United Kingdom: Nine fairly famous national finalists you may have forgotten

It’s been quiet a week for British euro-fans. After five years of internal selections with zero public input, the country’s HoD, Guy Freeman, announced that 2016 would be different. He’s promised us a massive talent search, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, apparently. And once again, the people of Britain will have a say. Exactly how this will happen, no one knows. There’s no mention of a televised selection, so we could easily end up with a rubbish online poll. But then on the other hand, the option hasn’t been ruled out either. So, while holding onto that tiny glimmer of hope, we’ve delved into the archives and pulled out some national final entries from folk you might actually know of. That myth about Eurovision killing your career in Britain is not totally true. All nine of the acts below have had some degree of success after their bids for Eurovision.

(Disclaimer, in some cases we use the word “success” in its loosest sense).

Tony Christie 1976

Tony didn’t know the way to Amarillo, and he most certainly did not know the way to Eurovision. After scoring a handful of top 40 hits in the early ‘70s, the B-list crooner decided to try his luck in the British selection, with “Queen Of The Mardi Gras”. Alas he couldn’t compete with the combined power of Brotherhood of Man and Cheryl Baker’s Co-Co, and came third. Afterwards, Tony’s career entered a rather fallow period. Then in 2005, with the help of comedian Peter Kay, he re-released one of his best-known tracks – “Is This The Way To Amarillo”. The single exploded. It became the biggest selling song of the year, the third biggest of the decade and has now sold well over a million copies. Christie embraced the success, releasing the follow-up “Is This The Way To The World Cup” in 2006. However, once again things are rather quiet in the Christie camp. But at 72 he probably deserves to enjoy his retirement in peace.

The Nolan Sisters 1979

At the time, the group of singing sisters were about as close to hip as a group of singing sisters could ever be. Their star was rising fast, and they entered the 1979 selection as hot favourites to win. However, BBC technicians had other ideas. They took strike action on the day the show was due to be broadcast, forcing it to be cancelled. Instead juries reached their verdict based on audio recordings. The sisters languished in fourth while Black Lace headed to Eurovision. But they weren’t down for long. Later that year, they released their career defining single “I’m In the Mood For Dancing”. The song’s success ensured longevity for the band, and despite multiple falling outs and constant infighting, several of the sisters remained prominent media personalities, particularly Colleen and the late Bernie.

Sinitta 1984

Nowadays, she’s mostly known as Simon Cowell’s eccentric ex, who used to pop up annually on the UK X Factor to assist the music mogul at judges’ houses. However, there was a time when Sinitta was actually famous for her singing. But just before that she took part in the 1984 national final with “Imagination”. She finished fourth, behind Belle and the Devotions. Despite this failure, she was signed up to Cowell’s record label and released her first and biggest hit “So Macho”. With the help of Stock Aiken and Waterman, she managed to sustain a respectable singing career throughout the ‘80s. But she fell out of favour in the ‘90s and it wasn’t until the dawn of reality tv in the 21st century that she returned to the public eye once again.

Samantha Fox 1995

Samantha Fox, the glamour model turned popstar, rebranded as Sox and made a bid for Eurovision glory with “Go For The Heart”. She may have been one of the most photographed women of the ‘80s and responsible for the saucily titled global smash “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”, but the Brits did not want her in Europe. They chose the urban unknowns Love City Groove, leaving Sam in fourth place. Undeterred, Fox released more music but nothing impacted the charts. Lately, she’s most famous for appearances on reality shows such as I’m A Celebrity and Come Dine With Me.

Nanne Grönvall 2001

Nanne Grönvall is undoubtedly one of the grand dames of Sweden’s Melodifestivalen. Between group and solo attempts, she’s racked up a total of seven appearances. And she even won it with One More Time in 1996. Despite the group finishing 3rd at Eurovision, Grönvall was clearly hungry for more. So hungry in fact, that she entered the 2001 UK selection! Unaccustomed to the barren staging on offer by the BBC, Nanne could only muster a fourth place finish with “Men”. Instead Lindsay Dracass made the trip to Copenhagen. Thankfully, Nanne rediscovered her groove, giving us the brilliant “Håll om Mig” at Melfest 2005.

Tricia Penrose 2002

Already relatively famous thanks to a starring role in the 1960s based soap Heartbeat, Tricia Penrose attempted to give her ailing pop career a boost by entering the 2002 search for a Eurovision act. She already had two low-charting singles to her name, and her luck did not improve. Her very Steps sounding “DJ Romeo” was beaten into second place by Jessica Garlick’s “Come Back”. Penrose returned to her acting day job, until the drama was axed in 2010 – after 18 series the characters got ne’er a whiff of 1970. Since then she’s kept herself occupied with appearances on reality shows like Celebrity Big Brother. In 2014 she very briefly returned to the euro-sphere, when a rogue Facebook user threw her onto that year’s rumour mill alongside Geri Halliwell.

https://youtu.be/-3LZC9Tg1SQ

Ben Barnes 2004

In 2004, few could have predicted that there was a future Hollywood heartthrob amongst the British national finalists. In hindsight we can say that it was Ben Barnes, one quarter of the boyband Hyrise. Their upbeat number “Leading Me On” finished second to the drippy James Fox. The band soon disbanded and that was that. Four years later, the second instalment of The Chronicles of Narnia series arrived – Prince Caspian, with the lead played by none other than our Ben. His star has waned slightly since, but he’s still snapping up roles in US films and tv shows. And there’s no sign of him showing up in reality tv studios just yet.

Katie Price 2005

Ten years on from Samantha Fox, another glamour model turned pop star slipped on her Eurovision heels. The only difference being that, unlike Fox who had a semi-successful singing career to begin with, Katie Price (formerly Jordan) was starting from scratch. Following a popular turn in the I’m A Celebrity jungle, record label execs decided that the UK selection, and subsequently Eurovision would be the perfect launch pad for her. The public didn’t buy into her skin tight, baby bump hugging pink ensemble and sent Javine instead. Ironically, the one time Page 3 girl didn’t even show the most boob, Javine won that award too thanks too an unfortunate nip-slip. Price’s assault on the music industry petered out soon after, allowing her to focus on other revenue generating projects such as writing, fashion design and perfumery. Most recently we saw her win the January 2015 edition of Celebrity Big Brother. Oh… she’s also interested in making a Eurovision comeback. Watch this space!

Kym Marsh 2006

Kym Marsh had a tumultuous few years before her Eurovision bid in 2006. An original member of the short-lived group Hear’Say (aka the spawn of the first Brisith series of Popstars), she enjoyed three top five hits within the space of a few months. But before the band had even reached its first anniversary, she quit. By the time she entered the UK selection, an initially promising solo career had gone into free fall. The public didn’t offer much help, voting her into fourth place behind Daz Sampson… talk about rubbing it in! Marsh quickly chucked in the singing to pursue acting. And we mean quickly. Within a month she was starring as Michelle Connor in the soap Coronation Street, a role she still plays almost ten years later. Kym’s character has had an eventful time – one brother died in a car crash with a prostitute in the boot, another was murdered by the new husband of the first brother’s widow, and in 2015 she discovered that Shayne Ward was a distant cousin. And they say Eurovision is crazy!

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