HomeCultureMusic

7 Best United Kingdom Eurovision entries

Jon O'Brien

BY Jon O'Brien

4th May 2023 Music

7 Best United Kingdom Eurovision entries

As we get ready for the 67th Eurovision Song Contest, we look back at the United Kingdom’s finest moments in the competition 

From Patricia Bredin’s chanson “All” to the TikTok-friendly pop of Mae Muller’s “I Wrote A Song,” the United Kingdom has been a Eurovision ever-present since the inaugural contest way back in 1956. And while its reputation in the 21st century has taken a bit of a battering—Jemini and James Newman’s nul points car crashes being the nadirs—there was a time when the nation was almost guaranteed to be on the left-hand side of the leaderboard.  

Ahead of the 67th competition in Liverpool this month, here’s a look at seven of the UK’s all-time greatest entries.  

1. Katrina and the Waves, “Love Shine a Light” 


This was the last winning number for the UK

It’s been 25 years since the UK last hosted Eurovision, and back then we had a Canadian-fronted 1980s one-hit wonder to thank for bringing it home. Best-known for their toe-tapping smash “Walking on Sunshine,” Katrina and the Waves re-emerged from obscurity in 1997 with a universal pop-rock anthem tailor-made for waving the Union Jack. “Love Shine a Light” scored a record-breaking 227 points to become the UK’s fifth, and sadly last, winner. And its prominence at the pandemic-hit Eurovision that never was, 2020’s Europe Shine a Light, only confirmed its lofty status.  

2. Bucks Fizz, “Making Your Mind Up” 


This performance became particularly famous for the ripping off of the female vocalists' skirts

Put together solely for the intention of representing the UK at Eurovision 1981, Bucks Fizz ended up becoming a regular chart presence until the end of the decade (and they’re still going).

"Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston’s skirts were ripped off perfectly in time with the line “If you want to see some more”"

Of course, their winning song “Making Your Mind Up” remains their defining hit, partly due to its vintage rock ‘n’ roll sound but largely due to the legendary routine in which Cheryl Baker and Jay Aston’s skirts were ripped off perfectly in time with the line “If you want to see some more”. It’s pure cheese, but unlike their contemporary equivalent Scooch, of the good kind.  

3. Imaani, “Where Are You” 


While this performance didn't win, it did come second and is remembered as the UK's coolest entry to date

Possibly the only time our Eurovision entry has sounded effortlessly cool, this subtle slice of soulful house-pop could easily have been taken from Everything But the Girl’s mid-Nineties renaissance. Delivered with pure conviction by former Incognito vocalist Imaani—who'd later return to the charts with 2-step garage act Tru Faith and Dub Conspiracy—“Where Are You” had the misfortune of competing in the same year as Dana International’s iconic “Diva”. But continuing the UK’s golden period, its runner-up position still remained the nation's highest for nearly a quarter of a century. 

4. Sandie Shaw, “Puppet on a String” 


While this performance won the Eurovision, the singer later reported that she wasn't a fan of the song

After finishing second place an agonising five times, the UK finally got to taste victory in 1967 thanks to a barefooted Sandie Shaw and a playful piece of pop, whose jerky brass hooks cleverly replicated the movement of a marionette.

"I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune"

Dagenham’s finest famously hated the song: “I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune,” she wrote in her autobiography. But the contest’s voting panel firmly disagreed, as did the general record-buying public who made “Puppet on a String” the first Eurovision song ever to reach number one.   

5. Gina G “Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit” 


While Gina G didn't win the Eurovision, she did later win a Grammy for this number

Ask Joe Public about “Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit” and they’d probably claim it won the whole thing instead of finishing an unjust eighth. Gina G’s slightly shaky vocals and the odd staging—Eurovision’s instrument rules meant the Aussie bizarrely had to share performance space with two Apple Macs—no doubt put paid to the expected victory. But the joyous burst of Europop still became part of 1990s pop culture, topping the charts and even becoming the first ever UK entry to bag a nomination at the Grammy Awards! 

6. Sam Ryder, “Space Man” 


While Ryder only came second in last year's competition, he successfully restored the UK's faith in the Eurovision

The undisputed saviour of UK Eurovision, immaculate-haired Sam Ryder put all the 25 years of hurt behind us with a powerhouse performance which at any other time would have stormed to victory.

"“Space Man” single-handedly changed the nation’s attitude to the contest in the space of three falsetto-voiced minutes"

After years of relying on anaemic dance-pop or leftovers from Scandinavian hit factories, the British team finally realised that embracing our own rich musical heritage might be a good idea. And Ryder, essentially an excitable Labrador in human form, was the perfect representative to sell it to the masses. Drawing upon the classic rock of Queen and Elton John, “Space Man” single-handedly changed the nation’s attitude to the contest in the space of three falsetto-voiced minutes.  

7. Love City Groove, “Love City Groove” 


This entry was just too cool for the competition in the '90s, as evidenced by the disappointing winner that year

The 1990s was such a fertile period for UK Eurovision that the entirety of this list could have been drawn from it. Just nudging out Sonia’s Motown throwback, Precious’ girlband R&B and Frances Ruffelle’s trip-hop is Love City Groove’s self-titled pop rap. As with Gina G, the trio were perhaps just a little too contemporary for the contest: At the time, Eurovision was still very much years behind the rest of the chart landscape, as evidenced by the fact that this finished tenth and the winner was a New Age near-instrumental that made Enya sound edgy.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Roger Dewayne Barkley, EuroVisionary

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

 

*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...