Saturday 9 May 1987


Born: September 4th, 1930, Bois-de-Breux, Liège (Belgium)
Died: April 25th, 2001, Liège (Belgium)
Nationality: Belgian

In due course, the short impression below will be replaced with a more extensive career overview


At fourteen, Jo Carlier started studying the trumpet at the conservatory. He made his debut as an instrumentalist in the orchestra of Jean Dari from Liege. Later, Carlier became an orchestra leader himself and for many years he was the musical director of the International Festival of French Chanson in Spa, accompanying the likes of Maxime Le Forestier, Francis Cabrel, and Alain Souchon. Furthermore, either as an instrumentalist or as a conductor, he worked with Jacques Dutronc, Gilbert Bécaud, Jean Vallée, Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Brel, Ray Ventura, and Juliette Gréco. Jo Carlier retired in 1988.


Jo Carlier first appearance in the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1984, when he conducted the Belgian entry ‘Avanti la vie’, composed and arranged by Henri Seroka and sung by Jacques Zegers. Two years later, Carlier led the orchestra during the winning performance of Sandra Kim in Bergen, Norway; Belgium’s victory in 1986 with ‘J’aime la vie’ remains the country’s only win in the Eurovision Song Contest to date. The orchestration to the song was written by Jean-Paul Lebens and Carlier’s old Flemish friend Freddy Sunder, who had regularly been a member of Carlier’s orchestra in Spa. 

When the festival came to Belgium in 1987, Carlier was commissioned to hand-pick an orchestra to accompany the participating songs. The Belgian entry being from the Dutch-speaking part of the country, it was conducted by Freddy Sunder; Carlier himself stood in front of his orchestra during the Cypriot entry ‘Aspro-mavro’ as well as during the rendition of host Viktor Lazlo’s song ‘Breathless’, which opened the show.


Country – Belgium
Song title – "Avanti la vie"
Rendition – Jacques Zegers
Lyrics – Jacques Zegers
Composition – Henri Seroka
Studio arrangement – Henri Seroka
Live orchestration – Henri Seroka
Conductor – Jo Carlier
Score – 5th place (70 votes)

Country – Belgium
Song title – "J’aime la vie"
Rendition – Sandra Kim 
Lyrics – Rosario Marino Atria
Composition – Angelo Crisci / Jean-Paul Furnémont
Studio arrangement – Jean-Paul Lebens 
Live orchestration – Jean-Paul Lebens / Freddy Sunder 
Conductor – Jo Carlier
Score – 1st place (176 votes)

Country – Cyprus
Song title – "Aspro-mavro"
Rendition – Alexia Vasiliou
Lyrics – Maria Papapavlou
Composition – Andreas Papapavlou
Studio arrangement – Lars O. Carlsson / Costas Charitodiplomenos
Live orchestration – Lars O. Carlsson / Costas Charitodiplomenos
Conductor – Jo Carlier (MD)
Score – 7th place (80 votes)


The following article is an overview of the career of Hungarian-German pianist, keyboard player, composer, arranger, and producer Laszlo Bencker. The main source of information are two interviews with Mr Bencker, conducted by Bas Tukker in March 2024. The article below is subdivided into two main parts; a general career overview (part 3) and a part dedicated to Laszlo Bencker’s Eurovision involvement (part 4).

All material below: © Bas Tukker / 2024

  1. Passport
  2. Short Eurovision record
  3. Biography
  4. Eurovision Song Contest
  5. Other artists about Laszlo Bencker
  6. Eurovision involvement year by year
  7. Sources & links

Born: November 16th, 1954, Budapest (Hungary)
Nationality: Hungarian (1954-1987, 2020-) / German (1987-)


Laszlo Bencker took part as a conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest on one occasion, in 1987, leading the orchestra in Brussels for the West German entry ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’. Performed by the group Wind, this song finished in second place behind Ireland’s Johnny Logan.


Laszlo Bencker was born in 1954 in Budapest as László Szűcs. His father worked as head of procurement at Hungary’s state beer brewery. 

“There were no artists in my family – my grandfather on the paternal side had come closest; he was a member of the Hungarian Choir of Postmen! This grandfather had actually been born in Slovakia, which was part of the Hungarian half of the Habsburg Empire before World War I. He made a career as a state employee. You could say I was born into a petty-bourgeois family, although the neighbourhood I grew up in was firmly working-class, in one of the poorest parts of Budapest. When I was in kindergarten, my teachers discovered I had a talent for music. Aged six, I was sent to my first piano teacher, a young woman who was extremely good at what she did. She was also the first piano teacher of Zoltán Kocsis, future concert pianist and conductor of world fame. I was very fortunate that I was trusted to her. Who knows what would have happened if someone less talented had tried to teach me the basics? There are very few children who enjoy their first few years of piano lessons, and I was no exception, but I made it through thanks to her.”

As a student, early 1970s

“Another factor was my father, who had no affinity to music, but this notwithstanding he was very strict and didn’t allow me to mess up on my piano lessons. He must really have pinned high hopes on me making it as a musician; some years later, he invested his annual income to buy a grand piano, which allowed me to continue my studies at the academy. It was the best investment he could have made to help his son on the way in life – and he did this not knowing if I would ever make it. Sadly, he died quite young, before I had my breakthrough in Germany. It’s a farce of history that this man never got to see this.”

“I went to the Béla Bartók Conservatoire in 1969, when I was fourteen years old. By then, I had discovered pop music – or perhaps I should say that pop music discovered me! One of my earliest memories is when my mother called me to come to the radio, because they were playing my favourite tune again; ‘Telstar’, an instrumental piece with a brilliant sound (by British studio group The Tornados, 1962 – BT). My goodness, that was exciting music! It was one of the reasons I chose to study composition rather than piano; my dream was to be a rock musician and create my own music – and, in terms of education, classical composition was the closest subject available. In the academic curriculum, pop music didn’t exist, but make no mistake; all of my fellow students were as fascinated by the latest records from the West as I was. ‘Did you hear that new song on the radio yesterday?’ During our lunchbreaks, we would withdraw into study rooms to try to figure out the chords. One time, I was caught red-handed; while I was playing ‘Lady Madonna’, the headmaster stormed in shouting, ‘I’ll have you removed from this institute!’, which in the end he didn’t, but it shows you what the atmosphere was like in those days.”

“Pop music from the West seeped into Hungary in different ways. I remember a famous Hungarian film director, Miklós Jancsó, who got to spend some time in Western Europe. At the insistence of his daughter, he brought back lots of pop records. Those records were brought to a jazz club in Budapest, where we all stood in line to borrow one of those albums. When I had got myself one of them, I ran home, copied it with the help of a tape recorder, and ran back to the jazz club to borrow the next. The regime turned a blind eye to such practices. That was typical of Hungary – some years after the revolution of 1956 had been crushed by the Soviets, authorities noticed that the people wouldn’t accept them unless they were allowed small relaxations of hard-line communism. Hungary has always been an operetta country – and in the 1960s and 1970s, it had the reputation of being the happiest barracks of the Eastern Bloc.”

László (far right) with the fellow members of Theatrum, from left - István Torontáli, Gábor Németh, Péter Dandó, and Péter Kovács

“Gradually, state radio began to broadcast more and more advanced pop music from the West. In the early 1970s, there was a weekly radio show on Fridays at 2 pm, in which they played albums brought in from Western Europe. The radio magazine announced exactly what they were going to play. The state deejay started the programme by reading the sleeve notes – in their entirety; title, composers, session musicians, producer, everything! That took up the first few minutes. Following that, he simply played the entire LP from start to finish without further interruptions. Everyone in Hungary was listening with a finger on the button of their tape recorders to copy the programme – and I was no exception. I distinctly remember they played an album by Blood, Sweat & Tears, the first rock band we had ever heard which used brass. At that time, I was a huge fan of Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. At first hearing, I felt the music of Blood, Sweat & Tears was a bit weird; and I even considered deleting the recording, but after listening to it a few more times, the music started to appeal to me more… and before I knew it, I was hooked on this new hype; fusion, the mixing of jazz and rock, invented by bands like BS&T and Chicago.”

“In 1973, I switched from composition to the newly founded jazz department of the conservatoire. In all, I spent six years at the academy. I consider myself hugely privileged to have had the opportunity to study music at the Bartók Conservatoire. You can say about the communist regime what you like, but the education system was very good. First, I was thoroughly prepared at the music gymnasium in the industrial neighbourhood where I grew up; and then I was allowed to go to the country’s best music academy in Budapest’s city centre. It was a liberating experience suddenly finding myself in an intellectual environment. All this allowed me to become an able pianist and composer, which was the only career path I had ever had in mind. Thanks to the education I received, I’ve been able to make a living until the present day.”

“I formed my first band when I was fifteen years old. From the start, I was more interested in creating new music than playing covers, which is what most other aspiring pop and rock musicians in Hungary did. For this first group, I took a set of poems by a famous Hungarian author, composing rock-style music to them. A bit later, in 1972, I was a founding member of one of Hungary’s first jazz-rock bands, Theatrum, in which I played the organ – and again, my father spent a huge sum of money, in this case to buy me an organ of an East German brand, Matador. It wasn’t quite the same as a Hammond, but its sound was still quite nice. Apart from our own material, we played some covers, the main one being ‘Tarkus’ of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It was a 21-minute piece heavily influenced by Bartók; really great music which blew me away when first listening to it. Using a very poor monophonic Polish tape recorder, I eventually managed to write out the piece in its entirety. I was hugely proud of that, because the music was extremely complicated. We were probably the only band in Eastern Europe able to play it.”

