|Eurovision Song Contest 1981|
|Final||4 April 1981|
|Presenter(s)||Doireann Ní Bhriain|
|Directed by||Ian McGarry|
|Executive supervisor||Frank Naef|
|Host broadcaster||Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ)|
|Interval act||"Timedance" performed by Planxty featuring dance performance by the 'Dublin City Ballet'|
|Number of entries||20|
|Returning countries|| Israel|
|Withdrawing countries|| Italy|
|Voting system||Each country awarded 12, 10, 8-1 point(s) to their 10 favourite songs|
|Winning song|| United Kingdom|
"Making Your Mind Up"
The Eurovision Song Contest 1981 was the 26th edition of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. It took place in Dublin, Ireland, following Johnny Logan's win at the 1980 contest in The Hague, Netherlands with the song "What's Another Year". It was the second time the contest took place in Ireland, after 1971. The contest was held at the RDS Simmonscourt on Saturday 4 April 1981, and was hosted by Doireann Ní Bhriain.
Twenty countries participated in the contest, equalling the record of the 1978 edition. Cyprus made their début this year, while Israel, and Yugoslavia both returned, after their one-year and five-year absence, respectively. Morocco withdrew after their début in the previous edition, while Italy withdrew due to a lack of interest.
The winner was the United Kingdom with the song "Making Your Mind Up", performed by Bucks Fizz, written by Andy Hill, and composed by John Danter. This was the United Kingdom's fourth victory in the contest, following their wins in 1967, 1969 (in the infamous four-way tie), and 1976. Germany finished second for the second consecutive year, while France finished third. Norway finished last, with its third nul points.
Bucks Fizz's win launched the group's hugely successful international career. Their performance on the Eurovision stage included a dance-routine where the two male members ripped the skirts off the two female members only to reveal mini-skirts, and today stands as one of the defining moments in the contest's history.
This year's contest took place in Dublin, the capital of Ireland.
The contest took place under heavy guard at the 15,000 seat Simmonscourt Pavilion of the RDS, which was normally used for agricultural and horse shows. Over 250 armed soldiers and police were on hand to protect against any likely political demonstrations.
Having won the year before, Ireland hosted the 1981 contest – the second time they had done so. As in 1971, the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest was produced by the country's broadcaster RTÉ. The presenter on this occasion was Doireann Ni Bhriain, who was well known in Ireland at the time as a TV presenter and for the current affairs radio show Women Today. She was chosen for her fluency in Irish and English as well as having studied French, which she spoke with some ease. The director was Ian McGarry, while Noel Kelehan was the chief conductor for the show.
It cost RTÉ over £300,000 to stage, although this included £110,000 from the EBU. From this, the Irish Government expected to make around £2,000,000 from tourism as a result of staging the show. The RDS would go on to host the next Irish Eurovision production in 1988.
This year marked the début of Cyprus in the contest, who finished sixth. Returning to the contest was Israel, who did not compete the previous year, despite winning the two years previous to that. They finished seventh. Yugoslavia also returned to the competition after a five-year absence. Italy withdrew for the first time from the contest, due to lack of interest, while Morocco declined to take part after their sole entry the year before.
Of the performers, many previous contestants returned to the contest this year. Notably, Jean-Claude Pascal for Luxembourg, who had won the contest 20 years earlier, although could only manage 11th place this time. Repeated entrants Peter, Sue and Marc returned for the fourth time, after 1971, 1976 and 1979. Performing again for Switzerland, they remain the only act to sing in four different languages (French, English, German and this time, Italian). Other returnees were Marty Brem who had taken part the year before for Austria, Tommy Seebach for Denmark, and Björn Skifs for Sweden. Bucks Fizz member, Cheryl Baker had performed in 1978 with the band Co-Co for the UK, while Sheeba member Maxi had performed as a solo artist in 1973 for Ireland.
The 46-piece Irish TV orchestra didn't have a saxophone as they didn't consider it an orchestral instrument, which caused great concern with the United Kingdom entry as a saxophone appeared heavily on their song. Andy Hill – the producer of the single – said that had they known, they would have dropped one of the two backing singers to be replaced by a saxophonist, there being two on the actual recording.
The interval act was traditional Irish band Planxty, who performed the lengthy piece "Timedance", which depicted Irish music through the ages. The dancers were from Dublin City Ballet with choreography by Iain Montague. This is seen as a precursor to Riverdance, which became famous after its performance in 1994. The song, which was written by Bill Whelan, went on to be released as a Planxty single and became a No.3 hit in the Irish charts.
This mix of past and present was also the theme to the contest's opening montage, which featured shots of Celtic ruins, cliffs and castles, edited together with close-ups of art, aeroplanes, architecture and horse races.
The voting proved to be memorable for its closeness. The UK won by four points, but leading up to this, five countries took pole position at various stages: UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and Ireland. Just before the penultimate vote, three countries (UK, Germany and Switzerland) were all on equal top marks. After this, Switzerland (who had performed second last) were unable to collect points as it was their jury's results that were being announced, while Germany failed to receive votes either. The UK gained eight, which meant that when the final jury (Sweden) were about to cast their votes, the UK needed five points or more to win over either country. Switzerland were quickly eliminated by receiving just one vote. The UK passed the five-point mark and received eight votes, while Germany did indeed receive the maximum 12 points, but it was too late. France finished third, with Switzerland fourth and the hosts Ireland coming in fifth. Of these, Switzerland received the most top votes despite only finishing fourth, while the UK only received two. The UK did however receive points from every competing country. Meanwhile, at the other end of the board was Norway, who finished last with no points for the third time in Eurovision history, gaining no points in 1963 and 1978 as well.
