There’s a little known fact about Eurovision. One which, if followed to the letter, almost certainly guarantees a top two finish and probably a win. Apply certain geological knowledge to the writing of an original three-minute slice of disposable pop and you could be the next Abba, or even Bucks Fizz!
More on that later. First, we bring you the top five geologically themed songs from Eurovision history (in reverse order):
5: ‘Mountains and Marvels’ (‘Monts et merveilles’) France 2003
This finished 18th in a year the UK finished last with null points; the infamous year of Jemini and their ‘tuning issues’. Although ‘Monts et merveilles’ is literally translated as ‘Mountains and marvels’, it’s an idiom for ‘the moon and the stars’. This is what the singer has been promised by her faithless lover, only to be left homeless on the streets of Paris with a broken heart. The international phone-in voters were not moved and promptly forgot it.
4: ‘Open Landscape’ (‘Aava’) Finland 1998
In Birmingham, Dana International walked off triumphant leaving this effort from Finland languishing in 15th place. By the rules of Eurovision, songs cannot be instrumentals and thus must include lyrics. This song holds the record for the fewest words used in any song entered: 6. Largely consisting of repetitions of the phrase ‘Aava maa avra’, this was probably a well concealed attempt at some Harry Potteresque dark magic.
3: ‘Lullaby for a Volcano’ (‘Колыбельная для вулканa’) Russia 1995
This was only Russia’s second go at the Eurovision and they hadn’t quite got a handle on the rules. It turned out this song had already been released 1985 with Romanian lyrics. The Russians decided to give it to Philipp Kirkorov, a badboy Meatloaf/David Essex. Subsequent news bulletins in Russia strongly suggested it had won, but it only managed 17th.
In the song, the singer beseeches the volcano to turn back to common sense and joy, and to forget what it has threatened for centuries. It is also asked politely to renounce war and to listen with trust to human voices. This was not an approach to volcanology that took hold within the Geological Society.
2: (Tectonic) ‘Stress’ Norway 1968 – yes, we’re cheating a bit.
OK, it’s not about tectonic stress but it is sung by the wonderfully named Odd Børre, so there is a link to mining… This comes from the same year that Cliff Richard sang ‘Congratulations’ and lost to the Spanish ‘La La La’. Despite finishing 13th, this song is far, far better than both of them. A bold claim we know, but give it a try. It’s a classic.
1: ‘Petroleum’ (‘Pet’r Oil’) Turkey 1980
This song is about petroleum. Specifically how great petrol is and exactly how much we should all love it. Terry Wogan gives a brief translation of the song’s chorus in the clip which should give you the gist of it. Sung by Adja Pekkan, the superstar of Turkish music, it ended up 15th.
Ostensibly a song extolling the innocent joy found in hydrocarbons, ‘Petroleum’ has a darker side. Four months on from the contest, there was a military coup d’etat in Turkey supported by the CIA. The USA was consolidating its Cold War sphere of influence and its economic interests in the region after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Adja Pekkan moved to the USA shortly after performing in the contest. It’s not only the voting that is political in the Eurovision Song Contest.
The secret to success
You may have noticed that, despite many of these songs being wonderful, picking a geological theme tends to land contestants firmly in the mid-to-high teens, with a couple of sympathy votes from Malta. However there is a trick, a simple geological trick to winning…
Only three songs in the history of Eurovision have used the word ‘rock’ in the title. They are:
1977 UK ‘Rock Bottom’. It finished second
1989 Yugoslavia ‘Rock Me’, which won.
And of course, not forgetting Lordi,
2006 Finland ‘Hardrock Hallelujah’.
The simple message is ditch the pop, sing about rocks, possibly while dressed as an orc, and you shall stand a very good chance of Eurovision immortality.