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(S): from S.A.G.A.P.O to Switzerland
KEY: Winner Runner-up Third-place Top 5 Debut Entry Host Entry Last Place Nul Points

S.A.G.A.P.O (song) Greek entry, Tallinn 2002: 17th place (27 pts)
How unfortunate that the rest of Europe interpreted this gentle Greek tribute to being in love whilst wearing most of a black VW Beetle as an acronym of Sing And Go And Piss Off, as Michalis Rakintzis and his stompy-stompy backing band were definitely the most original performers onstage in Tallinn.

Originality and Eurovision never have been the happiest of bedfellows and coming on the back of fan-favourite and all-time Greek peak Antique was never going to do this song any favours.

And if anyone is still concerned about Michalis, be worried no longer. A source in Athens informs us that, by the time they'd worn out the fifth tin-opener, Greek TV executives had managed to free one of his legs from that outfit and the rest of him should be out by the end of Pentecost.

SAKIS ('singer'/'presenter') Greek entry, Istanbul 2004: 3rd place (252 pts)
What a wuss. This very girly man, all posey and preening, was put into a white vest and made to 'sing' the Greek entry in 2004. Remarkably, he came third, despite doing a spot of ring-a-ring-a-roses after whipping his top off for the gals (and guys).

Despite Europe suffering enough of this buffoon, he returned to co-host the show in Athens two years later, making Toto Cutugno look like Richard Dimbleby. In 2010, expect to see Sakis as Greek President.

SAMANTHA (singer) British entry, Rome 1991: =10th place (47 pts)
'Half the world is ugly/just through being bald' was Ms Janus's rather cruel attack on the folically challenged at the ESC of 1991.

Samantha was so enraged at the lyrics of this song, that she absolutely refused to deliver them with any sort of tune or sense of melody whatsoever. Not content with insulting those thin-on-top, she then progressed to laughing at those who can't control their bowels in the chorus.

Chanting 'A Lettuce in your Fart' to a disenchanted continent was never likely to win her first place now, was it? I mean, come on...

SAMIID AEDNAN (song) Norwegian entry, The Hague 1980: 16th place (15 pts)
Bored of just having ONE song representing your country at Eurovision? Tired of sitting through a whole THREE minutes because it makes you fidget? Want to make a LAUGHING STOCK of your country at the same time? Then NRK have the answer.

That's right. Just send away today for your FREE* 1980 Norwegian entrants.

Sverre Kjelksberg and Hattis Maetta are fully poseable, dressed by their mothers, and will enchant your friends, family and social worker alike. Just one poke from a cattle prod makes Sverre, in full beige flying suit, perform the first half of Samiid Aednan in your living room, kitchen or gazebo.

But that's not all! Two minutes in, and a man who looks like Peter Kay auditioning for Carry on Henry will appear from nowhere and sing some 'lordy, lordy' bollocks which are in no way homogenous to what Sverre has just sung. It's hours of fun, and guaranteed to reduce your need for alcoholic and/or narcotic stimuli. So don't delay - write to NRK. Today!

*FREE in this context means 35 regular daily payments of 50 (plus p+p) and the provision of a hutch for Sverre and Hattis to sleep in.

SANDIE (singer) British entry, Vienna 1967: WINNER (47 pts)
Aah, Sandie.

If anyone was delighted for the ESC reviving her flagging fortunes with the biggest hit of her musical career, it was this moccasin-bereft Dagenham lady.

She was so delighted at winning the contest, she talks about it with keen eagerness at just about every chance she gets, especially in interview situations. You can find her skipping down Oxford Street every other day in her bare feet, waving marionettes in the faces of passers-by whilst telling them how proud she was to win the Eurovision Song Contest with Puppet On A String.
Note: All of the above is a big lie.

SATA SALAMAA (song) Finnish entry, Brussels 1987: 15th place (32 pts)
Vicky Rosti, the lady who gave her name to the convenience food of the same name by asking for a circular potato cake with onions in after a performance at the Berlin Opera House in 1932, did sing this for the good people of Helsinki and the Finnish provinces at Eurovision '87.

