The Birth of Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe Through the World’s Greatest Song Contest


“Every May, 200 million people turn on their TVs or log on to the internet, not just to watch but to be part of the Eurovision Song Contest, an extravaganza of song, dance, stagecraft and politics.”

Ah yes… it’s that time of year again; the somewhat cheesy but yet, exhilaratingly exciting Eurovision Song Contest. I say exciting in preparation for all the crazy parties that ensue from this special event. The booze, the shots, the costumes; the perfect excuse to drink yourself silly and dress up in absurd outfits!

When I was small, it was an entirely different matter; Eurovision was a deadly serious sing off between us, (Great Britain) and the other competing countries (or so it was for me). Back then there was a chance that we would win, us, Great Britain to come top of the leader board!

Now, I see the naivety of my young mind. Eurovision is not a contest between singers but a political conquest between countries. It is a political game to demonstrate and strengthen the loyalties between nations. The singing? A camouflage to disguise their clever ruse.

In Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe Through the World’s Greatest Song Contest, Chris West even says in his introduction that “there’s politics in the songs. Not allowed through the front door, they sneak in through the back.” He further expresses proof of the political influence over the tournament by referring to the “1970s Eurovision song [that] even started a revolution.”

In spite of that, there have been those rare instances where music has prevailed over politics. In 2009, Norway’s winner, Alexander Rybak, reminded us all of the reason why Eurovision was created in the first place; the contest is about uniting the nations in performing beautiful music and enjoying every moment of it. It is there to showcase the world’s best performers, artists and singers for all the people of the nations to witness and appreciate.

West travels through the entirety of the Eurovision Song Contest from 1950 to 2016; six decade’s worth of focalised European history. The in-depth knowledge collected here is perfect for all fans of the world-wide event, even for those like myself, who have become a little out of touch from the competition and would like to discover more about the political aspects of the show, as well as the comical and quirky news stories. There are many moments that even the most hard-core enthusiast won’t be aware of which makes West’s book that much more riveting.

“Kooky presenter Desiree Nosbusch gave George Orwell a name-check in her intro to Eurovision 1984. The winning song would probably have brought a wry smile to the face of the great novelist, whose classic 1984 predicted, amongst other things, the existence of Prolesec, a department of the Ministry of Truth which churned out mindless entertainment for the masses, known as Prolefeed.”

Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe Through the World’s Greatest Song Contest provides a rich and detailed account of every show from its early stages to present day, expertly capturing the way in which the contest reflects our decadent society. Broaden your knowledge with the numerous facts conveyed by Chris West, bemuse yourself with the hilarious anecdotes from previous acts, but most of all, for the finale on May 13th, make sure you wear the most outrageous costume available, consume a ridiculous amount of alcohol (including florescent blue, red and white shots) and celebrate Eurovision for what it truly is; a satirical representation of our bizarre world.

Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe Through the World’s Greatest Song Contest by Chris West and is published by Melville House on 20th April 2017

(£9.99, p/b, 320pp, 9780993414992)

Post by Sarah

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