‘The Could Have Beens’ is a new retrospective series that looks back at the national finals that produced eventual Eurovision winners.

On the night of March 20, 1982, television viewers across West Germany tuned into Ein Lied für Harrogate, the country’s Eurovision national final. 12 acts squared off, hoping to represent the nation at that year’s contest in Harrogate. Germany was coming off of two 2nd place finishes in a row: at Eurovision 1980 with Katja Ebstein‘s “Theater” and at Eurovision 1981 with Lena Valaitis‘ “Johnny Blue”. These were the best results Germany had ever achieved at the contest as, despite participating since the very first edition, Germany had yet to win. Hopes were high that the nation could capitalize on two years’ worth of winning momentum, and the national final was full of familiar Eurovision faces … including one previous Eurovision winner.

Nicole performs “Ein bißchen Frieden” at Eurovision 1982.

As it turned out, none of those big names were a match for a fresh-faced, 17-year-old newcomer with a mop of thick hair and a song of peace in her heart. Nicole won the night with her song “Ein bißchen Frieden”, and she did it definitively, scoring almost 800 points higher than the 2nd place finisher. (A 500-member demoscopic jury of select West German citizens was responsible for awarding the points.) Nicole would go on to represent Germany at that year’s Eurovision, and, well, the rest is history.

But who were the other 11 competitors that came so close to altering the course of Eurovision history? Their songs may have been forgotten to time, but these artists were important supporting acts in the journey of a Eurovision champion. How did they arrive at this moment and, perhaps more interestingly, where did they go after? To answer all these questions and more, it’s time to take a look back at the songs, sights, and singers of Ein Lied für Harrogate 1982! (You can watch the entire show here.)

Gottlieb Wendehals- “Der Ohrwurm”

Werner and The Cabinet Jazzmen are profiled in a 1960s newspaper article.

Known for his wacky stage persona, party anthems, and regular accompaniment by a rubber chicken, one might be surprised to learn about the auspicious beginnings of the man commonly known as Gottlieb Wendehals Werner Böhm. Born in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941 to a pianist father and a soprano mother, music was always a part of Werner‘s upbringing. While finishing school and beginning to apprentice as an interior decorator, he was a member of the acclaimed, Hamburg-based jazz group The Cabinet Jazzmen. He spent the majority of the ‘6os working in the worlds of advertising and design, but soon he was pulled back into the music industry. He worked as a jazz club pianist in 1970 and 1971, accompanying legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong as they made stops in Hamburg. By 1974, Werner was working as a full-time musician and joined the Schlager group Renterband as a pianist and composer. He soon struck out on his own, releasing an album and a couple singles without much success. His career fortunes changed in 1979 when he developed the character of Gottlieb Wendehals, soon releasing the massive hit singles “Herbert” and “Polonäse Blankenese“. (The latter song sold over 1 million copies.) It was around that time that he married Eurovision 1972 veteran Mary Roos, who also competed at Ein Lied für Harrogate with a song co-written by him.

Gottlieb Wendehals kicked off Ein Lied für Harrogate in style … his own style. Rocking his customary black and white checkered suit jacket and slicked back hair, Gottlieb was joined on stage by two female backing singers in thematically-consistent dresses. His song, “Der Ohrwurm” or “The Earworm”, features music and lyrics by Harald Wolff Berg and Beppo Pohlmann of the humorous German band Gebrüder Blattschuss and is (by design) a rather goofy and repetitive polka number. The staging took the song’s title quite literally. At the halfway mark of the performance, a man appeared behind Gottlieb carrying a sousaphone. Inside was a ruddy-faced puppet wearing Gottlieb‘s signature colors and a smart little cap. Gottlieb pulled this ‘earworm’ out of the sousaphone’s mouth and carried it to the front of the stage, the puppet’s long tail dragging behind. After he wrapped up his performance with a flourish and a kiss on the puppet’s cheek, Gottlieb bowed to an amused, if slightly nonplussed audience and headed off stage to wait for the night’s results. Ultimately, the song wasn’t exactly an earworm in the minds of the demoscopic jury, and it finished second-to-last.

Werner appears on ‘Das Supertalent’, 2014.

