A pint with...
Johnny Logan on Jedward, Louis, burgers and Bertie
In a rare Irish interview, we delve deep into the world of Mr Eurovision to hear of lost nights out, his exploits with Louis Walsh and what he really said about Jedward.
It’s a vicious circle: Johnny Logan – Mr Eurovision – doesn’t talk to the Irish media much, and when he does, he tends to get misquoted... which puts him off talking to the Irish media, leading to him being misquoted.
But he’s agreed to meet up with us today for a chat, in Bruxelles pub just off Dublin’s Grafton Street – the place where he used to rub shoulders with the likes of Phil Lynott and Bob Geldof back when it was known as The Zodiac in the 70s. But before we launch into the interview proper there’s something he wants to clarify.
“On The Late Late Show recently Ryan Tubridy had Jedward on as his guests,” Johnny says, “and he asked them what they felt about me saying that they are an embarrassment to Ireland? I’d like to clear that up, as this is the only interview I’m going to be doing with the Irish press ahead of Eurovision."
He goes on: “I never said that Jedward were an embarrassment to Ireland. Much as I love the country, I have no right to speak for the people of Ireland. What I said was that I find them embarrassing to watch. It’s like watching two Frank Spencers in Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em. It’s like watching a train crash – you can’t look away, but at the same time you don’t want to see it.
“I genuinely wish them the best of luck at Eurovision – I think it’s a good song they’re singing – but I honestly don’t think they can sing. They’re very lucky to have four good backing singers who can cover that up. I think they’ll get through the semi-finals – and I don’t think they’ll do that badly – but I can’t see them winning.
“It’s not an age-related thing,” he insists, “it’s not a nasty thing. It’s just that someone asked me about them and I gave my honest opinion, as I’m entitled to. Unfortunately a lot of people will say something positive if asked their opinion in order to appear in a good light – but I just can’t do that. Especially if I’m caught off guard. I don’t think about the repercussions, I just say what I’m thinking.
“I’m not apologising for what I said, I just don’t like being misquoted.”
It must be annoying being Johnny Logan – you’ve a thirty-year career behind you, with multiple Eurovision wins along the way (his own wins plus as writer of Linda Martin’s winner) and you’re still packing out venues and selling records in decent numbers across Europe. And yet the thing you’re most likely to be asked about is whoever happens to be representing Ireland in a given year. And when that happens, you end up being misquoted. Irksome to say the least.
“The Eurovision has always been an easy target, and my association with Eurovision has made me an easy target,” he says, with a resigned shrug.
“There’s a nastiness in some of the media in Ireland. I remember being told that people don’t want to read about Johnny Logan taking a little old lady across the street. They want to read about me taking her half way, mugging her and leaving her to be hit by a car.”
With the Jedward clarification out of the way, we can concentrate on other stuff. Johnny was 24 when he first won Eurovision. A young man with the world at his feet (well Europe, anyway). We want to hear about the nights out. We want to know how he coped spending time with his then manager Louis Walsh? And in recent times who did the better TV ads – him or Bertie Ahern?
But before all that, a quick look at the balls up that was his initial post-Eurovision career. You see, Johnny Logan won Eurovision in 1980 wearing a white suit and singing What’s Another Year? and then pretty much disappeared from sight as far as Ireland was concerned until he won again in 1987 with Hold Me Now, a song he both wrote and performed.
His initial Eurovision performance should have set him up for life, but the money he should have been earning never quite made its way into his bank account. Plus he spent four and a half years in court battling with his pre-Eurovision manager who was keen to be in on the action after Johnny’s Eurovision success, despite the fact that by the time of Eurovision a young Louis Walsh was helping Johnny out with the management side of things.
I was performing in front of the Queen, but I still had no money and I was living in a house in London with five students.
“The statement I got six months after winning Eurovision showed that I’d earned nothing,” Johnny says. “I was young and innocent and there was no-one looking out for me. Louis was around, but he was as young as I was and while I was in court Louis was mostly busy doing his own thing.
“Eventually I went to London where I was doing some pretty high profile stuff, such as performing in front of the Queen, but I still had no money and I was living in a house with five students. It was while I was in that house that I wrote Hold Me Now.
“It wasn’t that I was set adrift after winning Eurovision, it’s just that as long as my court case was ongoing I wasn’t allowed to talk to the press about what was happening. I’d read articles about me, mostly lies, but I couldn’t say anything, and people believe what they read.
“Back then I came across like I was moody, I was upset all the time and that I acted like the world hated me. Sometimes that’s exactly how I felt, because it’s upsetting to be misrepresented all the time.
“Some of the time I had the tendency to look serious because I was very nervous. A lot of the time what you were seeing was a look of fear.”
It sounds grim, but it wasn't all bad. Away from the spotlight young Johnny was managing to have the time of his life.
“I had some great times,” he says. “There were lots of times I cried myself to sleep at night... with laughter. I laughed and partied my way around Europe. There are photos of me with a sledgehammer taking chunks out of the Berlin Wall as East German guards came over to stop me.