On stage at a summer festival in Budapest (1973)

“Theatrum never released any records, but we did get to perform on Eastern Europe’s first-ever rock festival, which took place in a stadium in Miskolc in the summer of 1973. We took to the stage wearing Roman togas! There was a crowd of some 30,000. On that occasion, right at the moment when we were performing ‘Tarkus’, the electricity for my organ fell away. Panicking, I shouted to our saxophonist that he should make up a solo on the spot to fill up the time while I switched the organ back on. This took about a minute – but it felt like an eternity! Theatrum was too avant-garde to create a large fan following, but almost all the members went on to build successful careers as music professionals. The band worked as a springboard.”

“Thanks to my involvement with Theatrum, I was starting to build up a bit of a reputation among musicians. One day, someone called me to play in a recording session. When I walked into that studio, I suddenly saw a Hammond organ standing there – the real thing! I couldn’t contain myself and just sat there, improvising away on the Hammond. Being so young, I wasn’t aware that the studio business is about effectivity and doing your job fast. In that session, I worked with some of the best session players in Hungary and they were all annoyed by this young guy who was only thinking about himself. It just goes to show that I was too immature for this type of work. It was really silly of me, because this could have been the best job imaginable for me in Hungary, but after that first session I was never called upon again.”

“One Saturday in March 1975, I received a phone call from someone I had never heard of. He asked me if I was free to do a performance with an ad-hoc band; just a jazz gig somewhere in the Hungarian countryside – and I accepted. This type of concert, performing for youngsters in cultural centres across Hungary, was simply a way of making a living for many musicians from Budapest. Going down there, I met the other guys in the group. They were all complete strangers to me. One of them was a long-haired young man who introduced himself as Leslie Mandoki. It turned out he was the drummer. He had been in a band called Jam, but he certainly wasn’t a household name in the Hungarian music world at the time. As it turned out, Leslie and I got along really well. He was a vivacious guy who was interested in the same music. From the day we met, we were the best of friends.” 

With his East German Matador organ (1974)

“As it happened, Leslie was part of the Hungarian student movement protesting against the Kádár regime. He had been imprisoned multiple times. About a month after first meeting him, he told me he wanted to escape the country with a group of others. He asked me if I was interested in coming with them. Honestly, getting away to the West was something I had never considered. Contrary to Leslie, I was apolitical. I needed time to consider. Leslie explained how hard my life would be as a jazz-rocker in Hungary. The only path to success away from classical music was working on the most syrupy of entertainment music. It was a gloomy prospect. Leslie was right – and that’s how he convinced me.”

“We managed to obtain a permit to go on holiday in Yugoslavia; there were five of us, four guys and one girl. One of the others was Gábor Csupó, who went on to become a hugely successful animation film maker in the USA. Our initial plan was to travel to the Slovenian coast and swim to Trieste from there. That’s how a friend of ours, a poet, had made it to Italy – and, from there, he had travelled to Sweden. However, once we were in Yugoslavia, he sent us a letter dissuading us from travelling to Italy. He wrote that the treatment he had received at the refugee camp in Latina was horrible. He suggested trying to escape to Austria instead. To do so, we had to walk through the Karawanks Tunnel, an eight-kilometre-long railway tunnel on the Alpine border between Yugoslavia and Austria.”

“Following his suggestions, we travelled to Ljubljana – and then on to the border town of Jesenice. Having reconnoitred the route to the tunnel closely on the day of our arrival, we simply walked in the following evening around 9pm. Moments after we had entered, there was a train. Scared to death, we sought refuge in inlets created for the benefit of railroad workers. There we were, hiding like rats, while we looked up to the train carriages carrying people who were travelling legally and perfectly leisurely from Yugoslavia to Austria. We were terrified. Eventually, it took us some two and a half hours to leave the tunnel on the Austrian side. Fortunately, the guard post in the middle of the tunnel, right on the geographical border between the two countries, was unmanned that night. If there had been Yugoslav border guards, they would certainly have taken us back and put us in prison.”

Playing the Minimoog in a recording studio in Saarbrücken (1976)

“The first people we met on the Austrian side of the mountain range were a bunch of hunters. We claimed we were Finnish tourists looking for the nearest train station – and they were kind enough to take us there. From there, we travelled to Vienna, and then on to West Germany, all the way up to the Danish border. We were planning to join our poet-friend in Sweden, but on the Danish side of the border at Flensburg we were unmasked by Danish border guards. They put us in prison, but the next thing they did was to grab a crate of Tuborg beer and spend the night together with us getting drunk!”

“The following day, we were sent back across the border to Germany. Brought up with communist propaganda, we believed the Nazis were still in power in this country, but the German border guard who we were delivered to turned out to be really friendly. He was supposed to send us back to Austria. However, once he understood we were artists from Hungary, he decided by himself that we should be given permission to seek asylum in West Germany. ‘We need artists here in Germany,’ he claimed earnestly. Telling us we had to report to the refugee camp in Zirndorf (near Nuremburg – BT), he grabbed his wallet and gave us a 100 mark banknote, explaining that nobody in Germany should be without money. Because we were so exhausted after days of continuous travelling, we ran straight into a Chinese restaurant to spend the entire amount on a good meal!”

“Eventually, Leslie and I were the only ones in our little group who decided to stay in Germany. Having obtained their German asylum pass, the three others travelled on to Sweden. From Zirndorf, Leslie was sent to Rastatt in Baden-Württemberg, while I was told that there was an apartment for me in Lingen, far away in the Emsland region near the border with Holland. I had been told to report to the town hall. Upon arrival, a shout went up, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, our refugee has arrived!’ Even the mayor came down to shake my hand. Meanwhile, in Rastatt, a couple from Gerlingen near Stuttgart had offered Leslie the opportunity to come and live with them. They were benefactors who helped one or two refugees every year. Leslie then told them about me; and this couple went on to convince Gerlingen’s mayor to allow me to come over from Lingen as well. That’s how Leslie and I were reunited. It was incredible how this selfless German couple from a bourgeois background didn’t ask any questions and took in those two long-haired Hungarian musicians as if we were their own children. They were our Vati and Mutti – that’s how we called them. We couldn’t have been more lucky.”

László (second from right) at the airport of Toronto during an American tour with Roy Black (far right) and his band (1982)

“What was more, they also lent us a sum of money to buy musical instruments; I then got myself a Pari organ, while Leslie bought a Ludwig drum kit. We then went to the employment office to register ourselves as musicians. That’s how we got our first jobs, but it couldn’t have been more horrible… we had to play in cabarets; well, that’s what they were called, but in fact these were striptease clubs. Yes, we found ourselves accompanying striptease acts for the first six months. In Hungary, both of us had been performing on big stages, music festivals, and here we were in Germany at the bottom of the ladder, providing the music to women undressing themselves. We were feeling utterly depressed. Had we made the wrong decision? We certainly couldn’t go back to Hungary, so we had to go on no matter what. Fortunately, at one of those gigs, in Augsburg, we met a German guitarist called Kurt Dorndorf. We formed a trio, performing in dance halls and restaurants in Switzerland. Admittedly, this was a bit better than those awful cabarets, but still we weren’t happy; being jazz-rockers, we didn’t see ourselves playing ‘The Snow Waltz’ and similar repertoire for the rest of our lives. The only positive thing was that I slowly managed to master the German language.”

“After three years of frustration, we moved to Munich – something we should have done straightaway, but we had no idea that Munich was the most important city in the record business of mainland Europe. Leslie approached Ralph Siegel, one of the main record producers in Munich, and told him that he wanted to be a rock singer. Saying he was willing to discuss his rock plans later, Ralph offered him a place in a new disco group instead, Dschinghis Khan. He had formed it for the German pre-selection of the Eurovision Song Contest. Leslie imagined this was just going to be a one-off performance, but Dschinghis Khan won the ticket to represent Germany in Eurovision in 1979 and they had a huge hit. For the next three years, Leslie was stuck with Dschinghis Khan, performing with the group across the world; from Brazil to the Soviet Union – and all the while, he was deeply unhappy, because he loathed disco.”

“Meanwhile, I had set my mind on becoming a session musician in Munich. At the employment office, I was told I stood no chance to fight my way into such a fenced-off world, but I insisted. To my surprise, it wasn’t long before I received a call for a session with a studio formation called Gold, consisting of a bunch of Czech guys, who did a recording with a girl vocalist. The recording never saw the light of day, but this group was called upon to become Roy Black’s accompanying band on his next tour – and, being the keyboard player, I became the musical director. That was in 1979. Roy Black was a big name in German showbiz, and this certainly was a step forward for me. I spent much of the following three years on the road with Roy and my Czech colleagues. We even travelled across the Atlantic to perform for German émigrés in Canada and the United States. My memories of those years are mainly positive. Roy and these Czechs were really friendly, and we had a lot of fun together, on stage but also away from it. Moreover, the music was quite easy to play.”

László's first success as a studio musician was in 1982, when he played the synth parts for Ingrid Peters' cover hit 'Einmal bleibst du hier' 

“An important event for Leslie and me was meeting a group of some thirty Hungarians living in Munich. That was in 1980. Some were migrants, others were born into Hungarian families already living in Southern Germany. It was a mixed bunch; some were students, others a little bit older. In our first five years in Germany, we had felt cut off from our cultural heritage. During that time, we didn’t meet any Hungarians. All of a sudden, our loneliness was over. Now, we had a new social network – a group of friends to fall back on and to hang out with. From the day we got to know them, I’ve felt truly at home in Munich. Some of them have remained friends until the present day.”

