If we don’t do it this time perhaps we should pull out of Eurovision?

PUBLISHED: 15:44 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 August 2010

BIG TIME: Eurovision winner Cheryl

BIG TIME: Eurovision winner Cheryl

ORIGINAL Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker still remembers the parties in 1981 after her bubblegum pop group stormed into first place in the Eurovision Song Contest. It was the best time ever, recalled Cheryl now 54, as she relaxed in her home in Ightham,

ORIGINAL Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker still remembers the parties in 1981 after her 'bubblegum pop' group stormed into first place in the Eurovision Song Contest.

"It was the best time ever," recalled Cheryl now 54, as she relaxed in her home in Ightham, near Sevenoaks. "Even if we hadn't won, it would have been the best time. Every evening was a party, it was a wonderful experience.

"Then we were thrust into the public domain, performing live non-stop for 10 months. But it was not all sex , drugs and rock and roll, there was a lot of travelling, long flights, and I had to wear thick make up all the time, it wasn't as glamorous as all that. But it was the best experience, I wouldn't change anything."

Their catchy track Making Your Mind Up sold four million copies and was one of the biggest sellers of the 1980s, it was still floating around the charts at the end of the decade.

The group's even more memorable dance routine, with male singers Mike Nolan and Bobby G pulling the skirts off Cheryl and Jay Aston to reveal shorter ones, propelled them firmly into the Eurovision hall of fame.

"Bucks Fizz wouldn't have won without ripping the skirts off. Eurovision is about the performance and the look, it is how people remember you," said Cheryl.

Twenty-eight years on from that memorable night, the UK has failed to reach the same level of success in the competition with many critics claiming the contest has got too political. Last year's X Factor contestant Andy Abraham represented the UK but came bottom of the league with his song Even If. That was only five years after another UK act, the infamous Jemini, earned the UK 'Nil Points' for their song Cry Baby. In fact, the UK has not reached the top of the league for over 10 years since Katrina and the Waves in 1997 with Love Shine A Light - the only UK song to win the top spot since Making Your Mind Up.

In a bid to pick a winning entry this year, Andrew Lloyd Webber has teamed up with the BBC in Your Country Needs You, a TV talent show with a public phone-in vote to help select the UK entry for the competition, due to take place in Moscow this May.

Hours before Cheryl was due to do a phone interview for the show, she said: "It is good that Andrew Lloyd Webber is involved and if we are making more of an effort we should do better.

"But if we don't do it this time, we need to make a radical decision, either come out of the competition altogether or do two separate ones, Eastern and Western Eurovision. It is not just us that does badly, France and Germany do too."

She added: "A survey in Europe about the UK said we never get any votes because we think the competition is a big joke. It is not just about us being in the Western world and a lot of

Europeans voting for their neighbours,

it's because we need to take it more seriously.

"When Bucks Fizz did Eurovision it was still a big event. It was still important and it was taken seriously, everybody watched and cheered us on. Now people watch for the funny songs and silly costumes, or for a bit of nostalgia.

"We still have a chance of winning. But it has to be both a winning song and artist."

The competition took its biggest blow last December as veteran Eurovision host Terry Wogan quit complaining the competition had become too political.

"I was really sorry to hear of Terry leaving," said Baker "a lot of people watched because of him, but out of anyone to replace him, Graham Norton had to be it.

"It is a great shame as people loved his barbed comments but hopefully Graham Norton can be a good substitute."

Despite enjoying the highs of her Eurovision success, Baker, real name Rita Crudgington, warned that the stigma attached to the competition was difficult to shake.

She said: "You couldn't get away from Eurovision, we were trying to be credible and our other songs were nothing like Making Your Mind Up but that's what everyone expected.

"Bucks Fizz will always have a stigma attached to it because of Eurovision. We were bubble gum pop and people couldn't seem to get over the Eurovision thing."

However, Baker and her 'great mate' Nolan still enjoy occasionally performing live alongside fellow Bucks Fizz member Shelley Preston, who replaced Jay Aston in 1985.

Calling themselves The Original Bucks Fizz - after member Bobby G and his wife Heidi Manton copyrighted the name - the trio have performed in various shows including the Here and Now Tour and Congratulations celebrating the 50th anniversary of Eurovision.

Their next live gig is due to take place in March but Baker is pleased to keep touring to a minimum in favour of staying at home with her husband, bassist Steve Stroud - they celebrated their 17th anniversary last Sunday - and twin 14-year-old daughters Natalie and Kyla.

"I can't go out on the road all the time," she said. "I really struggled with it. I go off on the odd day but I need to be at home with my kids. If I didn't have my kids, I would be a wealthy woman! But what I get from them is worth more than money."

Now she dedicates herself to extensive charity work, as patron for the Royal Society of the Blind, Demelza House Children's Hospice and the Lollipop Appeal at Darent Valley Hospital. She also works tirelessly for HeadFirst, a head injuries charity, that she founded after a horrific coach accident in 1984 where Nolan suffered severe injuries, of which he has now recovered.

"All I am giving is time," she said. "To go along and support a charity as someone with a celebrity status can help make people aware of the issues, and I am more than happy to do that."

She also enjoys some television work and is due to appear trying out new cosmetic techniques in Bands Go Pop and a documentary about dieting techniques in different countries where she "put on weight," she laughed.

A documentary about the Bucks Fizz story is also in the making following the trials and tribulations of the 1980s group charting their success, scandal and their fall-outs.

In fact, it is the story of Bucks Fizz that might translate well for the stage according to Baker, who didn't rule out a possibility that the group could follow in the footsteps of fellow Eurovision winners ABBA by producing a musical.

She said: "The Bucks Fizz story would really work on stage - it has tragedy, lust and intrigue, it would be great. But in reality because of the stigma attached to Eurovision, it would be very unlikely.

"I used to find being associated with Eurovision all the time frustrating but not now. Now, every April or May, around Eurovision, they play Making Your Mind Up on the radio, so it doesn't bother me. After all, that song changed my life.

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