Roger Whittaker is 85 today!
(Photo by Helen Giles, Köln 2009)
2011 was a good year. Well, we thought so, Daughter and I, as we reminisced about that early Eurovision quarterfinal, or whatever they call it, which we caught on our half term in Sweden ten years ago. With hindsight it appears most of the good songs that year were on on the night we watched.
Last night we watched this year’s Swedish final, because now you can get Svt online, and also after the fact (we forgot it was on…). So we had ourselves some late night singing and gyrating and mostly bad puns. Some of the songs were quite good, and some were not. Daughter was happy with the winner, who will travel to Rotterdam in May, while I would have preferred someone else.
But at least that someone else proved that singers with good voices still get the opportunity to compete. There were two Klaras. I think this one was the Klara with a C, so Clara. Plus guitar. And a much less outlandish outfit. Or there were last year’s winners, who didn’t make it all the way this time, despite all that gold.
Though, having said that, I didn’t watch as much as I might have . There was more or less uninterrupted strobe lighting for the two hours. Nicely done, but I wanted my eyeballs to survive.
And Mello, which is obviously short for Melodifestivalen, but sounds like a snack, was quite a revelation. Most Swedes I know watch every instalment, commenting on social media on everything, down to the frequency of the boy singers touching their you-know-whats (I assume to make sure it didn’t get lost).
The man who has run this show for the last two decades is Christer Björkman, who I seem not to have known back when we were twelve. But I did read about his Stockholm house in one of my recent house interior magazines, shown before he takes himself off to the States to give them their own Eurovision. (Yes, I know. But let them have their fun.)
For Daughter there was Måns Zelmerlöw. He’s now been around long enough to almost count as a grand old man. Especially considering the winner last night was 19. Anyway, Måns is lovely, but I do wish he’d use his real local accent when he talks.
Once it was over, we sat and listened to some of the 2011 songs, one of which stuck in my head all night. The wrong one.
Back in 1991 I didn’t know I’d need it so much. After all, I’d been away from Sweden at Christmas, and Lucia, for years. And my nearest Swedish church was a seamen’s church, and what do those burly sailors know about beautiful singing in long white gowns? Well, we went anyway, and as the singing carried up the stairs in the church in Liverpool, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was so beautiful. And they weren’t sailors at all, of course. They were the children of Swedes in exile plus some students.
It was the same feeling I got yesterday as we sat around enjoying our morning coffee at CultureWitch Towers. Singing, coming from outside, possibly up the stairs. I don’t know. I’ve not been to the church in London. In a year when so much has had to be given up, here we were, with a real Lucia, filmed in an empty church, with all the necessary physical distancing in place. It was beautiful.
Lucia and her ten attendants sang most of the most beautiful, traditional songs, with only one unknown medley. For Oh, Holy Night they were joined by the church’s youth leader, who has a very good voice on him. There was a short greeting from the Ambassador and a blessing from the minister. And that was it. Short and sweet.
On a personal note, I was relieved to see that even this Lucia had a slightly lopsided crown of candles. I thought it was just Daughter, 15 years ago. But they are heavy things, those crowns. With live candles. The Resident IT Consultant asked where the people with the wet towels and the buckets of water were, and we decided they presumably hid behind the camera. He was on bucket guard more than once in the seamen’s church.
Later in the evening I watched Swedish television’s Lucia offering, filmed in Jukkasjärvi. It was beautiful too, in a different way. Very cold, judging by the breaths coming from Lucia and her many attendants. They were out of doors in the darkness of morning. There were reindeer. Behind the cellist sitting in the woods.
I had to look the place up. You can tell from the name that it’s in the far north, but how far? More or less next to Kiruna. Very beautiful, and very dark. And those teenagers sang so beautifully. They looked less slim than you’d expect, until you realise that they were wearing thick white coats, and mittens.
Both these Lucia events were wonderful. For the exile in me, the London one was better. I crave recognition, by which I mean I need to hear the same old songs again. The Jukkasjärvi selection consisted of mostly new [to me] songs.
Both the Lucias were called Lina.
And the cellist, with the reindeer behind him, looked very much like he was straight out of a Danish crime series. But with colder fingers.
I hope his nose grows. It was either that, or a different pair of glasses, as the man himself said, halfway through the concert. That’s Andy Fairweather Low, and one of my first thoughts during his live online gig tonight was that he needed to see his optician.
