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Delving into the Eurovision archives: Part One

05 September 2017 at 16:37 CEST
Artefacts from the Eurovision archive EBU
The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest running television programmes in the world. Unsurprisingly, a considerable amount of material has been collected over the years. In the first of a new series we take a trip down memory lane and delve into the Eurovision archives from yesteryear.

When Marcel Bezençon came up with the idea of the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1950s it is unlikely that he envisioned that it would still be going strong seven decades later. In those early days of television broadcasting nobody could predict the success of the competition but fortunately some of the documents relating to that time have survived. Today we look at five pieces from the Eurovision archive. 

Music sheet (1965)

18 countries participated in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, a record at that time. It was the year that Ireland made its debut in the contest. Ireland would later go on to become the reigning Eurovision champion with 7 victories. 1965 represents a milestone moment in the Eurovision Song Contest since it is the first time that a pop song won the contest. The winning entry for Luxembourg, Poupée de cire, poupée de son was written by French Serge Gainbourg and was performed by France Gall. The song went on to become an international hit and had a huge impact on the type of songs that would be entered into the Eurovision Song Contest over the following years. The music sheet for the song is shown in the header of this story.

Programme booklet (1973)

After hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in 1962 and 1966, Luxembourg hosted the competition again in 1973. Israel made its debut this year and was allowed to do so because the country was already a member of the European Broadcasting Union. With the Israelis participating, the security control was unusually tight and special security measures were put in place for the Israeli delegation. The programme booklet was a simple publication which included a brief welcome message and basic information about each entry (song title, writers and performer). Whoever was using this booklet at the time was paying close attention to the competition as the exact timings of each entry have been scribbled inside. 

Commemorative book (1980)

The 1980 Eurovision Song Contest almost did not happen. Israel won the previous year on home ground and declined the opportunity to host the competition for the second year in succession. The Netherlands stepped in and staged the contest in The Hague, the host city of the 1976 contest. The date of the show clashed with Israel's Day of Remembrance and so the reigning Eurovision champions did not participate. Dutch broadcaster NOS produced a special commorative book marking the 25th edition of the competition. It also doubled up as the programme booklet and delegation guide for that year. The publication includes rehearsal schedules, the rules of the 1980 competition and even useful telephone numbers for those visiting The Hague. 

Press release (1981)

Ireland's capital Dublin hosted the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest after Johnny Logan won the contest in the preceding year with What's Another Year. In 1981, the total amount of participating countries was 20, equalling the record set three years earlier in Paris. Cyprus made its Eurovision debut and 1981 was also the first year viewers in Egypt could follow the contest live on television. The press release, issued by the EBU in March 1981, explained how Host Broadcaster RTE would use satellite technology to broadcast the contest. According to the document, OTS (Orbital Test Satellite) "could be used to route Eurovision transmissions, such as the Song Contest, international telephony traffic and data for various business applications between European countries."

Stage design bluprints (1987)

Belgium had the honour of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in the country's history in 1987. The stage design marked a departure from the more static sets used in previous years as laser and lighting techniques gave a different look and feel to the show. As you can see from the blueprints, the actual performance area for the artists was relatively small compared to today, just a few metres in floor space. At the end of the voting sequence Ireland's Johnny Logan made history when he became the first, and to date only singer, to win the Eurovision Song Contest twice.

These materials are a reminder of simpler times in the organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest and next week we will be bringing you more from the Eurovision archive!