What’s another 40 years for a Eurovision legend?

The final of the Eurovision Song Contest, due to take place tomorrow,  May 16,is off due to Covid-19. A replacement show will mark 40 years since Johnny Logan won the competition, reveals CHRIS DUNNE
What’s another 40 years for a Eurovision legend?
Johnny Logan and Shay celebrate winning the Eurovision Song Contest, 1980.

HANDS up everyone who had a crush on Johnny Logan back in the day? That would be everyone who was a child of the ’80s then!

It is hard to believe that Johnny Logan’s first Eurovision win in the Netherlands, belting out Shay Healy’s What’s Another Year?, was 40 years ago.

‘Mr Eurovision’ won the song contest for the second time in 1987 in Brussels with Hold Me Now, which he penned and performed. His composition, Why Me, sung by Linda Martin won the Eurovision in 1992.

“People all over Europe call me Johnny,” he says. “I’m kind of like a national figure around Europe. But there’s no place like home.”

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest tomorrow night has been postponed because of Covid-19, but Logan is to play a role in a replacement show, Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light, on RTÉ1.

As part of the show, Eurovision fans from across the world will form a huge choir and sing What’s Another Year with the man himself. ,

Fans were in two camps about what it was about Johnny that made them swoon; the white suit, the- little- boy- lost vulnerability, or the wayward floppy blonde fringe flirting on the edge of his come-to-bed piercing blue eyes. He could sing too, hitting the high notes, making the heart soar.

I had a foot in all camps, but not being a child of the ’80s, rather a woman of the 80s, a mother of two, you’d think I’d have put my adult crush on Johnny Logan firmly to bed. But no.

I’d dream, pretending it was just the two of us, when I saw Johnny performing Angie in the national song contest in 1979 when I was instantly smitten with him. The song came third.

“He’ll go far,” Louis Walsh said, who became his manager that year.

Johnny, now 65, was in roaring distance when he was billed to appear at the Hilton Hotel in Cork in the summer of 1979 after appearing in the National Song Contest.

Being eight months pregnant with happy(ish) hormones hopping, I could still make-believe I could go and see Johnny Logan in the flesh.

“Will you bring me?” I asked my husband.

“But you’re eight months pregnant. The dark, smoky Hilton really isn’t where you want to go.”

But I did.

What do you say when words are not enough?

“I’ll hitch.”

I’d spent such a long time looking out for him and he was there. The hormones due to my condition made my heart sing. I’m sure Johnny noticed as he crooned over towards me.

But the journey from back to Garryvoe from Cork in our banger and the smoky atmosphere at the gig did its job too.

“Happy now?” My husband enquired as I vomited on the side of the road on the way home!

I wasn’t to know then that 20 years hence from Johnny’s first Eurovision win, I would interview him face-to-face for the Echo.

“What can I get you?” were his first words to me.

Johnny and John McEnroe, two of my heroes, were both in Dublin at the same time. Johnny was doing a 20th Eurovision anniversary publicity tour and McEnroe was playing a charity tennis match at the RDS for GOAL.

“Why don’t you go and meet them both?” my editor suggested.

“You cannot be serious!” I replied.

But he was.

‘Meeting my Heroes’ was the article I was tasked with; one of my first assignments when I joined the Evening Echo.

“Where is Corrrk?” Tennis ace John McEnroe wanted to know as he walked with me along the Merrion Road in Dublin.

I told him the Chairperson of GOAL, Maureen Forrest, lived in east Cork. And that Cork was the real capital of Ireland.

“Cool,” he said. “Come watch the warm-up.”

Irish vocalist Johnny Logan is feted in the Hague in 1980.
Irish vocalist Johnny Logan is feted in the Hague in 1980.

Forty love to me.

After watching the former number one in the world and three time Wimbledon Champion serving aces, soaking in his New York accent, chatting about his Irish roots, and discussing his generous support for GOAL, I was nicely warmed-up to rendezvous with Johnny up the road in the Burlington Hotel.

Why me, I was thinking, still pinching myself.

I had to build this memory. The tension was building, my palms were sweating; my heart was pounding. The cat got my tongue.

But I’d been waiting such a long time.

“I love Cork,” Johnny gushed.

“The Cork Opera House is a great venue with brilliant acoustics. Many of my number one fans are from Cork. I’m looking forward to playing there again very soon. You’ll have to come along.”

I found my tongue again. Johnny was easy to chat to, listening intently to each question, and was obviously passionate about his career, his family, and his native country; He was the perfect gentleman.

“I’ll give you a spin to the railway station,” he concluded.

I didn’t have to pretend it was just the two of us.

Sitting beside Johnny in his open top vintage Mercedes with the wind in my hair and the world under my feet, I wanted to tell him he had made my day. But I didn’t say a word.

“Don’t say a word,” he said, smiling, leaning over to give me a peck on the cheek.

This moment had to be here to stay.

“We’ll talk again.”

What’s another year?

“See you in Cork soon,” Johnny said as he waved goodbye.

And he did. But I missed him when he was gone.

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