He’s very self-deprecating, isn’t he? I ask because I’m still almost a complete novice, but I really enjoyed this. Short, at just over an hour, but they had worked hard at deciding which half of their most popular repertoire they’d play. Some was new, some I knew.
And I do hope that they could hear us applauding all across the globe? That’s what goes missing when the only people in the room are themselves and – by the sound of it – friends and family? Or just crew, maybe.
I was struck by the enormity of it all; the reason a group like this needs to play live via YouTube, and the fact that they can, that it is possible to organise a concert and that anyone, anywhere can buy a ticket and tune in. My own armchair is more comfortable, even with the laptop balancing on a swivelling office chair, and the queue for the toilet was non-existent. But it’s not the same as live, as in the same room.
It will have to do, though. Seems the band had not seen each other for a long time, and their next date is April 2021.
It’s when you discover that the other two watching the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga with you are elf deniers, that you realise you didn’t know them. And whatever they say after to rectify their status is just too late.
Clearly the elves were not only real, but their presence in the film meant they had something to add to the plot other than for people to scoff. How could Iceland win Eurovision without them? (Maybe even with them would be too impossible, but you never know.)
Anyway. As so many have said online, it was a nice film. Really funny, true to the spirit of Eurovision, offering good Icelandic scenery and using the handful of actors who appear in everything made in or for Iceland. Lots of Eurovisiony songs, mostly enjoyable, and none too awful (unlike in real life).
It is the story of the once young Lars Erickssong and his possibly sister, possibly not, Sigrit Ericksdottir, who have always wanted to sing for Iceland [and win]. While it was a bit painful to hear the younger father of Lars, played by Pierce Brosnan, speak Icelandic, it got a lot better once they all spoke in accented English, as though most of the actors weren’t already native English speakers.
A bit gruesome at one point, it is mostly very funny. Lars and Sigrit obviously make it to Eurovision in Edinburgh, mostly filmed in Glasgow, except for the improbable car race near Edinburgh Castle. Because it’s how we drive here.
Dan Stevens is excellent as the rich Russian, and the cameos of ‘real’ Eurovision singers such as Conchita Wurst and Netta Barzilai and Alexander Rybak make for a fun moment.
And I have always known Mikael Persbrandt to be a bad one.
I’d quite like an album of the songs, but if I can only have one, it would have to be Jaja ding dong, which is the favourite of the locals in their home pub. Very more-ish that is. You can play it over and over again.
We should have more of this. It was actually both fun and enjoyable. Unless that’s the same thing?
Last night’s replacement for Eurovision was far better than the real deal. I’d thought it would be, but it was good to be proven right. There was no avoiding Graham Norton, or Mr Norton, as he was addressed by the polite ladies in Rotterdam.
He behaved much better, most of the time. (But there is still room for improvement.) First we had the reminiscing of the past, playing an odd and partly predictable selection of oldies and occasionally goldies from the last 60+ years of Eurovision. It was nice to see [some of] them again. I remembered what my problem with ABBA in 1974 had been. Embarrassingly large group, embarrassing clothes, and the surprise of them suddenly singing in English. Plus the winning, except that wasn’t bad so much as a surprise. Katie Boyle looked like Mrs Thatcher’s prettier sister.
And then they won again, in Saturday’s ‘contest’. Daughter was torn between ABBA and Måns Zelmerlöw but luckily she was allowed to vote for more than one.
Then came the more ‘real’ Eurovision, with two hours of this year’s hopefuls, directed by three nice people in Rotterdam. It was lovely! I feel I got to know them so much better than through the ‘postcards’ they usually have. We saw many of them in their homes, and we enjoyed counting the pieces of IKEA furniture, or noting who seemed to have none.
We fell in love a couple of times; the lovely young Italian man and the charming cheeky chap in Austria among them. We’d not have seen any of this without the worldwide calamity that caused the change of programme.
Björn Ulvaeus appeared and spoke wise words as Eurovision’s grand old man. We discovered a UK winner from 1997 that neither of us remembers ever having heard or seen. It was good. And wow, hearing it sung by all the 2020 singers at the end..! Discovered a UK non-winner wearing an interesting dress, or vest, as I would call it. Again, a good song.
