The Eurovision song contest is about to roll around again, and it’s safe to say the UK’s chances are about as horrible as ever – even the UK entrant, former X-Factor contestant Lucie Jones, said she would just be happy not to come last. And with Brexit now thrown into the mix, the country’s status on the continent has seen better days. But the UK’s most valuable cultural capital isn’t traded on the London Stock Exchange. No – it’s rock n roll.
Classic rock, punk rock, glam rock, space rock, heavy metal, indie rock, gothic rock – ask anyone in the world to list their favourite bands and it’s likely that one of the names on the list will be British. But going on the UK’s Eurovision entries alone you’d be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t the case. Another year, another forgettable song. Each time earnestly losing while lamenting the politicisation of the contest.
No more, I say. It’s time to troll the competition with the cynical self-awareness that truly makes the UK. No one likes us? In the immortal words of Johnny Rotten: we don’t care. With that in mind here are ten bands that would greatly improve Britain’s chances.
1. The Darkness
Catsuits, innuendo, and a wall of Marshall amps. With their debut album, Permission to Land, reaching quadruple platinum in the UK, The Darkness are arguably the last of the British Rock megastars. It’s hard to imagine a band winning a BRIT Award for “best album” with a classic rock record ever again, but that’s what this band from Lowestoft, in Suffolk, did in 2004.
The Darkness have it in them to write one last tongue-in-cheek hit. At Eurovision, Brits would either ride high or crash and burn in a sea of smiles (and glitter, and fireworks). What could be better than that?
2. Iron Maiden
Remember when the Finnish metal band Lordi won Eurovision in 2006? Well, they did. And they did so in full demon make-up, with a song called Hard Rock Hallelujah. It’s about time Britain reminded its neighbours who invented camp, theatrical, leather-clad heavy metal in the first place.
You don’t have to be a huge Iron Maiden fan to think a flaming 666 and a giant puppet called “Eddie” would be a spectacle to behold (and win votes) at Eurovision. Also, Bruce Dickinson is an accomplished fencer and commercial pilot. Are you? Well then.
3. Paul McCartney
“Hey Paul, fancy entering Eurovision this year?”
“None of that hippy stuff though – we need you to ROCK!”
“I said no.”
Probably should’ve waited before cashing in the knighthood. But let’s face it, Macca is worth ten Engelbert Humperdincks.
If we wanted some young blood in the competition there are few better bands around today. Take PINS, a rock band formed in Manchester in 2011. Their low-fi indie pop style isn’t very Eurovision, but that’s exactly the point. Britain’s too cool to care about winning anyway.
Something of a segue from a fairly throwback-style list, but come on. If winning was top priority, the BBC would move heaven and earth to enter Adele and I’m not the first to say so. Eminently likeable and multi-platinum in most countries on the planet, if anyone could win it, it’s her.
6. Happy Mondays
You can’t get much more British than unleashing a bunch of Mancunian party animals onto an unsuspecting European city. Seeing Bez, Shaun and the gang dancing away is something to get behind. Britain’s cousins on the mainland might not “get it”, but clearly a vote against them would be a vote against fun. You don’t hate fun, do you, Europe?
7. Manic Street Preachers
Despite being an elder statesman type figure in British indie today, the Manics continue to introduce fresh styles to their work. But, as their 2016 Welsh football anthem proves, they’re never shy of the pop limelight either. Would they mix it up with some europop or go full post-punk? Who knows? But they’re always on form and usually up for a laugh.
If heavy metal culture emerged in Britain, so too did its subversion. Not only did Girlschool hold their own in the overwhelmingly male-dominated genre throughout the 70s and 80s, but managed to maintain a worldwide fanbase across punk and metal subgenres– their influence credited with reaching the American Riot Grrrl movement. The US had Joan Jett; in the UK there was Girlschool. Luckily for the Brits, aside from the unfortunate loss of Kelly Johnson in 2007, they are still playing.
9. The Wildhearts
Ginger Wildheart’s prolific output since the band’s 90s heyday demonstrates arguably the biggest songwriting chops on this list. With former bass player Danny McCormack back on the scene after having his leg amputated and now supporting his old band with his new outfit, The Main Grains, the past year has seen the unlikely reunion of a pair that “should both be dead” by their own admission. The Wildhearts unite a motley fanbase that spans sub-genres that embody all that is shambolic, chaotic and perennially underdog in cheerful chorus. They’re ideal ambassadors for British music.
OK. So we’ll probably never get the Smiths reunion, and this is a pretty unlikely suggestion anyway, but it would be the ultimate trolling. Sending Mozza out to perform the most miserable song he can come up with, sitting awkwardly through interviews, would be a wonderful sight.
He could recreate his 1994 collaboration with Siouxie for maximum indie points.
Motorhead: if Lemmy was still alive he’d probably tell you where to stick the suggestion, but how cool would that be? There’s always Asomvel though. Cardiacs: again, tragic health circumstances rule this one out. But it would have been a win/win. Siouxie Sioux: so cool and everyone knows it. You may not hear much from her fans by day, but by night they dance the world over. Black Sabbath: the UK would place in the top half on street cred alone. Sleaford Mods: anti-pop perfection. The Slits and X-Ray Spex: Oh Ari. Oh Poly. Oh Eurovision! Up Yours! How the world needs you now … 1919: I won’t hold my breath, but audiences would be well up for the gig.
Playing to strengths
With the UK’s nations competing separately in most sporting events, international competition usually manages to deepen rather than heal divisions in British culture. But while it would be a delusion to suggest Eurovision could magically heal the wounds of Brexit Britain, it could provide a much needed moment of shared cultural celebration. This isn’t an exhaustive list either. If not the Manics, Super Furry Animals would be an excellent Welsh choice, while north of the border Biffy Clyro, Primal Scream, or The Jesus and Mary Chain would be ideal entries.
In 2009, music fans in the UK hijacked the charts to push Rage Against the Machine to Christmas No 1. Is it far-fetched to imagine fans across Europe doing the same for Iron Maiden or Biffy? Of course not. Just as Adele does, these artists are headlining stadium tours across Europe, and yet the UK has backed another X-Factor candidate in Jones. Jones has a nice voice, sure. But the question Britain should be asking is this: will it mobilise the Lordi vote? The answer is probably not.
If Britain is true to its musical history and has fun with it, it should at least be enough to earn a begrudging respect from rivals, if nothing else. And surely that’s the most quintessentially British ambition to pursue?