Eurovision Song Contest

This section contains reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest over the past six decades. On this page we look at 1990-1996; the other pages in this section cover 1956-1966, 1967-1975, 1976-1982, 1983-1989, 1997-2001, 2002-2005, 2006-2009, 2010-2013, 2014-2017 and 2018.


1990

Host country: Yugoslavia
Won by: Italy - Insieme: 1992 by Toto Cutugno
UK entry: Give a Little Love Back to the World by Emma
Full results: eurovision.tv

"Well we are obviously having a great time," said presenter Helga Vlahovic in deadpan fashion during this year's contest, held in Zagreb in Yugoslavia. The Spanish duo Azucar Moreno presumably weren't having that great a time. First on to perform, their backing track failed to start. "This could be a long evening," muttered Terry Wogan, as the backing track eventually came on in the wrong place, causing the pair to miss their cue. They walked off in disgust, leaving their band looking like a bunch of lemons on the stage as the music continued to play. The song was eventually restarted and everything went to plan on the second attempt.

Politics was on the minds of some of the entries, with Norway and Austria referencing the recent fall of the Berlin Wall, and Italy's Toto Cutugno urging the nations of Europe to come together. Emma Booth was the UK's youngest ever entrant - turning 16 years old later in the year, the new age limit rule meant she was only just eligible due to take part. Concerns over the environment were at the forefront at the start of the 1990s, and it was this that inspired the theme of her entry, 'Give a Little Love Back to the World'.

But it seemed the minds of jurors was more focused on Europe than the environment, for it was Toto's anthem about European unity that would triumph. It was not one of the most highly regarded winners of all time - but worse was to come, when Toto would be chosen to co-host the following year's contest...


1991

Host country: Italy
Won by: Sweden - Fangad Av En Stormvind by Carola
UK entry: A Message to Your Heart by Samantha Janus
Full results: eurovision.tv

1991 is remembered as possibly the most shambolic contest in Eurovision's history - and it was largely down to one man, Toto Cutugno, the previous year's winner, who hosted alongside Italy's only other winner, Gigliola Cinquetti. The duo broke with tradition by eschewing the usual French and English, and presenting the whole show, other than the voting, in Italian only. Thanks to Toto's incessant chatter, the show overran by nearly half an hour.

Following one of the longest opening sequences so far, the contest finally got going with the presumably ironically titled Baby Doll from Yugoslavia. Other entries included Norway's Just 4 Fun who numbered among them Hanne Krogh who first participated in 1971, and then won in 1985 as one half of Bobbysocks. Malta scored strongly with their first entrants since 1975, Georgina and Paul Giordimaina, who finished sixth. Doing less well was the UK's entry, Samantha Janus (now Womack), who finished tenth with 'A Message to Your Heart', a cry for help for the needy and starving, a lyrical theme which jarred somewhat with the song's upbeat tempo.

As voting got under way, it didn't take long for things to descend into mayhem. Toto appeared to have little command of any language other than Italian - in fact neither presenter seemed to have much idea of what was going on, with EBU scrutineer Frank Naef having to step in and take over the announcing of the votes at one point, amid Toto's continual wittering and cries of 'Mr Naef!'. Terry Wogan speculated that Mr Naef might well "knock his block off" once the contest was over.

The voting ended in a tie, which didn't help matters, with France's Amina and Sweden's Carola both scoring 146 points. Luckily, however, there was be no repeat of the farce that happened the last time there was a tie, in 1969, with a mechanism now in place to sort out a winner. Both countries had notched up the same number of 'douze point' scores, but as Sweden had received more sets of 'dix points', victory was handed to Carola. She had previously appeared at Eurovision in 1983 and would come back again in 2006. Her bouncy, upbeat number stood out this year from a glut of ballads.

However many feel that France, with Amina's sultry African-influenced track, was robbed. The tie-break rule was changed in later years so that the winner would be the one that had received votes from the greater number of countries. Had that rule been in place in 1991, then France would have won.

But as for Eurovision's most infamous presenter, well, we never did find out if Frank Naef knocked his block off...