“In 1982, we went on another tour to Canada and the West Coast of the US with Roy Black. In order to go on that tour, I had had to say goodbye to the John West Big Band, in which I had been playing the piano for some time. Coming back from the tour with Roy, he told us he could no longer afford to pay us. In other words, we got the sack. There I was, seven years in Germany and without a job. It was a depressing situation. Then, I made the best investment in my life – I bought myself an answering machine! While I was staying with my girlfriend, I received a phone call from Werner Schüler, who was Ralph Siegel’s fellow producer at Jupiter Records. He was looking for a synthesiser player for a cover of ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ (hit for Ph.D. in 1981 – BT) he wanted to record with Ingrid Peters. Obviously, I accepted the invitation and recorded the synth parts in that session. I simply copied the original in its entirety and played all the parts by myself. Werner was happy with my work; after we were done, he asked, ‘Do you have a job at the moment?’ When I said that I didn’t, he just told me, ‘Alright then, from today your job is here with me in the studio’.”

“Fairly quickly, my work for Werner progressed from just playing keyboards and synthesiser to writing arrangements as well. This was the time when synthesisers became more and more refined – and you could basically put together an entire arrangement on your own, without using an orchestra. Keyboard players like me were lucky, but for all our fellow musicians in the business, this development was a disaster. With Werner, I finally got to prove my worth as a keyboard player and arranger – and Werner was the key to the city, so to speak; he provided the path to a career in the studio business.”

In Munich, July 1983

“Before long, I was contacted by Ralph Siegel himself. Whenever a musician was successful with Werner, Ralph would lure him away. He had done so with Hermann Weindorf before me – and he decided to give me a try as well. Previously, he had had his reservations about me, because I was a foreigner and because I stammer a bit, but Leslie Mandoki convinced him that I deserved a chance. Once I had a foot in the door with Ralph, other producers became interested as well. Werner was the one who picked me up from the floor, when I was in dire straits financially; and Ralph took me to the top of the business. Suddenly, I was working in a studio with all the best session men in Munich: Günther Gebauer, Curt Cress, Charly Hörnemann, Mats Björklund… I was beyond impressed. Within two or three years, I had become a first-call keyboarder and arranger.”

“I worked extensively with Ralph for the following four, five years, playing keyboards and writing arrangements. Usually, on Ralph’s productions, there were several arrangers involved simultaneously; apart from Hermann Weindorf, there were also guys like Rainer Pietsch and Norbert Daum. I couldn’t tell you on how many productions I worked for Ralph in those years – Mireille Mathieu and Nicole are just two names that spring to mind. Of course this wasn’t music that I was fond of personally. It was a job and I tried to do it to the best of my abilities. Ralph was a special guy – I know many people speak badly of him, and there might be some truth to those stories, but he always helped me a lot. He might have had his doubts about me initially, but he learnt to appreciate me as a professional.”

“In my early days as a keyboard player in Munich’s session world, I also worked on a lot of Jack White’s productions; mainly awful schlagers like ‘Ach lass mich doch in deinem Wald der Oberförster sein’ for Tony Marshall; really not my cup of tea. Jack usually recorded his stuff at the Paradise Studios in Munich, owned by Peter Lüdemann and Jürgen Koppers. Jürgen was Jack’s sound engineer for many years. One day, Peter and Jürgen told me about a demo tape which had arrived from America, asking me to invent a keyboard part to the melody. Listening to the beat, I came up with some synth lines. ‘Well done!’, Peter and Jürgen said, and they opened a bottle of cognac. We had a couple of drinks and I added some more elements with the help of a sequencer. They paid me 80 marks and then I went home, forgetting all about it.”

Laszlo Bencker (to the right) and executive producer Axel Meyer-Wölden flanking Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo during the recording of Domingo's album 'Die schönsten Lieder der Welt' (1989)

“Two years later, I heard the track on the radio, performed as a duet by Pia Zadora and Jermaine Jackson, ‘When The Rain Begins To Fall’… and it included my synthesiser parts! In fact, the song was a worldwide hit (in 1984 – BT). If I had been more businessman-like, I could have made a fortune, but all I had earned were 80 lousy marks! Everyone ever listening to the song will realise that the synths were an essential element of the song, but I cannot say I’m proud of it – rather annoyed that I had been stupid enough to walk away without demanding that my name be added to the credits list.” 

“In 1984, I got married and decided to change my name, taking on my German wife’s name, Bencker. My surname Szűcs, which is almost unpronounceable for German speakers – or anyone not familiar with Hungarian, really. It had been misspelled so often on album covers… on one record produced by Ralph Siegel, I even saw myself credited as Lazio Suez. I simply gave up. To make matters even more simple, I also dropped the two acute accents in my first name László. That’s how I became Laszlo Bencker – and that has been my official name ever since.”

“In 1986, I received a phone call in the dead of night. ‘Who is this idiot ringing me up at 2am?’, I thought to myself. ‘Hello, this is Giorgio Moroder speaking!’ Giorgio Moroder! That guy won two Oscars! The voice on the other end of the line went on, ‘Yes, I’ve heard about you. I’m in America at the moment, but next week I’ll be in Munich and we’ll meet at the Ristorante Romagna Antica.’ He then mentioned a day and a time and that was the end of the phone call. As it turned out, a sound engineer had advised him to work with me. We met at that Italian restaurant and discussed Giorgio’s latest plans.”

Bencker (left) and Leslie Mandoki flanking Gábor Csupó (1994); Csupó was one of the duo's fellow escapees in 1975 and went on to become a successful animator in America, working on 'The Simpsons' and many other cartoon productions

“I went on to do the keyboard parts to his productions for Limahl and the punk band Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Giorgio himself was only taking a moderate interest. In the morning, he would walk into the studio with a cassette; ‘Here, make it funky. I’m off for a meeting with the playmate of November 1985.’ Then, in the evening, he came back to listen to the track just once. Then he said, ‘Yes, that’s good, but make the bassline a little funkier. I’m off to meet the model of the month of February now.’ He was just a guy from South Tyrol who had once come down to Munich to try his luck, but he had made so much money with Donna Summer and others in the 1970s, that he didn’t really feel the urge to put all his energy into his new projects. For me, those involvements with Giorgio were quite important. His name was not just important in Germany, like Ralph Siegel was. Giorgio was a world star. No-one could take that away from me!”

“In the 1980s, Munich’s studios were flooded by Italians. They preferred recording their material here because the studios in Munich were more advanced than in Milan – and Munich was the happening place at the time… even Deep Purple and The Rolling Stones came down here to record their work. One of the most important Italian producers at the time was Dario Farina – and I was his arranger for quite some time. I must have been recommended to him. The first arrangement I wrote for him was ‘Laura Jane’, which was a nice funky track and a big hit for Howard Carpendale (in 1987 – BT). Dario combined good taste with an almost unerring sense for hit potential. Not much later, teaming up with my good friend Geoff Bastow, I co-arranged a good album which Dario composed and produced for Gitte Hænning – with all the tracks composed by Dario himself. I also got to work with some Italian star artists… Caterina Valente, Gianni Morandi, Milva, and many more. I even wrote an arrangement for a song which Drupi performed at the San Remo Festival (‘Era bella davvero’ in 1988 – BT). I loved working with Dario. He was a friend and he wrote really good songs. What was not to like about him?”

“Thanks to Dario, I also got involved in symphonic projects with the Munich Symphonic Sound Orchestra. Following an idea of Axel Meyer-Wölden, a lawyer who also was Boris Becker’s manager, Dario and I worked on a concept of ‘Pop Goes Classic’ – with Dario taking over the production and me writing the arrangements, which were then orchestrated by Boris Jojić, one of the best old-school studio arrangers available in Munich. We took pop classics like ‘We Are The World’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and rearranged them for a symphonic set-up. The first album was recorded with musicians from the Munich Philharmonic and the sound was absolutely magnificent. The project was launched on the biggest Saturday evening TV show in Germany, Verstehen Sie Spaß? – and, before we knew it, we were selling 40,000 albums per day! In total confusion, Dario called me the following week, ‘Laszlo, have you heard? We are number one! Who buys this shit?’ In total, we did four ‘Pop Goes Classic’ albums and sold about 1,5 million records in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland alone. Another spin-off of this project was an album we did with Plácido Domingo, which also went top of the charts. There should have been a follow-up, but then Dario Farina fell out with Axel Meyer-Wölden and that was the end of that.”

In the Park Studios in Munich with American songstress Chaka Khan recording the single 'The Journey Is Long' (1997)

“All the while in the 1980s, I tried to help and build Leslie Mandoki’s solo career. Leslie had got out of Dschinghis Khan in 1982 and then came up with a solo album, ‘Back To Myself’, which I co-composed and co-produced with him. It was typical jazz-rock with lots of synthesisers. All the other members of Dschinghis Khan bought themselves a Porsche with the money they had made, but Leslie invested all his money into this solo production in which he was desperate to retrace his music roots. Unfortunately, ‘Back To Myself’ and Leslie’s follow-up albums, in all of which I was involved, only met with limited success. As my friend and fellow arranger Norbert Daum used to say, ‘The Germans hate their stars.’ As an Austrian, Norbert knew what he was talking about. Somehow, Germans tend to gloat when a previously successful artist finds himself in trouble. In the beginning, an additional problem was posed by Ralph Siegel, who feared that Leslie’s solo releases would limit the success of Dschinghis Khan; therefore, he tried to block the release of ‘Back To Myself’. It wasn’t easy for Leslie, but still we both loved working on the music that we personally liked.”

