A SONG FOR EUROPE 2002
"We should have got a young, camp, over the top act"
Jonathan Maitland is best known as a broadcaster, writer and author. He has presented various TV shows including the BBC's Watchdog and ITV1's Tonight. He writes occasionally for various national newspapers and magazines. However to Eurovision fans he is best known for his appearance as a member of the group Surf'n'Turf, that competed in A Song For Europe 2002 with the song I Give In. We asked Jonathan Maitland about his experience of the contest.
songs4europe.com: First of all can you tell us a bit about the background of Surf'n Turf? How you all came together to form the group?
Jonathan Maitland: "We got together in 1997 if my memory serves me correctly. It started when Matt Allwright, who now presents Rogue Traders, and I played at the Watchdog Christmas party . A cameraman pal of ours, John Collins, told us about his wife Jackie, who was a singer. Then Matt got in Pete Cuthbert, who was a cousin of one of his mates, and it went from there. We played weddings and parties (40'ths mainly) basically. For fun and bit of cash but it was never about the money we just loved playing. All cover versions, mind you. "
We know you best as a journalist/broadcaster, but would you have liked to follow a career in music?
"If God let me live my life again I would have been a rock star from aged 18 - 28 and then open the batting for England from 28 – 40 . but I never had even 1% of the talent required for either, sadly."
When writing songs, are you more the composer or the lyric writer, or is it a team effort? I note your brother not part of the group?
"I never wrote any songs. I Give In was in fact penned by my brother, Pete, who is a solo pub/working man’s club act. I got a credit on it as I made it happen. Pete isn't part of the group, he is too much of pain who tried to take control all the time and ended up annoying everyone or offending them, or both.
Had you submitted any songs in previous years for A Song For Europe?
"Yes, we put one of my brother Pete’s in, I can’t remember when. It was called Tearing At My Heart and it was great."
What motivated you to enter the contest?
"Having fun, competitiveness, money….but mainly the Eurovision experience. Had we got to the final it would have been a lot of fun. I was also writing a book at the time (‘Flop idol’) which detailed my attempts to have a hit so that was a big motivating factor."
In 2002 the song I Give In made the final eight in A Song For Europe, what was your reaction when you discovered you had made the final eight?
In addition to the four regular group members, there were two additional female backing vocalists in the live performance. Who's idea was this to include them?
"It was the producer’s Steve Levine, I think. One of the girls was called Belle, the other was, I think, called Natasha and was blonde and very orange."
Going into A Song For Europe 2002. What did you think of the other songs in the contest?
"I thought Jessica’s song was very good. But it reminded me a bit of Stop by Sam Browne. But that is a great song so no problems there."
A lot of the publicity regarding the entry of Surf'n Turf was centred around yourself, as a known face. Did you think this helped or hindered your chances in the contest?
"I think what hindered our chances was that we were middle aged and not very cool at all. With hindsight we should have got a young, camp, over the top act to sing the song for us."
The song was released as a single, did this come out before or after the contest? How well or otherwise did the single sell?
"It came out afterwards , in Ireland, and sold not that many copies …mostly to a certain J Maitland. I think it sold about 900 copies and reached the top 100 over there."
What were you feeling before going on stage to perform I Give In? Was this the biggest audience you had been in front of as a performer?
"We were very excited and thought we had a good chance of winning as the song was so catchy . We had performed to fairly big crowds…at charity gigs and the like…but this was probably one of our biggest. Certainly if you take into account the watching millions on tv of course."
In typical fashion the announcement of the winning song was down to the final two, yourselves and Jessica Garlick. What were you feeling then? What was the mood within the group at the result?
"We thought we had won when there were just two acts left. When they called out her name I couldn’t speak for minutes. I was very deflated and disappointed. My brother even more so - he was up and out of his seat, thinking we had won."
Have you tried to enter songs again for the contest?
"I think my Eurovision work is done."
In recent years the United Kingdom has achieved some very poor results in the contest. Why do you think this is?
"Geo-political voting by East European countries - we all know the culprits - and a failure to understand that the contest has moved on since the 90's and now rewards ludicrous over the top camp songs, Not weak ditties performed by out of tune, end of the pier, teen aged double acts."
What has happened to Surf'n Turf since A Song For Europe 2002?
"We split up due to musical differences. As Matt says, they were musical…and I was different. We are still the best of friends though."
Finally, how would you sum up the whole experience of A Song For Europe 2002?
"Hugely enjoyable, exciting, memorable but ultimately crushingly disappointing and a little bit humiliating."
songs4europe.com would like to thank Jonathan Maitland for taking the time to do this interview.
Surf'n'Turf in A Song For Europe 2002