All you need to know about Eurovision 2023May 12 | 11 min read
The UK's many Eurovision fans might be used to seeing their entry getting the infamous 'nul points' at the annual song contest and crying foul of the inevitable tactical voting, but it hasn’t always been that way.
For the first 40 years of Eurovision history the UK was traditionally one of the front-runners, its winning acts sparking huge hits that are still among the contest's all-time favourite songs.
Between 1967 and 1997 the UK was triumphant five times, but in the 26 years since the best results have been two second places, including Sam Ryder's runner-up spot last year which led to Liverpool hosting this year's contest on behalf of Ukraine. In contrast UK entries have come last on no fewer than five occasions, twice registering the dreaded 'nul points' for their efforts.
While we wait to see whether Mae Muller's I Wrote a Song can go one better than Sam's Space Man, cast your mind back over these UK Eurovision winners of yesteryear.
1967 - Puppet on a String - Sandie Shaw
The UK had to wait 11 years after the contest began to bag its first win.
Sandie Shaw brought home the trophy with a total of 47 points in Vienna, the second highest winner’s score Eurovision had seen at that point.
Puppet on a String's win brought Eurovision hosting duties back to the UK for the first time as reigning champion, although London had already hosted it in 1960 and 1963 on behalf of the Netherlands and France.
The song also became a No.1 hit in the UK, but Shaw, who had already topped the chart with with (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me and Long Live Love, said that she was no fan of Puppet on a String, which was chosen from five potential UK song entries.
She wrote in her autobiography: "I hated it from the very first oompah to the final bang on the big bass drum. I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune."
1969 - Boom Bang-A-Bang - Lulu
Lulu’s star turn in the Eurovision Song Contest came in 1969, although she didn’t get the winner’s crown all to herself – she had to split it four ways in the only tie the competition has ever seen because there was no rule to cover such an eventuality.
France’s Frida Boccara singing Un Jour, Un Enfant Spain’s Salome with Vivo Cantando, and Lenny Kuhr performing De Troubadour for The Netherlands all scored 18 points too, the lowest ever winning score.
Lulu recorded the song in German, Italian and French, too, but it only ever reached No.2 in the UK charts.
1976 – Save Your Kisses For Me - Brotherhood of Man
The next time the UK won the big prize, there was no question of a tie as the Brotherhood of Man finished 17 points ahead of the French entry.
Their jaunty hit Save Your Kisses For Me is still one of the biggest-selling Eurovision winning songs ever and one of the contest's most recognisable winners.
It shot to No.1 in charts across the world and even became the group’s only US hit, where it reached a respectable No.27 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1981 - Making Your Mind Up - Bucks Fizz
The dance moves! The skirts! The haircuts! Making Your Mind Up is one of the nation’s favourite Eurovision entries.
It launched the careers of Bucks Fizz, making them one of the biggest-selling groups of the 80s and propelling them to chart success.
Even though the group gave an off-key performance on the night, their infamous skirt-rip routine proved so popular that it has been copied by other Eurovision entries, including Latvian winner Marie N in 2002.
1997 – Love Shine A Light - Katrina and the Waves
It’s now been 25 years since the UK last won at Eurovision, by far our longest stretch without a champion.
The last act to be honoured with the trophy was Katrina and the Waves with Love Shine A Light, a big success at the contest but not quite as big a hit as the group’s best-selling 1980s single Walking on Sunshine.
Years later, singer Katrina Leskanich told Metro: "It was such a feel-good, lighters-in-the-air, cheesy number. It would have been embarrassing for it not to win. It had 'I am a winner' written all over it.
"Our song was quickly forgotten because we didn’t have any sensational gimmick like Bucks Fizz.”
She also called Eurovision “a joke”, so despite being our last winner, it doesn’t sound like the group are Eurovision super fans.
Heroes to zeroes - the UK's Eurovision flops
It has now been 25 years since a British act won Eurovision. A year after Love Shine a Light's victory, Imaani finished second, just six points behind the iconic Dana International and Diva, but it's been an annual tale of woe ever since.
Apart from Jessica Garlick's third place in 2002 and Jade Ewen's Andrew Lloyd Webber-penned It's My Time in 2009, no UK act since 1997 has even made the top 10, and five have finished rock bottom:
2003 - Jemini - Cry Baby
Liverpool duo blamed a technical fault for their out-of-tune performance which saw the UK earn the infamous 'nul points' for the first time in their history.
2008 - Andy Abraham - Even If
No country that has sung second on the night has ever won Eurovision. X Factor runner-up and 'singing binman' Abraham was no exception and worse, after finishing joint last on 14 points, a tie-breaker condemned him to 25th out of 25.
2010 - Josh Dubovie - That Sounds Good to Me
"The minute I heard the song I thought it was a definite winner," said 19-year-old Dubovie. It didn't sound so good to voters, who awarded Josh a miserly 10 points.
2019 - Michael Rice - Bigger Than Us
Rice picked up only 11 points in Tel Aviv to finish 13 points adrift of the field.
2021 - James Newman - Embers
The UK's second nul-pointer, Newman also became the first act to receive no points from both the juries and the public under the current voting system.