“In 1988, I wrote a song with Leslie for the Summer Olympics in Seoul, simply entitled ‘Korea’. It was a big hit in many countries in the Far East. We were invited to come to South Korea to perform in a live show with a 90-piece local orchestra. Norbert Daum came with us to conduct it. Having prepared playback tracks in Munich, with drum machines and all, I came along to play the grand piano in the orchestra for our part of the show; seventeen minutes of music. In Korea, it proved quite a challenge to combine the playback with the live orchestra. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much stress in my life, but in the end everything worked out fine. It was the experience of a lifetime.”

“In that same year 1988, I decided to end my involvement with Ralph Siegel. After I had struck up a partnership with Dario Farina, I found it harder and harder to find the inspiration to write arrangements to Ralph’s songs. After five years, I had had enough – especially because Ralph demanded full dedication from everyone around him. He wanted to buy you with skin and hair, so to speak, calling you up in the middle of the night demanding you finish a demo by the next morning. Staying with him would have hampered me in my other activities. I wanted to move on. This more or less coincided with Leslie Mandoki and me renting the Park Studios in Munich. It was a wonderful studio in a villa in Harlaching, owned by an Austrian composer who had made lots of money writing music which had been played during the night hours on German TV. He had stopped working and his studio was never used, although it included an excellent Steinway piano and an expensive mixing board. Leslie and I brought life into this studio, recording there with Dario Farina, Howard Carpendale, and Milva – and then finally, in 1990, we bought the studio together, on a fifty-fifty basis.”

Leslie and Laszlo in a New York recording studio in 1998 with the Brecker brothers - Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Michael Brecker (sax)

“Apart from all kinds of pop productions, I used the Park Studios to record my own library music (production music that can be licensed to customers for use in film, TV, and other media – BT), which I had started working on some years before. In 1984, in Los Angeles, I had bought myself a Linn 9000 sequencer, which was much more advanced than any other synth machine had ever been. You could get a full orchestral arrangement from it, which was recorded simultaneously on cassette. One day, I was listening to the final mix of one of my synthesiser compositions in Trixi Studio in Munich, when Gerhard Narholz, president of the Sonoton Music Library, overheard it and asked what it was. I explained that this was my own work. He said, ‘Well, make me a full production with this type of music!’ That was in 1986. My first instrumental album was in typical 1980s electro style and released by Sonoton under the title ‘Lady Robot’.”

“In the following years, I recorded dozens more library music albums for Sonoton. In the 1990s, I invented the motto ‘Jazzcraft’, a mix of jazz and electronics, released on a series of albums. These are especially successful in America, perhaps not surprising given that the inspiration came more from the American musical traditions than from Europe. Apart from the fact that this library music proved very profitable, I derived much enjoyment from it; for me, the ideal situation is putting together a piece of music on my own – composition, arrangement, playing keyboards, programming… everything. Working in many different styles, ranging from jazz funk to hip-hop, I could put all my creativity into it. Meanwhile, BMG’s chief manager Thomas Stein had asked Leslie and me to produce and arrange an album for Engelbert Humperdinck – and we did one more after that. Both of these albums reached gold status. Moreover, I also arranged several albums for German singer-songwriter Hanne Haller in the 1990s. Looking back, leaving Ralph and choosing my own path proved the correct decision; all kinds of new opportunities came my way in those years.”

“In 1991, Leslie had the idea of bringing together the music heroes of our youth in a jazz-rock super band. Thanks to his years with Dschinghis Khan, Les had met many musicians backstage at concerts, TV shows, and hotel bars. Still, it seemed like a far-fetched idea – and we were astonished when the first artist to agree was Jack Bruce of Cream. The next to come to Munich was Bobby Kimball from Toto, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. They were our rock heroes! We had also invited a group of jazz guys; and guitarist Al Di Meola and the Brecker brothers, Randy and Michael, also accepted – arguably the best trumpeter and saxophonist in the world! It was a dream come true to write tunes to be played and sung by our idols. I’ll never forget when Randy and Michael came to our Park Studios in Munich for the first time. As it turned out, I had made not one, but three mistakes in the score of the first piece they were to play. ‘Does this happen to you regularly?’, Michael asked. At that moment, I wanted the ground to swallow me up, I can tell you! The funny thing was that the following piece was much more complicated – and fortunately there weren’t any mistakes in that one.”

During the nightly recording sessions of 'The One', from left to right - Laszlo Bencker, sound engineer Mike Streefkerk, Lionel Richie, and Leslie Mandoki (2001)

“The first records we did were released under Leslie’s own name – and later the project was renamed Mandoki Soulmates. More and more artists accepted the offer of working with us. I travelled to Toronto to record with David Clayton-Thomas, the singer of Blood, Sweat & Tears – the band I had discovered all those years ago as a student in Budapest taping their album from the radio. We got to perform across Europe in concert venues and at open-air festivals; in 1994, we played in front of a crowd of 40,000 at the Sziget Festival in Budapest! I can hardly describe how proud I am of my involvement with the Soulmates. When Jack Bruce or Bobby Kimball opened their mouth to sing a song composed by me… it’s a feeling I can hardly describe. Apart from co-composing the repertoire, I wrote all the arrangements and took care of the keyboard programming. I was involved in the project for more than twenty years. I consider it one of the principal works of my career.”

“In 1999, Leslie received a phone call from Mario Basler, one of the star players of FC Bayern Munich. At a posh Italian restaurant in Grünwald, the neighbourhood where all these footballers had their villas, he had seen a performance by a 21-year-old Italian singer called Piero Mazzocchetti. He said we should give it a try with him as a recording artist. Leslie and I decided to invite him to our studio – and we were amazed by what we heard. This little guy could sing one verse in a powerful pop timbre and then change into a Pavarotti-style register. Of course, everyone knows Andrea Bocelli, but he sings pop songs in a classical way – Piero doesn’t, he sings pop like pop and classics like classics. That’s his unique selling point. We decided to do an album with him, ‘L’eternità’, for which I recorded the orchestra in Budapest. Unfortunately, the record company, Koch Records, badly mismanaged the marketing campaign for this CD. The sales figures weren’t good, in spite of the fact that it’s an excellent record. I’m rather proud of it. Piero managed his breakthrough some years later, but sadly he was no longer working with us at that stage.”

“In 2000, Leslie and I composed and produced the music for the first series of the casting show Popstars for RTL Television. Following that, we also recorded an album with the five girls who won the show and became the pop group No Angels. They were successful for a while, before being neglected and forgotten about in typical German fashion. With the girl who had been the last to drop out in the casting, Curly, Leslie and I also recorded an album the following year – and, although the album itself didn’t really take off in terms of sales, one of the songs, ‘Stay’, was picked in 2005 as theme song for Sturm der Liebe, a new soap series for ARD Television. Originally, they had just scheduled 30 episodes, but the series has been going on until the present day with thousands of episodes… and our composition is still the theme tune. For Leslie and me, television work was always a bit on the side – it never became our main line of work, although we were involved in several other projects, including the musical accompaniment to several seasons of the popular cartoon series Janosch.”

The Mandoki Soulmates meeting former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin (2006), from left to right - Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), backing vocalist Masha, Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Leslie Mandoki, guitarist George Kopecsni, Mikhail Gorbachev, Laszlo Bencker, Bobby Kimball (Toto), Eric Burdon (The Animals), and Peter Frampton

“Meanwhile, Leslie also landed us high-profile advertisement jobs. In 2001, we were commissioned to write a song to accompany the campaign for the new Mercedes SL. The description we received from the advertising agency explicitly mentioned that we shouldn’t only come up with a song, but also find a world star to sing it as a duet with a woman. We set our mind on Lionel Richie and Lara Fabian. Lara agreed pretty much straightaway. Tracking down Lionel wasn’t easy, however. Eventually, after we had travelled to Birmingham in vain to meet him there, he flew over to Stuttgart. We told him our clients had a huge budget and then we handed him the headphones with the song we had in mind, ‘The One’. Lionel immediately said he liked it, but he suggested making some changes to the melody and the lyrics here and there. We agreed, but when we let Lara Fabian know about the adaptations, she was indignant and said she no longer wanted to work with us. We found a replacement in Juliette, a Russian singer living in Germany.”

“We then made an appointment to record the song in the Park Studios, which we had meanwhile moved to Tutzing, south of Munich. The funny thing about Rich is that he wants to stick to the Los Angeles time zone, no matter where he is. That’s why our studio session with him took place between midnight and 10am. We were fortunate to find a restaurant owner in Tutzing willing to prepare lunch for the entire crew of some 60 people at two in the morning! Except for Rich himself, all of us were exhausted when the session was over. I should add that Lionel was a joy to work with – a really approachable, witty guy.”

“The following step was travelling to New York to shoot the video. It included a scene in which Lionel was to drive the Mercedes over the Brooklyn Bridge, with New York’s skyline in the background. In order to get the filming right, the police had to close off the bridge twice. Even Lionel was impressed. ‘Hey man, I’m just a fricking ni**er from Alabama and they’re closing down Brooklyn Bridge for me!’ Finally, everything was ready. The campaign was launched in Frankfurt on the morning of September 11th, 2001… and four hours later, the first plane flew into the WTC. Mercedes immediately cancelled the whole campaign, given that the Twin Towers were visible in the background of Brooklyn Bridge several times in the film. Suddenly, our song had become unacceptable – and they asked others to prepare a completely new video with another song and two pretty models driving the SL through a beautiful Tuscan landscape. In other words, all our work had been in vain. That’s how the advertising business – or life in general, if you like – works sometimes.”

