Stars met their Waterloo

On April 6, 1974 a Swedish quartet took to the stage of the Dome in Brighton for the 19th Eurovision Song Contest.

music, Abba

On April 6, 1974 a Swedish quartet took to the stage of the Dome in Brighton for the 19th Eurovision Song Contest.

From that moment, the contest would never be the same again and it would propel Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Annafrid - or ABBA for short - to international stardom.

They are by far and away the most successful group to come out of the contest since it began in 1956, but they are not the most famous to have entered it.

Graham Pratt looks back at what the French once described as 'a monument to drivel' and brings you some of the stars who you may not remember having put their careers on the line in the name of Eurovision.

Celine Dion Song: Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (Don't Leave Without Me) Contest date: April 30, 1988 Venue: Dublin, Ireland. Final position: 1st.

Nine years before she announced (on a frequent basis) My Heart Will Go On the French Canadian diva made her international debut in Eurovision, representing Switzerland with what would become for her, a typical belter. At the time she was unknown outside Canada, couldn't speak a word of English, had dodgy teeth, a curly perm and a frock that made her look like a shuttlecock. It's amazing what stylist can do for a person. Although the song was a favourite, it was up against the first ballad the UK had submitted in more than 30 years, Go, sung by Scott Fitzgerald and written by Bruce Forsyth's daughter Julie, formerly of Guys and Dolls.

The UK lead until the final vote from Yugoslavia, which 20 years earlier had scuppered the hopes of Cliff Richard. The UK had a five-point lead. After five votes, Yugoslavia awarded six points to Switzerland. The gasps from the audience brought Brucie to the edge of his seat willing his daughter's song to victory. Seven, eight and 10 points did not go the UK's way and it was all down to the douze points. "And finally" wailed the Yugoslav announcer milking the moment for all it was worth "France 12 points". Miss Dion was victorious although it would be another four years before she truly found fame with Think Twice and subsequently in 1997 with the theme from Titanic.

The Shadows Song: Let Me Be The One. Contest date: March 22, 1975. Venue: Stockholm, Sweden. Final position: 2nd.

Cliff Richard's long-time backing group became the last act to be chosen by the BBC for 17 years (The Brotherhood of Man in 1976 were the first winners of A Song For Europe). Let Me Be The One was written by Paul Curtis, who also wrote our entries in 1984 and 1990. This was the most successful of the three. Teach-in, from the Netherlands, took top spot but brought the contest to an all-time low in terms of lyrics. Their winning song Ding Dinge Dong included the classic line: "Dinge Dong every hour, when you pick a flower, even when your lover is gone gone gone.".

It ain't Shakespeare, is it? Matt Monro Song: I Love The Little Things Contest date: March 21, 1964 Venue: Copenhagen, Denmark Final position: 2nd

Matt Monro was a milkman until he was plucked from obscurity. His days of pounding the streets were soon at an end thanks to mega-hit classics such as Born Free and From Russia With Love. Indeed so big was he that Frank Sinatra labelled him "the only Limey who can sing". Matt was to start a trend with the BBC whereby one famous artist of the time was picked in advance with viewers choosing the song he, she, or they would sing. This continued until 1975 during which time the UK had two wins, six 2nd places, one 3rd, a 4th and a 9th (Kenneth McKellar in 1966). The tradition was revived briefly in 1992 with Michael Ball, followed by Sonia and Frances Ruffelle which resulted in two 2nds and a 10th (Ruffelle in 1994). Like most UK entries, it was the favourite. Favourites very rarely win. Matt Monro was swept aside by 17-year-old Gigiola Cinquetti singing the haunting beautiful No Ho L'Eta (I am too young).

Nana Mouskouri Song: A Force de Prier Contest date: March 23, 1963 Venue: BBC Television Centre, London, United Kingdom. Final position: 8th

Long before her White Rose of Athens came into bloom, the bespectacled Greek singer threw her hat into the Eurovision ring representing Luxembourg. Contest rules state that only the authors, and not the performers, need to be native or naturalised, to the country they are writing for. Hence Australian Gina G and American Katrina Leskanich representing the UK in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

Alongside Nana there were a couple of other well-known singers of the time, Francoise Hardy for Monaco and Esther Ofarim (of Cinderella Rockafella fame). The UK was represented for the second successive year by the husband of Millicent Martin (from That Was The Week That Was), Ronnie Carroll. His ballad Say Wonderful Things finished fourth (again for the second year in succession). None of the above won. That honour went to Denmark's Grethe and Jorgen Ingmann with Dansevise.

