Eurovision Song Contest

Nothing to do with Des and Mick! Except that they are big Eurovision fans - but then again, who isn't?!

This section contains reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest covering the years 1997-2000, 2001-2004, 2005-2007, 2008-2010, 2011-2013, 2014-2016 and 2017-2018. But first of all, a brief overview of the first 41 years of the contest.

The first Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland in 1956 - and strangely enough, Switzerland won, with the song Refrain sung by Lys Assia. Only seven countries took part, each fielding two songs. The UK missed the closing date for entries in 1956, so they made their debut in 1957, represented by Patricia Bredin. In 1959 the UK came second for the first time with Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson's 'Sing Little Birdie' - we would finish second a further fourteen times. But despite not having won yet, in 1960 the contest was hosted by the BBC for the first time, and Katie Boyle took presenting duties for the first of four times.

On Ms Boyle's second time of hosting in 1963, scandal gripped the contest when Norway was recalled at the end of scoring for confirmation of their votes, which they happened to have changed. This took victory away from Switzerland's Esther Ofarim and gave it to Norway's neighbour Denmark, represented by Grethe and Jorgen Ingmann.

In 1964 Italy's Gigliola Cinquetti won with a landslide victory - 49 points compared to the second place song, the UK's Matt Munro, who scored 17. Gigliola would take part again ten years later, than co-host the contest in 1991. Unfortunately there is no complete recording of the 1964 contest known to exist

France Gall breathed some life into Eurovision at last in 1965, scoring victory for Luxembourg with the catchy 'Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son'. Two years later 1967 the UK won the thing at last, with Sandie Shaw's 'Puppet on a String'.

The BBC held the first colour Eurovision from the Royal Albert Hall in 1968, hosted once again by Katie Boyle. Cliff Richard was roped in to win Eurovision for the UK, and he almost did - but 'Congratulations' lost out by one point to Spain's Massiel singing the infamously titled 'La La La'. However, forty years later a Spanish documentary claimed that Cliff was the rightful winner and that Massiel's victory was a result of vote-rigging by the Spanish dictator General Franco, who offered cash and other incentives to broadcasters across Europe in return for votes, in the hope that a win would boost Spain's image abroad.

1969 saw the most controversial result of all time, when four countries tied with 18 points apiece. With no mechanism in place to break a tie, all four had to share the trophy - France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the latter represented by Lulu singing 'Boom Bang-a-Bang'.

As a protest against this result, several countries boycotted the 1970 contest, which was held in Amsterdam. There was no doubt over the winner this time, as Dana took Ireland to a clear victory with 'All Kinds of Everything'.

In 1971 a new voting system was introduced - each country sent two members to the host country, who both had to give between 1 and 5 points to each song. This year the two Luxembourg jurists both repeatedly gave just 1 point to each song - not trying to help their own chances were they? The eventual winner was Severine, who represented Monaco - but as they were unable to host the contest themselves, 1972 saw the show come back to the UK. It was hosted at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, with Tom Sloane commentating for the BBC. Vicky Leandros, who had sung 'L'Amour est Blue' at the 1967 contest, won for Luxembourg with the song 'Apres Toi'.

1973 marked Terry Wogan's first television commentary - he would return in 1978, then again every year from 1980. Cliff came back for a second go this year, singing 'Power to All Our Friends' and this time only managed third. He was beaten by Luxembourg's Anne-Marie David.

With Luxembourg not wanting to host the event two years in succession, the BBC once again stepped in and took the 1974 contest to Brighton. Katie Boyle presented, and the Wombles were the interval act - but of course 1974 is best remembered for producing the most successful Eurovision song of all time - Abba's 'Waterloo'.

1975 was the year the current scoring system was introduced, although at this time each country's points were announced in order of performance, not the more familiar ascending order. Unfortunately, the first winner this system produced was the awful 'Ding Dinge Dong' by Teach-In.

Following the UK's second outright victory, thanks to Brotherhood of Man in 1976, the 1977 contest was held at the Wembley Conference Centre, London, though some two months late due to industrial action. Angela Rippon took a break from reading the news to host the contest, which saw France notch up their most recent win to date with Marie Myriam's 'L'Oiseau et L'Enfant'. The scoreboard was dogged with problems right through the voting - by the end nine countries showed incorrect scores.

The infamous Jahn Teigen helped Norway to their first 'nul points' in 1978, the year which saw the first of two consecutive victories for Israel. Ireland's Johnny Logan scored the first of his two wins in 1980. Morocco made their one and only entry into the contest this year; and as reigning champions Israel had chosen not to participate, the contest was held in the Netherlands instead.

Bucks Fizz and their famous skirt-ripping routine won for the UK in 1981, and so the contest came back to Britain in 1982, taking place in Harrogate with Jan Leeming hosting and Germany's Nicole winning with 'A Little Peace'. This year saw France withdraw from the contest, claiming it was a 'monument to drivel'. They returned in 1983.

Eurovision 1983 was a long, drawn-out affair. First of all, at the start of the show all the performers gathered, one by one, on stage, which was more like a shelf. The backdrop was described by Terry Wogan as looking like the largest electric heater in the world. Then Marlene Charell presented the show in German as well as the usual English and French. But not only that, she also did the flower arrangements that introduced each song and even took part in the interval ballet

The UK's entry, Sweet Dreams featured Carrie Grant who some twenty years later took part in the BBC's Fame Academy. Their song title, 'I'm Never Giving Up' could perhaps have been describing Norway's famous 'nul pointer' Jahn Teigen, who entered for the third time this year - and scored 53. Corinne Hermes scored a narrow victory for Luxembourg. The scoring was some of the disparate ever seen at Eurovision - seemingly no one could agree which songs were least worst this year. It was a laborious process, and the show massively overran.

Three Swedish lads in golden boots, The Herreys, won the 1984 contest with, 'Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley', described by Terry Wogan as the worst Eurovision song ever. Israel's Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta came back for another go in 1985 after winning in 1978, but the victory was taken by Norway's Bobbysocks - though it was far from a convincing win. 1986 saw the contest produce its youngest ever winner, 13 year-old Sandra Kim from Belgium. Performers must now be 16 or over.

Johnny Logan brought the trophy back to Ireland in 1987, making him the only individual to win Eurovision more than once (he also wrote the 1992 winning entry). A then-unknown Celine Dion won for Switzerland in 1988, robbing the UK and Scott Fitzgerald of victory by just one point in a nail-biting finish. Scott's song was written by Julie Forsyth, whose father Bruce did not take defeat too well...

The result of the 1989 contest was not a popular one, the distinctly forgettable 'Rock Me' by Riva taking victory to Yugoslavia just in time. The 1990 winner, Toto Cutugno's anthem of European unity, 'Insieme:1992', was not very highly regarded either.

Worse was to come, though, when Toto was chosen to co-host the 1991 contest alongside Italy's only other winner, Gigliola Cinquetti, and became Eurovision's most infamous presenter. As the voting descended into mayhem, Ms Cinquetti tried to keep Toto under control, and failed... The duo also broke with tradition by eschewing the usual French and English and presenting the whole show, other than the voting, in Italian only. Thanks to Toto's incessant chatter the show overran by nearly half an hour.

The voting ended in a tie, which didn't help matters, with France's Amina and Sweden's Carola both scoring 146. Carola, who previously appeared at Eurovision in 1983 and would come back again in 2006, was eventually declared winner as she scored more 'dix points'. Her upbeat, up-tempo entry stood out from a glut of ballads.

The trophy returned once again to Ireland in 1992, with Niamh Kavanagh leading them to their second consecutive win in 1993, snatching victory from the UK's Sonia's grasp.

In 1994 it was the Irish yet again - despite being rumoured to be their attempt not to win the contest again, Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan's 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids' gave them the hat-trick. This year Italy withdrew from the contest, claiming it had 'no musical merit'. However a rash of countries from Eastern Europe made their debut appearances. In view of this, the relegation system was introduced, in which the lowest scoring countries from the previous year could not take part.

1995 saw the UK deciding to go hip and trendy, but Love City Groove only managed tenth. In contrast, Norway's Celtic-tinged entry by Secret Garden was a clear winner - even though it was little more than an instrumental.

In 1996, the year that the scoreboard went virtual for the first (and last) time, the UK entered Gina G singing 'Ooh Aah...Just a Little Bit', which to be proved a worldwide hit in the charts, but only managed eighth place at Eurovision, as Ireland notched up their fourth win in five years.

For the first and only time in 1996, a non-televised pre-selection process took place in order to whittle down the 29 entering countries to 22. Only the host country, Norway, was guaranteed a place. Furious following their disqualification in 1996, Germany threatened to pull out of the contest for good. As they are one of the biggest contributors to the EBU, the 'Big Four' rule was eventually introduced, meaning Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Spain are now guaranteed a place in the Eurovision Song Contest final every year. And as for the pre-qualifier, it was never used again - the relegation system was reintroduced in 1997.

Next page: 1997-2000


For more Eurovision fun, try the following websites:

Eurovision official site
BBC Eurovision
ESC Today
Eurovision Nation
ESC History
Eurovision Song Contest Page

Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © the respective broadcasters