Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Those Europeans Are Such Interesting People

And now, ladies and gentleman, from the race who brought you such delights as World Wars 1 and 2, the Fall of Rome and Gottedammerung itself … yes, it’s Germany, here to delight you in the 2003 Eurovision Song Quest with their killer song – LET’S GET HAPPY!

Odd, isn’t it – that a continent which has for millennium endured bitter racial, national, religious, and cultural divisions; which has suffered from droughts, floods, fire, and everything in between; has regularly undergone wars (both civil and uncivil); the great cultural movements of Western civilization, such as the renaissance, the enlightenment, modernism and post-modernism, parliaments, ministers, prime-ministers, and democracy – should, at the turn of the 21st century be bringing us music of such vapid insipidity as Germany’s Let’s Get Happy?
60 years before that many Europeans were starry-eyed fanatics marching to the beat of genocidal dictators; now they are – starry-eyed fanatics marching to the beat of a new song. How much has changed?

Well, to answer that question, let’s take a closer look at European culture over the years…


The first Eurovision Song Quest was held in 1952 in France; but it began much earlier than that. It’s history goes right back to …


100 AD: The Germanic tribes invade Rome and burn the Eternal City to the ground. The Emperor Nero, amused by the German’s forthrightness, holds a musical festival to celebrate. All the prominent musicians of his day are invited. They then have to sit and listen while Nero fiddles and Rome burns. The name of the festival: Nerovision.

1725: J.S. Bach has a musical show-down with George Frideric Handel. J. S. Bach performs his 1718 hit My crumhorn vants to kill your Mutter to an adoring audience.

My crumhorn vants to kill your Mutter,
My crumhorn vants to kill your Mutter,
My clavier vants to burn your Dad,
It gets really angry when I make it mad…

(This hit was later appropriated, without acknowledgment, by Frank Zappa.)
Handel, who is backed by his hand The Oratorio Allstars, responds with a rousing rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus, with a spectacular laser-light show, concluding his show with a cameo experience by God himself. The audience, however, are puritans. They have no sense of humour, and are dulywho are unimpressed by the Deities appearance. The prize is awarded to Bach, who is so happy that he goes home and composes The 48 Preludes and Fugues that night. Handel scowls, hits a nearby Mason over the head with a lute, and returns to England.

1777 International Superstar Ludwig van Beethoven has a show-down with his musical adversary, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He dazzles the audience by having his 5th symphony played by the Mannheim Symphony Orchestra, a group of travelling minstrels including those later to become stars, such as Al Jolson, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. However, Mozart rises to the occasion by composing an Electronic Clarinet Concerto and he is declared the winner. Beethoven retires from the stage in a huff and writes the Emperor Concerto.

1798 Napoleon is so excited by Celine Dion’s win in the 1988 Eurovision song competition that he invades Europe. When he is challenged by Lord Wellington that Celine Dion has not, in fact, won the competition yet, or, for that matter, been born yet, Napoleon is infuriated. He yells, “You English peoples! So bound by zese conventional time/space structures! Ave you not read your Derrida? Your Foucault? Your Bergman?”
He then goes ahead and challenges Wellington and his army to a duel on the field of Waterloo (he figures, since it’s named after one of his favourite Eurovision songs ever, that he can’t lose.)

1823 A group of hip-hopping bohemians calling themselves ‘The Romantics’, led by drug-taking hippy Samuel Taylor Coleridge, tour the continent to great success. Their song Lucy in the Sky with Laudanum is still remembered today:

Picture yourself in a boat on the river,
Mid tangerine mountains and marmalade skies,
But oh! A deep romantic chasm slanted
Methinks you’ve had a bit too much of that opiate, Wordsworth, old chap.

(This hit was later appropriated, without acknowledgement, by little-known British rock group The Beatles.)

1879: Richard Wagner remains an undiscovered talent. He has just completed his early opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, but it is panned by the critics and opens to lackluster audiences. Wagner hits on the idea of creating the Bayreuth festival, devoted to his musical genius. Later that year, he performs his 10-hour tone poem, Generously Proportioned Wenches, to rave reviews. The chorus line has only 10 words in it:

Generously proportioned wenches, you make the classic world go round!

(This hit was later appropriated, without acknowledgment, by Freddy Mercury.)
But it is not until a few years later when his Ring cycle opens that his genius is completely recognised.

1926: Disgruntled by the fact that two of his star musicians – Igor Stravinsky and Serge Prokofiev – have escaped to Europe, Stalin sponsors a new music festival of ‘ideologically appropriate’ music, and invites all of his famous bureaucrats and yeah-sayers. It’s name: Bureavision. No one turns up. Stalin is so annoyed that he sends them off to the gulag anyway.

1932 Little known German musician Adolf Schickelgruber is remade by the promotion companies as “Adolf Hitler, international SUPERSTAR!” His hit-song, “Oh Liebling”, is performed in front of hordes of screaming fans. It goes:

Oh Liebling,
If you go mit me I’ll be your Fuhrer,
No maybe,
Ja, if you go mit me I’ll be your Fuhrer.

(This hit was later appropriated, without acknowledgement, by Australian Rock group The Spazzys).
Buoyed by his success, Adolf declares an international all-day, every-day festival devoted to his musical, artistic, humitarian, and all-round greatness: Fuhrervision.
He goes on to have many more hits, including the still-remembered song, Hi ho hi ho, it’s off to the Gestapo offices we go! before committing suicide in 1946.

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