Julio Iglesias Song: Gwendolene. Contest date: March 21, 1970 Venue: Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Final position: 4th

1970 was a crisis year for Eurovision. Four countries pulled out in protest at four countries, including the United Kingdom with Lulu, winning in Madrid the previous year.

Spain, having won in 1968 with Massiel, and tied for top spot on home turf along with us, France and The Netherlands, were aiming to make it three in a row, a feat that would be achieved by Ireland in 1994. They picked a former Real Madrid goalkeeper by the name of Julio Iglesias. Dressed in an electric blue suit, which thankfully at that time very few got to see in all its glory thanks to the infancy of colour television, he warbled a dirge about some woman called Gwendolene.

He was up against contest favourite Mary Hopkin, representing the United Kingdom with Knock Knock, Who's There? Mary had two years earlier stormed the charts with the Lennon and McCartney classic Those Were The Days and feelings were high that she would take top spot again.

But singing last, for Ireland, was a 17-year-old innocent from Belfast called Dana. Her song, All Kinds of Everything, was a sickly-sweet antidote to the Boom Bang-A-Bang, Puppet On A String La La Las that had gone before and she lead the voting from start to finish.

Mr Iglesias finished equal fourth along with France and Switzerland and behind the UK and West Germany.

Years later he was to deny ever taking part in the contest, afraid it would damage his credibility. As if it could!

Olivia Newton John Song: Long Live Love Contest date: April 6, 1974 Venue: The Dome, Brighton, United Kingdom Final position: 4th

Like Cliff exactly six years earlier, Olivia Newton John, the British-born Australian, was hot favourite to take the title on home soil. Her song was a Sally Army-style tune selected by TV viewers in the UK during Cliff's Saturday night show.

Competition was tough. Gigiola Cinquetti, who as a 17-year-old had won 10 years earlier for Italy with No Ho L'Eta, was gunning to be the first person to win the contest twice, something which wouldn't be achieved until Jonny Logan in 1987. The Netherlands also had a strong entry with Mouth and McNeal's I See A Star, a hurdy-gurdy song in the Boom Bang-A-Bang tradition. No one paid much attention to a Swedish group called ABBA who a year earlier had been knocked out of Sweden's Song for Europe finals with Ring Ring by a group whose song included the immortal lyrics "Your breasts are like swallows a-nesting".

However Terry Wogan, commentating on radio at the time, had a sneaking regard for them. David Vine, doing the TV commentary, urged viewers to "Watch this one". ABBA's conductor, Sven-Olov Walldoff, took to the podium dressed as Napoleon which caused David Vine to go into apoplexy. "Oh it's Napoleon" he cried, stating the obvious. "No wonder their song is called Waterloo".

From the moment the orchestra started, the contest was theirs. Olivia Newton John was forgotten and slipped into fourth place behind Miss Cinquetti and Mouth and McNeal.

Cliff Richard Song: Congratulations Contest date: April 6, 1968. Venue: The Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom. Final position: 2nd.

For 10 years the Peter Pan of Pop had been a huge star in Britain and Europe. The BBC chose him to defend the Euro crown won so easily in Vienna the previous year by Sandie Shaw with Puppet on a String. Cliff was the favourite. His uptempo singalong was deemed to be streets ahead of the rest but did not have universal backing. One pundit said: "If Congratulations wins we might as well bring back Knees Up Mother Brown."

Cliff lead almost from the beginning and with just two of the 17 countries left to vote, preparations were being made for the winning authors to go backstage to get ready to collect their trophy.

But then came the Germans. West Germany was still smarting from the World Cup final defeat by England two years earlier and revenge was to be theirs. They gave six votes to Spain which gave them 29 points and only two votes to the UK, putting Cliff on 28. It was all down to Yugoslavia. The audience in the Royal Albert Hall was on the edge of their seats. No votes for the UK, but then no votes for Spain either. Their six went to Ireland, represented by boxer Barry McGuigan's father Pat.

What was to become the biggest selling single of 1968 had finished second, and Cliff was beaten by Spanish beauty Massiel, whose song contained more than 150 La La Las. Not surprisingly, that was the song's title.

Cliff had another bash five years later with Power to All Our Friends, but he dropped a place to third - and never tried again.

Euro hits

Songs that were first heard in Eurovision

The contest is always slated for its dire tunes and throwaway frothiness. However, some classics have come from the contest. These include:

Volare, 3rd for Italy, 1958.