The success of Gottlieb Wendehals as a character became a bit of a golden cage for Werner as his career progressed. Throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, he attempted a series of career pivots and rebrands, including an English-language disco-funk project and a Schlager album under his own name, but nothing could match the early successes of Gottlieb Wendehals. Werner continued releasing music under that name until the late 1990s, to diminishing returns, and worked as a radio host in the early ’00s. His biggest hits as Gottlieb kept him ian n demand performer on TV and at cultural events, but divorces, lavish spending, and an alcohol dependency soon drained his bank account. He declared bankruptcy twice, once in the mid-’90s and once in 2008. He began appearing on reality TV shows like I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here and Big Brother. Werner‘s last major TV appearance was on Germany’s Got Talent in 2014. In January 2020, he moved to Grand Canary Island off the coast of Spain to be near a few friends and focus on his health. His time there was happy, according to those close to him, and he was finally at peace with all he had accomplished. Sadly, he passed away of heart failure in June of that year, three days before his 79th birthday.

Séverine- “Ich glaub’ an meine Träume”

Séverine, the morning after her Eurovision victory, holding up a copy of a newspaper with her fave on the cover.

Of all the acts competing on the night, none of them were as formidable a competitor as Séverine. The French chanteuse was already a Eurovision champion, winning for Monaco in 1971 with the song “Un banc, un arbre, une rue“. Prior to her contest victory, Séverine had been a bit of a career chameleon. At 19, she was signed to a record contract and released a song under the stage name ‘Celine’. Her EP would fail to take off, and she was soon dropped by her label. No matter. By the next year, Séverine had a weekly gig at a prestigious Parisian music club, performing covers as ‘Robie Lorr’ with the French rock band Les Murators. She was quickly discovered by a manager, signed to a new record contract, and released a string of singles and EPs. She put out both a French and a German-language album in 1971, before being recruited to represent Monaco at Eurovision. Her winning song was a hit all over Europe (and in Japan), and the success fueled further career opportunities. In 1973, things took an unfortunate turn for Séverine. She sued her manager for fraud, a suit she would eventually win, but she was prevented from recording and performing in France by the extended legal proceedings. Luckily, her music had always performed well in Germany. She uprooted her life and career to West Germany where she continued releasing music in German throughout the ’70s.

By 1982, Séverine‘s career had slowed. Her record sales had dipped, and she had taken a break from the spotlight after the birth of her son in 1975. But, in the early ’80s, she mounted a comeback, eventually landing her at Ein Lied für Harrogate. “Ich glaub´an meine Träume” or “I Believe in My Dreams” was co-written by music producer Jack White (not that one) and composer Kurt Hertha. Séverine strode on stage with the confidence of an old pro, carrying miles of black and white frills with her. Her short, feathered hair remained untouched by the years. Shot primarily in close up, her performance featured big, belting vocals and generated a loud and enthusiastic response from the studio audience. Ultimately, however, she only managed to place 10th.

Séverine is given a hero’s welcome by Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Séverine‘s career went mostly quiet throughout the rest of the ’80s and ’90s, though she did record a few singles with various German record labels and released an album in 1994. She had successes during that time, but nothing compared to the heights she had reached in her heyday. Interest in her music spiked in the late ’90s in France when a greatest hits album was released. That interest led to her return to the Paris stage in the year 2000. (This ended a nearly three-decade-long absence.) Her comeback concert was a sold out triumph, and a recording of it was released on a 2002 album. She spent the next decade performing and working as a singing instructor at a conservatory in Paris, occasionally promoting the release of further greatest hits compilations. (She lives in Paris to this day.) In 2006, Séverine accompanied the Monegasque delegation to Athens for what turned out to be Monaco’s final Eurovision appearance. But before she could travel to Greece, she needed to do something she had never done before: she visited Monaco. Yes, the singer who brought Monaco its one and only contest victory had actually never stepped foot in the microstate. She was personally welcomed into the country by Prince Albert II at a grand gala in her honor. There, she performed “Un banc, un arbre, une rue” for the very first time on Monegasque soil.

Jennifer Kemp- “Wie Phönix aus der Asche”

The cover of Jennifer’s 1978 single, “Lion’s Heart”.

Jennifer Kemp was a relative newcomer to the European music scene. After reportedly getting her start as part of a band called Juwel in the mid-’70s, she was one of the first solo acts signed in 1978 to the Munich-based, upstart record label Karma. She would release a handful of Schlager pop singles and one English-language album before Karma folded after only two years. “Wie Phönix aus der Asche” was Jennifer‘s first release since losing her record company in 1980, and the song was released by Jupiter Records, the label founded by “Ein bißchen Frieden” co-writer Ralph Siegel.

