistealachd, head of the Eoropie Broadcasting Union, conceived the idea of the Eoropievision Song contest in 1948. Beistealachd decided that –since one of the causes of intervillage warfare was the unending argument about whose Gaelic was ‘right’, the whole contest would be organised and run in French. Unfortunately none of the original judging panel knew any French numbers, and so in the first contest in 1949, everybody was awarded ‘Nul Point’ and came last.

Beistealachd was not deterred by this, nor by the complete absence in these days of electricity or televisions in the district. Over the next few years, several villages from outside Ness began to compete, and by the mid 60s, Eoropievision was a large scale affair involving most of the villages from the Butt to Barra. The exception was Point, whose hardline communist rulers refused to have anything to do with such decadent capitalist frivolity until the fall of the Braigh Wall in 1989. From 1989 onwards the Contest saw an increase in entries, as previously unheard of former ‘Rubhach Pact’ villages (such as Broker and Portvoller) submitted entries. As most of the Point villages had been cut off from modern culture for so long, these entries tended to be at least 40 years behind the rest of Lewis and Harris in terms of songwriting, and most entries tended to be all about the dream of catching a really big fish.

The Contest also had it fair share of controversy. In 1974 the Port Nis entry was a signal to the village’s populace to rise up in the ‘Damnation Revolution’ that overthrew their insufficiently hard-line minister, the Rev Marcelo Mackayetano. Uig cove Clibhe Richards still claims to this day that his song ‘Congregations’ was kept off the winning position by the revolutionaries.

In the late 1990’s the Inaclete entry from Dana Interdenominational caused consternation when it was discovered that she was not all she appeared to be, and was not really a Free Churcher but a Seceder!

Voting patterns are often dominated by politics. Castlebay, Arnol, Lochboisdale and Bragar always vote tactically against each other. Grimshader and Tolsta always give each other maximum points and nobody else gives ever them any. And despite the breakup of the old communist regime in Point, Garrabost sends its tanks out on “exercises” each year a week or so before the contest and then routinely receives “Douze Points” from all its former Rubhach Pact client villages in the area.

But the most common occurrence is the maws all ganging up and giving ‘Nul Point’ to the Stornoway entries. This was certainly the case when Engebret Fillingstation got fleek all votes last year (2012).

Winners and Notable Entries

  • ·Few Europievision winners went on to achieve lasting success, but H*bba, who won the 1974 contest, was a notable exception, topping the charts for years afterwards with hits such as  “Psalma Mia”, “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Plank And a Hammer”) and “Knowing Me, I Know Who It Was, Was it You?”.
  • ·In 1967, Sandie Shaw  – a supergroup composed of hard-gigging Plasterfield rawk chick  Sandie Mackinnon and quiet acoustic Newton thrash metal axeman Iain Shaw – won with “(Collie) Puppy on a String”
  • ·Bugsy Fizz – a supergroup composed of Bugsy and Cally Fizzags  – nearly won the 1981 contest with “Making Your Mind Up” (song about deciding on which Free Church splinter group to join). But the bit where they pulled off their skirts caused so much outrage that they were disqualified and exiled. This is how it went:

 

Making Your Mind Up (which breakaway church to join)

You gotta Secede it up

And then you gotta schism it down

Cos if you believe that a church can hit the top

You gotta pray around

And soon you will find at Communion Time

You’re making your mind up.

You gotta stand for prayers

And for psalms sit down

You gotta be sure that it’s something

Every elders gonna talk about

On Sunday Night

Before you decide the tithe is right

For making your mind up.

Don’t let your inner schism

Take you from behind

Trust your sinner vision

Don’t let FPs change your mind

 

  • ·Second rate Hearach H*bba wannabees the Brotherhood of Manish  won in 1976 with “Save All Your Fishes For Me”
  • ·In 1980 Johnny ‘Local’ – A white settler pretending to be a maw – sang the Lemreway entry and won. ‘Local’ was to become a fixture of the contest as a performer, writer and arranger for many years to come. But he’s still fleekeen ruppish.
  • ·Ciorstaidh-Anna and the Wakes won in 1997 with “Mamma Weer Al-Crae-zee Now”. Oh no it wasn’t – it was “A Hearse With No Name”. Or maybe “Going Down To Ullapool”. Or something.
  • ·And of course who can forget Finsbay’s unexpected 2006 winner : Grotesque cuireamach metal merchants Lord-i with “Hard Rock Thighearnabheannaichte”?

 

This year’s final takes place on Saturday night in Marvig.

Fleek knows who’s going to win  Probably not Bonnie Tyler – She was going to come and sing the Marybank entry “Total Eclipse of the Ceard” – but it turns out she’s got an other job on that night.

Our money’s on a Rubhach – probably thon Murdina Garrabostova. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll vote for her as well.

