September 30, 2023

The Cold War Song Contest

Europe is all wrapped in the 2012 Eurovision contest, a continent-wide American Idol-type talent show that carries all the nationalistic jingoism of the Olympics.  With the semi-finals and finals coming next week, the hopes and pride of nations rest of the shoulders of their chosen representitives.

It’s hard for a North American to fathom the popularity of something like Eurovision.  It’s even harder to understand the rationale for certain contestants being involved in the first place.  But take it from me: Eurovision matters to a sizeable chunk of continent.

It’s become an even bigger deal since the fall of the Soviet Empire.  With a slew of new countries free to join the competition–this year’s finale is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan–we’ve reached a whole new level of weirdness.

But it wasn’t always this way.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union couldn’t be involved in Eurovision. So they created their own version:  Intervision.

Voting procedures for viewers were, um, unusual.

The BBC has a fascinating profile of Intervision, which was born one week after the Berlin Wall went up in 1961.  It’s recommended reading.  And be sure you listen to some of the musical samples, too.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37125 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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