Eurovision Song Contest

This section contains reviews of the Eurovision Song Contest over the past six decades. On this page we look at 1956-1966; the other pages in this section cover 1967-1975, 1976-1982, 1983-1989, 1990-1996, 1997-2001, 2002-2005, 2006-2009, 2010-2013, 2014-2017 and 2018.

Coming soon, we will also have an additional section looking over the presentational aspects of the contest - the logos, graphics, scoreboards, postcards etc.


1956

Host country: Switzerland
Won by: Switzerland - Refrain by Lys Assia
Full results: eurovision.tv

The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) organised the first Eurovision Song Contest in the hope that it would bring the continent together through the medium of song, and also to showcase the abilities of the Eurovision network, which was launched in 1954 as a means of sharing programme content between member countries.

The inaugural 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. With the UK not taking part, no English-language song featured in the contest - indeed, not a word of English was to be heard throughout the entire programme.

There wasn't even a voting sequence - the winning song was simply announced at the end of the show and performed once again. Details of who voted for what has never been made public, though what is known is that the Swiss voted on behalf of Luxembourg - which may have played no small part in their victory!

No complete visual recording of the first Eurovision exists, though an audio recording has survived.


1957

Host country: Germany
Won by: Netherlands - Nets Als Toen by Corry Brokken
UK entry: All by Patricia Bredin
Full results: eurovision.tv

Despite its inauspicious beginnings, word got around about this new-fangled Eurovision Song Contest, and in 1957 some more countries decided to take part, taking the total number of contenders to ten. The UK was amongst them, choosing their entry in the show Festival of British Popular Songs, by means of taking votes from regional juries across the UK. The EBU were impressed with this system, and decided to adapt it for the Eurovision Song Contest itself. And so the voting sequence was born!

The UK's entry, 'All' by Patricia Bredin, was, at less than two minutes, the shortest ever song to compete at the contest. It was then immediately followed by longest ever song to compete at the contest. The Italian entry started with a guitar solo that lasted nearly a minute, with the whole song dragging on for over five minutes. As it a result it was decided in future to restrict songs to a maximum of three minutes.

The contest was won by the Dutch singer Corry Brokken with 'Nets Als Toen'. She would go on to host the show nearly twenty years later.


1958

Host country: Netherlands
Won by: France - Dors, Mon Amour by Andre Claveau
Full results: eurovision.tv

Making their debut at the UK the previous year was presumably too much for the BBC, and they opted to sit out the third Eurovision Song Contest (though they still broadcast a recording of the show a few days later). Don't worry, though, they'd be back! In fact, this year's show was the last to contain no English-language songs at all.

Following their victory the previous year, the show was presented from Hilversum in the Netherlands, beginning a tradition that has continued ever since.

The 1958 contest would produce one of the most famous Eurovision songs ever - and it didn't even win. The Italian entry, 'Nel blu dipinto di blu', performed by Domenico Modugno, finished third. Better known as 'Volare' it would go on to become a worldwide hit, and at the 50th anniversary show Congratulations was voted the second greatest Eurovision song of all-time, beaten only by Abba's 'Waterloo'.


1959

Host country: France
Won by: Netherlands - Een Beetje by Teddy Scholten
UK entry: Sing, Little Birdie by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson
Full results: eurovision.tv

The fourth Eurovision Song Contest headed to Cannes in the south of France, thanks to Andre Claveau's victory the previous year.

Following a year out from the contest, the UK returned to the contest with Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson's 'Sing Little Birdie', notching up our first second place. The UK is the only country not to miss a single contest since, and would finish second a further fourteen times.

Teddy Scholten's entry 'Een Beetje' brought victory back to the Netherlands for the second time. With presumably a bit of spare time to kill, not only was the winning song reprised at the end, but also the second and third placed songs.


1960

Host country: United Kingdom
Won by: France - Tom Pillibi by Jacqueline Boyer
UK entry: Looking High High High by Bryan Johnson
Full results: eurovision.tv

The Netherlands declined to host the contest for the second time in three years, and so the BBC took over Eurovision for the first time in 1960, taking it to the Royal Festival Hall in London. Katie Boyle took on presenting duties for the first of four times.

The UK's Bryan Johnson may have been 'Looking High High High', but he obviously wasn't looking quite high enough, since he finished in second position.

Instead, it was France who triumped once again, thanks to Jacqueline Boyer's 'Tom Pillibi'.


