The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
Every couple of years, a song pops along at Eurovision that has the fanbase cooing over it being “Bond-esque.” Two recent examples are Austrian Conchita Wurst’s magnificent power ballad “Rise Like a Phoenix” (2014) and Belgian Sennek’s “A Matter of Time.” (2018)
And by Bond-esque, fans usually mean the power ballad that plays after the opening action sequence of a James Bond movie over a title sequence overseen by Maurice Binder. The as-yet 25th (official) installment featuring the international hijinks of alcoholic, womanizing MI-6 Secret Agent 007 up against monomaniacal villains (the fella who played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody!) and mysterious international conglomerates (S.P.E.C.T.R.E.!) began filming in Jamaica, with Daniel Craig returning for the fifth time (despite numerous on-set injuries) and director Cary Fukunaga brought on to helm it.
So rather than numbers that are “Bond-esque,” are there any Eurovision connections to the British film franchise that kicked off in 1961 with Sean Connery in Dr. No? Plenty, as it turns out. So much so I have to condense the entries and jam them into two parts.
The first part was covered here, and in no particular order other than we start with one of the most iconic Bond girls ever, here is the second part:
Eurovision: United Kingdom, “Hurdy Gurdy Joe” (Song Three, Heat Three, A Song for Europe 1957)
Bond: “Goldfinger” (1964)
What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think the Sean Connery classic Goldfinger? The gold painted body of Jill Masterson, played by Shirley Eaton. To send a message to Bond, the goofy yet sinister German gold magnate villain Auric Goldfinger smothers Masterson to death by painting her body from head to toe in gold, and her body remains an iconic image for this 1964 entry, the 3rd in the series, being used in almost all marketing for the film to this day. Now when you mention the name Shirley and Bond, you’re naturally thinking the awesome Welsh diva Shirley Bassey and her incredible songs (“Goldfinger,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and “Moonraker,” a movie that is a tornado of turds but has one of the best Bond theme songs), but the only 007 Shirley with a direct Eurovision connection is model, actress, singer, and writer Shirley Eaton.
Now for details on Eaton’s entry, which was called “Hurdy Gurdy Joe,” a song entered for the United Kingdom’s first ever national selection for their first ever entry at Eurovision 1957, I have to turn to Gordon Roxburgh’s excellent resource Songs for Europe: The United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest Volume One: The 1950s and 1960s. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) infamously treated its tapes for its 1950s and 1960s programming like toilet paper, so archivists like Roxburgh combing through BBC records to find notes, interviews, and related material are essential to the survival of early pop cultural phenomena such as Eurovision or Doctor Who where the original episodes have been erased from history.
Now if you can find a performance of Shirley Eaton performing “Hurdy Gurdy Joe,” written by Tommie O’Connor, with Eaton’s version arranged by Alan Yates and featuring a dancing performance by Bob Stevenson, you’ll have uncovered a Eurovision holy grail. A Song for Europe 1957 had a heat system similar to the first round of Eurovision: You Decide 2019 in which two different performers and music arrangers faced off with their takes on the same song. Bad news for Eaton – her version of “Hurdy Gurdy Joe” was up against Yorkshire singer Patricia Bredin’s version, and Bredin eventually went on to represent the United Kingdom at Eurovision 1957 with “All,” coming in 7th.
What was Eaton’s “Hurdy Gurdy Joe” all about? According to Roxburgh, “Dancer Bob Stevenson was supplied with a wig and made up and dressed to look a bit Chaplinesque, to be the hurdy gurdy man in the song. The set included three pictures, four small bulb bowls with light-coloured artificial crocuses, a feather duster and a lamp.” And in case you’re wondering, a hurdy gurdy is a traditional stringed instrument that is played by a hand cranked wheel rubbing against the strings.