An ideal example of 80s dramatic synth-pop with vague signs of wanting to be a Bond theme, Sata Salamaa looked set to get the high placing it deserved by scooping the first 10 points of the night, but ended the night on just over 30. Bummer!

Things got even worse for Vicky. She was pursued through the car park of the place in Belgium where the show was held (the name of which escapes me) by angry German butchers demanding to know why she was encoraging an entire continent to sit on salamis, via the medium of song.

And do you know, as they chased her, there was a crowd of bushy-moustachioed gentlemen in tight leather outfits waiting at the stage door to thank her for the best Saturday night they'd had in ages. Can't think what they meant by that.

SATELLIT (song) Swedish entry, Jerusalem 1979: 17th place (8 pts)
The late Ted Gardestad deserved at least double-figures for the lovely jumper he wore onstage at Jerusalem in 1979, but the juries from that particular year are renowned for being no lovers of real wool.

The very synthy Satellit (which translates into English as "Satellite") was perhaps a tad aggressive in year when a women with four smiling kiddies and a gang of overtly thankful Israelites walked away with the top two places.

When he finished 17th out of the 19 nations present with just eight points, Ted decided to learn from the experience. He built a big satellite out of a metal dustbin, with a tennis racket on each side for wings and a straightened-out coathanger on the lid as an antennae.

Upon launching it into space, Ted was delighted to learn he could use his creation to pick up Italian Stripping Housewives on TV, but his ultimate plan - to fire a death ray into Milk and Honey's living room - could not be realised as the coathanger got a bit bent when it bumped into a block of flats and no longer responded to his commands.

SAVE YOUR KISSES FOR ME (song) British entry, The Hague 1976: WINNER (164 pts)
When somebody left a flaming dog poo in a paperbag on the Brotherhood of Mans' doorstep, it was left to the one with the medallion and the moustache to stamp it out whilst the other three watched from the bathroom window.

As he stomped, an idea for a song and dance routine fermented at the back of their collective minds. Come The Hague, Save that Faeces for Tea had moved on somewhat from its working title, but the dance remained the same as that fateful day.

The man didn't clean his shoes until after the contest, the very ones he'd worn on stage for luck.

SAY A WORD (song) Austrian entry, Tallinn 2002: 18th place (26 pts)
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,
Say a word and he'll be there,


SCOOCH (group) British entry, Helsinki 2007: 23rd place (19 pts)
A fair few British hearts sank in March 2007, when this ridiculous number was despatched to Helsinki ahead of the almost-there Cyndi at the end of that year's Making Your Mind Up.

Full marks to Scooch for their enthusiasm, dedication, and routine of Flying the Flag, but isn't it about time somebody who actually knows a little bit about what works well at Eurovision was put in charge of the UK selection process?

Scooch aren't to be dissuaded from entering again. They are already planning a whole new song-and-dance unspectacular for Royaume Uni, with the working title of You Can't Polish A Turd.





An integral part of all but one of the ESCs thus far, this is the prop that has a continent cheering/giggling/sobbing for about forty-five minutes every year.

There's been all sorts over the decades, from the one that the YTS trainee in the BBC Design Department knocked up in their fag break the afternoon before the contest (1974), to the more-over-the-top-and-flash-than-it-really-needed-to-be (1996).

The grand-daddy of them all is the one from Naples '65. Impossible to decipher on-screen, following some slight modification, it was later presented to a local hospital as a useful 18-way rectal thermometer.

Thirty-eight years later, it's still going strong, although the mercury in the 'Yugoslavia' stream popped out the top in 1977 following an unfortunate vindaloo incident.

SE PA MEJ (song) Swedish entry, Dublin 1995: 3rd place (100 pts)
In what very nearly became a two-way Scando catfight, if only that pesky Anabel Conde hadn't stuck her vocal chords in, the 1995 contest showed an early piece of lead-swapping between this song and ultimate champs Secret Garden.

The very gruff Jan Johansen sang this somnambulist ballad in a leather jacket and designer stubble in a desperate attempt to convince the watching juries he was dead cool.

Jan was, however, telling terrible fibs. He lives in the garage at his Mum's house where he has his own TV and video, but he isn't allowed to take beer or girls in there, despite being at least 36.