Other memorable moments included a glitch in the scorekeeping, giving host country Ireland 310 extra points instead of the 10 designated by the Luxembourg jury. Also of note, when host Doireann Ní Bhriain attempted to collect Yugoslavia's votes, after repeated attempts to contact them, Yugoslavia's spokeswoman, Helga Vlahović, who went on to present the 1990 contest, finally answered the phone and abruptly answered "I don't have it", causing laughter to erupt from the audience. Also during the final vote, Turkey's nine points suddenly disappeared from the scoreboard.
Runner-up Lena Valaitis was in good spirits while talking to the press following the contest and largely unconcerned about losing. Swedish singer Björn Skifs however was more outspoken saying; "This was not a song contest, it was a show – all these dancing girls, they take away from the songs. I also think there should be a change in the rules to allow us to sing in English. Then we would really be able to compete." Harald Tusberg, head of light entertainment for Norwegian television was upbeat about Norway's 'nul points' result as he claimed that their entry would be remembered above many others; "Who remembers who came second or third – people will remember us!". Finn Kalvik himself conceded graciously saying that he had enjoyed the week's holiday.
Following this year's contest, France withdrew from competing the following year, with the broadcaster announcing that the songs were "a monument to drivel". Indeed, many comments had been made regarding the quality of the winning group's performance indicating that the song had most likely won by style over substance. Either way, Bucks Fizz went on to have a very successful career over the next few years, and became one of the top-selling groups of the 1980s. The winning song itself reached No.1 in nine countries and became a top ten hit in nations such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, selling four million copies worldwide.
Germany, who had never won the contest up to this point, were becoming increasingly frustrated with their second placings in this and the previous year's contest and made a concerted effort for the following year. This was to pay off, as in 1982 they finally clinched their first victory which was achieved in an overwhelming manner.
The UK's victory this year meant that the contest would take place in the UK the following year – the seventh time the country had hosted the event (a record unbeaten and later extended by an eighth UK hosting in 1998). The BBC opted to take it to the North Yorkshire town of Harrogate at a later than usual date, 24 April. The 1981 contest was held on 4 April and up to (and including) 2018 has never been as early again.
Decades later, Debbie Cameron, who represented Denmark with Tommy Seebach, revealed in a book about Seebach that she was contacted by a BBC employee, who told her that Bucks Fizz's victory was planned. According to the employee, he had witnessed how BBC technicians had sabotaged the sound checks during the rehearsal of the Danish, the Israeli and the Western German performances. This claim however ignores the fact that the BBC did not host the 1981 Contest.
Each performance had a conductor who conducted the orchestra.
|Marty Brem||Austria||1980 (part of Blue Danube)|
|Maxi (part of Sheeba)||Ireland||1973|
|Jean-Claude Pascal||Luxembourg||1961 (winner)|
|Peter, Sue and Marc||Switzerland||1971, 1976, 1979|
|Cheryl Baker (part of Bucks Fizz)||United Kingdom||1978 (part of Co-Co)|
|01||Austria||Marty Brem||"Wenn du da bist"||German||17||20|
|02||Turkey||Modern Folk Üçlüsü & Ayşegül||"Dönme Dolap"||Turkish||18||9|
|03||Germany||Lena Valaitis||"Johnny Blue"||German||2||132|
|04||Luxembourg||Jean-Claude Pascal||"C'est peut-être pas l'Amérique"||French||11||41|
|05||Israel||Hakol Over Habibi||"Halayla" (הלילה)||Hebrew||7||56|
|06||Denmark||Tommy Seebach & Debbie Cameron||"Krøller eller ej"||Danish||11||41|
|07||Yugoslavia||Seid Memić "Vajta"||"Lejla"||Serbo-Croatian||15||35|
|08||Finland||Riki Sorsa||"Reggae OK"||Finnish||16||27|
|10||Spain||Bacchelli||"Y sólo tú"||Spanish||14||38|
|11||Netherlands||Linda Williams||"Het is een wonder"||Dutch||9||51|
|13||Norway||Finn Kalvik||"Aldri i livet"||Norwegian||20||0|
|14||United Kingdom||Bucks Fizz||"Making Your Mind Up"||English||1||136|
|17||Greece||Yiannis Dimitras||"Feggari kalokerino" (Φεγγάρι καλοκαιρινό)||Greek||8||55|
|19||Switzerland||Peter, Sue and Marc||"Io senza te"||Italian||4||121|
|20||Sweden||Björn Skifs||"Fångad i en dröm"||Swedish||10||50|
Each country had a jury who awarded 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 point(s) for their top ten songs.
|The table is ordered by appearance|
Below is a summary of all 12 points in the final:
|5||Switzerland||Finland, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia|
|4||France||Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland|
|Germany||Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey|
|United Kingdom||Netherlands, Israel|
Some participating countries did not provide radio broadcasts for the event; the ones who did are listed below.
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