With the folk metal explosion of the mid-2000s, the hurdy gurdy has made something of a comeback. A prominent use of the hurdy gurdy was in Swiss band Eluveitie’s fantastic break-out 2008 hit “Inis Mona.” This is not a random song drop, by the way. The hurdy gurdy player in this song will come up when we start talking about prominent metal musicians who entered Eurovision in our feature series on national selections later this year. \m/
Eurovision: United Kingdom, “I Love the Little Things” (2nd place, 1964)
Bond: “From Russia With Love” (1963)
Monro is a Eurovision legend in his own right, with his “I Love the Little Things” being one of the better Eurovision runners-up and an indicator of the quality the United Kingdom used to send to Eurovision. The UK were collecting more Number Twos at Eurovision than a professional dog walker, and so it was in 1964 when “Cockney Perry Como” Matt Monro’s “I Love the Little Things,” the only English language song on the night, came second to Italian 16-year-old Gigliola Cinquetti. Cinquetti also came in second to a little group named ABBA when she tried again at Eurovision 1974, so no-one can make the argument Monro was robbed. But despite his second place, I would argue Monro is one of the United Kingdom’s best ever entrants. (Sadly, as you may recall, almost all live footage of Eurovision 1964 was lost, but at least we have the radio broadcast.)
The year before his Eurovision appearance, Monro was tapped to sing “From Russia with Love,” from the sequel to the phenomenally successful Dr. No. Sean Connery had a lot to prove with his second outing as James Bond, and likewise the pressure was on John Barry to deliver another unique theme song. Both did. And then some. The sequel more than doubled Dr. No’s box office, and its theme song charted in the United Kingdom. And it was at the time of the film’s release that Matt Monro was internally selected to be the United Kingdom’s representative at Eurovision, with the public voting on “I Love the Little Things” at A Song for Europe 1964 as the best of six songs to take with him to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Eurovision: United Kingdom, “Try It” (non-qualifier, A Song for Europe 1969)
Bond: Octopussy (1983)
Everyone knows who Tim Rice is, so I won’t have to go into detail about the long career of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s favorite lyricist. Now while Lloyd-Webber’s collaboration with American legend Diane Warren on Jade Ewen’s “It’s My Time,” which got the United Kingdom a decent 5th place at Eurovision 2009, is well known, what is less known is that Lloyd-Webber and Rice cowrote a song named “Try It” for Lulu at A Song for Europe 1969, where Lulu was internally selected and songs were chosen by the voting public for Eurovision 1969. “Try It” did not make the final six of A Song for Europe 1969, though Lulu did alright with her entry “Boom Bang-a-bang” at the controversial Eurovision 1969 by being one of four winners.
And let’s get this part out of the way, too: Octopussy is a diabolically insane movie. The 1983 Roger Moore vehicle, which only saw Moore back in reluctantly after they had unsuccessfully tried to cast other actors as Bond, including James Brolin, was a crazy pastiche of Cold War skull-duggery, rogue generals, Indian playboys, Faberge eggs, Amazonian island women, clumsy Indiana Jones references, bad tennis puns (thanks to an appearance from Indian tennis legend Vijay Armitraj), and a traveling Eastern bloc circus. That they ended up with a classy song like “All Time High” with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by John Barry and Stephen Short performed by a classy American act like Rita Coolidge was something of a coup, though not an indicator the craziness about to assail the viewer. It’s a great song, though we can also admit Octopussy is a fun, light-weight Bond entry, and Louis Jourdan is a smooth, suave villain and Steven Berkoff is great as a scenery chewing rogue Soviet general.
Eurovision: United Kingdom, “Ten out of Ten” (non-qualifier, A Song for Europe 1964), and National Final judge, A Song for Europe 1989
Bond: “Goldfinger” (1964) and “You Only Live Twice” (1967)
A legendary lyricist, who worked primarily on soundtracks (he won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Talk to the Animals” from the 1967 film Doctor Dolittle) and musicals, Bricusse also had considerable success penning lyrics for jazz artists from Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Nina Simone, Maureen McGovern, and Diane Krall. Bricusse also tried his hand at A Song for Europe 1964 (see Matt Monro, above), but “Ten out of Ten” came in fifth out of six. Bricusse was also a judge for A Song for Europe 1989, where Live Report’s Foreigner-ish power ballad “Why Do I Always Get It Wrong?” won. And surprise! It came in second for the United Kingdom at Eurovision 1989 to Yugoslavian Riva’s “Rock Me,” a close result and despite Live Report getting more 12 point scores from judges than Riva.