He is not to be defeated though. Every time his Mum goes to bingo, he invites Jill Johnson round and they take half a can of Top Deck shandy into his room whilst he regales her with tales of how much he hates Tommy Korberg and can take him out with just one punch "dead easy" and has "had" so many women, he couldn't possibly count them all.

Jill later told this to everyone she knew, so the juries deliberately placed him third, for being a big liar.

SECRET GARDEN (group) Norwegian entry, Dublin 1995: WINNER (148 pts)
In tribute to Nocturne, the contest winner with the fewest lyrics ever, this tribute to the victorious (and significantly Irish) Secret Garden will be largely instrumental.

B-flat, E, A-minor, F-sharp, G, E, A, B, D-minor, B-sharp, A, A, F-flat, G, B, D, E, C, A, B, B, A, G, E, D, H, K-sharp, M-lite, fat-free Q, Granada Plus, ITV2, Z, Montevideo, Shangri-La, Apocalypse Now (to be hummed in the key of S).

SEMI-FINAL (terminator)

Destroyer of dreams, shatterer of hopes - and it's not even old enough to go to school yet.

The semi final has already built up its own quirks. Forever a friend to FYROM, and enemy of at leats one hot pre-contest favourite (Selma, Glennis Grace, Kate Ryan), if you want to know more about this knock-out of a knock-out round, go elsewhere on Whoops Dragovic to Demi's and Lemmy's Guide to the Semis.

SENHORA DO MAR (song) Portuguese entry, Belgrade 2008: 13th place (69 pts)
Encyclopaedia Eurovisica's Portuguese isn't the strongest, but we think Senhora Do Mar (Negras Agues) translates as Get Me More Cakes (Before I Eat My Leg).

For the first time since 2003, Portugal was back in the Eurovision final with a great big walloping anthem about the sea, or something, which the rather imposing Ms Vania Fernandes performed without showing any signs whatsoever of holding back.

Once the performance was over, the front two rows of the audience at the Beogradska Arena were nowhere to be seen. Afterwards, an embarrassed Vania confessed that she wasn't fibbing, she really was that hungry.

SERGIO & THE LADIES (group) Belgian entry, Tallinn 2002: =13th place (33 pts)
Hey-hey Sergio.

On arrival in Tallinn, Belgium's curious hybrid of Jimmy Somerville and Barry from off of EastEnders was so confident of success he kept pointing at Afro-Dite and Corinna May and laughing loudly.

Come the end of the voting, Sergio and the Ladies' rather unfairly low showing of 33 points for Sister effortlessly shows this wasn't the case, so let's look instead at the incident during rehearsal week when the Belgian and Slovenian delegates met up on the climbing frame in the beer garden during the Macedonian party.

Realising the not-really-female air hostesses went by the Slovene term for the word Sister, Sergio thought it a wizard wheeze if he ditched his original Dutch backing troupe and replaced them with his new found friends.

It was at this point Marcel from Romania showed up for no apparent reason and pointed out to the excitable Belgian there was no way this could possibly go ahead unless he changed the name of his group to Sergio and the Maybe-s .

SERBIA & MONTENEGRO (nation) First entry: Istanbul 2004. 0 1 0
By the time Whoops Dragovic got round to putting Serbi & Montenegro into Encyclopaedia Eurovisica, it didn't exist as a single entity anymore.

That makes out job easy. Second on its debut, top 10 on its follow-up, and a domestic spat saw it sit out the 2006 competition. 'Nuff said.

See also SERBIA and MONTENEGRO (but separately).

SESTRE (group) Slovene entry, Tallinn 2002: =13th place (33 pts)
TV Slovenia were (in both senses of the initials) very keen to follow up their cracker of an entry in 2001 with something that would make an even bigger impact. The question was, what?

Cross-dressing crack team Sestre were soon drafted in to come in with the right image and one by one, they presented their ideas to a panel of TV execs in a very important meeting.

What people may not realise is that the idea to sing Samo Ljubezen in red diamante air hostess outfits only came about when the threesome realised their original idea of dressing as a construction worker, Red Indian and New York traffic cop had already been done before.