Featuring music and lyrics by Alexander Gordan and Norbert Hammerschmidt, “Wie Phönix aus der Asche” (roughly translates as “Like a Phoenix from the Ashes”) is a love song and slice of pure ’80s Schlager. For her performance, Jennifer marched on stage in a sparkly black jacket, pink pirate top, and stiletto black heels. Her husky vocals were accompanied by the sounds of a prominently featured set of organ chimes. The performance was greeted with polite, if not enthusiastic applause from the audience, and the song ultimately placed last.

Unfortunately, information about Jennifer Kemp‘s life after Ein Lied für Harrogate is hard to come by. “Wie Phönix aus der Asche” was the last song she ever released, and she (purposefully or otherwise) faded into obscurity.

Mel Jersey- “Schenk’ mir eine Nacht”

The cover of Mel’s self-titled, English-language album, released in 1976.

Pop crooner Mel Jersey had already burnt through a couple musical personae by the time his debut single was released in 1971. In the early ‘6os, he toured Germany as the lead singer of the rock band Cliff Cenneth And The Lights , and he released a handful of singles under his birth name, ‘Eberhard Jupe’, in 1969. After making his debut as ‘Mel Jersey’, he spent the remainder of the ’70s releasing minor hits and two self-titled albums, one in German and one in English. By the early ’80s, he had begun writing songs for other established acts while still focusing on his own fledgling music career. He had also attempted to represent Germany once before, placing 6th at the 1980 national final with the song “Du bist nicht mehr frei” or “You Are No Longer Free”.

Wearing a classic grey tux, Mel strolled onto the Ein Lied für Harrogate stage with a casual confidence of a consummate showman. His song, “Schenk’ mir eine Nacht” or “Give Me One Night”, is a throwback to the crooner pop of the 1970s. Co-written with his wife, Judith Jupe, the song is a smooth, easy-listening lament of lost love. Mel ended his performance with a sly grin and a bow, and the audience responded warmly. Ultimately, however, he only finished 7th place on the night.

Judith and Mel pose with some of the awards and honors they’ve received over the past three decades.

Mel didn’t lick his wounds for too long as, soon after, he entered a new chapter of his career that would ultimately prove much more successful. Married since 1969, Mel and his wife Judith began writing and releasing music together under the moniker ‘Judith & Mel’ in the mid-’80s. Their first single was 1984’s “Ich Habe Mich Heut’ Nacht An Dich Verloren” or “I Lost Myself to You Tonight”, and their career was launched by an appearance at the 1990 Grand Prix of Folk Music. They only finished 5th at that festival with the song “Land im Norden” or “Country in the North”, but it became a massive success, eventually selling over four million copies and going 15x platinum. What followed over the next two decades was a steady stream of album releases, popular singles, and high finishes at various German music competitions. The pair also made regular appearances on German television and toured the country extensively. Over the last couple years, ‘Judith & Mel’ have slowed down. In 2019, Judith suffered a heart attack and was briefly in a medically induced coma. Luckily, Judith recovered, and the duo were able to continue performing and releasing music … albeit at a much slower pace. Mel and Judith have two daughters and currently live in Northern Germany.

Gaby Baginsky- “So wie du bist”

Gaby, sporting her original brunette locks, in a 1977 promo poster.

Eurovision had been a part of Gaby Baginsky‘s music journey from the very beginning. She caught the singing bug at age 12 after performing Sandie Shaw’s contest winning song “Puppet on a String” for a group of German soldiers. She released her first single in 1970, at the age of 16, but her career took off in the mid-’70s with the release of chart-topping singles like “Häng Die Gitarre Nicht An Den Nagel” (“Don’t Hang Up the Guitar”) and “Diebe Kommen Am Abend” (“Thieves Come in the Night”). The latter was the title track off of Gaby‘s debut album, and she spent the rest of the decade as a constant fixture on the German music scene, producing a few songs that are still considered Schlager classics. After releasing her self-titled second album in 1980, Gaby‘s career was in full swing.

