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(N): from Nagu Merelaine to Nur Ein Lied

KEY: Winner Runner-up Third-place Top 5 Debut Entry Host Entry Last Place Nul Points

NAGU MERELAINE (song) Estonian entry, Dublin 1994: 24th place (2 pts)
The overtly nautical Nagu Merelaine was the misleading debut entry from a country which rapidly became one of the nations to watch in the betting of subsequent contests.

Performed by Silvi Vrait, a woman who popped out to renew her bus pass, took a wrong turning, and ended up on the flight to Dublin to keep the Estonian end up, this is sort-of-boppy/sort-of-not and just the type of tune which compounds the critics' theories on why Eurovision is so hopelessly out of step with the rest of the world's music.

However, for a first go it wasn't that bad (it even got two points off someone or other) and Silvi has almost been forgiven by a nation who certainly take the contest seriously. She will be released from solitary confinement in 2015, and if the board believes she has been sufficiently punished, she will be allowed 20 minutes exercise in daylight every other day.

NANA (singer) Luxembourgeois entry, London 1963: 8th place (13 pts)
A direct descendant of Mrs Merton's Greek ancestors, Nana Mouskouri came seventh for Luxembourg (yes, we know, but that subject's been done to death now) in 1963.

So confused was she by this sudden switch of nationality that she remained in a befuddled state for many years afterwards; so much so, that she didn't update either her wardrobe or her style of spectacle frame for at least three decades.

NANANA (singer) Slovene entry, Riga 2003: 23rd place (7 pts)
Twas a warm midsummer's night?.

Oh, f**k off.

NATIONAL FINAL (scene of sometimes baffling choices)

If ever there was an occasion for a long-standing fan of the contest to switch into "annoyingly smug" mode it is with regard to the curious phenomenon of the national Eurovision heats.

Some don't always bother to hold one (France, Russia, Poland, Luxembourg) whilst some make a big deal of it (Sweden, Malta, Germany, Croatia) whilst one will be universally criticised however it organises its song-picking (UK).

The tales of songs which could have triumphed in the Eurovision final never getting out of the national preliminaries have provided an endless list (but they usually involve Swedish and Croatian tunes).

What fans may not realise is that, in 1983, Norwegian TV thought they had come up with a winner with I Know A Song That'll Get On Your Nerves, Get On Your Nerves (but spelt Norwegian) which was a near-guarantee to win their final, had the NRK director not shot the performer before transmission because the song had, quite frankly, got on his nerves.

NEL BLU DIPINTO DI BLU (song) Italian entry, Hilversum 1958: 3rd place (13 pts)
Probably Eurovision's only decent contribution to 50s popular music, and certainly the one song people are guaranteed to say "Ooh, I never knew that was from Eurovision!" when you tell them its true origin.

Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu is of course better known as Volare, and Dean Martin is better known as its singer than Domenico Mudugno is - but that's history for you.

It's certainly better known today than Dors, Mon Amour and Giorgio is as well - but that's Eurovision for you.

NETHERLANDS (nation) First entry: Lugano 1956. 4 0 1
Originally conceived as an Ireland for the 50s, The Netherlands as a concept soon stopped working, leading to a drop in share prices for Edam wax and smurf-hide in the sixties and early seventies.

There was renewed interest in the country in the mid-seventies however (commonly referred to as the 'Van der Valk factor') which led to a resurgence in popularity for open-to-just-above-the-crotch lycra bodysuits and crap perms, which canny Dutch group Teach-In took full advantage of.

The group planned to reform for the 2000 Dutch nomination (their original stage outfits being cryogenically preserved in Corry Brokken's loft in the interim) with a majorly re-worked version of their '75 medal-clincher Ding-Dinge-Dong entitled Dong-Donge-Ding but someone called Linda Robertwagner (or something) beat them to it.

NEW SEEKERS (group) British entry, Edinburgh 1972: RUNNER UP (114 pts)
They begged, stole and borrowed (a-wah-wah-wahhh) the entire stock of the Edinburgh branch of Laura Ashley's curtain showroom just before they stepped onto the stage for the '72 contest and finished a good second.

However, this was the group who had promised to teach the world to sing just six weeks before the contest. Obviously a piecrust promise then.
Note: In the weeks following the 1972 ESC, 18 European countries reported cases of people who had forgotten how to sing, thus needing to be taught from scratch.

NIAMH (singer) Irish entry, Millstreet 1993: WINNER (114 pts)
Just days after claiming victory for Ireland, Niimh Kavanagh had a nasty accident in a Millstreet bakery, when she unwittingly walked slap bang into the open entrance of the electrical appliance used to bake the bread.

The irony is, that she prophecised this event in her winning song less than a week earlier.

Suddenly, an oven door, she never saw before.

NICKI (singer) British entry, Stockholm 2000: 16th place (114 pts)
She has the honour of receiving the first point ever allocated at the ESC in the 21st Century, but beyond that, err...