SEVGILIYE SON (song) Turkish entry, Copenhagen 2001: 11th place (41 pts)
In 2001, the Turks once again escaped the consequences of sending a song that doesn't actually belong in the 21st, 20th, or even 19th Century to Eurovision by having all of their crazy mates pick up the phone and vote for them regardless.

Sevgiliye Son, in a performance sponsored by Turkish Persil was sung perfectly ably by Sedat Yuce, and performed the notable task of starting off like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and ending like something far more boring.

That this came eleventh in front of the Norwegian, Latvian and British entries suggests that perhaps it's time there was a massive Europe-wide relocation of the continents' unemployed one weekend in May to the phone boxes of various countries, armed only with a bag of loose change and a telephone number ending in your own nation's ESC draw position. It seems to work for the Turks.

SEVINCE (song) Turkish entry, Paris 1978: =18th place (2 pts)
Unless I'm mistaken, the folk of Nazar sing "New York, New York!" during this 1978 entry, but even if they did, I doubt it inspired the composers of the Frank Sinatra standard.

Nazar employed inspirational moves during their three minutes onstage, by (get this) swapping places with one another about halfway through, so they stood behind the microphones in a slightly different order.

When questioned about this later on, the Turkish choreographer said: "It took me three weeks to sort it to perfection, and I used a compass and a protractor to get it spot -on. I'm very proud of myself."

The juries weren't so proud though, and gave Sevince just two points.

SHADY LADY (song) Ukrainian entry, Belgrade 2008: RUNNER-UP (230 pts)
Fellas, don't annoy Ani Lorak when you meet her, as she seems ready to set you on fire at the drop of a hat.

By far the most entertaining and trophy-friendly of the 2008 entries, this was the sugar-coated stomper handed to Ani Lorak as recompense for her being shunted out the running of the 2005 Ukraine national final in favour of political choice Greenjolly.

Shady Lady is a lot more fun than the rappers in chains, but the light box routine, drummed in to Ani after months of pre-Contest rehearsals has had a disturbing effect.

Whenever she pops into the Kiev branch of New Look for a new shimmery dress, the Shop assitants have to have a step ladder on hand to fetch her down off a cubicle in the changing room after she has climbed up there, trance-like, to sing the final bit of her song.

SHAKE IT UP SEKERIM (song) Turkish entry, Helsinki 2007: 4th place (163 pts)
Kenan Dogipoo's acne was so bad in the run-up to the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, he considered singing the entire song beneath those golden sheets.

Shake it Up Sekerim is inspired by the naughty japes Kenan and his best mate, Sekerim, got up to as youngsters.

Once, they knocked on Sertab's front door and ran away, leaving only a can of Diamond White cider on her doorstep.

The titchy singer was bemused to find nobody at the door, but delighted to see a tin of her favourite sophisticated beverage, just lying there for the taking.

Making excitable slurping noises, she opened it, only to be covered in spume after spume of the common drink, because Sekerim had shaken the can extremely vigorously, on Kenan's advice.

Sertab saw the pair giggling behind a nearby bush and marched them straight home, where they soon received smacked bottoms for their impudent behaviour.

SHANGRI-LA (song) Dutch entry, Dublin entry: 9th place (70 pts)
More words rhyme with Shangri-La than Brigadoon I suppose, so if you're going to write a song in Dutch about a mythical place, the former is a safer bet.

Not many words rhyme with Gerhard Joling, so it's a good job he was the singer and not the lyric.

This was the Dutch entry in 1988 and even got the odd 12-point, but not enough to put even a waft of worry up Celine Dion's shuttlecock skirt.

Gerhard Joling thus decided the way to Euro success was not to sing about fictitious notions, so gave up on plans to re-enter with ditties about a yeti, the Loch Ness Monster and a famous Belgian.

SHIRI (singer) Israeli entry, Kiev 2005: 4th place (154 pts)
With a dash of milk and honey hidden about her person for luck, Shiri was one of the classiest acts on show in Kiev, giving Israel is first Top 5 finish for six years.

After the hoo-hah surrounding Dana International's trasinternational success in 1998, the Israeli delegation had a cunning plan for 2005. They intended to present Shiri as the first ladyboy to enter Eurovision, and had even made her a prosthetic apendage to back up their claim. Sadly, they had to rely on Shiri's performance alone for votes in the final shake-up, as Shiri had left said apendage on the sideboard at home.