1992

Host country: Sweden
Won by: Ireland - Why Me? by Linda Martin
UK entry: One Step Out of Time by Michael Ball
Full results: eurovision.tv

The UK revamped its selection process in 1992, reverting to the earlier method of drafting in one well-known singer to perform a selection of songs for the public to choose from. The unwitting victim was Michael Ball, and the chosen song, 'One Step Out of Time', was certainly the strongest of those on offer. After a couple of years of disappointing results, the UK looked to be in contention for the top slot again. However, they reckoned without the return of the King of Eurovision.

Johnny Logan was nowhere to be seen as the songs were performed - instead he had penned the Irish entry, 'Why Me?', sing by Linda Martin, who herself had made an earlier appearance at the contest, in 1984. Logan would prove to have the magic touch once again, as Ireland won the contest for the fourth time, pushing the UK into second place.

Later, Michael Ball famously said he'd rather stick pins in his eyes than take part in Eurovision again.


1993

Host country: Ireland
Won by: Ireland - In Your Eyes by Niamh Kavanagh
UK entry: Better the Devil You Know by Sonia
Full results: eurovision.tv

Eurovision rolled into the small Irish town of Millstreet in 1993, and three new nations made their debut at the contest. With Yugoslavia making its final appearance as a single nation the previous year, in 1993, a pre-qualifying contest was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for seven Eastern European countries new to Eurovision. Only three could qualify, and intriguingly, it was only the former Yugoslavian countries which proceeded to the final - neighbourly voting anyone? The new countries' entries included 'Don't Ever Cry' by the Croatian group Put, a cry for peace amidst the conflict in Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, Germany entered the band Munchener Freiheit, all dressed in white, who were known in the UK for their 1988 hit 'Keeping the Dream Alive'. Luxembourg entered Eurovision for the final time to date with a group was named Modern Times - but that was not reflected in their hairstyles which looked about ten years out of date. Other fashion faux pas came from Slovenia's 1X Band, and, notably, the Belgian singer Barbara Dex, who wore a dress she had made herself. A few years later, a Eurovision fan website regarded the outfit as being so bad that it set up an annual award in her name to honour the worst-dressed singer at each contest.

The UK employed the services of former chart-topper Sonia, and with her catchy upbeat number, 'Better the Devil You Know' (nothing to do with the recent Kylie Minogue hit of the same name), surely the UK had to be in with a fighting chance this year? As the voting progressed, it seemed as if we might well be, ending in the most nail-biting finish since 1988. With the EBU having failed to get through to Malta first time around, they were recalled at the end to become the last country to give their votes. At that point, Sonia stood with 164 points, while Ireland's Niamh Kavanagh had 175. We needed to get the maximum 12 points, and for Ireland to get nothing, in order to win by one point. Would the Maltese come up with the goods?

No they wouldn't - it was Ireland that received Malta's 'douze points', with nothing at all for Sonia. And so the UK's hopes were dashed yet again, notching up its fourteenth second placing in the history of the contest.

So that was two wins in a row for the Irish - surely they couldn't make it three?


1994

Host country: Ireland
Won by: Ireland - Rock 'n' Roll Kids by Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan
UK entry: Lonely Symphony (We Will Be Free) by Frances Ruffelle
Full results: eurovision.tv

With Irish broadcaster RTE having to stage Eurovision for the second year in a row, they were understandably quite keen to avoid the prospect of having to shoulder the cost of organising it for a third time. And so their entry for 1994, Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan's 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids', a gentle song about lost youth, was widely rumoured to be their attempt at making sure they didn't win the contest again.

Italy had a better plan for ensuring they didn't win - they withdrew altogether, claiming the contest had 'no musical merit'. Hard to disagree, really... However there was to be a whole host of new entrants - following the collapse of communism, several nations from Central and Eastern Europe now wanted to have play at Eurovision. In view of the increased number of entrants, to ensure that the contest didn't drag on for another few hours, the relegation system was introduced, in which the lowest scoring countries from the previous year could not take part.

