On the 12th of May, Lisbon will be hosting the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest with Ryan O'Shaughnessy hoping to go the distance for Ireland. Dare we hope he could bring back the country's first win in 22 years? At this stage though, we're happy with getting into the final after five years of just missing out on it.
That was not the case back in the nineties however as we had Eurovision wins coming out of our you-know-wheres and it seemed Ireland had finally found something we were good at. Italia '90 it wasn't but when Ireland secured win after win - becoming (the still unbeaten) most successful country in the contest - it was hard not to join in on the sheer elation on the streets. We even produced River Dance in all our excitement.
In this special Eurovision series for entertainment.ie, we will be chatting to those singers who managed to bring home the gold for Ireland, and find out just what it really means to win the longest-running annual international TV song competition. Looking at how the competition has changed over the years and previous winners thoughts on Ireland's chances this year.
Next up is Charlie McGettigan and Paul Harrington who got the hat trick for Ireland in 1994 with their enduring hit 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids'. Their win marked the first time a country had won three times in a row as well as the first time a male duo won and the first time a winning song was ever performed without orchestral accompaniment. So yeah, basically nobody expected McGettigan and Harrington to win but that was before the dulcet tones of the pair filled The Point Theatre and all of Europe were won over.
While Charlie and Paul's duet was a one-off, they have both enjoyed successful solo careers and look back fondly on their unprecedented Eurovision win.
A basic one to start but what did it feel like to win?
Charlie: As you can imagine it was very exciting. We really didn’t think we had much of a chance so we decided just to enjoy the moment and the honour of representing the country. With two or three votes to go they were telling us that we had it won but I held off getting the guitar ready for the reprise because I could just imagine being pipped at the post and looking like a fool ready with his guitar. All the bigwigs were there - Mary Robinson, Albert Reynolds etc so it was all very important. Mind you about a week after we won I was mobbed by a large crowd in Galway. I was signing autographs and feeling very proud of myself. Then a little old lady piped up as I was signing her piece of paper “Who are you anyway??” You don’t get above yourself in this country!!
Paul: It was a fantastic feeling, great excitement great sense of pride and a wonderful thing to do for my family and for the country, Ireland was changing quite dramatically at this time and it was exciting to be a small part of that on the international and domestic stage.
Did you feel pressure to win given that Ireland had won the previous two years or did you feel it was unlikely for a hat trick?
Charlie: As I said we had no notion of winning so we didn’t feel any pressure. I’d say it was one of the most relaxed performances of my career. I’d catch Paul’s eye occasionally during the song and we both knew we were just enjoying singing the song.
Paul: Naturally there was an element of pressure mixed with nervousness, but the main feeling was excitement. There is great support in the run-up to the event. Both Charlie and I felt that once we did the song justice and a good performance we would be happy with that. We never really considered the outcome. Winning was a real bonus.
What impact did the win have on your career?
Charlie: Initially we were very busy going from country to country around Europe singing at all kinds of events and doing TV shows. Back in 1994 air travel was a lot less pressure so we actually enjoyed all the travelling. In the long term I suppose we will always be linked with the Eurovision and that’s kind of nice. In my own case my musical career is back to where it was before the 1994 win. Playing gigs both here and abroad and recording albums. My current album 'Tuesdays with Paul' is keeping me busy promoting it.
Paul: It is an event that continues to impact on your career and you just never know what shape or form that takes over the years.
'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' has become such an iconic Irish song, are you constantly asked to perform it?
Charlie: It’s a really great song and so easy to sing whether with Paul or on my own although it’s always best with Paul. We still get together three or four times a year although this Autumn we are getting together with Linda and Niamh for a Eurovision Special tour. We got together last year for a night at the National Concert Hall with Eugene McCarthy and his wonderful orchestra and it was huge success. So this time we’re taking the show around the country.
Paul: 'Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids' is a song that continues to be requested and it’s a song I will always be proud to sing. In fact I included a live version of it on my forthcoming album 'Lights of Home'.
How do you feel about the Eurovision and winning when you look back at it now?
Charlie: Eurovision is a really great idea when you think of it. Every country in Europe gets together to sing and perform to 300,000,000 people so I think it will never die - despite Brexit. I think winning was a bonus for us but singing for Ireland was the best part of it.
Paul: It’s quite nostalgic to look back at it now and of course it always brings a great sense of pride. And although it has changed enormously you would be amazed at the amount of younger people and Eurovision fans in particular that are huge fans of the song.
Who is your favourite Eurovision winner of all time?
Charlie: I suppose the classic Eurovision winner was 'Waterloo'. It had all the bells and whistles and was what people used to call a 'EUROVISION' song. However, my favourite Eurovision song is 'Let me be the one' by The Shadows which represented England in 1975. It didn’t win but I always loved the song, the arrangement and The Shadows who were very early heroes of mine.
Paul: It has to be Johnny Logan!
What do you think of Ireland's chances this year?
Charlie: I think we have a very good chance this year. The song is a simple one about one partner finding he has been betrayed by the other. Ryan has a great voice and sings the song really well. As long as we don’t get silly with the production I think we should certainly make the top five.
Paul: I'd love to say that I think Ireland are going to romp home to the first position, but to be truthful even if I had several crystal balls I don’t think I could tell you what the outcome will be, but I will say this, I think it’s a great song. I absolutely love the simplicity and freshness of the video and I’d like to think Ryan has a great chance and I hope he enjoys every moment of it. Like 'Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids', that was a great song and I think benefited greatly by being showcased in Eurovision back then and I don’t think this outing will do Ryan any harm at all. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Ryan all the best.
Paul Harrington's new album 'Lights of Home' is available now as is Charlie McGettigan's latest 'Tuesdays With Paul'.
You can catch Paul Harrington live on May 10th in Marco Pierre White Donnybrook as well as The Sugar Club, Dublin, on May 30.
The Eurovision Contest takes places this Saturday, May 12th in Lisbon, with semi-finals this week.