 

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ABBA: Thank You For The Marags

18 10 2010

Despite first hitting the headlines nearly 40 years ago, Swedish group ABBA are still very much a marketable commodity and remain as hugely popular now as they did during the 1970’s and early 80’s. The runaway success of both the Mama Mia stage show and the blockbuster film of the same name has ensured that the name ABBA, and their music, will remain to the fore for many years to come.
People will have heard of their humble beginnings and their early struggles for musical acceptance, but most people will be surprised to learn the true story of ABBA and their little known Stornoway connection.

In the early 1970’s four friends from Stornoway got together to form a musical group. The two coves and two blones had no ambition beyond playing in the Seaforth Hotel at wedding dances and perhaps maybe the odd Mod ceilidh. The two coves played the guitar and the accordion whilst the two blones sang waulking songs in gaelic.

The foursome tried out various names such as the ‘Covehood Of Man’ and ‘Fishboney M’ but didn’t come up with one that suited until they appointed a manager.

The person who took on the responsibility was called ‘Stink’ Anderson (so named as he drove the Ross & Cromarty County Councils septic tank lorry) and it was he who suggested that they took the initials of their names to create an unusual moniker.
And so it was that Annchris, Bingo, Bogey and Anni-Mary became ABBA.

Stink drove the group hard, making them play the Clachan every Friday night and the Cabar Public bar on Saturdays. It was here that the band perfected their dance routine of the two blone singers turning sideways, turning away from each other and then looking the other way. This was in order to avoid the various missiles being flung in their direction from Gaelic music purists who preferred to hear ‘The Kiora’ rather than ‘this fleeking deesco ruppish’. Eventually, it became a common feature of an ABBA gig to have an assortment of rotting vegetables flung stagewards in an attempt to get the group to sing ‘proper’ songs. By far the most common vegetable was the turnip, which resulted in the group getting nicknamed ‘The Swedes’.

However, in 1974, Stink managed to get the group a slot on the Calum Kennedy Show (after threatening to drive through Orinsay with all the taps open on his septic tank lorry). In order to make a big splash on the telly, ABBA invested in platform ‘Arnish’ Boots, Harris Tweed flared jump suits (from Mackenzie & MacSweens) and a bag of spangly seggs from Charlie Morrison’s to sew on instead of sequins.
Tickets were purchased for the ferry, bus and train and off ABBA went to the big mainland. Unfortunately, the group got slightly inebriated on the ferry and fell asleep in the back of the bus. When they awoke, the bus had reached Glasgow and on disembarking they became hopelessly lost.
In their confusion, they thought an advert in the paper said Europie Song Contest and so they set off to try their luck, unbeknownst that it was the actual  Eurovison Song Contest they were heading too.

On eventually reaching the Eurovision venue, Stink and the band wandered around getting hopelessly lost until at last they bumped in to Terry Wogan, who was desperately trying to co-ordinate each act and make sure each country went on in the right order.

‘Are you’se the Swedes?’ asked a clearly stressed out Wogan.

‘Yus, we’re The Swedes’ replied Stink, not realising his innocent mistake. No sooner than he’d opened his mouth, ABBA were ushered by Mr Wogan on to the stage and a worldwide tv audience of millions.

The four members of ABBA stood staring at the audience and tv cameras for several seconds until they eventually plucked up the courage to sing one of their favourite songs. This song was written by Bingo and Bogey and celebrated the coming of mains water to Marybank and the ability of the residents of this village to be able to flush the toilet for the first time. The song was of course Water Loo.

Of course, the global audience had no idea what ABBA were singing about in their broad Stornowegian lilt. However, the catchy tune and the repetitive chorus seemed to go down well with the whole of Europe. Once they finished the song, ABBA thought they’d make a hasty retreat from the stage, but were instead ushered into the green room by Terry Wogan where they had to sit there and wait for the results to be announced. Stink had whispered to them to try and grab a few bottles of champagne and make for the exits when no one was looking, so they were unprepared when the final result came in and Water Loo had swept the boards.

Taken totally by surprise, the four members of ABBA were swamped in flowers, praise and applause.  When Terry Wogan thrust a microphone in Bingo’s face, the awestruck singer could only mumble a few words in Gaelic and nod politely. For most of Europe, this strange language sounded Swedish enough. And as for the Swedish nation, they were delighted to have actually won something and so the whole population were happy to go along with the ploy that a wee band from Stornoway were instead from Stockholm.

ABBA had many hit records over the following years and if you listen closely you can hear the Stornoway influence in them all.

Dannsa Queen

Knawing Meat, Knawing Ewe

Ma, My Mini’s (got a flat battery can you give me a push?)

The Winner Ali’s Take Away (about the annual Stornoway curry championship)

Money, Money, Money (originally ‘Crofter Grant, Crofter Grant, Crofter Grant’)

Dè tha thu ag iarraidh (renamed Voulez Vous to sound posher & more cultured)

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man Of The Cloth After Midnight Cos Its Monday Then)

Does Your Mother Know a Cove called Alec Dan from Cromore?

The Name of the Game Soup

Thank You for the Marags

Water Loo