At the airport in Berlin, on the way to a Mandoki Soulmates concert in Budapest, flanked by jazz guitarist Al Di Meola and Steve Lukather, one of the band members of Toto (2009)

“Between 2006 and 2014, Leslie and I were the music suppliers for the Volkswagen Group. This job kept me busy practically the whole year round, travelling from car show to car show all over the world; Detroit, Shanghai, São Paulo. Every time a new car was launched, we had to make sure we had the music ready that our clients wanted from us. I can’t say I enjoyed working with those car salesmen all that much. One time, for the Paris Motor Show, I had been asked to write a Smetana-style piece for the launch of the new Škoda Superb. However, the night before the event, there was a preview night for automotive journalists – and, as it turned out, our Škoda had been squeezed in between presentations of a Lamborghini and a Bentley, both accompanied with extremely loud beats. After the preview, our agent came back and told me, ‘Sorry, Laszlo, this Smetana music won’t do. Could you please go back to your hotel room and prepare a dance track for tomorrow morning?’ Believe me, I could have killed him on the spot! I spent all night making a tedious boom-boom piece. The Volkswagen guy thanked me profusely, but this wasn’t the type of stress that I wanted to expose myself to for the rest of my working life. That’s why I stopped in 2014.”

“One year previously, I had also decided to quit the Mandoki Soulmates. Although working with all those greats was fantastic, twenty years on the road was enough for me. The last concert I took part in was in Budapest. In it, in spite of his nerves, my good friend Charlie (Károly Horváth, the singer representing Hungary in Eurovision 1998 – BT) gave a fantastic duet performance with Chaka Khan. Leslie has gone on with the Soulmates project until the present day. It has become his life’s work, everything he longed for after the hard times he went through after quitting Dschinghis Khan. His powers of persuasion are incredible; dozens of guest artists from many different countries have agreed to record and perform with his Soulmates. I still write material for them occasionally. Last summer (in 2023 – BT), I did a one-off performance with Leslie as part of a Soulmates concert at a large open-air venue in Budapest – playing keyboards to our own compositions, performed by Leslie in the Hungarian language… yet another unforgettable experience.”

“Now that the pop music industry has gone down the drain with people getting their music for free with Spotify and YouTube, I am very happy to have my library music. It’s still being used for all kinds of different things; advertisements, background music in films, presentations, and so on. Advertising companies are still willing to pay for high-quality music productions provided by libraries such as Sonoton. If it hadn’t been for Sonoton, I would probably be working as a taxi driver today! Meanwhile, I’ve composed over 100 albums of production music. As a composer of library music, you don’t wait for inspiration. If you wait for divine intervention, you’ll starve to death! Do you think Bach was waiting for inspiration when he had to come up with a new cantata every week during his time in Leipzig? Although I wouldn’t want to compare myself to Bach, I think his work and mine are both a form of craftsmanship; sitting down at the piano and doing your job.”

At the 2012 Paris Motor Show

“Later this year (2024 – BT), I will be 70 years old. That is quite something. I don’t have any ambition other than to simply continue writing library music for as long as I can. I don’t want to quit. During the COVID lockdown, I had the good fortune of being asked to write a film soundtrack, something I had never done before. My old friend, Hungarian film director Ferenc Tolvaly, produced a wonderful movie about St Ignatius of Loyola called Camino Ignaciano. Music was required for almost the full ninety minutes. I chose an orchestral approach, but all done here at home on my keyboards. It was an inspirational job and I really enjoyed working on it. It was even better that the film was well received, walking away with first prize at a documentary festival in New Delhi.”

“Looking back, I think I’m happy that I spent most of my career away from the spotlight. In my young years, when I played keyboards with Theatrum in Hungary, I did crazy things on stage – playing a solo with my nose, for example, something you think is really cool when you’re an adolescent. Later on I was happy to play the role of power behind the throne for others. At heart, I think I’m too much of a musician with too little desire to be a star in my own right.”

“Although we’re very different character-wise, there’s more than enough that unites Leslie and me; leaving behind Hungary, we’ve both experienced deep lows in our early years in Germany. But, without those deep lows, I doubt if we would have reached our high peaks in the way we have done since. In a way, the hardship might have been a prerequisite for us to express ourselves later in life. Those hard years of trying to climb the music ladder in a foreign country where nobody knew us doubtlessly contributed to some form of artistic maturity.” 


While Laszlo Bencker took part in the Eurovision Song Contest as a conductor on just one occasion, in 1987 in Brussels, his involvement in the competition goes further than that. To start with, in 1983, while he was still working under his Hungarian name László Szűcs, he wrote the arrangement to ‘Viva la mamma’, a song written by Werner Schüler and Michael Hofmann which took part in the West German pre-selection for the Grand Prix – as Eurovision is generally referred to in Germany. Interpreted as a duet by Ingrid Peters and July Paul, the song came close to winning the ticket to the international final in Munich – in the end having to settle for second place behind the eventual winners Hoffmann & Hoffmann and ‘Rücksicht’.

“I remember that song quite well,” Bencker comments. “That was in the time when I had just started working as a session musician in Munich. I was working for Werner Schüler, Ralph Siegel’s assistant producer at Jupiter Records. In the early 1980s, Italopop was at its height. Quite regularly, the three biggest studios in Munich were blocked simultaneously by Freddy Najar’s label Baby Records from Milan. One of the producers working for Najar was Dario Farina, with whom I would become heavily involved some years later. All those Italo hits – songs like ‘Mamma Maria’, ‘Felicità’, and ‘Sarà perché ti amo’ – were written in the same repetitive chord sequence, which the Italians called giro. Those songs never had more than four chords. It doesn’t mean I think those songs were bad. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity. I mean, a genius song like ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ is extremely simple and repetitive in its build-up as well.”

“In 1983, Dario Farina was keen to build the career of Michael Hofmann as a songwriter. That’s why Dario told Michael to write only giro-type songs. That’s the context in which ‘Viva la mamma’ was composed by Michi. I would describe it as a typical synth pop production. I kept the arrangement very simple; it was completely programmed with synthesiser. Only the strings were played live in the German final; all the other elements were included on a backing track. Unfortunately, for the live performance, July Paul’s vocals were put far too low in the sound mix. He was a very nice guy and an excellent singer, but his voice could hardly be heard, which probably cost some votes.”

Single release of 'Viva la mamma', the runner-up song in the 1983 German Eurovision pre-selection

“By 1987, beside my involvement in studio work for other producers, I was a keyboarder and arranger for Ralph Siegel. As a songwriter, Ralph was always obsessed by the Grand Prix, even though he had already won it in 1982 with Nicole. It should be pointed out that he wasn’t the only one. Every year, when the submission deadline for the German final was approaching, all studios in Munich were fully booked. Hundreds of pieces were written and recorded. All of Munich’s studios and producers wanted to jump onto the Grand Prix bandwagon. Whatever way you looked at it, it was an important event for the record business in those days. Around that time, Ralph approached me, explaining that he had written a piece for the group Wind, ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’. He wanted me to write an arrangement to it. I had never worked with Wind before, but the group was well-known; they had come second in Eurovision a couple of years before with a piece written by Hanne Haller.” 

Indeed, Wind, a typical Munich studio group, had missed out on Eurovision victory in 1985 with ‘Für alle’, a ballad which was narrowly defeated by Norway’s Bobbysocks. By the time Ralph Siegel took the group under his wing, lead singer Rainer Höglmeier had been replaced by Andreas Lebbing. He was flanked on stage by Wind’s two female vocalists, Petra Scheeser and Christiane von Kutzschenbach, both original group members. For his productions, Ralph Siegel worked with different arrangers – notably Norbert Daum and Rainer Pietsch – but for the reggae-oriented piece ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’, he turned to Laszlo Bencker. Ralph Siegel was kind enough to answer our question if he had picked Bencker because he felt this song suited his arranging style. 

“Listen, at that time I had four or five arrangers working for me simultaneously,” Mr Siegel explains. “That’s how it worked, because I am a very prolific composer, you know. I hardly asked myself the question which song I should give to which arranger. There was no time for that. You would just take the arranger who had time to take on a new project. Often, I let multiple arrangers and keys players work on the same recording, just to have the input of more than just one person. Having said that, of course each arranger had his own typical timbre. Working with strings and brass is an art in itself.”

“In the early days, my first-call string arranger was Wolfgang Rödelberger,” Siegel continues, “but in the 1980s the best old-school arranger working for me was Rainer Pietsch. However, Rainer was prone to over-arranging. He loved bombast. Of course, ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’ isn’t a song which required a large orchestral back-up, which is perhaps why I thought of Laszlo instead. Contrary to Rainer, Laszlo was excellent at working with keyboards. He knew how to build a modern arrangement starting with drums, bass, and piano; then adding the guitars, and at the last stage, you would try to fit in strings and brass – but if they didn’t fit the song, you could decide to leave them out. Laszlo wasn’t the guy to fall victim to over-arranging. Bear in mind that the ideas for the arrangements were mainly mine. I recorded my demos using a piano or an organ, to which I added rhythm elements. Basically, all the arranger had to do was make it sound good.”