However, let us not be too hard on Ms French and her rather likeable UK entry for 2000, which, it can now be revealed, was written by a team of proficient clairvoyants. Nicki will spend the rest of 2000 recording a new album, containing such tracks as Please Play this Song Instead and My Heart Belongs to Malta.

Note: And you thought it was just a joke (!) Here, for your delectation, and to the tune of DPTSA is Please Play This Song Instead courtesy of Europage's Ilya Kogan:

I had a song.
I thought it was everything.
When I saw how it failed, you'll never see
I'm not singing that song
There's another for me.

Please Play This Song Instead
The old one was clearly a travesty
Please play this song instead
When Olsen is here in my bed
We're lying beard to wig,
Oh yeah,

Oh DJ! Please obey! Please play this song instead...

NICOLA (singer) Romanian entry, Riga 2003: 10th place (73 pts)



I'd love to tell you a bit more about the Romanian entry for 2003, but I keep getting hit by the many sets of clothes the backing singers are throwing off themselves.

Before I suffocate, I have to mention that Nicola does sound a bit like a duck when she sings. Mind that tutu...

NICOLE (singer) German entry, Harrogate 1982: WINNER (161 pts)
Following two narrow defeats at the ESCs of 1980 and 1981, Ralph Seigel was feeling the strain and decided to visit a songwriting therapist for help.

Whilst in the waiting room, he began chatting to a 17 year old girl carrying a guitar and wearing her granny's clothes. When he asked her why she was waiting to see the therapist she explained that she was extremely confused. At any given moment she can feel like a leaf in the November snow, a bird that can no longer flauw, or just a bit hapless; wishing that there weren't any famous people in the room.

Ralph shook his head thoughtfully, then whisked her off to Harrogate, where he exploited the poor girl's condition in a multitude of languages in order to acheive the ESC win he so desperately wanted. Nicole (for that was the girl) was so startled, she didn't even have a chance to change out of her granny's clothes.

NICOLE & HUGO (duo) Belgian entry, Luxembourg 1973: 17th/last place (58 pts)
Baby, baby, vive l'amour... You can bet your bottom Belgian franc that Brussels' answer to Richard and Judy were setting the dancefloors alight in 1973.

Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with their fine singing, dancing or choice of wardrobe. Hugo is a confirmed pyromaniac and was barred from practically every nightclub in Western Europe for trying to get a good blaze going with some lighter fluid and a box of Swan Vestas.

NIIIN KAUNIS ON TAIVAS (song) Finnish entry, Oslo 1996: 23rd/last place (9 pts)
Nine points is the biggest last-placed score since the 12-10-8... system was introduced, so Jasmine of Finland has something to console herself with.

Quite why Finnish telly thought a song like this stood a chance is another thing. It's all very folksy and nice, but hardly the type of cheese the Eurovision viewer is likely to spread onto its pop cracker.

Jasmine did throw a flower into the crowd when she had finished her performance though, something Eimear Quinn didn't do. This means Jasmine is clearly a far nicer person - and has a much better-looking boyfriend. So there.

NINA (singer) Finnish entry, Stockholm 2000: =18th place (18 pts)
Hidden behind the sweetly anonymous melody of the Finnish entry for 2000 is a protest at the maternity ward crisis which struck the continent in the year Nina Astrom (its singer) popped into the world.

Nina states quite clearly that she is, "in love with the place where she was born." However, she then goes on to say that it's 'Finland, France or Spain, Berlin, Prague or Rome' plus a host of other European countries. This obviously means Nina's Mum was moved around the four corners of Europe until a maternity ward with a spare bed could be found.

Nina's Mum either endured the longest labour in recorded history, or is really good at keeping her legs crossed.

NINANAJNA (song) Macedonian entry, Athens 2006: 13th place (56 pts)
I'm really trying, but I am *really* struggling to find anything remotely positive to write about this.

Mind you, if you listen to it on the official 2006 CD, it is sandwiched between the entries from Moldova and Malta, making it sound like an entry from the Holland/Dozier/Holland songbook in comparison.

NO ANGELS (band) German entry, Belgrade 2008: 23rd place (14 pts)
No Angels, or No Singers, as is perhaps more appropriate, where the German talent show champions who were sucked into that inevitable national finals whirlpool.

Appearing in Belgrade in a whirl of swirly clothes, all that chiffon couldn't detract from the fact that these ladies were really, really rubbish at singing.

The song was called Disappear in homage to what happened to all the right notes during the performance. After the Serbian debacle, No Angels returned to Deutschland with their halos betwene their legs, only to find themselves banned from appearing at every nativity play, Christmas tree top and Last Supper in the land by an embittered public.

They were last seen round the back of Ralph Siegel's house, begging for scraps.

NO DREAM IMPOSSIBLE (song) British entry, Copenhagen 2001: 15th place (28 pts)
Encyclopaedia Eurovisica holds its hand up and admits to being either deaf or stupid, as it didn't actually hear anything wrong with Lindsay Dracass's performance in Copenhagen. Wherever those missed notes were, they didn't seem to come through on the Wirral feed.