On the night of Ein Lied für Harrogate, Gaby practically skipped on stage. With her newly feathered blonde hair and pink frilly dress, she looked every bit the confident pro. And she had reason to be confident. Her song, “So wie du bist” or “The Way You Are”, came from a powerhouse songwriting team: the song’s composer, Dietmar Kawohl, first cut his teeth writing for German disco supergroup Boney M, and the lyrics were provided by Michael Kunze, a prolific writer who had a worldwide #1 hit with Silver Connections “Fly, Robin, Fly” in 1976. Coming from a creative team so stacked with disco cred, the audience never could have expected the light and airy country folk song Gaby performed. Accompanied by the twang of a steel guitar, she stared down the lens with her big doe eyes and swayed to the bluegrass rhythms. The audience reception was warm, if a bit thrown off by the sonic curve ball. Unfortunately, Gaby‘s Eurovision dreams were not to be, as she only finished 9th on the night.

Gaby performing in June 2022.

Gaby took a bit of a break for the rest of the decade, but her career was far from over. She returned with a new album in 1990, and she has been a prolific hit maker and staple of the German Schlager music scene ever since. She has released 16 albums over the last three decades, and has had many, many, many successful singles on the German radio charts. She even has a song on the German music charts as we speak, and, according to her active Facebook account, she just set sail on a Schlager cruise around the Baltic Sea. And she may not have won Ein Lied für Harrogate, but she did eventually get a trophy to her name, winning the 1998 German Schlager Festival with the song “Männer (Versteh’n Nur Was Sie Woll’n)” or “Men (Only Understand What They Want)”. She lives with her husband of over 25 years (and over 20 cats) in Lower Saxony.

Marianne Rosenberg- “Blue-Jeans-Kinder”

The album artwork for Marianne’s very first single.

“Quit” is not a word in Marianne Rosenberg‘s vocabulary. After falling in love with Eurovision as a child in ’60s West Berlin, she competed to represent Germany at the contest in 1975, 1978, and 1980. (She also competed to represent Luxembourg at that country’s first ever national final in 1976.) The daughter of a prominent Romani Holocaust survivor, Marianne‘s early life gave no indication of the opulent direction her career would take. Her father was haunted by his time spent in Auschwitz and developed a drinking problem to cope. Marianne was one of seven children in her family, and there wasn’t much money to go around. That all changed practically overnight when, at the age of 15, she was discovered at a young talent competition by producer and songwriter Joachim Heider. The first song he wrote for her, 1969’s “Mr. Paul McCartney“, was a hit, and Marianne quickly became a household name in the German Schlager music scene. She was one of the first singers in Germany to truly embrace the American disco sound, releasing a string of hit singles and 10 albums between 1971 and 1981, all with the involvement of Joachim Heider. Oh … and she cut her teeth performing in discos and gay clubs, earning her the moniker of ‘Gay Icon’ that she retains to this day.

“Blue-Jeans-Kinder” could be best described as a power ballad lullaby, a sing song-y nursery rhyme with high notes and TWO key changes. Dressed in a bright blue dress accented with gold trim, puffy sleeves, and a giant bow worn around the waist, Marianne looked as if she had walked off the set of a Dynasty Christmas special. The music and lyrics for the song came from Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger, the same songwriting duo responsible for many of Germany’s Eurovision entries over the years … including, as it so happened, “Ein bißchen Frieden”. The audience reception was warm, with whistles and cheers greeting the end of Marianne‘s performance, but that reaction proved to be misleading. She only placed 8th.

The poster for Marianne’s current ‘Diva’ tour.

Around the time of Ein Lied für Harrogate, Marianne‘s career shifted. The ’80s were a period of experimentation for her. She switched labels and creative teams and began focusing on more traditional pop and New Wave sounds. She struck up friendships with underground artists and collaborated with German New Wave bands. She became more politically outspoken. In 1984, she co-starred in an underground, experimental vampire film set in the Berlin New Wave scene. Marianne reemerged on the national stage in the early ’90s with a more synth-y, electronic sound, and she released her first fully English-language album in 1993. For the three decades since, she has been successfully touring Germany and recording new music at a pretty steady clip, working in styles from classic Schlager and electropop to jazz. She continues to perform for sold out crowds, large and small, and in front of millions of television viewers. It seems unlikely that the now 67-year-old singer would ever throw her hat back into the Eurovision ring again, but who knows? Her career is still flourishing. Her newest release, an album of German-language covers of disco classics, debuted just this month at #5 on the German albums charts. (The title track is a cover of Dana International‘s Eurovision-winning song, “Diva”.)

