To celebrate 30 years since Bucks Fizz’s victory at Eurovision, Cheryl Baker shares her memories of whipping her skirt off with TV Times magazineand rates this year’s UK hopefuls Blue.
Cheryl Baker can recall every detail about the night Bucks Fizz won the Eurovision Song Contest…
On 4 April 1981, a 27-year-old Cheryl along with bandmates Jay Aston, Mike Nolan and Bobby G flew the flag for the UK at the Royal Dublin Society’s Simmonscourt Pavilion in Ireland. Their song Making Your Mind Up was suitably upbeat, but it was their eye-catching dance routine – boasting the trick of the boys ripping the girls’ skirts off for the final chorus – that set them apart from their rivals. Hailed as Britain’s answer to ABBA, the group went on to have a long, successful career worldwide, notching up three No 1 singles in the UK. Here Cheryl, now 57, reveals her memories of winning and what she thinks of Eurovision in 2011…
Bucks Fizz’s story began in late 1980 when music producer Nichola Martin and her partner, later husband, Andy Hill, entered their song Making Your Mind Up into the Song For Europe preliminaries.
“They then had to find a band to perform it because the demo was Nichola singing the female vocals and Mike Nolan, a mate of hers, singing the boys’ lyrics. Nichola invited me to audition and I didn’t think that much of the song, but thought it’d do well in Eurovision, so I did it purely for personal reasons not for artistic ones!
“Jay came from a dance agency and Bobby G answered an advert in The Stage newspaper. We all auditioned apart from Mike, because he was already in the band.
“It felt fantastic to be representing my country. Having said that I’d done it once before in 1978 with the band Co-Co and lost badly. We came 11th, which at that time was the worst the UK had ever done!
“I’d been feeling demoralised and that I’d let the country down, so to get the opportunity again was fantastic but a double-edged sword. I thought: ‘What if it happens again, maybe I’m the kiss of death.’ But obviously that wasn’t the case because we won!
“It was wonderful being in Dublin; it was a party from the time we arrived. However, there was a big IRA scare. There had been threats that they were going to do something at the Contest and obviously we were prime targets because we were representing the UK.
“We were kept in a separate hotel from the other countries and had security men outside our doors and our own coach. It was like being royalty. We’d go through red lights and drive on the wrong side of the road. It was, stupidly, very exciting, at a time when we didn’t see the danger.
“The actual night of Eurovision was extremely nerve-wracking. We had a little gold shamrock brooch in our tops so we had the luck of the Irish with us!
There was a big green room for the artists and everyone had a designated area. We sat and just shook watching the other acts, thinking ‘They’re probably going to win’. You do lose confidence the closer it gets.
“If you look at the voting you wouldn’t have thought we’d win. We got mainly sevens and eights, only a few ‘douze’ points. But we didn’t get any ‘nul’ points and those medium scores added together gave us the edge and we won by four points!
“It was touch-and-go between three countries: us, Switzerland and Germany. If you watch it back to where we ran down the tunnel to get onto stage, you’ll see Jay, Bobby and Mike, but not me for what seems like ages. I was in a state of disbelief, particularly as the cameras were on the German entrant and she looked so happy.
“Afterwards, we did interviews. It took ages because back then you had all the world media wanting a piece of you. We eventually returned to our hotel and they’d laid on a big party, but we were absolutely knackered.
“I crept up to my room to ring home. My family was in Bethnal Green, in the little council flat were we lived, and when my sister answered the phone, I could hear screams and they were playing the music, of course. I thought: ‘I want to be home right now.’
“The next day we flew back to Heathrow. My family and friends – apart from my mum who was at home cooking me Sunday dinner! – were in the arrivals lounge with banners. I broke down on the floor and cried my eyes out; it was a release for me.
“Eurovision was taken very seriously in those days and had big stars like Olivia Newton John taking part. For Mike and me, it was a childhood ambition to not only compete, but win it. It was something to be proud of whereas nowadays it’s almost an embarrassment, isn’t it?
“The fact that Blue are doing it this year is a really brave decision. If they win, it could absolutely kick-start their career big time. But if they lose there’s a possibility, because us Brits can be a bit spiteful sometimes, it could be the end of them.
“Their song I Can is great, they’re four gorgeous boys, and are known right across Europe so I think we stand a very good chance. Jedward, who are representing Ireland, are also good.
“I always watch the Contest and it’s developed wonderfully. The voting system had to change because the block voting was farcical. They changed it in 2009, even so, last year we still came bottom! Maybe it’d be fairer for each country to perform without acknowledgement of where they are from.
“Thirty years ago, I thought Eurovision would still be going today, but I didn’t think we would! I left Bucks Fizz in December 1993 and reformed with Mike in 2004 and then with Jay in 2009. Now we perform as The Original Bucks Fizz and it’s better than it was because there’s no pressure now. We’ll be appearing at the London Palladium on 11 July and have a new album out the same time.
“My famous skirt went years ago in a charity auction, but we do still rip our clothes off – like on The Alan Titchmarsh Show a few weeks ago! I saw a piece in a national newspaper afterwards, a backstabbing compliment saying mutton dressed as lamb.
“We wouldn’t do it under normal circumstances, but we had to do it there because it was our skirts coming off that set us on the road to stardom. After all, without the Velcro where would we be?!”
Watch Bucks Fizz Eurovision-winning performance: