Liam Rudden: Gordon’s song for Europe

Abba performed at the 1974 competition
Abba performed at the 1974 competition
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EUROVISION. Love it or loathe it, few can fail to know at least one song from the long-running TV spectacular that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

Whether it’s Bucks Fizz making their minds up, Brotherhood of Man tying a yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree or Abba meeting their Waterloo, the 54-year-old camp-fest has produced hit after hit down the decades. I love it.

Today, of course, the event has taken on gargantuan proportions and changed beyond all recognition from its early days.

The 1972 contest, for example, was held in the 2900-seat Usher Hall, while last year’s was at the 23,000-capacity Crystal Hall in Baku.

It’s to the early years that writer - and Eurovision expert - Gordon Roxburgh turns his attention in his new book, Songs For Europe - The United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest Volume One: The 1950s and 1960s.

As the title suggests, the book is the first in a series, which will chart the competition’s history.

This first instalment explores how the contest started and developed over its first 16 years.

Packed with every conceivable fact a fan could hope for, the 500-page book records all the UK songs, from the qualifying heats through to the final itself.

Using BBC archives, Roxburgh has tracked down many of those who took part or worked on the contest behind the scenes, and he includes their memories, often enlightening, of those early days.

Roxburgh’s passion for the Eurovision Song Contest comes through in his love of the minutae, which finds him listing everything from backing vocalists, to jury spokesmen and, in some cases, the names of the jury members themselves. Oh for the days before the public vote.

It all makes for an enjoyable trip down memory lane and a fascinating read.

• Songs For Europe... by Gordon Roxburgh can be ordered from