David Hanselmann and Mary Roos- “Lady”

David and the other members of Overdrive.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1952, to an American father and German mother, David Hanselmann got his start singing in American soldiers’ clubs at age 13. By 15, he had formed a band with school friends, and, by 18, he was touring Europe as part of the backing band for established acts like British hard rock band UFO. He spent the ’70s as the replacement lead vocalist for two German prog rock bands, Message and Triumvirat, recording an album with each group. In 1979, David formed electronic disco trio Overdrive, releasing a couple singles and recording an album. While working on that project, he met keyboardist and producer Chris Evans, and the two collaborated on two highly acclaimed electronic concept albums. It was also during that time that David co-wrote the aforementioned song “Herbert” with Werner Böhm AKA Gottlieb Wendehals. Their partnership bore fruit when he paired up with Werner‘s then-wife, Mary Roos, at Ein Lied für Harrogate, performing a song co-written by Werner.

Mary performs on the German re-edit of an episode of ‘The Muppet Show’, 1976.

Mary Roos was no stranger to the Eurovision universe when she entered Ein Lied für Harrogate, having represented Germany at the 1972 contest with the song “Nur die Liebe läßt uns leben” or “Only Love Lets Us Live”. (She brought Germany its third straight 3rd place finish in a row that year.) Born Rosemarie Schwab in 1949, Mary grew up performing for guests at the hotel her parents ran. One of those guests, German pianist and songwriter Karl Götz, was impressed by her talent and invited her to record her very first song, “Ja die Dicken sind ja so gemütlich“, at just nine years old. A few more singles followed, including “Little Teenager Song” on the soundtrack of a 1958 crime movie. Though none of her childhood singles were huge hits, Mary soon found success competing at European music festivals. (For example, she placed 6th at the 1966 German Schlager Festival.) She released two albums in the late-60s’, before her new French husband began managing her career in 1970. After placing 2nd at the 1970 German Eurovision national final, Mary got her big break when legendary Italian music producer Giorgio Moroder wrote “Arizona Man” for her self-titled third album. The song reached #2 on the German music charts, and the spike in popularity landed Mary her own music chat show on German television. Throughout the ’70s, she released music in German and French and continued making television appearances … including in the re-edit for German television of a 1976 The Muppet Show episode. And with her success at  Eurovision 1972 under her belt, Mary tried her luck again at the 1975 German national final. (She placed 3rd.)

After divorcing her first husband in the late-70s, Mary wed Werner Böhm AKA Gottlieb Wendehals. “Lady”, the song he co-wrote for Mary and David to compete with at Ein Lied für Harrogate, is a classic power ballad about growing together in romantic relationships. The duo confidently strode on stage at the beginning of their performance. Mary was wearing a black fringe dress that swayed with her every move, and David was rocking a dark purple suit to match the sash she was wearing around her waist. And, as it was 1982, they both showed up with impressive mullets. Mary and David had the relaxed, fun interplay of seasoned pros, and they glowed gold under the studio lights. After putting a period on their performance with strong finishing notes, the pair were grinning from ear to ear, and the audience was just as enthusiastic. Whistles and extended applause sent Mary and David on their way, but that joy was cut short at the end of the night when “Lady”only finished in 6th place. Not all was lost: besides “Ein bißchen Frieden”, Mary and David‘s song would become the best performing Ein Lied für Harrogate entry on the German music charts.

David as John McCain in ‘Hope: The Barack Obama Musical’.

David kept busy throughout the rest of the ’80s, releasing four solo albums and some singles. His greatest chart success came in 1990, when he recorded the official anthem of West Germany’s World Cup championship. In the ’90s, he formed the rock band The Dudes. The group released three albums and toured Europe as an opening act for Lionel Ritchie, Cher, and The Beach Boys. He spent the following two decades touring Europe with various bands and music projects, even portraying John McCain in ‘Hope: The Barack Obama Musical’, a 2010 German production based off of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.  In 2013, David returned to the spotlight on the third season of The Voice of Germany. After crooning Al Green’s R&B classic “Let’s Stay Together” during the blind auditions, David made it to the third round of competition with Nena of “99 Luftballons” fame as his coach. (That season was ultimately won by Andreas Kümmert, the blues singer who turned down the opportunity to represent Germany at Eurovision in 2015 after winning the national final.) A serious battle with cancer in 2015 left him unable to sing for a few years. (German bands PUR and Fools Garden, acts David had toured with off-and-on for the previous decade, held a benefit concert to help pay for his treatment.) Fortunately, a healthy and happy David reemerged in the late-2010s and, since then, he has released an album and recorded an EP as part of a blues trio. Now 70 years old, he still regularly performs gigs in Germany, both solo and as a featured musician, and is widely considered to be one of the best rock and soul voices in the biz.

