October 24, 2002

A few months ago I was walking down the street, thinking about an old friend I hadn't spoken to in a while (I had sent him a mix CD the day before as sort of a long-time-no-see greeting card). I looked up, and there he was, coming from the opposite direction. It was almost like I'd willed him into appearing, or maybe it was (read the following in a hammy Master Thespian voice) Meant To Be. I am a strong believer in fate, and every time something like this happens, that belief only gets stronger.

So... recently I was taking a walk through my neighborhood, feeling sentimental about all the great, weird, fascinating old records I've found this year, things that have just made me marvelously happy if only for the joy of discovering that they existed. I was deep in thought, as I usually am when I go out walking -- those trips around the neighborhood with my Walkman have generated the fodder for some of my best writing. When I came to my senses, I found myself right in front of a stoop sale. There was a box of records, and sitting at the start of the pile was -- holy mother of a cratedigging god -- an Israeli pressing of Eurovision '79. For a dollar.

As an American, I'm completely intrigued and mystified by the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Eurovision '79 LP feeds right into everything I'd previously imagined about what the music would be like. It's amateurish to be sure, but it's so cheerful and hopeful, perky and innocent -- and totally guileless in the way it rips off other, more famous '70s pop songs ("Nobody Does It Better," "Fernando") and artists (the Bee Gees, the Starland Vocal Band) for a shot at the big cookie. Many of the entries' lyrics are broken-Anglicized and sung in heavy, phlegmatic accents. Much of the music is watered-down, thoroughly mainstreamed midtempo orchestral disco, as filtered through whatever the entrants' home countries understood about pop music -- there was no MTV, no internet, no global culture. I'm sure it must have been a really amazing thing to see fellow Eurovision winners ABBA emerge from Sweden (Sweden!) and become not only a worldwide phenomenon, but a cottage industry. And that amazement -- that awestruck optimism of "If Sweden can do it, maybe Finland can do it too!!" -- is all over this record.