Promo photo of Wind in 1987; top row, from left: Sami Khalifa, Christiane von Kutzschenbach, Alexander Heller; front row: Andreas Lebbing & Petra Scheeser

When asked if the arrangement of ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’ was already there in the demo, Laszlo Bencker explains he does not agree with Siegel. “It’s typical of Ralph to claim that the arrangement was basically his; it’s not because he is being mean, but because Ralph is Ralph… he tends to exaggerate his own role a little bit now and then. It is true that Ralph always brought his ideas for the arrangement of his songs, but there was much more to it than just filling out those ideas. Some others have told me that he could be very forceful when it came to pushing his views, but I remember that he often walked into the studio asking me, ‘Let me listen to what interesting stuff you have invented!’ In other words, he was looking for your creative input.”

“I don’t remember the demo of ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’ very well; it would probably have been made on that horrible home organ that Ralph used to record his demos. It could be rather hard to make sense of what he played on it sometimes. It certainly was Ralph’s idea that the song should have a reggae flavour. I recorded all the parts on synthesiser – bass, drums, and a bit of string and brass here and there, but not too much. The only session player I used was Charly Hörnemann, who took care of the reggae guitars. Those brass parts at the start of the song were my idea, absolutely. That’s what an arranger does; find the instruments to make a good song sound just a little more interesting. Admittedly, though, I wasn’t really fond of this song. At heart, I have always been a jazz-rocker. Ralph’s song could at best be described as reggae-schlager… a poor man’s reggae, if you like! ‘Play that funky music, white boy!’ I was just trying to do my job to the best of my ability. That’s what any studio musician will tell you. Personal taste doesn’t come into that.”

When ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’ won the German final in Nuremberg, it was the first time since Ralph Siegel’s win with Nicole and ‘Ein bisschen Frieden’ in 1982 that a song written by him got to represent West Germany at the international Eurovision final. In the pre-selection, there had been no orchestra to accompany the candidates, who had all performed with a full backing track. Now that Wind had won the ticket to the contest in Brussels, Ralph Siegel had no doubt who he wanted to come to Brussels to conduct the Eurovision orchestra for his song.

“When Wind won in Nuremberg, Ralph told me immediately that I would be his conductor in Brussels,” Laszlo Bencker recalls. “Apparently the fact that I had never conducted on stage didn’t bother him. He just said, ‘You’re a super conductor!’ It was now up to me to rewrite the arrangement to incorporate the orchestra. Was it difficult? Well, yes and no. This wasn’t a piece tailor-made to play with an orchestra. So I kept it really simple; just the brass kicks I had invented on my synthesiser and some strings in the second half of the song. It was a case of keeping the orchestra busy, as my old friend Boris Jojić would say. He was one of the most experienced orchestrators in the Munich studio business. Before going freelance, he had been the staff arranger of several German radio orchestras. That’s where he learnt to write scores which included all parts of the orchestra. I remember he said things like, ‘You know, Laszlo, I wrote some bars for the woodwind instruments there, just to give them something to do.’ That was the lesson which I put to use when writing the orchestration for Brussels. Apart from the strings and brass, all the music was included on a backing track; percussion, guitars, and keyboards. This was allowed as long as the instruments were mimed on stage by the performers.”

Celebrating the win of 'Lass die Sonne in dein Herz' in the 1987 West German Eurovision pre-selection - the group Wind, from left: Alexander Heller, Petra Scheeser, Andreas Lebbing, Sami Khalifa, and Christiane von Kutzschenbach, with to their front lyricist Bernd Meinunger, choreographer Hugo Egon Balder, and composer/producer Ralph Siegel

“Of course, we could have performed the song completely live in Brussels, without any pre-recorded parts. The backing track didn’t contain anything really complicated. Honestly speaking, though, the matter was never discussed. It went without saying that Ralph wanted a backing track. The synthesiser sound which I used for this song was fashionable at the time. One year later, when I wrote the arrangements for Leslie Mandoki’s performance for the Olympic Games in Seoul, I took with me tons of synthesised backing tapes, which we used while having a 90-piece symphony orchestra playing along to them. That was just how things were done in those days.”

When asked about using backing tracks, Ralph Siegel explains, “The main thing for me was always to recreate the sound of the record version. There’s little point in writing grandiose orchestrations for the Eurovision stage. People watching at home probably won’t take notice anyway due to the sound of their television being mono… or because of the sound technique of the organising broadcaster not being good enough. In such circumstances, it is better to take simplicity as your basic rule. You’re looking for a clear, straightforward sound, which audiences will recognise when hearing the song on the radio the next day. That’s why it was so convenient to use backing tracks.”

When he wrote the orchestration for Brussels, Laszlo Bencker came up with a new element. “It was something which I felt fitted the character of the song wonderfully well; a Caribbean-style timbales fill-in at the beginning of the song, but when Ralph heard it, he said, ‘What have you done? Are you mad? That will take us over the three minutes!’ Ralph had composed the song to fit into those three minutes exactly. It is absolutely not allowed to take part in Eurovision with a song longer than that. I hadn’t taken that into account when recording my timbales… so that fill-in didn’t make it to the Brussels arrangement. It was included on the commercial release of the song though. That is why the record version of ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’ is just a couple of seconds longer than the live version in Brussels.”

“Of course, I was looking forward to going to Brussels and conducting the festival orchestra. After all, it was some sort of acknowledgement of my rising reputation as a session musician in the Munich studio business. On the other hand, doing Eurovision had never been a dream. In my young years in Hungary, the Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast on state television, but I don’t think I had ever watched it. Music-wise, I was living in an ivory tower at the time. I was listening to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple, and Miles Davis. When I was in my early twenties, I disdained mainstream pop music. ‘Waterloo’ by ABBA, awful; I hated it! If you ask me, the best piece of music in the Eurovision Song Contest has always been the intro tune; the Te Deum by Charpentier. The type of music showcased in the contest has always left me cold.”

Petra Scheeser with Ralph Siegel during preparations for the 1987 contest in Brussels

“At the airport in Munich, waiting for our flight to Belgium, Ralph arrived carrying a huge number of little flags in bright colours, showing the group members of Wind and the title of their song. He gave each of us a handful of them, saying, ‘It doesn’t matter if you accidentally drop one or two of those flags, because I’ve got more than enough of them.’ At that point, lyricist Bernd Meinunger said, ‘It doesn’t matter if we lose them, because there’s no point in taking them with us anyway.’ That was a form of cynicism which really made me laugh. I adored Bernd Meinunger; he was a very nice guy. He had a degree in a subject which had nothing to do with music (agrarian studies – BT). Bernd is extremely intelligent and so he had no trouble recognising the music business as a shallow world. Ralph had asked him to write the lyrics to Dschinghis Khan’s songs – and that’s how he became a millionaire overnight. Bernd had gone straight from a Volkswagen Beetle and a student apartment in Giesing to a Mercedes S-Class and a villa in Grünwald. Like me, he sometimes didn’t like the music he was working on; he was just doing a job.” 

“When coming to Brussels, I didn’t specifically prepare for the conducting job. I had never conducted an orchestra on stage – and what’s more, I never studied conducting. Even during my days as a student in Budapest, I had never taken any conducting classes. Once I had started working as a studio arranger in Munich in the early 1980s, I had had to conduct small groups of string players in recording sessions, but there was not much to it. If something goes wrong, you simply ask them to stop and then you play the arrangement a second time. On stage, the situation is altogether different; you have to go on even if one of the players makes a mistake. Moreover, in a concert it is more important to make the correct gestures than in the studio. I would never refer to myself as a conductor. I only conducted because I had to.”

“In those circumstances, I readily admit that I was a bit worried for the first rehearsal with the orchestra in Belgium, which might also have been in part because we were considered one of the favourites to win the competition. As far as I remember, the rehearsals were easy (although some newspaper articles in the German press mentioned sound problems, but Bencker doesn’t have any memories of those – BT). In retrospect, I needn’t have worried. We were working with a backing track, which meant that the tempo was fixed anyway. All I had to do was give the cues to the brass and string sections of the orchestra. The orchestra was just fine. If we had worked completely live, it would have been a different story. In such a situation, an orchestra will look to a conductor for the tempo changes and the dynamics of the piece. But our song was not a Mahler symphony. There was a beep sound, which told me I had to count to four, and then the backing track and the brass players of the orchestra had to start simultaneously. In rehearsals, I had to practise once or twice how to react to the beep – but that was really all there was to it.”

Ralph Siegel remembers that he was a bit surprised about the way Laszlo Bencker approached the orchestra during the first rehearsal. “Laszlo’s conducting style was a bit unusual! He opened his music sheet, counted in the orchestra; one, two, three… and then he just stood there closely studying his score, without raising his arms or even looking at the orchestra! Can you imagine? If you took guys like Norbert Daum or Wolfgang Rödelberger and put them in front of an orchestra, they would forget everything around them and conduct it with abandon; Rainer Pietsch even more so – he was a passionate conductor. Laszlo wasn’t really a conductor. Just like Andy Slavik and Andreas Linse, who I worked with in the 1990s, he was a keyboard player first and foremost, and a very good one at that. He handled the orchestra his own way. I didn’t bring up the matter with Laszlo in Brussels. The orchestra played well, so there was no reason to make a fuss.”

