Eurovision Book Review - Nul Points
“Nul Points” by Tim Moore (first published in 2006)
Nul points: two words as synonymous with the Eurovision Song Contest – and indeed now any performance flop – as wind machines, key changes and block voting. But how did “the dreaded” score become so ingrained in the ESC psyche? And whatever happened to those who failed to garner even a single point from a friendly neighbour? Tim Moore’s “Nul Points” is an essential guide to a bygone era which should be (re-)visited by every true Eurovision aficionado.
Moore’s chronicle begins with an anecdote about him viewing the BBC’s 1989 national final “A Song for Europe”, at which a friend competed and came third. Rather than focus on the winner Moore’s thoughts turn to the last-placed entrant, prompting him to wonder what it must be like to fare so poorly and publicly on live television. This acts as the premise for his subsequent obsessive trek across the continent to meet and interview the “nul pointers”, starting with Norway’s Jahn Teigen whose 1978 entry “Mil Etter Mil” is said to be the origin of the term and ending with a trip to Liverpool, home of The Beatles, where Jemini discuss 2003’s “Cry Baby”, the first English-language song to join Eurovision’s unluckiest club.
Moore’s travels take him, amongst other places, three times to once perennial nul-points-achieving Norway (to reminisce with Teigen, Finn Kalvik, who performed “Aldri i livet” in 1981, and Tor Endresen, whose 1997 ode to “San Francisco” was far less golden than the city’s iconic bridge), to Austria (whose score remained at zero twice in three years after 1988 and 1991 performances by Wilfried Scheutz with “Lisa, Mona Lisa” and Thomas Forstner’s “Venedig im Regen” respectively) and to Lithuania, whose 1994 debut “Lopšinė mylimai” by Ovidijus Vyšniauskas didn’t enjoy the new entrant boost.
Despite being unable to meet every artist (not least because Turkey’s Çetin Alp – lead singer of “Opera” in 1983 and to whom the book is dedicated – had sadly recently passed away), Moore provides an insight into the preparations and nerves leading up to the big night, whilst offering a mine of fascinating ESC trivia. He also gives a voice to his interviewees, allowing them to explain what happened, what went right (as well as wrong!), and where life has taken them since appearing on the Eurovision stage.
Whilst at times rather dense and wordy, perhaps a downside for non-native English readers, “Nul Points” is well researched, generally entertaining, and a rare homage to some of those who have been part of Europe’s biggest international televisual competition of music and came away with no points but – in most cases – a story to share.
My personal rating: 3.5 out of 5
Goodreads rating: 3.5 out of 5
“Nul Points” is available for purchase via Amazon Australia as well as the company’s UK and US sites.