Norway: MGP and Eurovision book a bestseller!

by Dominique Dufaut 137 views

Not only the songs are riding high in the Norwegian charts after this year's Eurovision Song Contest. This week, the book “Melodi Grand Prix – the artists, the successes, the scandals, the outfits” was the highest new entry in the Norwegian bestsellers' list, climbing straight to no. 9.

The book is penned by former Norwegian OGAE President Kato Hansen and former Norwegian ESC commentator Jostein Pedersen.

The book received massive media attention after Norway's first ESC entrant, Nora Brockstedt, Norwegian superstar Wenche Myhre, and last year's winner Alexander Rybak attended the official launch on May 6th, on the eve of this year's ESC in Oslo. The fact that the original publisher, the Norwegian Broadcasting's own publishing arm, Aktivum, cancelled the contract only 40 days before the authors' deadline, also created an outcry in the Norwegian media. "It wasn't 'commercial enough" was the official explanation by the NRK. But now the book is a bestseller!

During the Eurovision weeks, the book did brisk business at the OGAE stand in Oslo – despite being written in Norwegian. Many journalists and fans found the extensive statistics very helpful – and instantly understandable. Many of them were intrigued by the book's revelations of several previously unknown details from the voting result of the 1956 Eurovision Song Contest. With the dust finally settled on this year's final in Oslo, Kato Hansen found time to talk to and explain how these revelations were made possible.

First of all, congratulations on Norway's first Eurovision reference work.

Thank you! It feels like a great achievement, especially since Jostein Pedersen, my co-author, and I got the assignment at a very late stage. Jostein wrote the articles, which were then proofread and updated by me. In addition, I was responsible for all the facts, listings, anecdotes and statistics. I was working virtually non stop for several months, and up to the very last minute before deadline. It was crazy, but all the stress and hard work was forgotten on May 6, at the launching of the book at a special party in Oslo which was attended by Eurovision legends Nora Brockstedt (Norway's first Eurovision participant, 1960), Wenche Myhre (Germany 1968) and Alexander Rybak (Norway 2009). The fact that this was my 25th European final made it even more special. And now it's a bestseller!

Why is the book divided in two separate parts with thematic instead of chronological articles?

Every book is a compromise between the author's ideals and the publisher's wishes. The latter, Schibstedt (one of Norway's oldest and most professional publishing companies), wanted this book to be useful and interesting for both fans, professionals and the general public. A strict, year-by-year presentation was considered too heavy and "static" for most people outside the fan community. At the same time, I personally insisted on documenting the history of the Contest, especially the Norwegian finals. Unfortunately, the detailed voting results had to be left out due to space limitations, but we did includ the totals for all entries as well as the points given and received by Norway in each European final. I also insisted on including the names of all songwriters from the Norwegian finals, since they are the "real" competitors, and this particular information has never been gathered in one book before.

Did you uncover any new information concerning the Norwegian finals?

The booklet we put together for the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest was already quite substantial. In addition, our coverage for EuroSong News came in very handy. But of course, we were now dealing with a real book, and all facts had to be meticulously checked – and double checked. This gave us quite a few surprises. For instance, it turned out that several well known Norwegian poets have participated in the Melodi Grand Prix, pseudonymously or anonymously. Thanks to the helpfulness of TONO, the Norwegian performing rights' society, their real identities have now been revealed. Another example: In 1985, the lyrics of the song "II & II" were written by the mysterious B.A. Olsen. It turned out the man behind this pseudonym was none other than Finn Kalvik, famous for his "nul points" at the 1981 ESC!

And what about the European finals and the 1956 voting?

The details that we publish in the book, are the result of many years of research, and gracious help from many Eurovision veterans, hence the very long list of acknowledgements. In the late 80s, I was invited by Marie-Claire Vionnet (former EBU voting scrutineer Frank Naef's assistant) to visit the EBU headquarters in Geneva and consult their archives. It contained quite a lot of information from 1956, but unfortunately not the complete voting result. However, I did find a copy of the actual voting sheet used by each jury member in Lugano, and a number of letters from TV stations indicating their names (2 from each country). By 1990, I had been able to track down and interview most of them, as well as the EBU's jury secretary in 1956, a man from Belgium. None of these people had kept the complete voting result, but they all remembered bits and pieces. When all this was put together and cross checked, I was able to establish the top 4, the last place and the total scored by the winning song. Obviously, it would be great to find the complete result, and I haven't given up.

As an OGAE veteran, how do you see the status of the club and the fan community in the Eurovision Song Contest today?

When I joined the Norwegian club in 1986, the fans were regarded by many almost as parias. That all changed in 1992 in Malmoe, when we from OGAE were allowed to be present at the venue with our very first fan club desk – a joint venture by the Swedish and the Norwegian clubs. It achieved great success with delegates, journalists and TV professionals alike, and from then on, OGAE was a regular feature at the Contest. After my election to the presidency of OGAE Norway, in 1995, I had two main goals: to strengthen the ties between the clubs and the TV companies and the EBU, and to obtain a special quota of tickets for the fan clubs at the European final. It really makes me proud to see the success of the OGAE stand at this year's press centre, and the excellent treatment the fans are given by the EBU and the host broadcaster, with the best seats in the hall each year.

Finally, what do you think of this year's result?

Compared to last year, it was a very open competition. The combination of jury and televoting seems to make the outcome much less predictable, which probably is a good thing. However, I feel the present system gives too much power to just a handful of people, with only 5 jury members in each country. I think each jury should consist of 15 people: 5 professionals, 5 fans (from the fan club if there is one) and 5 "ordinary" members of the public. But in the end, Germany was a very worthy winner, and it was great to see one of the Big 4 winning. I also suppose it's a great relief for many that the Contest will be moving on to a country that can afford hosting it.

The report on Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet's web site can be found here.