As Englebert Humperdink gets cosy with the throat gargle on the eve of tomorrow’s Eurovision Song Contest, I thought I’d take a quick delve into the Netherlands’ fortunes over the years.

Like the UK, the Dutch glory days were the 1970s, notably when Teach-In scooped the top prize in 1975 with the quintessential Eurovision ditty ‘Ding-A-Dong’, and various other patriotic crooners snaffled second and third places. There have been another three Dutch winners all told, but you have to go right back to the 1950s and 1960s to sniff those out.

Some of the more curious names to represent the Netherlands include Frizzle Sizzle (1986), Mrs Einstein (1997), Mouth & MacNeal (1974), Hind (2008) and the curiously British-sounding Humphrey Campbell (1992). In latter years entries have tended to be sung in English, though personally I feel ‘Een speeldoos’ (‘A Musical’), ‘De mallemolen’ (‘The Whirligig’) and ‘Blijf zoals je bent’ (‘Stay As You Are’) have a certain authentic ring to them.

However, Teach-In’s strategy of using catchy but meaningless words clearly doesn’t always pay off… in 1967, Thérèse Steinmetz came last and managed only two points with ‘Ring-dinge-ding’.

The 2012 entry ‘You and Me’ by Joan Franka didn’t make the cut, which means the Netherlands have failed to make the Saturday night final for eight years on the trot. Still, so long as the boys in orange make it to the other Euro final, who cares?

Size matters... The Sweet touted the more obvious side of Glam
Last year ‘Electric Warrior’, T-Rex’s seminal sixth album turned 40. This year ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’, Bowie’s breakthrough record hit the same milestone. So I thought I’d quickly doff my spandex cap to Glam Rock, the genre that made it OK for boys to deviate musically and sartorially… and make the odd foray into their girlfriends’ make-up bags.

Of course, not all the lads were comfortable with the Glam look. Word magazine ran a picture last month of Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey from Bowie’s original backing band, looking more like Men from C&A than Spiders from Mars. They revealed that Bowie’s sideman Mick Ronson hated the clothes so much, “he packed and left for Beckenham Station”. ‘The Great’ Paul Thompson, drummer with Roxy Music, former apprentice welder at the Palmers shipyard in Jarrow, was another who had something of an allergic reaction to glitter and platforms.

While Bowie, Bolan and Roxy have stood the test of time and remain hugely credible artists, I’d like to put a quiet word in for The Sweet. Unashamedly poppy, with brazenly catchy songs written by the prolific Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, they scored an amazing 13 top 20 hits during the 1970s, with ‘Blockbuster’ topping the charts in 1973. Though the title of highly successful 2006 BBC time-warp series ‘Life on Mars’ nods to a Bowie song, its 1970s soundtrack, tellingly enough, was dominated by The Sweet.

With it’s rejection of hippie mores and free licence to experiment, Glam paved the way for its spiky younger sibling Punk… and for that, we a have a lot to be grateful for.

By George... this looks damn familiar
I’ve just been reading a book by the celebrated US art director George Lois. Lois was not only responsible for some of the most seminal ads of the 1960s and 1970s, but his extraordinary covers for Esquire magazine are now on permanent display in New York’s MoMA. The slim volume is called ‘Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)’, and consists of a series of illustrated lessons culled from his many years in advertising and publishing.

If you’ve read Paul Arden’s ‘Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite’ and ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’, you’ll get the gist. It’s a collection of snappy, from-the-horse’s-mouth pointers on how to be creative. In fact, the format is remarkably similar — standard paperback size, white cover with bold black type. Inside, brutally straightforward, sometimes irreverent headlines, accompanied by a couple of paragraphs of wisdom or anecdote, and a carefully chosen image that colours or juxtaposes the point being made.

The pace is staccato and relentless. You feel you’re being hit over the head with page after page of ‘damn good advice’ — ‘Make your surroundings a metaphor for who you are’, ‘Never eat shit’, ‘A trend is always a trap’, ‘Tell the Devil’s Advocate in the room to go to hell’, ‘Speak up, goddammit!’. For full effect shout rapidly in a Noo Yoik accent.

The first few pages are fine, inspiring even. You’re thinking, right on, don’t compromise, fight the good fight, believe in yourself, stick it to the man. But as they keep coming (and coming) small seeds of doubt start creeping in. Firstly, it starts to become apparent that a lot of the ‘damn good advice’ is pretty self evident. Like ‘Don’t sleep your life away’, and ‘Don’t expect a creative idea to pop out of your computer’. You can’t argue with either, but most people will have worked this out for themselves. Unless they were sleeping, of course.

Arden fast rules... an adman’s wisdom
Secondly, if I took every leaf out of Lois’s book, I’m pretty sure my clients would run a mile. For example, he recalls a time when he stood on a window ledge and threatened to jump unless his poster idea was accepted. Or dropped the biggest book he could find on the floor when his boss was ignoring him. It’s the kind of ‘maverick’ behaviour that pervaded UK advertising in the 1980s, ‘crazy creative guys’ throwing more and more outrageous stunts to get noticed.

Of course be determined, confident and original. Of course stick up for your ideas and take inspiration from wherever you find it. And I tip my hat to Lois for his single-mindedness, chutzpah and towering achievement. But, I can’t help feeling that if there were 100s of creative people out there following this credo, we’d have mayhem on our hands. The point is, we’re all creative in different ways, and realising this is the first step on the path to originality.

‘Damn Good Advice’ is a damn good ad for George Lois, but you need to take it with a pinch of salt. Or as he might put it ‘You can't be creative if someone has to tell you how’.