Mary and Wolfgang Trepper, currently on tour with their cabaret show.

For Mary, the loss at Ein Lied für Harrogate wasn’t a deterrent for her future Eurovision dreams. She entered and won the 1984 German national final and represented the country at that year’s contest with the impassioned break up ballad “Aufrecht geh’n“. Her return trip to the contest did not go as well as it had in 1972, with her performance of the song being criticized for its tentativeness and lack of presence. (She ultimately only placed 13th.) As Mary later revealed, her shell-shocked expression throughout the number was caused by the news she had learned just prior to taking the stage: her husband Werner Böhm was having a child with another woman, and that woman was going to the press unless Mary paid up. Mary continued recording singles and releasing albums throughout the 1980s, but the birth of her son in 1986 and her divorce in 1989 caused her to take a hiatus. She returned with an album in 1992, and spent the rest of the decade working with new collaborators on a series of albums and song releases. But her return to the German music charts didn’t arrive until 1999, when she recorded the German-language version of Cher’s smash hit single “Believe”. For the next two decades, Mary was an in demand live performer and TV guest and released a steady stream of (primarily) Schlager music. In 2013, she released a jazz album and went on a solo concert tour of Germany to support it. In 2019, Mary announced her retirement from producing new music (and even held a farewell concert), but, at 73 years old, she’s still as busy as ever. For the past few years, she and cabaret artist Wolfgang Trepper have been touring Germany with a show about the music of (and the juicy stories behind) the country’s Schlager music scene. (The title of their show legitimately translates to “MORE WHORES, MORE COKE – FUCK THE STRAWBERRIES!) Mary‘s autobiography is due out this fall.

Paola- “Peter Pan”

Paola performs “Bonjour, Bonjour” at Eurovision 1969. She placed 5th, just five points behind the four songs tied for the win.

Of all the names competing at Ein Lied für Harrogate, Paola was definitely the most Eurovision prolific. She had already competed at the contest twice, representing Switzerland in both 1969 and 1980. (She placed 5th at the former and 4th at the latter.) She had also attempted to represent Switzerland in 1968 and 1977 and had come 3rd at the German national final in 1979. Eurovision had, in fact, been a strong presence in her music career from the very beginning. At the age of 14, she made her professional debut at a local music competition, placing 4th with a cover of Gigliola Cinquetti‘s contest-winning ballad “Non ho l’età”. Paola spent the next decade releasing singles, performing on German and Swiss television shows, and travelling the world to compete in song competitions. By 1982, she had released four Schlager albums, and her 1979 cover of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” had been the most successful single of her career.

Paola‘s performance of “Peter Pan” reminds modern day viewers of a time in Eurovision history when acts were allowed to bring children on stage as props. After bounding on in head-to-toe pink and a silver headband, Paola was joined on stage by five wide-eyed Victorian schoolgirls. They sat in a circle at Paola’s feet and sang along, eventually performing bits of choreography with all the confidence of trained show ponies. The music and lyrics of the song were provided by (once again) Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger. “Peter Pan” is a singsongy, slightly circus-y retelling of the J.M. Barrie story, as one might expect, and the reaction to it by the studio audience was massive. The reaction from the demoscopic jury was massive, too, as Paola ultimately finished 2nd.

Paola and Felix, Germany’s favorite TV presenter couple of the 1980s.

Her dreams of pulling a Zdob și Zdub and competing at Eurovision three times behind her, Paola soldiered on. She released one more album, in 1983, before pivoting to a career in television, including a gig as the moderator of the 1986 Swiss national final. Alongside her husband, TV presenter Kurt Felix, Paola hosted a comedic hidden camera show from 1983 to 1991, and a survey of German viewers at the time voted the pair as the most popular presenting duo on television. At the age of 40, Paola announced that she was retiring from a career in the public eye, though she would still occasionally pop up in TV specials over the years. (In 2001, she ran afoul of an inflatable banana in a beloved and notorious live television moment.) After 33 years of marriage, Kurt died of cancer in 2012, and Paola has since then mostly devoted her creative energy to her catalog fashion line.

Denise- “Die Nacht der Lüge”

The cover of Denise’s debut single.

