The United Kingdom is a country of records in the Eurovision Song Contest: longevity, most times in second place or the longest running string of Top 5 placings. Let's have a look at the best of the UK in Eurovision!
The United Kingdom celebrated 60 years of participation in the Eurovision Song Contest this year after first appearing in 1957. Whilst the country did not participate the following year, they returned in 1959 and never missed a contest again!
Many happy returns
The United Kingdom is one of the so-called Big Five and hold the record for the longest run of consecutive appearances in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, 59 times in a row. The record would have gone to Germany had the country not been relegated in a pre-selection round in 1996.
The UK holds another record, which is regarded as one of the biggest achievements in the history of the contest, as they came second in the final ranking 15 times. Whilst many acts may have been disappointed with narrowly missing out on victory, with hindsight, it’s a fabulous accomplishment that will be hard to match in many years to come.
The UK also holds the record for most Top 10 (41) and Top 5 placings (29) over the years and won the Eurovision Song Contest on five occasions. This success meant that ten songs which placed second in the contest were actually left out of our top ten list of UK entries.
Puppet brought a string of success
It was in the UK's “comeback” in 1959 that they reached second place for the first time with the iconic Sing Little Birdie. In fact the UK placed second no less than five times before their first victory in 1967. That year Sandie Shaw, with Puppet On A String, was the runaway winner and had a huge hit around the world, it’s also the first song to make our Top 10, at #4:
It was precisely in 1967 that the best run of results by a country happened: for the next 11 contests the United Kingdom finished in the top five, including three victories. The popular Congratulations by Cliff Richard lost to Spain’s La, La, La by just one point, but became a favourite ever since and in the shock four-way tie for the victory in 1969, the UK was one of the winners with Lulu’s Boom Bang-A-Bang, which takes the #5 spot in our list:
More second places followed in the 1970s with the likes of Mary Hopkin, the New Seekers and The Shadows, plus another participation by Sir Cliff Richard, ending third this time. Olivia Newton-John was beaten by ABBA and finished in 4th place. She went on to become a global star with the release of Grease in the following years. It was in 1976 that United Kingdom won again with what has become the top-selling winner of all time, Save All Your Kisses For Me by the Brotherhood of Man, which is at #3 in our list:
Making their minds up
The UK entry in 1978, Co-Co’s The Bad Old Days, proved prophetic when the group scored the UK’s worst placing in the Eurovision Song Contest up to that point, 11th. It was the first time that the country didn’t finish in the Top 10. Singer Cheryl Baker was part of the group Co-Co and vowed never to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest again. That was until she was invited to join Bucks Fizz, a pop group formed specifically for Eurovision. Their winning performance of Making Your Mind Up in 1981 is one of the most iconic in Eurovision history and their skirt-ripping trick inspired dozens of costume changes and gimmicks in the years that followed. It makes #2 in our list:
The 1980s were not the UK’s finest era, compared to the previous two decades, but two more songs, both runner-ups, make their way into our top ten chart, 1989’s Why Do I Always Get It Wrong? performed by Live Report (#9) and the 1988 entry, Go. That year provided one of the most exciting moments ever in Eurovision voting when Switzerland’s Celine Dion beat the UK’s Scott Fitzgerald by just one point, again, like in 1968. Nevertheless it’s enough to put his song at #10 in our list. More recently he reflected on his experiences in Dublin when he appeared at a fan event in the UK and looks back on his Eurovision experience with fondness:
Shining a light on the UK
The 1990s saw a reversals of fortune for the United Kingdom the country finished second in two consecutive contests, in 1992 and 1993, both times behind Ireland. West End star Michael Ball flew the flag for the UK with One Step Out Of Time in 1992 and the year after chart-topper Sonia followed with Better The Devil You Know. In our list they are at #8 and #7 respectively.
The UK may not win very often but when it does, it wins big. In 1997 Katrina and the Waves lifted the trophy in Dublin with Love Shine a Light, 70 points ahead of its nearest rival, Ireland, which makes it also the winner in our chart, at #1:
The following year the contest was held in Birmingham and it was also the year that the country finished second for the 15th, and to date, last time, with Imaani’s Where Are You? She's at #6 in our list. It also marked the eighth time the contest had been hosted in the UK, having also taken on the task several times when other broadcasters had declined the opportunity. It is a record that the UK still holds to date.
The new millenium saw the UK enter its least successful phase in the Eurovision Song Contest having only reached the top five twice despite entering with international stars such as Blue, Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler. Earlier this year Lucie Jones finished 15th in the Grand Final with Never Give Up On You.
Despite the lack of recent success, the UK still has the strongest record in the competition overall. As we've seen with Austria and Portugal, two countries which have reversed their fortunes in the competition, the love may once again shine a light on the UK at Eurovision.
Who will follow in Lucie's footsteps in Lisbon and try to bring the UK back to their glory days?