Engelbert’s great, but Arnold is ideal

THERE may have been snorts of derision galore, but I think the decision to stick 75-year-old Engelbert Humperdinck up on stage as the UK’s entry for the Eurovision song contest is an absolute masterstroke.

If you look back over the years, we’ve tried complete unknowns and star names with an equal lack of success.

Nominating a superannuated supper club crooner in a DJ and dicky bow is just accepting that this is the sort of music Eurovision understands – and also that the chances of us ever winning it again, given the tactical voting that goes on among countries you’d hardly ever heard of and which take this camp choral contest much more seriously than we do, are pretty much zero.

And Engel has Euro form, pop-pickers. Not many people know – well, unless they have a look at Wikipedia – that the lad’s first chart success came on the continent, and he was a bit of a name in Belgium before he troubled the British charts with Release Me back in 1967. Yes, 1967.

After denying the finest Beatles single the Number 1 slot – Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane double A side, do keep up – the Hump realised that he was never really going to be down with the kids and concentrated instead on smooth Vegas-style shows and satisfying his adoring fans, which is what he’s been doing pretty much ever since. Whatever else you say about him, he’s a grafter and a pro.

That’s another good reason to give him the gig – as a hard-working, dues- paying touring singer, he will have played in some out of the way holes in his time.

That’s handy, as this year’s contest is being held in Baku, the pearl of the Caucasus and the capital of Azerbaijan.

Baku may have many claims to fame – the world’s tallest flagpole, and the home of chess legend Gary Kasparov, for instance – but it’s unlikely to offer all the home comforts that today’s cossetted showbiz pipsqueaks take as their due. Engelbert will take it all in his stride, because he’s been there and done that.

As an aside, Baku is twinned with a variety of places, including Houston and Basra – shared oil heritage, you see – Bordeaux and Honolulu, and I’m prepared to bet that the Hump has performed in every one of them with the possible exception of Vung Tau in Vietnam.

The only slight fly in the ointment, seeing as we have agreed that Eng’s music is just the sort of thing they lap up in the far reaches of Eurovision, is that he may come up on the rails and actually win the thing.

That would be a disaster, the trick of Eurovision appears to be avoiding the disgrace of scoring null points but also avoiding victory, which would mean we would have to host next year’s contest. I think we’ve got enough on our plates with the Olympics, don’t you?

So all hail to Engelbert – but one last thing. If he’s going to represent the UK the least he can do is shrug off the stage name he nicked from an obscure German composer and perform under the name he was born with.

I give you Arnold George, sometimes known as Gerry, Dorsey, flying the flag for all of us.

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