Denise was a relative unknown when she took the stage at Ein Lied für Harrogate, the 24 year old singer had been working as a teacher in the late-’70s when, like Marianne Rosenberg, she too was discovered by producer Joachim Heider. The pair collaborated on two English-language disco tracks, “Lovin’ the Night Away” and “Fire-Storm“, before pivoting to German-language new wave tracks. This change in direction turned out to be a good choice, and Denise began enjoying wider notoriety and chart success. Her star was on the rise, and Ein Lied für Harrogate was the perfect opportunity for Denise to take her career to the next level.

Looking every bit the disco queen, Denise catwalked on stage in a glitter-y gold top and matching belt. Her song “Die Nacht der Lüge” or “The Night of Lies” is a mood piece, a synth-y pop appeal for forgiveness after a night of infidelity. It features music and lyrics by Michael Kunze, also a co-writer on Gaby Baginsky‘s above entry, and Joachim Heider. Denise played to the at-home audience with her furrowed brows, bright smile, and dramatic turns to camera.  Her assured, raspy vocals were (at times) accentuated by a processed echo. Denise received … polite applause from the audience, but the demoscopic jury was more impressed. She placed a very respectable 4th, beating out most of her more established competitors.

Denise and her husband proudly display one of the many gold records they have shepherded to success.

Denise quickly took advantage of the increased exposure she received from Ein Lied für Harrogate. She teamed up with a new creative team and released the two biggest hits of her career: “Schenk mir keine Rosen” and “Genug Ist Genug“. (The latter topped the charts on popular German music countdown show ZDF-Hitparade.) After the release of her debut album in 1985 and a couple more high-profile singles, Denise returned for a second shot at the Eurovision gig in 1987, competing at Ein Lied für Brüssel with the song “Die Frau im Spiegel” or “The Woman in the Mirror”. Again, Denise placed 4th. (The winner that year was Schlager band Wind, the act that had secured Germany a 2nd place finish in 1985, and the group would go on to place 2nd again at the 1987 contest.) Denise released a number of singles over the next decade of her career, many of them co-written by her, but none of them could match the success of her earlier work. And it wouldn’t be until 1997 that her second album, a collaboration with Dutch singer Johnny Bach, was released. Around the turn of the millennium, she met songwriter and producer Michael Dorth, the man who would eventually become her husband. Together, the two founded Radiola Records, and Denise released an album and a handful of singles through the record label in the ’00s. In recent years, her attention has been focused primarily on co-writing and producing songs with her husband for artists working with Radiola Records. They have had particular success with the Schlager acts Fantasy, Daniela Alfinito, and Die Amigos, with the latter group’s 2021 record hitting #1 on the German album charts just last year. Radiola Records has an impressive track record, with the shingle being responsible for 15 #1 albums and millions of record sales. Not too shabby.

Hannes Schöner- “Nun sag’ schon Adieu”

The cover of Hannes’ debut album.

Hannes Schöner was at the peak of his career when he entered Ein Lied für Harrogate. The Colognian singer debuted on the music scene as part of the Christopher Jones Band in 1980. That same year, he was signed as a solo artist at Ariola records and rerecorded that group’s debut, English-language single, the ’80s Schlager pop song “I’m a First Class Fool Again“, in German. The new version of the song, now titled “Sommernacht in unserer Stadt” or “Summer Night In Our City” saw some chart success. Hannes garnered attention with a few other singles before releasing his debut, disco-meets-New-Wave Schlager album, Willst Du Träumen, in 1982.

Break up anthem “Nun sag schon adieu” or “Now Say Goodbye”, Hannes‘ song for Ein Lied für Harrogate, is a synth-y blend of classic Schlager songwriting and New Wave production. (It features music and lyrics by established German artists/songwriters Bernie Paul, Harald Steinhauer, and Andrea Andergast.) Hannes‘ look on stage-a bright purple jacket, a yellow dress shirt, and loose leather pants-ushered in the ’80s to a night of performances still mostly rooted in ’70s style and sound. The band was particularly engaged during Hannes‘ energetic rendition of the song, and the audience was left amused, if a little lost. Regardless, “Nun sag schon adieu” spoke to enough members of the demoscopic jury that it ultimately finished 3rd.

Hannes (far left) and the members of Höhner pose with one of the circus performers from the Höhner Rockin’ Roncalli Show, 2017.