For Bond, he was the lyricist on Shirley Bassey’s superb “Goldfinger.” Now “Goldfinger” is great, but Bricusse went closer to his jazz background working with John Barry on the theme song for “You Only Live Twice.” A remarkably simple composition, but a very memorable one, and as performed by the great Nancy Sinatra, second only to “Goldfinger” as the best Bond theme ever. And it seemed to end up that way totally by accident. Bond film producer Cubby Broccoli wanted Frank Sinatra, John Barry wanted Aretha Franklin, Bricusse fancied neither as he wanted a less bombastic singer than Shirley Bassey and a less bombastic score overall, and Frank himself suggested his own daughter Nancy, who had a smash hit in 1966 with “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” Ol’ Blue Eyes was spot on with his recommendation, as Nancy’s “You Only Live Twice” charted in both the United Kingdom and United States and, quality of the underlying movie being debatable, is considered one of the best Bond theme songs.
Eurovision: France, “Un premier amour” (Winner, 1962); “La Source” (3rd place, 1968); French national selections in 1961, 1970, 1976, 1983
Bond: “Savez-vous ce qu’il faut au sapin de Noel?” from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)
Aubret won Eurovision 1962 with a fairly traditional French ballad about the intoxicating effects of first love. 1962 was also the first and last year where 3 points went to the winner selected by each jury, 2 points for second, and 1 point for third. As such, four countries ended up with the dreaded “nul” points. Aubret won with a lowly 26 points, which far outpaced 2nd placed Monaco on 13 points, though to be fair, Aubret would beat Scooch’s “Flying the Flag for You” using 1962 points and Scooch using 2007 points, and Malta hadn’t even debuted by Eurovision 1962 to throw protest votes at anyone then. The point is that 1962 loved Aubret, and the low point allotments should not take away from her victory, even if the French language tracks of this period are not your thing.
Also, not most Bond fans’ thing: George Lazenby. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is actually a very good film, with a more “realistic” plot that dialed down the maniacal villains and secret lairs and wacky contraptions, featured a sinister villain in Telly Savalas’s Blofeld, and for once Bond had a leading lady who was a genuine love interest and connection played by the great Diana Rigg. The film’s major flaw – Bond himself, played with hesitation and stiffness by Australian model and actor George Lazenby. Had Lazenby’s natural cockiness come through on film, he might have been fine. Such as his cockiness that comes from proclaiming while filming that his one portrayal of Bond is all he’d need to make an impact. The film has, he did not.
Now how does Aubret come into this (and our next entry)? You may recall that Louis Armstrong’s phenomenally touching “We Have All the Time in the World,” the song title referring to the final line of the book as Bond cradles his dying wife, is the most remembered song from this film, if people even remember Armstrong’s song was from this film. And that’s not even the main song of the film (John Barry’s instrumental is). No, Aubret is involved in that she performed a French language version of a secondary song from the film that was released in foreign markets to try drum up non-British and non-American business for the Bond franchise.
Aubret did the French language version of Nina’s “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?,” a song that was featured in the movie during Bond’s escape from Blofeld’s goons at a skating rink in Switzerland. Aubret’s “Savez-vous ce qu’il faut au sapin de Noël?” was released in France, and, what a coink-i-dink, the German version was performed by a Eurovision legend as well.
Eurovision: Germany, “Wunder gibt es immer wieder” (3rd place, Eurovision 1970), “Diese Welt” (3rd place, Eurovision 1971), “Theater” (2nd place, Eurovision 1980)
Bond: “Wovon träumt ein Weihnachtsbaum im Mai?” from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)
The major difference between Ebstein and Aubret is that her German rendition of “Do You Know How Christmas Trees are Grown?” was done before her first tilt at Eurovision. Ebstein is probably most famous for her 1980 entry “Theater,” which came in second despite the appearance of mimes in her performance. And she is famous for entering three times and never finishing outside the top three, despite never taking the crown. I know how Christmas trees are grown, but not how mimes sing. Considering the dull stodge Germany has sent lately, you have to appreciate it when artists like Ebstein were rewarded for putting in eccentric performances. And yes, that is Ralph Siegel on stage playing the piano wearing gloves with mini-mimes on the fingers.
Who do #YOU think is the best James Bond? What do #YOU think is the best Bond theme, Eurovision connection or none? Leave your comments below, on social media, or in our forum.