1961

Host country: France
Won by: Luxembourg - Nous Les Amoureux by Jean-Claude Pascal
UK entry: Are You Sure? by The Allisons
Full results: eurovision.tv

The Eurovision Song Contest was steadily expanding, with sixteen competitors deciding to join the 1961 contest which was back in Cannes. It was the first to be held on a Saturday, though there was not yet a set day of the week for the show, it having so far turned up on a Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Allisons were sure they wanted to represented the UK, but we yet again finished in second place, for the third year in a row. Victory instead went to the French singer Jean-Claude Pascal, who represented Luxembourg with 'Nous Les Amoureux'. However UK viewers only got to see it the once - as the victorious Jean-Claude arrived on stage to sing the reprise, BBC commentator Tom Sloan announced that they were overrunning their timeslot, and thus left the show early.


1962

Host country: Luxembourg
Won by: France - Un Premier Amour by Isabelle Aubret
UK entry: Ring-a-Ding Girl by Ronnie Carroll
Full results: eurovision.tv

Eurovision 1962 returned to a Sunday night slot, becoming the last contest to not be held on a Saturday (though the semi-finals since 2004 have been held on weeknights).

French was so far proving to be the dominant language of Eurovision, with five of the first seven winners being sung in the language, including 1962's winner, 'Un Premier Amour' by Isabelle Aubret, which handed victory to France for the third time. In fact, after the French song had been performed, the lights went out on the stage - was victory so certain we didn't need to see another song?

Due a change in the voting system, it was now much easier to score 'nul points' - and four countries did just that. The UK wasn't one of them, with the Northern Irish singer Ronnie Carroll finishing fourth with 'Ring-a-Ding Girl'.


1963

Host country: United Kingdom
Won by: Denmark - Dansevise by Grethe and Jorgen Ingmann
UK entry: Say Wonderful Things by Ronnie Carroll
Full results: eurovision.tv

The French didn't fancy hosting the contest yet again in 1963, and so Katie Boyle presided over Eurovision for the second time. The contest was staged at BBC Television Centre, with Katie, the audience and the scoreboard in one studio, and the performers and the orchestra in another.

Scandal gripped the voting this year, 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.

The UK was again represented by Ronnie Carroll, and 'Say Wonderful Things' equalled his fourth placing of last year. Meanwhile, French singer Françoise Hardy represented Monaco, finishing fifth, and Greek songstress Nana Mouskori sung for Luxembourg, coming eighth.


1964

Host country: Denmark
Won by: Italy - Non Ho L'Eta by Gigliola Cinquetti
UK entry: I Love the Little Things by Matt Monro
Full results: eurovision.tv

Italy's Gigliola Cinquetti won the 1964 contest with a landslide victory - 49 points compared to the second place song, the UK's Matt Munro, who scored 17; meanwhile a quarter of the entrants scored nothing at all. Gigliola would enter Eurovision again ten years later, then co-host the contest in 1991.

1964 saw Eurovision's first stage invasion, when between the Belgian and Swiss entries, a man wandered onto the stage holding a banner with a political slogan, before being quickly removed. As this was going on, viewers were shown a shot of the scoreboard.

Unfortunately, there is no complete video recording of the 1964 contest known to exist; only the reprise of the winning song has survived, along with an audio recording of the full show.


1965

Host country: Italy
Won by: Luxembourg - Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son by France Gall
UK entry: I Belong by Kathy Kirby
Full results: eurovision.tv

The first decade of the Eurovision Song Contest had been dominated by ballads, and by the mid-sixties it increasingly seemed out-of-step with the pop music of the day.

It took until 1965 and France Gall to breathe some life into Eurovision at last, when she scored victory for Luxembourg with the catchy 'Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son'.

The UK finished in second place yet again, with Kathy Kirby's 'I Belong', the first entry to be chosen by a public vote rather than by regional juries. Meanwhile, Ireland made their debut at the contest, with Butch Morris finishing in sixth place.


1966

Host country: Luxembourg
Won by: Austria - Merci Cherie by Udo Jurgens
UK entry: A Man Without Love by Kenneth McKellar
Full results: eurovision.tv

Udo Jurgens brought Austria its first victory in 1966. It was the first winner to be sung in German, and the first winner to perform seated at a piano.

There was a good deal of neighbourly voting this year, and the UK suffered its worst performance to date, when the Scottish tenor Kenneth McKellar, wearing a kilt and singing a rather old-fashioned ballad, 'A Man Without Love', only finished ninth out of 18 entries.

From this year, each entry had to be sung in one of the official languages of that country.



Next page: 1967-1975


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