Exactly 50 years ago today, on 29 March 1969, the 14th Eurovision Song Contest took place, for the first — and so far only — time in Madrid, Spain. Notoriously, it was the first — and so far only — time that more than one country won the competition: France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom all shared the victory.
The 1969 Eurovision Song Contest took place at the Teatro Real in Madrid, after Massiel won the 1968 contest in London. 1969 marks the only time that Spain has hosted the contest. 16 countries took part — all who took part in 1968 except for Austria, which dropped out.
The notorious four-way tie
Back in 1969, each country had a jury consisting of 10 members, who each awarded one point to their favourite song. An unlikely turn of events caused four countries to gain 18 points each: France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. Since there was no rule at the time to cover a tie, all four were declared winners and were invited to perform their respective winning songs.
Luckily, there were four medals available. These were originally intended for the winning singer and a maximum of three winning song writers. The song writers were not awarded their medals until some time after the contest.
France became the first country to win the contest four times. The Netherlands won for the third time and Spain and the United Kingdom each won for the second time. Spain's win marked the first time that a country won the Eurovision Song Contest two years in a row.
The four winners were very diverse: France had a haunting ballad performed by Frida Boccara, the Netherlands sent in Lenny Kuhr with her own folky composition De Troubadour accompanied by her guitar, Spain's Salomé performed the energetic Vivo Cantando whereas Lulu from the United Kingdom sang the uptempo Boom Bang a Bang.
The remaining ones
As one fourth of the participating countries won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969, let's have a look at the other 75% of the entries that year.
Yugoslavia suitably opened the contest with a song greeting the audience in many languages; Hello World. Luxembourg's entry Catherine was an instrumental song by composer Paul Mauriat and his orchestra. The song Maman, Maman that represented Monaco was the top hit of the year in Spain, despite 12-year-old singer Jean Jacques not being one of the four winners. Muriel Day was the first singer from Northern Ireland to represent the Republic of Ireland in Eurovision. Sanremo 1969 winner Iva Zanicchi performed a different song than her winning song in the Italian Festival.
Tommy Körberg represented Sweden for the first time - he would return to the contest in 1988, while Louis Neefs made his second Eurovision appearance for Belgium after having finished 7th in 1967. Paola (del Medico) has the dubious honour of being the runner-up to the four winners on behalf of Switzerland. She would return in 1980.
Kirsti Sparboe sang for Norway for the third and last time while Siw Malmkvist, representing Germany changed countries from her first Eurovision appearance in 1960, when she performed for her native Sweden. Portugal's Simone de Oliveira was also a returning artist in the competition, having represented her country in 1965. And Finland saw Jarkko and Laura representing the country.
Having four winners meant that this particular contest would go down as being one of the most controversial in the competition's history. The turn of events caused a lot of criticism from the media and several TV-stations re-considered their participation in the following year. Sweden, Norway, Finland and Portugal withdrew from the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest, causing the total number of participants to drop down to 12. In 1970, the competition took place in the Netherlands. Out of the winning countries, the Netherlands was drawn to host the competition.
The EBU introduced a tie-break rule after the four-way tie in 1969, to avoid a result with more than one winner. So from 1969 on, every Eurovision Song Contest has had just one winner.
Watch the full contest
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of 1969's notorious four-way tie, Spanish broadcaster RTVE has uploaded the full 1969 Eurovision Song Contest to their proprietary platform today. Watch it here: