1 9 5 6 – Current (Europe)
It has been called “a monument to drivel” but the annual show has topped television ratings since the first contest was held in Switzerland in 1956.
The Eurovision Song Contest is a live, televised music competition that has consistently received widespread ridicule ever since its debut. Yet, as its longevity indicates, the programme’s importance within European television history is undeniable.
While critics plead for the plug to be pulled on this annual celebration of pop mediocrity, the Eurovision Song Contest continues unabated, extending its media reach – if not its musical scope – from year to year. The Eurovision Song Contest is the flagship of Eurovision light entertainment programming.
Eurovision is the television network supervised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and was established in the early 1950s to serve two functions: to share the costs of programming with international interest between the broadcasting services of member nations and to promote cultural appreciation and identification throughout western Europe.
In the 1950s, EBU officials, perceiving the need for the dissemination of popular cultural programming to offset the influence of the American media, decided to extend Italy’s San Remo Song Festival into a pan-European occasion. This became the Eurovision Song Contest, the first of which was held in Lugano, Switzerland, and was relayed to less than ten nations.
Since that time the contest has developed into a spring ritual now viewed by 600 million people in 35 countries, including several in Asia and the Middle East (who don’t even send representatives to the competition).
The Eurovision Song Contest showcases pop music talent that typically ranges from the indescribably bad, through the insufferably indifferent, to a few catchy little numbers.
Contestants are chosen by their respective nations during earlier preliminary stages. The duly nominated acts, then attend the big event as cultural ambassadors for their country and perform their tune.
Conventionally, the host nation is determined by the winner of the previous year’s contest.
The Eurovision Song Contest is designed to be a grand affair, with expensive sets, full orchestra accompaniment, and a “special night out” atmosphere.
Following the performances, panels of judges from each nation call in their point allocations to the central auditorium where the contest is taking place. Each country awards 12 points to its favourite song, 10 to the second favourite, then 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 to the next eight. A “high-tech” scoreboard then tabulates the cumulative scores.
As even the most ardent of critics will attest, this is a special moment for home viewers – old rivalries and cultural differences inevitably combine for curious effect with the juries seemingly throwing objectivity to the wind and voting according to national prejudice, cultural favouritism and hatred:
Nobody gives many votes to Iceland, and there is an international conspiracy that prevents either Hungary or Romania from winning anything. These are the basic rules.
Additionally, Norway always loves Sweden and Greece always loves Cyprus (which hates Turkey). Croatia loves Bosnia, but Israel hates Germany . . . and Russia is always nasty towards former Soviet republics Lithuania and Estonia.
27 Eurovision winners have been female while only seven have been men. Israel’s 1998 winner Dana International was a bit of both . . .
While the main claim to fame of the contest must be the “discovery” of ABBA, for much of its history the contest has been dominated by songs with silly titles and lyrical sentiments so trite that they make most people want to invade Luxembourg!
The silly titles started in 1967 with the Netherlands entry Ringe Ding. The next year, Spain won with La La La.
Lulu obviously thought she had the formula sussed and offered Boom Bang-a-Bang in 1969. Her reward was a four-way tie for first place.
The banal titles continued with Ding-dinge Dong by Teach-In in 1975, Boom Boom Boomerang (Lulu should have sued) in 1977, and the 1984 Swedish triumph Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley.
All too rarely has there been a real song about serious issues.
Typically (if scandalously) Kikki Danielson’s 1985 Swedish entry was beaten into third place, even though this was a serious feminist number called Bra Vibrationer. Apparently, it means ‘Good Vibrations’ in English.
The organisers of Eurovision defend the contest by saying the songs are catchy – but so was the plague.
It is a commonly held misconception that Cliff Richard won the contest in 1968, with Congratulations, but he didn’t – he actually came second.
The only person to have performed and won more than once is Johnny Logan who won the contest for Ireland in 1980 and again in 1987.
1956: Switzerland: Refrain (Lys Assia)
1957: Netherlands: Net Als Town (Corry Brokken)
1958: France: Dors, Mon Amour (André Claveau)
1959: Netherlands: Een Beetje (Teddy Scholten)
1960: France: Tom Pillibi (Jacqueline Boyer)
1961: Luxembourg: Nous, les Amoureux (Jean Claude Pascal)
1962: France: Un Premier Amour (Isabelle Aubret)
1963: Denmark : Dansevise (Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann)
1964: Italy: Non ho l’eta (Gigliola Cinquetti)
1965: Luxembourg: Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son (France Gall)
1966: Austria: Merci Chérie (Udo Jurgens)
1967: United Kingdom: Puppet On A String (Sandie Shaw)
1968: Spain: La, La, La (Massiel)
1969: Four countries tied:
– Spain: Viva Cantando (Salome)
– United Kingdom: Boom-Bang-a-Bang (Lulu)
– Holland: De Troubadour (Lennie Kuhr)
– France: Un Jour, Un Enfant (Frida Baccara)
1970: Ireland: All Kinds Of Everything (Dana)
1971: Monaco: Un Band, un Arbre, une Rue (Severine)
1972: Luxembourg: Après Toi (Vicky Leandros)
1973: Luxembourg: Tu Te Reconnaitras (Anne Marie David)
1974: Sweden: Waterloo (ABBA)
1975: Netherlands: Ding Dinge Dong (Teach-In)
1976: United Kingdom: Save Your Kisses For Me (Brotherhood of Man)
1977: France: L’Oiseau et L’enfant (Marie Myriam)
1978: Israel: A-Ba-Ni-Bi (Izhar Cohen & The Alphabeta)
1979: Israel: Hallelujah (Milk and Honey)
1980: Ireland: What’s Another Year? (Johnny Logan)
1981: United Kingdom: Making Your Mind Up (Bucks Fizz)
1982: West Germany: A Little Peace (Nicole)
1983: Luxembourg: Ai La Vie Est Cadeau (Corinne Hermes)
1984: Sweden: Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley (Herrey Brothers)
1985: Norway: Let It Swing (Bobbysocks)
1986: Belgium: J’aime La Vie (Sandra Kim)
1987: Ireland: Hold Me Now (Johnny Logan)
1988: Switzerland: Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Celine Dion)
1989: Yugoslavia: Rock Me (Riva)
1990: Italy: Insieme: 1992 (Toto Cutugno)
1991: Sweden: Fångad av en stormvind (Carola)
1992: Ireland: Why Me? (Linda Martin)
1993: Ireland: In Your Eyes (Niamh Kavanagh)
1994: Ireland: Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids (Paul Harrington & Charlie McGettigan)
1995: Norway: Nocturne (Secret Garden)
1996: Ireland: The Voice (Eimear Quinn)
1997: United Kingdom: Love Shine a Light (Katrina and the Waves)
1998: Israel: Diva (Dana International)
1999: Sweden: Take Me to Your Heaven (Charlotte Nilsson)