To finish a great evening, we had an hour of Eurovision A to Z presented by someone who looked like a Russian millionaire, with good teeth. That was fun, too. More memories to be revisited, and new ones made.
Four and a half hours later we rose from our armchairs, with some difficulty. Even the Resident IT Consultant had remained, and looked like he enjoyed it too. That’s never happened before.
A week ago as the first news about Marie Fredriksson having died filtered through my social media, I turned to the Resident IT Consultant and said ‘If I say Marie Fredriksson has died, would you know who I meant?’
Not surprisingly the answer was ‘no.’ Then I suppose it was my fault, for trying to explain that she had – for a time – lived in the house that Mother-of-witch really wanted to live in, that she was one half of Roxette, singing with Per Gessle from Gyllene Tider. None of this hinted at greatness.
Later the same day he said with surprise that she’d been mentioned on the radio (=Radio 4). And the next day her photo was on the front page of the Guardian, with another inside and a half page article.
By the weekend the Guardian also published an obituary, quoting among the people who would miss Marie, the King (of Sweden; not Elvis).
I reckon the Resident IT Consultant was a little bemused. And I realised I should have said that Marie was one half of Roxette, second in fame and success only to ABBA. (He’s heard of them.)
The thing is, to me – who didn’t follow popular music in the 1980s or 1990s – she was the ‘local’ singer who’d done really well. Where she came from came first, not so much where she went to. And as I mentioned over on Bookwitch, I was in Sweden when her illness had just been diagnosed 17 years ago, reading the sensationalist headlines in the tabloid press. And what upset me was the thought of her small children. Because the mothers at the local playgroup considered her nice and friendly; someone who always said hello, and was not stuck-up like many other people nearby.
It was nice knowing your music, Marie, even if I came to it late. And I’m relieved your children had time to grow a little older, even if longer still would have been preferable.
I struggled to think of something to watch on television the other night. I was alone, and could do what I wanted, but suddenly I could think of nothing. Dug out an episode of NCIS from last year, to see whether it was as bad as I remembered.
Then, as it ended, and the television turned onto BBC Four again, I discovered a sad old man playing the piano and singing. He looked a little like Elvis.
It was Elvis.
It looked like the programme was just starting, so I remained where I was, deciding I could watch this. It was really sad. Enlightening, too, but mostly sad.
I’m an age where Elvis always existed, and while I liked his singing, I had despised the way he kept embarrassing himself towards the end. That’s the folly of youth, for you.
Now I know what happened to him, and how this handsome man went downhill so fast in the end. I vaguely knew that the ‘colonel’ was not good for him, but had not really grasped quite how not good he was. Seems like Elvis was a slave, and like all slaves he clearly had a breaking point.
Having ignored most of the ghastly films, I was unaware of the effect these had had on Elvis. I mostly remember the music after, for a few years, before the poor man was made to perform like a monkey, day in and day out.
It’d be wrong to say it was an enjoyable programme, but it was good. Now I know better. And I was happy to ‘meet’ Roy Hamilton, Elvis’s singing hero. Perhaps I ought to find more accidental programmes.
Happy 83rd Birthday, Roger!
The photo is from Hannover 2007. It’s hard to believe that’s twelve years ago.
the fans phoned. I’ve never forgotten the constant ringing of the bloody phone, but assumed it was ‘normal,’ somehow. And here I discover in this morning’s television interview with Gyllene Tider’s Per Gessle and Micke Andersson, that it’s not been commonly known… According to Micke his mother was furious. No, more like annoyed, I’d guess. Siv’s too nice to do furious. She had to hire someone just to answer the phone, because it seems the fans didn’t want to book themselves in for haircuts.
Sorry about the interview, by the way. It’s in Swedish. But you can still enjoy it. Per looks a little wrinkly, but Micke has his parents’ good looks. (I know, because he posted a photo of them on facebook last week, and they haven’t aged at all.)
I was too cool back then to have much interest in Gyllene Tider. And it’s weird to think they are now breaking up for the last time (?) and will set out on their 40th anniversary tour this summer. I suspect I will miss it, just as I have all the others. I don’t do crowds well, nor standing for hours.
I – almost – share their accent, and I believe them when they say that they were always a ‘good’ band. It’s what happens when you have cows outside your house.