The 25 Things You Need To Know About The World’s Biggest Singing Contest.
1) After World War 2 it was decided that something was needed to bring Europe together again. The first of the 63 contests was in 1956 adapted from the San Remo Music festival which started five years earlier in ’51. The UK joined the contest in 1957.
2) Originally countries had two songs in each year’s contest.
3) It has regularly allowed in countries outside of Europe including Israel, Cyprus, Armenia even Morocco and most recently Australia. Also, countries only part in Europe such as Turkey, Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan have been included. Tunisia withdrew and both Egypt and Libya have been invited but as yet have not taken part.
4) If Australia does ever win (It has come second) they will not host the following year as it will be co-hosted in Europe due to the cost to the other entrants.
5) The tradition of the previous year’s winning country hosting the next event has only been broken five times – every time due to the cost of running Eurovision. Four times the United Kingdom took on the extra host duties for Netherlands, France, Monaco and Luxembourg. The Dutch also took it on once for Israel.
6) Songs could be sung in any language up until 1977 when it was changed too only be in their native tongue. This is of course three years after Swedish entry Abba won singing in English. If the rules had been changed earlier they may not have won and therefore no “Dancing Queen”, No Theresa May Stage Dancing, No Musical, No Mamma Mia Movies, no Chess etc.
7) “Waterloo” was Abba’s third attempt at Eurovision the first two times they never made it past the Swedish heat most notably not getting picked for what has become there well-known tune ‘Ring Ring’ which did sell Internationally and bigger than the chosen song.
8) In 1974 Abba’s winning year the halftime show was carried out by the biggest selling singles artist of the Year ‘The Wombles’ there is no record as to what Europe thought of that. It was also the only year where all Top 4 songs made the UK charts -“Waterloo” at number one, Gigliotti Cinquetti’s “Go” (8), Mouth & MacNeils’ “I see A Star” (8) and the British entry “Long Live Love” by Olivia Newton-John just four years before she became “Hopelessly Devoted” To John Travolta and Grease. The national language thing was dropped again in ’99.
9) Countries can use singers of any nationality, of course, Both Olivia and Gina G are Australian, Cliff was born in India, Katrina & The Waves America and indeed British artists have tried to sing for other countries too such as DJ Daz Sampson.
10) The UK has, of course, won five times but they have come runner up a whopping 15 other times twice by just one point namely Scott Fitzgerald to Celine Dion and “Congratulations” by Cliff to some Spanish nonsense called “La La La”. Then it’s a massive jump down to 4 times runner up for each of Ireland, Germany and Spain. It is even tougher on little Malta who has come second twice and third twice but has never won.
11) Each act is allowed a maximum of six performers on stage and no live animals. The order is not done as many think by ballot but it is decided by the producers so as songs which sound similar are not next to each other. Songs are balloted either into part one or part two of the show that is the only element of chance
12) Miss Dion representing Switzerland stormed to the trophy but it was not her breakthrough as it was four years before she had her first international hit with “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” & a clear decade before Titanic.
13) Abba, of course, took over the world as the most successful act to come from Eurovision but “Waterloo” only made it to number 6 in the States and they only had 4 more Top 10 songs there all with years in between and massively outsold by other European stars such as Aha, Nena, the Singing Nun and Roxette.
14) The biggest selling Eurovision song ever is in fact Brotherhood Of Man’s “Save Your Kisses For Me” it was also the most popular ever with all juries. It charted in every territory (which Abba didn’t) and was the first to get a Platinum disc which “Waterloo” also did not achieve. The poorest selling winner was Marie N’s 2002 trophy grabber which charted absolutely nowhere.
15) The first 19 years of the contest was always won by soloists (with one Duo). In 1974 Abba became the first group to win and ushered in the ‘Group era’ followed immediately by Teach-In, Brotherhood Of Man and Bucks Fizz.
16) Famously in 1969, there was a 4-way draw with the lowest point win ever just 18. Lulu with “Boom Bang a Bang” was one of the quartet but it was the only one that became an International hit. The system was changed thereafter to take into account the number of 12 or 10 points etc but there has only been one other draw since decided this way in 1991 when France and Sweden tied. In 1969 it took 18 points to win but in 2017 it took an incredible 758 points to get the same trophy.
17) Twenty Four countries have never won so come on Ireland share it around a bit. Two of the Irish wins were by Johnny Logan for “What’s Another Year” & “Hold Me Now” but he did not stop there, winning again in ’92 as the writer of “Why Me”. Three people have won the contest twice only Johnny has a hat trick. San Marino’s highest position ever was 24th
18) In 2016 35 of the 41 entries were sung in English yet they still won’t vote for us. Of the last 20 wins, 16 have been in English and the all-time score to date across the 63 contests are 32 wins in English to 37 wins for every other European language put together.
19) Nicole was Germany’s biggest winner with “A Little Peace” in ’82. She wowed the audience at the reprise by singing every part of the song in a different European language it went on to sell very well right across the Continent.
20) The current system is 50% the public and 50% the juries which is very controversial; in 2016 Russia won the Juries over and Australia won the public but the win was given to the Ukraine – the public is always more responsive to politics than the juries. The UK entry in 2015 by Lucie Jones came 10th with the juries but an almost last with the public vote which was pure politics in action.
21) Cheryl Baker tried for Eurovision three times coming second in the UK heat to Brotherhood Of Man in ’76, two years later representing the UK as part of CoCo with Bad Old days and another two years on in 1980 as part of Bucks Fizz with the incredible “Making Your Mind Up”.
22) CoCo was the first UK act not to finish in the Top 10, unfortunately, they were not the last Hey Gemini? Since the Millennium we have only been in the Top 10 twice namely with former Liberty X star Jessica Garlick’s “Come Back” and the future Sugababe Jade Ewen with a song especially written by the two biggest selling non-performing songwriters in history Andrew Lloyd Weber & Diane Warren together and we still did not win.
23) The likes of Baccara, Jedward, Tatu etc have all been unsuccessful finalists and so have British number one superstars like Blue, Bonnie Tyler, The Shadows, Black Lace and Englebert. UK runners up have included Sonia, Michael Ball, Cliff & The Shadows (Not Together)
24) Two losing songs have topped the UK charts – Cliff’s “Congratulations” and Gina G’s “Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit”. Gina’s song became a massive International hit without winning Eurovision (because it’s damn good) it is the only losing song to make the Billboard top 20 in the States and it went on to win a Grammy Nomination.
25) Terry Wogan did his first Eurovision in 1971 as a radio commentator he then went on and back between TV and Radio coverage until he took the BBC commentary booth in Brotherhood of Man’s Year. He lasted until 2008 when he stepped down criticising the political voting (Cyprus always for Greece; Serbia for Croatia sort of thing) when the UK entry by Andy Abrams was rejected wholeheartedly by Europe on mass – Terry said we have a good song with a good singer it is now pointless us competing. Radio 2’s lovely Ken Bruce has done the radio commentary now consistently since 1988 for 32 straight years and long may he continue…he calls it his ‘Annual holiday’.