The rap though, that's a different story. Scientists never have found a link between cissies and jungles, so there is no reason why songwriters should start looking.

Twenty-eight points later, a forlorn Lindsay returned to Sheffield and washed her hair for the first time in four months. Imagine her surprise when Lucy Randell fell out of her bonce - she had become entangled in Lindsay's greasy locks following the Song For Europe voting and had remained there undetected ever since.

NOBODY HURT NO ONE(song) Russian entry, Kiev 2005: 15th place (57 pts)
Don't the Russians have dreadful grammar?

Natalia Podolskaya stopped spying on James Bond for five minutes in May 2005 so she sould participate as Mother Russia's representative in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Unfortunately, someone in the KGB admin block had got Natalia's file in a dreadful muddle. Instead of her skills being listed as 'Able to kill a man with one fingernail; Speaks 15 languages; Trained Assassin; Can feed a family of four for three weeks with one potato', the mistakenly enclosed information read: 'Really, really good at singing and all that stuff like that. Swear down, no lie'. Heads rolled.

NOEL (conductor)
We know what you're thinking. In these days of backing tracks and (shock, horror) countries sending vaguely contemporary entries to the ESC, there's no place for Mr Kelehan and his baton in the Eurovision arena anymore; never will we see his hair go just that bit whiter with every passing contest.

Not so.

Noel was there in both Jerusalem and Stockholm, using all his percussive know-how for pressing 'play' at just the right moment on the backing tape for the Irish entry.

NOMIZA (song) Cypriot entry, Stockholm 2000: 21st place (8 pts)
The Cypriots had the token 'arty' entry in 2000. And why not? After all, acting like a load of film students who go to special showings of arthouse classics, stroke their chins and mumble to each other, "Oh, that is so Peter Greenaway..." is bound to bring you flotilla after flotilla of points in the cheesiest songfest since the Salzburg Folk Festival of 1938.

The undoubtedly deep and meaningful Alexandros and Christina didn't quite make double figures (if my memory serves me correctly), but on their return to Nicosia Airport they told the waiting reporters that this was all part of their plan, saying (allegedly): "Like, yeah. Our score ideally represents the futility of our island's struggle against colonialism, jah? We, err... used the flags because my Mum made them specially and I promised her we'd wave them about a bit..."

NORWAY (nation) First entry: London 1960. 2 1 1
It wasn't continental drift that brought Norway into being, it was a team of sub-standard comedians who needed something to put into the 'topical' part of their routine in the second weekend in May every year. Once the population was left to germinate though, it soon split into two distinct groups. These were observed by a scientist sometime in the 19th Century:

"The Norwegians definitely group in two tribes: one is led by a blonde valkyrie called Elisabeth and seem hell-bent on being Irish, the others just sort of copy whatever the Swedes did a few years back, but don't get as many points in return."

The scientist received the Nobel Prize for these observations, which I'm sure you will agree, was very well deserved.

NOSTALGIJA (song) Croatian entry, Dublin 1995: 6th place (91 pts)
The first Croatian entry to make the juries sit up and take notice is most definitely part of the pre-Gina G school of Eurovision. In fact, it's probably pre-Raphaelite.

Putting an operatic diva (Lydija) in a red dress, alongside a jailbait vocalist in a white frock (Danijela) confused some jurors who thought it was a subliminal message to vote for Poland (albeit that the flag was on its side), but this really-too-old-fashioned song still managed to come in 6th.

What people may not know is that Lydija was in fact a six stone weakling for most of rehearsal week. The Croatian delegation thus spent the days prior to the competition shovelling baked beans down her throat. The farty-gas created was sufficient to swell the singer to four times her usual size, an unseen advantage to this being that she floated, zeppelin-like, back to Zagreb of her own accord, saving HRT the cost of a plane ticket.

NOX (group) Hungarian entry, Kiev 2005: 12th place (97 pts)
Nox live in a box down by the docks and they always throw rocks at people in socks who live in tower blocks or smell like a fox. Nobody mocks Nox, or they will hack off their locks and spread pox all over their c...

Anyway, enough of that.

The first Hungarian Eurovision entrant for seven years (cor blimey), the Riverdance-ish act from Nox was enough to get them out of the semi, but straight into the first spot on the final, lengthening the odds on their victory. The Herreys won from first spot, however. Considering the number of times the camera pointed to their feet, it's a wonder they never tried wearing golden boots.

NUR EIN LIED (song) Austrian entry, Lausanne 1989: 5th place (97 pts)

Austria never do well, even if they send a good 'un, but 1989 is an exception.

When Thomas Forstner strode purposefully towards the mike in a lilac jacket which redefines the word "bespoke" you can't help but think the man is convinced he's got it in the bag.

The song is typical of both its time and its Germanic origins, as the hairstyles on the backing group betray. The eventual fifth-placing of this most gentle of power ballads is a testament to Austria's continued efforts to do well, but what a pity the man completely balls-ed up his good record two years later by turning up in Rome in a gruesome ski suit and finishing last with absolutely no points at all.

Encyclopaedia Eurovisica
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