Bencker laughs when he hears about Ralph Siegel’s comment. “I remember he once said something in the same vein when we were working on a studio recording. ‘What on earth are you doing? You’re just counting in the musicians and then you just stand there clasping your earphones with your hands.’ He sounded quite exasperated. I then explained to him that I was just checking if everything I had written was correct. Nowadays, you have a notation programme in your computer to check on that, but in 1987 such a tool wasn’t available yet. There was always the possibility that you had made a mistake while transposing the notes. No doubt, for that first rehearsal in Brussels, I was closely listening to whether there were any errors in the orchestration – which there weren’t. Obviously I didn’t have to use pompous gestures while conducting the orchestra. It would have been ridiculous to do so, because our orchestration was very limited anyway. The orchestra played along only to parts of the song.”

“I only got to know the members of Wind a bit better in Brussels. The two front vocalists, Petra and Andreas (Petra Scheeser and Andreas Lebbing – BT), sang well, which is remarkable given that there aren’t that many good pop singers in Germany. Petra was a fine professional and much in demand as a studio singer. Did you know Ralph added an extra member to the group just before we left for Brussels? In the German final in Nuremberg, there had only been five members. Given that the song was in reggae style, he then decided the group could do with an extra bit of exotic flavour. That’s why Robert Pilatus was included. One year later, Robert was invited by Frank Farian to become part of the duo Milli Vanilli, which is when it all went wrong for him, but in 1987 he was still an aspiring artist hoping for a breakthrough. Except for the drummer, Wind looked very German – and Robert certainly made the appearance of the group more international. With his stage presence, he also gave the band a more likeable image.”

“Robert was also there when we were at a reception organised by the Belgians. All the delegations had been invited to meet King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola. The participants were standing in line, while the royals filed past us and shook hands. First came the king. He straight-facedly walked by us; I had the impression that he didn’t know where he was. Then we waited for Fabiola, who came our way after greeting the delegation before us. She asked us a question in German – I don’t remember what it was – but somehow I found myself talking to her about synthesisers and their technical possibilities. To the surprise of the others, she was fascinated by what I told her; and she answered my explanations with new questions. I must have sounded like a salesman in music instruments! Behind Queen Fabiola, one of her servants was becoming restless, ‘Your Highness, we have to move on!’, but she said, ‘Yes, one moment, one moment,’ and then turned back to me. The episode must have lasted some five minutes, whereas we had been told beforehand that the royals had one minute for each delegation.”

“While I was in conversation with Fabiola, Robert whispered in my ear, ‘Hey Laszlo, you should tell her, “Baby lass uns hier abhauen!” (“Come on, baby, let’s get out of here together!”). That was so silly! I was trying my best to maintain an interesting conversation with the queen, but Robert couldn’t contain himself and made an inappropriate joke. I don’t think Fabiola noticed. Actually, Robert was a really funny, likeable guy – still unburdened by all the misery of Milli Vanilli which was about to ruin his life. In Brussels, the two of us got along well. At some point, Robert asked me, ‘Laszlo, now that I’m about to be a star, what advice would you give me?’ He was convinced he would make it. I just told him never to evade taxes. ‘Simply pay your taxes as you’re supposed to and you won’t get in trouble.’ Unfortunately, that’s exactly what he didn’t do. It’s one of the reasons why he later took the wrong path. Robert’s story is tragic. After the short-lived success of Milli Vanilli, his life fell apart.” (Robert Pilatus was found dead from an alcohol and prescription drug overdose in 1998, aged 33 – BT)

Wind during rehearsals in Brussels; on the far right, Robert Pilatus can be detected, who was added to the group after the German final

“The way the festival was organised left you more than enough time off in between rehearsals. With my wife, who had joined us in Brussels, I enjoyed a couple of dinners in local restaurants. In terms of cuisine, Belgium is second to none. The city of Brussels itself – well, we were only moderately impressed. The Grand-Place is one of the most beautiful squares in the world, but the rest of the city isn’t that special. The two of us took a daytrip to Ghent, which is a lovely place. The highlight of our day out was a visit to the cathedral and it famous altarpiece – a work of genius by the Van Eyck brothers. We were much impressed by it.”

“There was also a funny moment between me and the host of the show, Viktor Lazlo. In rehearsals, I walked up to her and just said, ‘Hi Viktor, I am Laszlo!’ She appreciated the joke and we had a laugh together. In the concert, she introduced me to the audience. Ralph had given me strict instructions about that moment. ‘Take all the time you can. Make sure to make several dignified bows to all sides. We can do with every second of extra attention!’ He also told me to wear a white suit. ‘That will make you look more likeable,’ he explained. Because I didn’t have such a suit, I had to buy one. I never questioned Ralph’s judgment. After all, he was the producer – and the producer’s job is to think about how to present his product as favourably as possible. In Eurovision, with so many colourful artists taking part, you somehow have to make an impression. Ralph knew what he was doing. He was really good at such things.”

“If there had been any justice, Italy would have won the contest. ‘Gente di mare’ by Tozzi & Raf was the best entry by a country mile; a great piece of music, but then the best song never wins in this contest. During the week, I had a chat with Raf, but he obviously wasn’t too worried about the result. ‘We won the San Remo Festival and we’re number one in the Italian charts.’ That was more important to them than Eurovision. Italy is a large music market and when your music sells well in Italy, that alone would earn you a good income. The way I look at it, the Grand Prix is usually won by the song which has the elements of the lowest common denominator. You don’t want to disturb anyone. Because the Italian guys looked a bit unkempt, with one of them sporting a scruffy beard, they must have lost some votes which otherwise would have gone their way.”

“The voting turned into a two-horse race between us and Johnny Logan from Ireland. Our song was a pre-contest favourite, so we were kind of expecting to do well. It was quite exciting to sit there backstage. Each time we got a high mark, we were cheering. I remember Switzerland gave us a low vote. Ralph’s songs were often ignored by the Austrian and Swiss juries. ‘You know why?’, Rainer Pietsch once cynically asked. ‘Because those people understand the lyrics.’ Very often, the lyrics in German popular music are extremely banal. In the end, Johnny Logan won it, pushing us into second place. Those two songs apparently disturbed audiences the least – with ‘Hold Me Now’ being just that little bit less disturbing than our entry! Ralph cried, but certainly not of joy! It was the second time he was beaten into second place by Johnny Logan (in 1980, Siegel’s composition ‘Theater’ for Katja Ebstein came second behind ‘What’s Another Year’ – BT). He was utterly frustrated.”

Laszlo Bencker having a chat with Queen Fabiola of Belgium during a reception in Brussels, with Robert Pilatus, Petra Scheeser, Alexander Heller, and a representative of the Jupiter record company looking on

“I was quite happy with the result. I mean, when there are over twenty songs taking part and you reach second place, there’s not much to grumble about. It must be horrible finishing near the bottom of the scoreboard. As runners up, you can go home with your heads held high. At the time, my wife and I were living in a modest apartment above a Greek restaurant in Munich. When my wife and I stepped out of the taxi upon our return from Brussels, the staff of the restaurant ran out to greet me. They had recognised their neighbour on TV conducting the orchestra. I can assure you they wouldn’t have behaved the same if we had come last!”

“Some time after the Grand Prix, Ralph invited all people who had been involved with the German entry in Brussels to a dinner at Trader’s Vic, a restaurant in Munich. By that time, his chagrin about the result had turned to satisfaction. The song had charted in several European countries. I sat next to Ralph that evening. At some point, he turned to me and asked, ‘Laszlo, are you a member of the German Music Arrangers’ Association?’ Well, in fact, I had never heard of it. Don’t forget that I was a foreigner who had only been working in the Munich studio business for some years. He then explained that any member of that body earned one-twelfth of the composing rights of any song he had arranged. In a fatherly tone, Ralph added, ‘You should really make sure you join… it will earn you a lot of money!’ Of course I heeded his advice. Guys like Norbert Daum and Rainer Pietsch were too lazy to join and missed out on considerable sums. I was really grateful to Ralph for this. You see, this was also a side of his character. The man was very self-centred and lived in a horribly kitschy villa in Grünwald, but on the other hand he genuinely cared for the people around him.”

“In the summer of 1987, only months after the Grand Prix in Brussels, I obtained my German citizen pass, which allowed me to finally go back on a visit to my family and friends in Budapest for the first time since my escape to Austria in 1975. Remember that the festival was broadcast in Hungary… and I was told that the commentator for Hungarian television had explained to the audience while introducing the German entry that the guy conducting it was from Hungary. By 1987, my father had passed away, but my mother was still alive. As it turned out, she had taped the entire contest just because I was in it. She had always hoped her son would be a conductor. It was heart-warming to note how proud she was of me.”

“Actually, in the 1987 German final, I had also written the arrangement to the song which finished in second place behind ‘Lass die Sonne in dein Herz’. That was another piece written by Ralph with Bernd Meinunger, ‘Frieden für die Teddybären’. The lyrics were, ‘In 1989, the last teddy bear jumped from the window of a children’s room on the thirteenth floor. That same year, the sales of war toys for children reached a new record.’ Haha, incredible what kind of things Ralph and Bernd came up with – you may understand that I felt frustrated now and then when working on Ralph’s tunes! Writing arrangements to this type of music was kind of factory labour. It had to be done, so you did it. It was performed by a mother-daughter duo, Chris Garden and young Maxi. She was twelve, thirteen years old at the time. Their voices blended quite nicely together.”

