Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 12:49 UK

Eurovision turn-off for Abba star

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Abba at Eurovision in 1974
Abba, with Benny Andersson (right) triumphed at Eurovision in 1974

Benny Andersson of Abba, Eurovision's most famous winners, has said he has given up watching the song contest because it "means nothing" for music.

This is the 35th anniversary of Abba's Eurovision victory with Waterloo, and the first semi-final of this year's contest takes place in Moscow later.

"What it is now is possibly a great television event, but for music it means nothing," the songwriter said.

He said it was a good spectacle "if you can bear sitting for such a long time".

He told BBC News that the event went downhill after his group got their big break by winning the contest in 1974. "I don't watch Eurovision. It's become so huge," he said.

'Brave' Lloyd Webber

"It was a smaller scale then, than it is now. It might have been a little bit more meaningful in the '50s and '60s and when we entered but after that, I'm not sure if anything ever happened.

"Musically, it's not what it should be. But as a television show it's a good show."


A selection of the hopefuls at this year's Eurovision Song Contest

He said he was interested to see how Andrew Lloyd Webber fared this year, co-writing and playing the piano for the UK's entry Jade Ewen.

"It's a brave thing to do," Andersson said.

The songwriter and musician also revealed that he had been asked to help with the Swedish entry in the years since Abba's win. But he said: "I haven't been interested in doing that."

He was speaking as he prepares to release the first English-language album with his current group, The Benny Andersson Band.

Eighteen nations take part in the first semi-final on Tuesday, with a further 19 competing in the second semi on Thursday.

They will aim to be among the 25 countries taking part in the final on Saturday.

Norway's TV talent show winner Alexander Rybak is hot favourite, followed by Greece, Bosnia and Turkey.

One country not taking part is Georgia, whose entry was banned by organisers because of lyrics poking fun at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Stephane and 3G with Georgian ambassador Giorgi Badridze
Stephane & 3G met the UK's Georgian ambassador Giorgi Badridze (left)

The song, performed by the group Stephane and 3G, contains the chorus: "We don't wanna put in, the negative move, it's killin' the groove."

Singer Christine Imedadze told BBC News: "It really means that we don't want people to interfere with our country and to throw bombs on our country.

"The song was really taken well back in our country and in Russia as well. It was just a bit of fun, really.

"We were disappointed because we prepared ourselves really well and we thought the song had the potential to win."

It was excluded because it is against the competition's rules to allow political content in entries.

When the decision was made, a contest spokesman said: "No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted."

Georgia's Ambassador to the UK, Giorgi Badridze, said Eurovision had "given into a government which simply lacks a sense of humour".

The Russian government "just need to relax a little bit," he said, adding: "The song itself was harmless."

Many Georgians were now supporting the UK entry, he said.

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