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Eurovision Song Contest

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, as cultural ambassadors for their country, then attend the big event 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 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 are 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 . . .

eurovisionluluWhile 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.

eurovision_cliffTypically (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.

The Winners

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 4 countries tied:
United Kingdom

Viva Cantando
De Troubadour
Un Jour, Un Enfant
Lennie Kuhr
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