Petra Scheeser and Andreas Lebbing at the front of the stage in Brussels during Wind's performance of 'Lass die Sonne in dein Herz'

“The following year, Maxi and Chris won the German pre-selection with another song written by Ralph, ‘Lied für einen Freund’. I had worked on the record arrangement with Rainer Pietsch, although I don’t remember exactly who did what. Listening to the song now, I can say that the drum and bass programming sounds like my work, and the David Foster-type intro and some of the string movements also betray my arranging style of those days. I can only guess why Ralph didn’t ask Rainer or me, but Michael Thatcher to conduct the orchestra for this song in the 1988 Grand Prix. Because the festival was held in Dublin, he might have preferred a conductor who spoke perfect English. After all, Michael was an American. In this case, the orchestration certainly wasn’t mine. It must have been done either by Rainer or Michael – or by the two of them working together.”

“Unfortunately, Maxi and Chris didn’t manage a good score in the Eurovision final. Soon after, Ralph Siegel dropped them. That’s how Ralph went about things – artists were disposable features for him. When Nicole won the Grand Prix, he lost interest in Dschinghis Khan; and that heralded the end of the group. As it happened, in 1988, I opened the Park Studios together with Leslie Mandoki. Shortly after, Maxi and Chris recorded six pieces in our studio they had composed themselves. After their break with Siegel, they were looking to sell those songs and sign a deal with a different record company. I don’t think they ever succeeded. Maxi or Meike is still working as a singer today, performing James Bond songs accompanying herself at the piano. As far as I can make out, she’s doing well.”

“Looking back, doing Eurovision was an interesting experience, but it didn’t really change my career. It may have raised my standing in Munich’s studio business a bit, but I think my involvement as a keyboard player with Giorgio Moroder’s productions was a bit more important in that respect! Ralph could have asked someone else – Norbert Daum or Hermann Weindorf, but apparently, in 1987, it was my turn. Of course I’m proud of it, because the performance went well. There’s nothing to feel ashamed of.”

“After Eurovision, I had one similar experience as a conductor on stage. In February 1988, I led the orchestra in Viña del Mar in Chile for my friend Leslie Mandoki. Leslie represented Germany with our composition ‘Love Song’. Can you imagine, two Hungarians representing Germany? We first flew to London, where we boarded a plane heading for Chile which was packed with participants in the contest from various European countries. These included Sir George Martin and a gorgeous Italian actress called Ornella Muti, who were both part of the jury. Upon arrival in Chile, our passports were taken away from us for the duration of our stay. Remember these were the days of Pinochet. Chile was a police state and all the participants were put up in a magnificent hotel which had been hermetically closed off from the outside world. The festival was quite an event, at least as big as Eurovision – the largest Spanish-speaking music contest in the world, held at a huge open-air venue. The big difference with Eurovision was that everything had to be done completely live, without backing tracks. We stood absolutely no chance against a host of excellent singers from Spanish-speaking countries. Like Eurovision, Viña del Mar was a nice event to be part of, but it made no difference whatsoever to my later career.”

“In 1988, I decided to end my involvement with Ralph Siegel. I liked being an arranger, but, especially after I had struck up a partnership with the talented Italian producer Dario Farina, I found it harder and harder to find the inspiration to write arrangements to Ralph’s songs. Who knows, perhaps I would have done Eurovision more than once if I had stayed with him. After all, Ralph kept on winning the German pre-selection almost year after year. In 1988, when ‘Lied für einen Freund’ won in Nuremberg, the host called the songwriters onto the stage and said, ‘Ah, look, there’s our dear Ralph again!’ At some point, people in Germany were fed up with Ralph monopolising the Grand Prix. Jurors wanted to prevent his songs from competing in the German final, but the trouble for them was that songs had to be submitted anonymously. Ralph came up with the little trick of no longer sending his entries recorded on expensive TDK cassettes, but on tapes he bought at Aldi. Jurors imagined that a song recorded on such a device could certainly never be a Ralph Siegel production! That’s how he outwitted them. In the end, like it or not, nobody was more talented than Ralph at writing songs which were suited for Eurovision – and he didn’t feel like letting go of it. The Grand Prix was his child.”

Mother/daughter duo Chris (left) and Meike "Maxi" Garden after winning the German Eurovision pre-selection with 'Lied für einen Freund' in 1988

When asked if he has followed the contest after the demise of the Eurovision orchestra, Laszlo Bencker replies, “Well, in 2011, I was impressed by the way German television organised the Eurovision Song Contest when it was held in Düsseldorf. I had never expected German TV to pull it off so well. Usually, Germans have a rather provincial outlook; they don’t understand showbiz the way that the British and the Americans do. But this show in Düsseldorf was magnificent in terms of visuals. On the other hand, it was hard to see how an orchestra could still have had a place in such a spectacle. Already in 1987, artists and producers were trying to somehow catch the attention of the audiences, but the way the contest has progressed this development has gone to a different level. Unfortunately, music no longer takes centre-stage. How could you fit in woodwind instruments and flutes when a Finnish hard rock band wearing monster masks take the stage? The pressure on participants has become even bigger since the introduction of the semi-finals. You have to capture the imagination not in twenty, but in 35 or even 40 countries.”

“On the other hand, if you’re looking for deep emotionality in music, an orchestra is the best way to bring it about. Why else would all big Hollywood films still have background music recorded with an orchestra? You simply cannot reach the same level of dynamics and nuances in music without it. Moreover, having an orchestra on stage always looks great. Also in contemporary pop music, an orchestra can work wonderfully well. I mean, just listen to Jacob Collier or Cory Henry performing with the Metropole Orchestra from the Netherlands and you’ll know what I’m talking about. They are just great. Unfortunately, such high-quality productions are not the type of music showcased in Eurovision nowadays. Only if the festival took a different musical direction, the orchestra could have a place in it.”

Just as we are about to close off the interview, Laszlo Bencker asks, “By the way, do you know Richard Oesterreicher?” Well, of course we know the man who conducted the Eurovision orchestra for his native Austria on twelve occasions. “I once met him in Vienna,” Bencker then goes on to reveal. “That was in 2017. A friend of mine was also close friends with Chick Corea. When Corea came to Vienna to do a concert, this friend asked me if I was interested in joining him. ‘I can introduce you to Chick Corea. We’re going to have dinner together in Vienna on the night before the concert.’ Of course I said yes immediately. I know the city quite well and suggested going to Die Drei Hacken – a traditional Viennese restaurant which I like to visit now and again when making a stopover on my way from Munich to Budapest. The restaurant has a side-room, the so-called Schubert-Stube, a small vault named after Franz Schubert who also regularly visited this restaurant back in the early 19th century. I made a reservation for that side-room, which would allow us to sit there without being disturbed by other guests.”

“When we came to the restaurant, we found there was an older gentleman sitting in the Schubert-Stube all alone, eating a Viennese schnitzel. He looked at me with the look of apology on his face and said, ‘No worries, I’ll be gone in a minute.’ I replied, ‘There is no problem, sir. Please take all the time to finish your meal.’ You see, we were a bit early and Chick Corea hadn’t arrived yet. The gentleman then went on, ‘I’ve been told you’ll be having dinner with a famous musician here.’ I then told him about Chick Corea and asked him if he knew him. ‘Yes, of course I do,’ he replied. I was getting a bit curious, so I asked, ‘Are you perhaps a musician yourself?’ ‘Yes, I am,’ he said with a soft voice. ‘When I finish my meal, I’ll go down to a jazz club not far from here to play a concert for my own eighty-fifth birthday.’ Of course, I congratulated him on his birthday. When I asked him which instrument he played, he said he was a mouth-organ player. All along, he said nothing about who he was. We exchanged a couple of more pleasantries and then he left.”

“Pretty much immediately after the old gentleman had left the room, the waiter came in and he asked, ‘Do you know who that man was?’ Well, I had no idea. The guy then explained that he was Richard Oesterreicher, the former conductor of the ORF Big Band. I asked if he was still inside, but he had already left the restaurant. I regretted not having been a bit more insistent in asking him about his own career. It would have been nice to have a chat about our experiences as conductors in the Eurovision Song Contest. We were colleagues in Brussels, but the chances of meeting each other there had been limited. We almost exclusively stuck to our own delegation, and probably the Austrians did the same. No doubt we would have had a pleasant conversation, because he seemed like a really wonderful man.”

Laszlo in Vienna, flanked by drummer Steve Gadd (left) and Chick Corea


Ralph Siegel’s recollections of working with Laszlo Bencker have been included in the above.


Country – West Germany
Song title – “Lass die Sonne in dein Herz”
Rendition – Wind  (= Andreas Lebbing / Petra Scheeser / Christiane von Kutzschenbach / Alexander Heiler / Sami Kalifa / Robert Pilatus)
Lyrics – Bernd Meinunger
Composition – Ralph Siegel
Studio arrangement – Laszlo Bencker
Live orchestration – Laszlo Bencker
Conductor – Laszlo Bencker
Score – 2nd place (141 votes)

Country – West Germany
Song title – “Lied für einen Freund”
Rendition – Maxi & Chris Garden
Lyrics – Bernd Meinunger
Composition – Ralph Siegel
Studio arrangement – Rainer Pietsch / Alfons Weindorf / Laszlo Bencker
Live orchestration – Michael Thatcher
Conductor – Michael Thatcher
Score – 14th place (48 votes)

  • Bas Tukker did an interview with Laszlo Bencker, subdivided in two sessions, both in March 2024
  • Thanks to Ralph Siegel for sharing with us his memories of working with Laszlo Bencker in an interview conducted in June 2020
  • A playlist of Laszlo Bencker’s music can be accessed by clicking this YouTube link 
  • Photos courtesy of Laszlo Bencker and Ferry van der Zant
  • Thanks to Mark Coupar for proofreading the manuscript