SHOW ME YOUR LOVE (song) Ukrainian entry, Athens 2006: 7th place (145 pts)
Ukraine's gutsiest tambourine player, Tina Karol (not Dina Carroll, she sang other stuff), bucked the trend of the previous year's host turning in a crappy result the following year.

'Show Me Your Love' was certainly full of zip - and tambourines - although Tina had to be coaxed into entering the Ukraine final after her original choice of title, 'Show Me Your Bum', was considered far too saucy for the Eurovision stage.

SIGGA (singer) Icelandic entry, Dublin 1994: 12th place (49 pts)
Interesting case, this. The very good Icelandic entry of 1994 which suffered from the unfortunate Riverdance factor, in that it just wasn't Irish enough to win, was overshadowed four years later by a Polish entry which, in parts, is identical to Sigga's Naetur (see TO TAKIE PROSTE).

The undeniably Scandinavian blonde who performed this to an enthusiastic Dublin crowd seemed to be enjoying the whole experience anyway - she even got to sit in a jewellers in Temple Bar and not touch anything during the postcard.

Eurovision did not have an adverse effect on this lady's career however, she teamed up with a bloke called Rhett in an act sponsored by Iceland's premier tobacco company where they tour youth clubs telling the kids how cool it is to smoke.

SIN RENCOR (song) Spanish entry, Dublin 1997: 6th place (96 pts)
If you've ever wondered what became of Marcos Lunas, the senor who took Sin Rencor to sixth in 1997, wonder no longer.

He is staying with the conductor of his surprisingly high-placed entry in a safe house underneath the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Here, he is protecting the baton-wielding one from the clutches of Trinny, Suzanna, and the rest of the What Not to Wear team's forthcoming Eurovision special.

Bugger, hope the pair of them aren't reading this, or they'll know where to find them...

six4one (vomit-inducing sextet) Swiss entry, Athens 2006: 16th place (30 pts)
One day, Ralph Siegel was walking past a multi-national Sunday School in Geneva when he saw a group of people sitting in the playground, arguing.

The interfering songwriter made it his business to approach the group and ask them what the problem was.

A blonde Bozzer, named Tinkle, told him: "We are arguing about the best way we can help our fellow man. I think it is by carrying heavy shopping for old people. Angus from Sweden suggests it is by being kind to all the little animals, while Cheggers from Malta believes we should make soup for the world's homeless. I can't remember what the other three are called."

The inspid lyricist raised his hands in a cajoling gesture. "You stupid people." he said condescendingly, "In such matters, I, the great Ralph Siegel is the only one who can provide the answer. Your ideas, frankly, are pants. The way to help people is through music, and mine in particular.

"This is what we shall do. You shall spend the next five months cooped up in a recording studio, rehearsing a vomit-inducing peace anthem that I have written. Just me, and not Bernd Meinunger. Then, we shall present it to the watching world as Switzerland's entry in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, where it will doubtless win effortlessly. That is a far better way to help the world than these ridiculous notions of helping the elderly, the homeless and small animals. We shall meet in Athens on May 20."

And with that, he left the bewildered group, whistling something passers-by described as sounding like 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me'.

SLOVAKIA (nation) First entry: Dublin 1994. 0 0 0
In the quest to document every one of the thirty-odd nations who have entered Eurovision, one must meet with the occasional stumbling block. This is mine, as I can only really remember their '98 entry.

However, I did once see a home video (not that sort) of a Eurovision Network Convention (perhaps I should be thankful it wasn't that sort) where one of the invited guests was Marcel Polander, their '96 entrant. So there you go, they did a good song about a prayer and one of their past offenders lurked at the back of a hotel suite with half a lager whilst Linda Martin sang Saturday Night at the Movies and Debbie Scerri told jokes about women's underwear.

And they're still above Turkey in my list of favourite nations.

