THERE are guilty pleasures and then there is the Eurovision Song Contest.
What other event combines terrible music, kitsch costumery and awful dance routines to such irresistible effect?
It says something for Eurovison’s enduring naffness that, when the Irish Examiner sat down to compile its shortlist of weirdest entrants, Jedward didn’t come close. To crack this top ten, you’ll have to do better than troll hair and fake Californian accents.
1. Peter, Sue and Marc (Switzerland, 1979): Eurovision stalwarts Peter, Sue and Marc competed four times, singing in as many languages. Their 1979 entry was the keeper. It began with the group dancing against a mocked-up garden, then donning a hose and garbage bags, the better to channel the experience of dawdling on a manicured lawn. Heavens knows what any of this had to do with their song, Trodler Und Ko (Dawdler and Co). They finished tenth. They had been detained by airport security to explain why their suitcases were stuffed with black bags and lengths of tubing.
2. Dana International (Israel 1998): The winner of the Birmingham-hosted Eurovision, Tel Aviv-born transexual Yaron Cohen — stage name Dana International — would later be voted 47th greatest Israeli. Unusually, the winning song, Diva, became a proper hit, charting across the Continent and reaching number 11 in Britain. A year, later Dana was back in the Eurovision spotlight, tripping on her dress as she was about to award the first-prize trophy to that year’s winners.
3. Guildo Horn (Germany 1998): Among Eurovision devotees, there is no greater travesty than the failure of German cow-bell clanger Horn to win in Birmingham. Looking like a homeless person having a bad year, the wild-haired, crazy-eyed Horn bashed out a ridiculous rock-opera dirge while plunging into a disbelieving front row, played a solo on an array of bells set on a table, and finished by climbing a rigging that overhung the audience. The song was pants, the performance douze pointes, and then some.
4. Lordi, Finland 2006: Looking as if they’d got lost en route to the set of the Lord of the Rings, Finland’s Lordi were a monster metal band who dressed and sounded the part. Clad in scary latex, they channelled their inner Balrogs while delivering an agreeably tuneful dollop of heavy-metal silliness.
5. Verka Serduchka, Ukraine 2007: A jolly fat man wrapped in baco-foil plays the accordion as backing dancers hoof about in glow-in-the-dark lederhosen. Either someone has spiked your tea or you are watching YouTube footage of the 2007 Eurovision. Ukraine’s entry was pipped by a drearily worthy Serbian power-ballad, rated as one of the bigger disappointments in the recent history of the contest.
6. Scooch UK (2007): Less a pop song than a Benny Hill sketch with a backing track, the entry from Steps clones Scooch was weighed down with end-of-pier innuendo. Dressed as cabin crew, the perma-grinning foursome dropped such choice couplets as ‘would you like something to suck on for landing sir’, and sundry gags about oral sex. For their pains, they placed second from bottom and were lashed in the UK media, which described them as ‘the laughing stock of Europe’ and a ‘crash landing.’ We shouldn’t laugh. Ireland finished one spot below, in last place, with Dervish’s horrible hook-up with John Waters (which received just five points, from Albania).
7. Dustin, Ireland (2008): When word got out that Ireland was sending a puppet turkey to Belgrade as its Eurovision entrant, it was widely assumed to be a joke. Alas, Irelande Douze Pointes was all too real and duly made its appearance at the semi-final, though it failed to progress further. Beforehand, Dana, winner of the 1970 contest, had suggested it would be better to send no entry than dispatch a latex glove puppet to Serbia. She was derided — but perhaps there was wisdom in what she had to say.
8. Elnur and Sami, Azerbaijan (2008): One was dressed like an angel, with enormous feathery wings, the other a devilish figure in black S&M corset. The song was a forgettable metal ballad — but the costumes carried Azerbaijan’s entry to a delicious place beyond camp.
9. Stephane and 3G, Georgia (2009): Barely had the last Russian tank exited Georgian soil after their recent armed conflict, than Moscow’s plucky neighbour was extracting revenge through the ancient medium of dinky Euro-pop. So unsubtle were the sentiments behind We Don’t Wanna Put In, it’s a wonder they didn’t just call the song Swivel On This, Vladimir.
10. Zdob si Zdub, Moldova, 2011: Madness dressed as the Smurfs, with costumes by Salvador Dali, is as good a description as any of Moldova’s entry. Three of the entourage sported enormous, pointy black hats, which you stopped noticing as soon as the female singer in the fairy costume arrived by unicycle. “Brilliant and absurd,” was the assessment of Adele-producer Paul Epworth. “It was so far removed from the slick operations of the western European entries.” We aren’t going to disagree.