Spain debuted in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1961 and didn’t miss a contest since. Spain was also the first country to win back to back editions of Eurovision, but the country has not won since 1969. Tomorrow the country chooses its 58th entry in 'Operación Triunfo' and today we take a look at their Euro-history.
Spain debuted in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1961, in Cannes in neighbouring France, and came back to every contest since then, becoming the country to participate the most number of times in a row since their debut without skipping any edition.
In that first contest they sent one of theirs stars, Conchita Bautista with the Spanish-flavoured song Estando Contigo (Being with you) which placed ninth out of sixteenth. Worse results followed in the four years to come, including two nil-pointers one of them by Conchita herself in 1965.
The golden years
A change was in need to improve the results so the Spanish broadcaster, RTVE, selected internally one of their biggest musical sensations, Raphael, who improved their results by placing 7th in 1966 with Yo Soy Aquel (I am that one). He was sent again quickly, the year after he placed 6th with Hablemos Del Amor (Let’s talk about love). Both his Eurovision songs were massive hits and Raphael is still a successful artist today.
Exactly fifty years ago, in 1968, Spain won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time with the song La, La, La and Massiel. She wasn’t meant to be performer in Eurovision in London that year. The Catalan singer Joan Manuel Serrat was the original artist choice, but a couple of weeks before the contest he confessed his intentions to sing the song in Catalan instead of Spanish, something that was banned by the Franco-regime in Spain. He was quickly replaced and the young female rising star Massiel was rushed to the Royal Albert Hall where she pipped the UK home entry at the post, Cliff Richard’s Congratulations, by only one point.
It wouldn’t be neither Spain’s only winner nor their closest one. They managed to win the year after in Madrid when they tied with three other countries for first place. That would be the first time that a country won back to back contests and it was thanks to the lively performance of Vivo Cantando (I live singing) by Salomé, another evergreen of Spanish 1960s pop music.
Massiel and Salome become the leaders of our Top 10 at numbers one and two respectively, but this golden era of Spain in Eurovision lasted a bit longer. In 1970 they placed 4th with Julio Iglesias, arguably Spain’s biggest recording artist, and his self-penned track Gwendolyne.
At that time Eurovision was so popular in Spain that a series was created to choose the performer of Spain in 1971: Pasaporte A Dublín was a first taste of nowadays talent shows, although the participants were already established. Karina was announced as the winner in the last episode of the show, so she got her “passport to Dublin” where she was the runner-up, behind Monaco, with En Un Mundo Nuevo (In a new world), at number five in our Top 10. A film was also created to capitalise on the success.
Two years after it was time to finish second again, beating Cliff Richard from the UK again. Luxembourg won with Anne-Marie David, Cliff came third with Power To All Our Friends, but the biggest hit came from the runner-up. Spain was represented by Mocedades with Amaya Uranga on lead vocals. Mocedades are one of five acts from Spain to have scored a US top ten hit and the only to have that hit entirely in Spanish, Eres Tú (It’s you), written by Juan Carlos Calderón who would go on to write three more songs for Spain in Eurovision, in 1975, 1985 and 1989. The song was inducted into the Latin Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013 and ranked #47 on Billboard’s Greatest Latin Songs of All Time and sitsa number six in our Top 10. Spain's 2002 performer, Rosa, performed a medley of Spanish Eurovision hits, including Eres Tú, at Eurovision's 60th anniversary show Greatest Hits which was held in 2015.
There would be one more second place for Spain in the 1970s. It happened in Jerusalem in 1979 with Su Canción (Your song), performed by Peruvian-born singer Betty Missiego accompanied by four children. Spain was the last country to cast its votes. At that moment Spain was in the lead with one point ahead of Israel, but the Spanish 10 points gave Israel its second victory, leaving their own entry in second place. Su Canción reaches number four in our list.
Finding new ways
The 1980s were not as successful for Spain as the previous decades, despite trying several formulas always with internal selections. In 1984 their entry, Lady, Lady sung by Bravo, a vocal quartet created for the occasion, finished third. The mid-tempo ballad co-written by the lead singer of Bravo, Amaya Saizar, was a big hit at home reaching number one in the pop charts and it is at number seven in our top ten.
In the last year of the decade Spain placed sixth with Nina’s Nacida Para Amar (Born to love). Nina went on to become the principal of the Operación Triunfo academy in the 2002-2004 period, when it was first used as Spain’s method for selecting their Eurovision entry. She also was casted as Donna in the Spanish production of Mamma Mia!
One year after they did one better by placing fifth with the sister female duo Azúcar Moreno and their dance pop flamenco-flavoured Bandido (Bandit). It's memorable in Eurovision as the singers took to the stage they left it in a huff seconds due to a problem with the backing track. Eventually the problem was solved and the duo performed again. Bandido sits at number nine in our top ten list.
One year later, one place higher. In 1991 Spain finished 4th with Sergio Dalma’s Bailar Pegados (Dancing closely). The romantic ballad was confidently belted out by Dalma and, after becoming the number one hit of the year in Spain, it turned Sergio into a star overnight, with a successful career that continues today. Bailar Pegados itself has been voted several times as the best Spanish Eurovision entry of all time in local polls and it sits at number eight in our top ten.
After some less successful years it was time to trouble the scoreboard again in 1995. Vuelve Conmigo (Come back to me), a power ballad with New Age elements, was strongly performed on the night by debutant Anabel Conde, who took Spain to their best placing since 1979, getting the number three spot in our top 10 list of Spain.
A couple of years later another ballad brought Spain to number six again. Sin Rencor (Without grudge) was a latin ballad written and performed by Marcos Llunas. In 1995 the singer won the latin version of Eurovision, the Festival OTI where Spain, Portugal and the American countries participated until the year 2000, when the last edition took place. Sin Rencor closes our list at #10 and it is the most recent Spanish song to feature in our Top 10.
The public selections
Since the year 2000 Spain turned to public selections for the first time since 1976 but it has only reached the top ten of Eurovision on six occasions: most notably sixth in 2001 with David Civera’s Dile Que La Quiero (Tell her that I love her). In the early Operación Triunfo (OT) years Spain ranked sevenths (2002) with Rosa, eighth (2003) with Beth and tenth (2004) with Ramón while breaking some viewing figure records.
In 2008 there was a commotion when Rodolfo Chikilicuatre and his song were chosen to represent Spain. What was seen as a joke, ridiculing what would be a successful Eurovision performance, divided the country between lovers and haters. Baila El Chiki-Chiki (Dancing Chiki-Chiki) was a number one hit in Spain and it also placed 16th in the Grand Final in Belgrade:
In 2010 the Spanish entry had to be reprised at the end of the presentation of the 25 entries in the Grand Final in Oslo. During the original performance of Algo Pequeñito (Something Tiny), Daniel Diges and his backing dancers were disturbed by infamous pitch invader Jimmy Jump on stage after the first verse:
In 2012 Spanish singing star Pastora Soler was internally selected to represent Spain in Baku. She finished fifth in the jury vote and 10th overall with the pop ballad Quédate Conmigo (Stay With Me). It was Spain’s best result since 2004 and narrowly misses a place in our Top 10:
Two years after, in Copenhagen in 2014, the same result was achieved with another belter, Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing In The Rain.
In the last three years the Spanish entries weren’t met with the same success, something which they hope to change with their 2018 entry to be chosen tomorrow, on Monday 29th January from among the Operación Triunfo finalists.