SLOVENIA (nation) First entry: Millstreet 1993. 0 0 0
Voted the country 'Least Likely to do Ding-Dinge-Dong' in the New Eastern Europe's Sing-a-longa Graduation Ceremony in 1993, Slovenia took their classmates very seriously and have vowed to only ever do the 'angsty' or 'heartfelt' type of Eurosong, much to the distress of your average Eurovision viewer, and much to the ill-concealed delight of your average Eurovision fan.

It's still too early to write them off, but I think we can expect more ballads (with hopefully the odd sprinkling of cheese) as the millennium progresses, not to mention the odd bloke with a ponytail.
Note: The 1997 Wimbledon Ladies Single's Champion has vowed never to visit the Slovene capital, just in case 'Llubjana' turns out to be a verb phrase.

SOLDIERS OF LOVE (song) Belgian entry, Brussels 1987: 11th place (56 pts)
Never has the theme from Knight Rider had Flemish lyrics put to it so effectively as when Lillianne St.Pierre did do that thing as the host entry in 1987. One can only assume that the male entrants at Brussels '87 were not the inspiration behind this song. It is stretching things a wee bit to describe Rikki, Plastic Bertrand, Lazy Bums and the blokes from Wind as lust-inducing mercenaries (not to mention Johnny Logan).

Still, that's not quite so embarrassing as singing Soldiers of Love just after Halla Margret asked someone to stick their 'anus in the air'. No wonder the contest goes down so well in 'Frisco.

SOM EN VIND (song) Swedish entry, Zagreb 1990: 16th place (24 pts)
We can only assume that Edin-Adahl's suitcases went missing at the airport as they looked disgracefully scruffy when they shambled onstage in Zagreb to sing Som en Vind for Sweden in 1990.

All jeans and T-shirts, in a poorly-advised attempt to look a bit like Staus Quo it is only fair they scored a disastrously low 24 points.

Now, if they'd applied several litres of black hair dye, spent three solid months on a sunbed, had a shave and worn white suits it could have been a very different story as the song's not that bad, if perhaps a tad earnest.

SOMEWHERE IN EUROPE (song) Irish entry, Zagreb 1990: EQUAL RUNNER UP (132 pts)
Hadn't Liam Reilly got the point at this point?

If his love interest still couldn't be bothered to meet up with him in some of the most beautiful locations the continent has to offer (the Trevi Fountain, Champs Elysees, the Black Forest and, err, Trafalgar Square) any other sane person would have realised they were on a hiding to nothing and had effectively been given the Big E. Not our Liam, though.

In one final desperate effort to entice his lady back into his arms he represents the independent state of Ireland in a pan-continental music competition backed by two colleens in woolly sweaters seven sizes too big for them and comes joint second.

Perhaps if he'd applied several litres of black hair dye, spent three solid months on a sunbed, had a shave and worn white suits it could have been a very different story and she'd have come back to him.

SON DE SOL (group) Spanish entry, Kiev 2005: 21st place (28 pts)
How refreshing of the three Spanish ladies who represented their nation in 2005 to bring their pimp on stage with them to perform the middle eight.

Son De Sol, of course, are the inventors of sun cream, and were a bit peeved that their Euro adventures took them beneath the murky skies of Kiev, where the stall they set up outside the Sports Palace to peddle their wares went, sadly, unvisited.

SONG #1 (song) Russian entry, Helsinki 2007: 3rd place (207 pts)
In 2007, Being A Flirty Madam was successfully added to the Russian national curriculum. The nation was so proud, the three girls who got the hightest marks in the first batch of exams were sent to Eurovision 2007 as a prize.

Tragically for the Russians, the girls had spent so long on practicing being sultry in school uniforms, they forgot to concentrate on their other subjects. Song #1 in Helsinki was quite obviously the entry from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and not that of Russia, which was performed fifteenth. Fools.

SPAIN (nation) First entry: Cannes 1961. 2 4 1
They strode into the ESC ring like a confident matador in the spring of '61 and, err... came ninth.

When we're waxing Espana however, there's only one word which counts, and that's 'la'.

Actually, that's a word which counts about 156 times when you consider the 1968 Eurovision winner for the lady with the very long name who recently said, "Cliff Richard? 'ee is ferry good pear-son."
Spain were yet another quarter of the 'Teatro Royal Four' in 1969, but haven't had that many whiffs of the victor's paella since.