Though he didn’t win the night, Hannes Schöner still emerged from the national final with a victory of his own. The song became the most successful single of his career, placing in the Top 30 on the German radio charts and affording him further career opportunities. Willst Du Träumen would ultimately remain his only album as a solo artist, but he spent the remainder of the ’80s experimenting with his sound. He formed two separate, short-lived Europop duos called Fair Control and Balboa Park, releasing a handful of singles with each project. In 1990, he joined Cologne-based, Karnevalsmusik rock group Höhner and spent the next 30 years as the band’s bass player, supporting vocalist, and co-songwriter. The band had a number of hit albums and singles during Hannes‘ tenure, including the gold-selling 2003 carnival folk song “Viva Colonia” and the platinum-selling “Wenn nicht jetzt, wann dann?” in 2007. The latter spent 58 weeks on the German music charts and peaked at #1. Höhner is also a popular touring band in the region, even regularly partnering with a professional German circus for a beloved series of concert showcases over the years. (Here is an example of what that looks like.) Hannes retired from the band in 2020, though he still performs his own solo shows and appears at benefit concerts. 

Jürgen Marcus- “Ich würde gerne bei dir sein”

Jürgen on the cover of a German teen magazine, 1976.

Jürgen Marcus is another name that may be familiar to the Eurovision faithful. In 1976, he won the right to represent Luxembourg at that country’s very first national final. (Among others, he defeated the above-mentioned Marianne Rosenberg for the honor.) He ultimately placed 14th at the contest with the upbeat Schlager anthem “Chansons pour ceux qui s’aiment”, but Eurovision was far from his first career highlight. After getting his start playing in local amateur bands and competing at German music festivals, Jürgen caught his big break in 1969 when he was cast in the German-language production of the musical Hair. (Among his co-stars was the future ‘Queen of Disco’, Donna Summer.) While on tour with the rock musical, he met music producer Jack White (co-writer of Séverine‘s Ein Lied für Harrogate entry), and the pair would go on to record a number of chart-topping singles and hit albums throughout the 1970s. Jürgen‘s most popular song, “Eine neue Liebe ist wie ein neues Leben“, peaked at #2 on the German music charts in 1972. The two parted ways in 1979, however, and by the time Ein Lied für Harrogate rolled around, Jürgen‘s career and record sales had begun to slow.

With his trademark head of heartthrob hair and a twinkle in his eyes, Jürgen bounded on like a golden retriever before taking a casual seat at the foot of the stage. His song, “Ich würde gerne bei dir sein” or “I Would Like to Be With You”, is a peppy love ballad, featuring music and lyrics by the father-son songwriting duo of Joachim and Thomas Fuchsberger. Clad in white and pastel purple, Jürgen charmed the audience and earned a round of whistles and cheers. He ultimately placed 5th.

Jürgen and his partner Nikolaus, circa 2006.

Jürgen‘s career never returned to its mid-’70s high. Other than a stray handful of singles, he went the majority of the ’80s and ’90s without releasing new music. (One exception was his brief rebrand as an English-language electropop artist under the name J. Marcus in 1988, though even that project only produced a couple of singles.) He returned to the headlines in the early ’90s, but not for his music. After meeting his partner and soon-to-be manager Nikolaus Fischer, Jürgen was one of the first German celebrities to come out as gay. After making a comeback in the early ’00s and releasing three albums, Jürgen retired from public life in 2012. His partner later revealed that this retreat from the spotlight was brought on by necessity. Since 2002, Jürgen had been struggling with a chronic lung disease, and his condition had taken a turn for the worse. He eventually succumbed to the disease in May 2018, spending his last days with his partner in the Munich apartment they had shared for the previous two decades.

As we all know, none of the above artists won Ein Lied für Harrogate. The winner was Nicole, an unassuming teenage girl in a stoned black dress.

Unlike every other act that night, Nicole did not make a flashy entrance. She sat on a stool, strummed her white guitar, and sang about the hope for a better tomorrow. It was simple. It was intimate. It was perfect. At the end of the night, Nicole‘s victory was greeted with a huge ovation from the crowd. Teary-eyed and overwhelmed, she returned to the stage for one more reprise of “Ein bißchen Frieden”. Practically glowing, she performed the song with a grin stretched across her face. Nicole couldn’t have known then that, in just one month’s time, she would REALLY have something to grin about.

Which losing ‘Ein Lied für Harrogate’ entry do #YOU like the best? Do #YOU think any of them had what it took to win Eurovision, too? Which national final that produced a Eurovision champion would #YOU like us to cover next? Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

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