Star of musicals Frances Ruffelle was the UK's entry this year, but her 'Lonely Symphony' only came in tenth. Three places higher was the entry from France, 'Je suis un vrai garcon' by Nina Morato, of which no one appeared to notice contained a French swear word!

It seemed neither the new entries nor Eurovision's old timers were capable of overcoming the Irish. To the delight of the excitable Irish audience, and the dismay of everyone else - including RTE - Harrington and McGettigan's unassuming song saw Ireland cruise to an even bigger victory than the previous two years, amassing 78.5% of the maximum score possible, and 60 points ahead of the second placed song.

The 1994 contest is perhaps better remembered for the interval act than any of the songs. Thanks to the exposure given to it by Eurovision, Bill Whelan's Riverdance would go on to become a global sensation.


1995

Host country: Ireland
Won by: Norway - Nocturne by Secret Garden
UK entry: Love City Groove by Love City Groove
Full results: eurovision.tv

The 1995 contest was held once again in Dublin, and to the relief of RTE's accountants, the home entry, 'Dreamin'' by Eddie Friel, only came in fourteenth. Being the 40th contest, the show began with a montage of clips from past shows.

The UK revamped their selection process again, with a much more contemporary feel. A variety of groups and singers were up for selection in A Song for Europe, with songs that wouldn't have sounded out of place in the charts of the day. Indeed, some of the acts, such as Deuce and Londonbeat, had already enjoyed some chart success.

In the end, however, it was an unknown group, Love City Groove with their eponymous entry, who went to Dublin with their blend of rap and soul, easily the most modern-sounding song the UK had ever entered. However the international juries didn't think much of our attempt at going hip and trendy, and the Love City Groovers had to be content with tenth place.

The winning song couldn't have been more of a contrast. Ireland may not have won the contest, but it was won by a song that sounded Irish. Norway's Secret Garden, a group that even included an Irish violinist, triumphed with 'Nocturne', a Celtic-tinged entry that was criticised for being little more than an instrumental, containing a mere seven lines of lyrics.

Still, something completely different would win next year - wouldn't it?


1996

Host country: Norway
Won by: Ireland - The Voice by Eimear Quinn
UK entry: Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit by Gina G
Full results: eurovision.tv

Eurovision returned to Norway in 1996 - although they spent much of the contest trying to call it 'Eurosong'. The presenters were A-ha frontman, Morten Harket, and the not-at-all-annoying Ingvild Bryn.

For the first and only time in 1996, a non-televised pre-selection process took place in order to whittle down the 29 entering countries to 22. Only the host country, Norway, was guaranteed a place. Furious following their disqualification, Germany threatened to pull out of the contest for good. As they are one of the biggest contributors to the EBU, in 2000 the 'Big Four' rule was introduced meaning Germany, France, the UK and Spain would now be guaranteed a place in the Eurovision Song Contest final every year. And as for the pre-qualifier, it was never used again - the relegation system was reintroduced in 1997.

The UK, not deterred at their lack of success the previous year, entered another contemporary song, this year an uptemp dance number, 'Ooh Aah...Just a Little Bit', performed by Australian singer Gina G. It seemed as if the UK might finally be onto a winner, but it was not to be, with Gina G only managing to make it to eighth place (though on the night, a scoring error where points intended for the Netherlands had been awarded to Poland meant the UK was shown on the scoreboard as having finished seventh).

Instead, there were groans across Europe as normal service was resumed. Ireland's Eimear Quinn won the contest with 'The Voice', another Celtic-influenced song, only with more words than last year's. Ireland were thus victorious for the fourth time in five years.

At this time, the songs were still being voted for solely by the international juries, with viewers at home having no say in the result. With Gina G going on to score a worldwide hit, and the likes of Secret Garden and Eimear Quinn disappearing back into obscurity, it seemed as though those juries were getting increasingly out-of-touch, voting down anything approaching modern pop. Maybe it was time to let the public have their say?


Next page: 1997-2001
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Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © the respective broadcasters