Saturday, May 17, 2008

Despite being straight, I've loved the Eurovision Song Contest since childhood. Eurosong remains a highlight of my year, tiding me over amply between General Election nights with the Dimblebys - my other great long-haul broadcasting enthusiasm. Having watched both semi-finals, I was peeved but not surprised to see Dustin the Turkey get knocked out. The song (and I'm being uncommonly generous by classifying it such) was crap, but it would have been glorious to hear Sir Tel's reaction to the line about the authenticity of his tonsure.

Wogan's detractors, of whom I am not one, say that he just moans about every entry these days and is obviously pissed throughout. Well, yes. And that's the charm of the Wogan commentary. Incidentally, having pressed him on the matter at an Oldie function, I can confirm that he and Ken Bruce each take a bottle of Baileys into the commentary box with them. I will be joining them from the comfort of my sofa.

To the songs. Andy Abraham, despite coming from a fine musical dynasty (He is the Great Gonzo's son, isn't he?), hasn't got a cat in hell's chance. Political voting is partially responsible. We won in 1997, 2 days after the Labour government got in. I remain convinced that a large part of the success was Europe saying thank you for ditching the Eurosceptic Tories. We started doing very badly in 2003. Jemini's inability to carry a tune in a bucket must shoulder part of the blame, but our forced entry into the middle east can't have helped. As long as that continues, we're screwed. However, I digress. Captain Beaky's number would have been a minor dancefloor hit in the early 1990s among the dance round your handbag brigade, but it ain't Eurosong. Our only hopes in A Song for Europe (yes, I know it was called Eurovision: Your Decision this year, but it's A Song for Europe and always will be) were Michelle Gayle and the Romanian girl from How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. Neither would have won in Belgrade, but Gayle's Woooooh! (sp) was suitably simple-minded, and the wannabe Julie Andrews would have picked up enough eastern bloc solidarity votes to keep us off the floor of the scoreboard. Instead, we're on for minimal points, but not nul. Abraham's selection is encouraging in one sense, though. We seem to have grasped that the other competing nations don't regard the whole affair as a big gay joke like what we do. Scooch were doomed to failure, as innuendoes about sucking a Fisherman's Friend and bags of salted nuts don't really translate that well.

I'm going to refrain from forecasting the winner, as I haven't seen all of the final entries yet, but if Denmark and France don't finish in respectable positions, I'll campaign for the EBU to be dismantled.

The last time we won, the whole shebang was masterminded by Jonathan King, who's been ruffling feathers in recent weeks with Vile Pervert, the musical he's written and performed about his arrest, trial and conviction. My old mate James Masterton has already written most eloquently about VP, but I thought I'd add my support to the enterprise, for what it's worth. JK divides opinion violently. In the record industry, he's recognised as a very smart operator and one of the shrewdest judges of what makes a hit record. In the wider world, however, he was known primarily as a purveyor of dubious novelty songs. To many, this made his trial an open and shut case, with most punters seemingly unsure which is worse - Una Paloma Blanca or paedophilia.

He was convicted for having sex with 14 and 15 year-old boys. If he did that, his jail term was utterly deserved. However, he claims he didn't, and is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Obviously, the Mandy Rice-Davies reflex is the natural response, but if you can spare 90 minutes, Vile Pervert casts enough doubt on the motives and methods of the prosecution in particular and the judiciary as a whole to be worthy of wider notice. It's also very funny, and most of the songs are superb. I'd argue that 'Wilde About Boys' isn't going to help his case as much as he might think, but the rest combine serious polemic with hooks you could hang a Crombie overcoat on.

Even if he was guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted, let's have a level playing field (possibly not the right term in the circumstances, but what the hell). Rock gods like Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page are documented as having had wildly inappropriate relations with girls of the same age as King's male accusers. The only difference is that the girls in question never pressed charges. However, the fact remains that they were as unable, in the eyes of the law, to give consent as King's accusers would have been at the time they claim he had sex with them. And yet, I didn't hear of any 'burn the paedo' protests at the O2 when Led Zep reconvened. Sex with minors is sex with minors, whether you're 'rock and fucking roll' or not.

If, after you've watched it, you still believe King to be as guilty as hell, fine. At least you've surveyed the evidence and reached your own conclusion. However, if you've ever made unshakeable pronouncements on the guilt or innocence of an individual, you owe it to yourself to watch it.