Lydia, their entrant in 1999, did consider repeating the action made by Betty Missiego's mini-pop backing troupe twenty years earlier on the same Jerusalem stage which very nearly brought them victory. Then, the four widdykinks had unrolled scrolls at the song's end which said 'thanks' in a multitude of languages. Lydia did have her sign tucked into her knickers, but thought twice about revealing it. It read, 'I'm sorry about the dress, but PLEASE vote for me.' in Spanish, Hebrew, English and French.

SPOKESPERSON (person in chair building their part up)
They have the fate of 20+ singers in the palms of their hands, and by 'eck do they know it.

They are The National Spokespeople - a highly trained group of people who know how to count to twelve whilst missing out the numbers nine and eleven. Some of the spokespeople are now celebrities in their own right. There's Belen from Spain (who wasn't ashamed to show Europe her coldsore in 1997), Uncle Colin from the UK (who assumes that everyone watching wants to know how many calls the BBC can handle in five minutes and just which London landmark he's sitting in front of this year) and then there's that old bird from 'byootiful Norway' who clearly thinks it should have been her who presented the show in '96 and not Ingvild Bryn.

The highlight of the National Spokespeople calendar is their conference in Blackpool every August, where they can unwind in comfortable, friendly surroundings. Here, everyone mingles and has fun, and, if she's had enough to drink, the redhead from Slovenia shows off her party trick with the ping-pong ball.

STAGE (flat thing with all lights on it)
They may mock, the collective broadcasters of Europe, but whenever it's their turn to stage the song contest, they certainly let their designers overdose on the old creative juices. This may explain some of the delightful backdrops that have accentuated/overshadowed the singers over the years.

There was Salvador Dali's surprisingly un-surreal set for Madrid '69, the remnants of Dutch TV's Christmas decorations (1970), an aerial shot of three Mexicans walking across a crocodile (1971), a we've-got-fifty-litres-of-blue-paint-and-a-job-lot-of-MDF-and-the-contest-starts-in-half-an-hour-HELP! job (1975) and the world's biggest Meccano set ever (1996).

These were all quite visually stimulating in their own way (well, perhaps not 1975), but we can now reveal that the chief designer of Italian telly was sacked following the '91 contest. It transpired that they hadn't bothered to build a set at all, they'd just moved their dead big telly and some spare scaffolding out of their flat whilst it was being renovated.

STELLA (performer) Belgian entry, Harrogate 1982: 4th place (96 pts)
Born in a crossfire hurricane, Stella really is a gas, gas, gas.

In 1982, she left behind the rest of her '77 Belgian pals (see DREAM EXPRESS) but returned to a British Eurovision stage and tried her best not too feel claustrophobic when jammed on to the Harrogate set with the rest of her group.

The song Si Tu Aimes Ma Musique finished fourth, and was notable for being the most boring song in the history of the contest to finish in such a high position, and to gain votes from every single jury (except Belgium of course, because that's against the rules).

Terry Wogan noted the white flower in Stella's hair was "the worst case of dandruff he'd ever seen", and he would probably be right, if indeed it was a dermatological condition on Stella's scalp, and not a white flower, as was patently obvious to everybody watching.

STRONGER EVERY MINUTE (performer) Cypriot entry, Istanbul 2004: 5th place (170 pts)
If all the points scored by UK performers in 2004 were added together, it would have put Blighty into fifth place, knocking Sweden down into sixth.

The reason? Kent teenager Lisa Andreas belting out this superb ballad on behalf of Cyprus.

Brilliant though she was, be thankful she chose an outfit in black on the night. If she'd gone for the pink, she may have sung : "My love is stronger every minute, and anyone who disagrees get beatin's..."

SUPER STAR Turkish entry, Athens 2006: 11th place (91 pts)
The oldest woman in Turkey, Sibel is married to Basil and they run a small guest house in the middle-class part of Ankara.

Sibel was delighted to be asked to sing 'Super Star' in Athens, and was grateful that she had several month's notice from Turkish telly. This gave her just enough time to have Polyfilla surgically injected into her face, her flase teeth whitened, and a chiropractor perform intense therapy on her, enabling Sibel to dance around that star thing those dancers made with their arms.