Warum Nur Warum (Walk Away), 6th for Austria, 1964

L'amour est bleu (Love is Blue), 4th for Luxembourg, 1967

Apres Toi (Come What May) 1st for Luxembourg, 1972

Eres Tu (Touch the Wind), 2nd for Spain, 1973

Waterloo, 1st for Sweden, 1974

But what about the clangers?

Boom-bang-a-bang, 1st for the UK, 1969

Pomme, Pomme, Pomme, 13th for Luxembourg, 1971

Jack In The Box, 4th for the UK, 1971

Ding Dinge Dong, 1st for The Netherlands, 1975

Pump Pump, 11th for Finland, 1976

Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley, 1st for Sweden, 1984

Uk entries since 1956

1956: No entry. Winner: Switzerland. 1957: Patricia Bredin, All (7th) Winner: The Netherlands. 1958: No entry. Winner: France. 1959: Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, Sing Little Birdie (2nd). Winner: The Netherlands. 1960: Bryan Johnson, Looking High High High (2nd). Winner: France. 1961: The Allisons, Are You Sure? (2nd). Winner: Luxembourg. 1962: Ronnie Carroll, Ring-a-Ding Girl (4th). Winner: France. 1963: Ronnie Carroll, Say Wonderful Things (4th). Winner: Denmark. 1964: Matt Monro, I Love The Little Things (2nd). Winner: Italy. 1965: Kathy Kirby, I Belong (2nd). Winner: Luxembourg. 1966: Kenneth McKellar, A Man Without Love (9th). Winner: Austria. 1967: Sandie Shaw, Puppet on a String (1st) 1968: Cliff Richard, Congratulations (2nd). Winner: Spain 1969: Lulu, Boom Bang-A-Bang (1st along with Spain, France and The Netherlands). 1970: Mary Hopkin, Knock Knock, Who's There? (2nd). Winner: Ireland. 1971: Clodagh Rogers, Jack in the Box (4th). Winner: Monaco. 1972: The New Seekers, Beg Steal or Borrow (2nd). Winner: Luxembourg. 1973: Cliff Richard, Power to All Our Friends (3rd). Winner: Luxembourg. 1974: Olivia Newton John, Long Live Love (4th). Winner: Sweden. 1975: The Shadows, Let Me Be The One (2nd). Winner: The Netherlands. 1976: The Brotherhood of Man, Save Your Kisses for Me (1st). 1977: Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran, Rock Bottom (2nd). Winner: France. 1978: Coco, The Bad Old Days (11th). Winner: Israel. 1979: Black Lace, Mary Ann (7th). Winner: Israel. 1980: Prima Donna, Love Enough For Two (3rd). Winner: Ireland. 1981: Bucks Fizz, Making Your Mind Up (1st). 1982: Bardo, One Step Further (7th). Winner: Germany. 1983: Sweet Dreams, I'm Never Giving Up (6th). Winner: Luxembourg. 1984: Belle and the Devotions, Love Games (7th). Winner: Sweden. 1985: Vikki, Love Is (4th). Winner: Norway. 1986: Ryder, Runner In The Night (7th). Winner: Belgium. 1987: Rikki Peebles, Only the Light (13th). Winner: Ireland. 1988: Scott Fitzgerald, Go (2nd). Winner: Switzerland. 1989: Live Report, Why Do I Always Get It Wrong (2nd). Winner: Yugoslavia. 1990: Emma, Give A Little Love Back To The World (6th). Winner: Italy. 1991: Samantha Janus, A Message To Your Heart (10th). Winner: Sweden. 1992: Michael Ball, One Step Out Of Time (2nd). Winner: Ireland. 1993: Sonia, Better The Devil (2nd). Winner: Ireland. 1994: Frances Ruffelle, Lonely Symphony (10th). Winner: Ireland. 1995: Love City Groove, Love City Groove (10th). Winner: Norway. 1996: Gina G, Ooh Aah, Just A Little Bit (6th). Winner: Ireland. 1997: Katrina and The Waves, Love Shine A Light (1st). 1998: Imaani, Where Are You? (2nd). Winner: Israel. 1999: Precious, Say It Again (12th). Winner: Sweden. 2000: Nicki French, Don't Play That Song Again (16th). Winner: Denmark. 2001: Lindsay Dracus, No Dream Impossible (15th). Winner: Estonia. 2002: Jessica Garlick, Come Back (3rd). Winner: Latvia. 2003: Jemini, Cry Baby (26th with nil points!). Winner: Turkey.

 

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