SURPRIZ German entry, Jerusalem 1999: 3rd place (140 pts)
Is Tony Slattery Turkish? Life is full of the unanswerable, and you won't find the answer to that one here. Although, it certainly looked as though he was representing Germany at Jerusalem '99 with the rest of the Ankara Whose Line is it Anyway? Reserve Team.

Clive Anderson's Turkish equivalent informed them just before they went on stage that this was the 'Song Styles' round. They had to go out there and make up a song on the spot (in the most Eurovision-y style possible) which had to include some reference to a kid's party game whilst trying to dance like Brotherhood of Man.

They all scored highly after this particular round, but the stroppy teenage girl in the bunches got to read the credits out at the end (in the style of Yigal).

SVETA LJUBAV Croatian entry, Oslo 1996: 4th place (98 pts)
How kind of one of Croatia's Playschool presenters to lend flame-haired shrieker Maja Blagdan one of her dresses for the 1996 national entry.

Croatia's first Top-Five-finisher led in the early stages (but it never got the douze), thanks in part to Maja's dance routine in the musical break, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the moves Frida from ABBA made to the middle-eight of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme on their 1979 world tour. The only thing perhaps separating a past Eurovision winner from a fourth-placed wannabe, is that the former didn't stop to wipe her nose on both arms halfway through the song.

SVETLANA Luxembourgeois entry, Harrogate 1982: 6th place (78 pts)
Attempting to smash their record of recruiting a performer from the most un-Luxembourgy place ever, in 1982 the Grand Duchy flew by space shuttle to the planet Svetlan and asked its icy-looking queen to beam down to Harrogate and sing some French thing called Cours Apres Le Temps for them.

They even beamed down her courtiers in ridiculous blue suits for them as well, which was kind of them.

However, Queen Svetlana did not pursue this mission for purely altruistic means. She had read in Take A Break that the spa waters of the Yorkshire town had youth-giving powers and demanded RTL provide her with a few crates as reward for her efforts.

Unfortunately, the water had an adverse effect on the alien queen and she rapidly aged, making it impossible for her to travel into space again - so she stayed on Earth and got a new career playing Sophia in The Golden Girls instead. That was fortunate for her.

SWARBRIGGS (duo) Irish entry, Stockholm 1975: 9th place (68 pts)
These Irish brothers were keen to extoll to Europe the messages of That's What Friends Are For (someone tell Dionne Warwick) and It's Nice to be In Love Again at the contests of 1975 and 1977 respectively.

It would appear that their earlier entry was some subconscious advice for the second. In Stockholm they only came ninth, but in London they brought along some friends (a pair of colleens who thought they were pearly queens) and came third. This was helped in no short measure by the UK jury giving them twelve, and the Irish not giving the UK any points at all. Quelle fucking surprise. They made little impact on the international market after that, but they were approached with a lucrative advertising deal for swarfega - but it involved their two friends far too heavily for the brothers' wives' liking.

SWEDEN (nation) First entry: Hilversum 1958. 4 1 4
A country whose chief export has been vibrating lingerie since ABBA's domination of the pop charts ended in the early eighties.

In order to keep the two sections of Swedish society happy, the Swedes alternate between a schlager song and a ballad-that-sounds-like-the-last-ballad-that-won every year. This was first implemented in 1989, to prevent rival Swedish street gangs (The Volvos and The Ikeas-which one are you?) from throwing heavily salted meatballs at each other in the car park of the Scandinavium, not far from where the cool kids have built their skateboard ramp.

SWITZERLAND (nation) First entry: Lugano 1956. 2 3 3
The casual observer may be mistaken for thinking that there are only three proper singers in Switzerland; Peter, Sue and Marc. This is not true of course, there's that other famous Swiss chanteuse; Celine. Oh, hang on...

Switzerland were the hosts and victors of the inaugural ESC in 1956, but just as England did in any major footballing tournament they actually qualified for from the early seventies onwards, they peaked too early (if they peaked at all). It took 32 years for them to reclaim the prize, when someone at the EBU realised that all the gold they had stored in their loft would be much safer somewhere else. All it took was one phone call to the '88 Yugoslav jury, and the rest, as they say...

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