Today we look back to 50 years ago and to the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest, when the United Kingdom won for the first time.
Victor M. Escudero
Posted 24 August, 2017, 12:03
After Udo Jürgens' victory in 1966, Vienna, Austria's capital, was chosen to host the competition a year later. In today's Throwback Thursday we look back to 50 years ago and to the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest, when the United Kingdom won for the first time.
Austria debuted in the second edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in Frankfurt am Main in 1957 and it took them 10 entries to reach the top. It was third time lucky for Udo Jürgens in 1966, as he had tried to win the competition in 1964 and in 1965. It was finally thanks to his victory with Merci Chérie in Luxembourg that the contest moved to Vienna in 1967.
While the world was enjoying a pop revolution in the 1960s, the Eurovision Song Contest seemed to be stuck in a conservative timewarp, having enjoyed only a handful of international hits over the first few years. With the result in 1967, the contest seemed ready to open up to pop music, which resulted in Eurovision becoming the leading event for the pop genre, generating numerous big hits in the years to come.
Ringing in the changes
The EBU decided that the voting had to undergo a change and the system used reverted back to the one used between 1957-1961: each country’s jury had 10 jurors with one vote each. In a change to the rules, half of the jurors in every national jury had to be under 30 years old, thus giving a better chance for the songs with a connection to the record-buying public.
The show itself, in its 12th edition, still looked like the same old affair, a serious competition rather than a modern concert, attractive to all ages. In fact the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest took place at the majestic Festival Hall at the Vienna Hofburg Palace, which was the main winter residence of the Habsburg dynasty during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today the venue serves as the official residence of the President of Austria.
The Interval Act was The Blue Danube by the Wiener Sängerknaben (The Vienna Boys’ Choir) which was founded a while ago... in 1498! It was also the last contest to be broadcast solely in black and white. The stage included a staircase entrance in the middle and in a Eurovision first, three revolving mirrors which, depending on the camera shot, allowed the viewers to see a full perspective of the artists while some complained that it had been distracting.
The number of participants went down from 18 to 17 because Denmark chose to withdraw from the contest. Word has it that the Danish broadcaster’s new Head of Light Entertainment disliked the contest, and preferred to spend the budget in “a better way”. He stepped down in 1978, when Denmark finally returned to the competition.
Leaving a legacy
Some innovations from the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest are still in place today, including the shots of the contestants in the Green Room during the voting process and also the rule stating that "an official representative from each country should be in place to make all last minute decisions", namely the Head of Delegation. That was mainly due to all the problems caused the year before by Italian top star Domenico Modugno, when he decided, only before the live performance, to change the arrangement of his song Dio Come Ti Amo because he was unhappy with the orchestra arrangement during rehearsals.
Nowadays it is customary to see the winner from the previous Eurovision Song Contest appear the following year. Having become a national hero at home after winning Eurovision in 1966, Udo Jürgens made several appearances during the 1967 show, most notably at the very beginning when he took the baton from the orchestra maestro, Johannes Fehring, to conduct an instrumental-waltz version of his winning song Merci Chérie.
Portugal broke new ground in 1967 participating with the first male black singer in the competition, Eduardo Nascimento, who sang O Vento Mudou (The wind changed), which despite coming 12th, is a song that still remains popular in Portugal as its many and recent covers prove.
Many happy returns
Italy couldn’t send their Sanremo Festival winning song in 1967 due to date rules, but sent one of its winners, Claudio Villa, who had already represented Italy in 1962, when he placed 9th. He failed to better his score by placing 11th in Vienna.
The winning composer from 1965, the always controversial Serge Gainsbourg, who won for Luxembourg with Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son, was back in 1967 with another song, this time for Monaco. Boum-Badaboum had similar sexual subtext as his winning song and was performed by Minouche Barelli while her dad Aimé Barelli led the orchestra. They placed 5th.
Other returning artists include Kirsti Sparboe from Norway, who had already sung at the 1965 contest in Naples and would enjoy a further comeback in 1969. Spain’s top star Raphael, who had achieved the country’s best result in 1966 by placing 7th, returned to the Eurovision stage in Vienna and improved by one position with Hablemos Del Amor. Upon his return to Spain he commented that the voting wasn’t serious as the Spanish language was not as popular in Europe as English or French and that Spain would only win when they sing some nonsense lyrics such as “fu fu fu” or “ra ra ra”. In 1968 Spain won the contest after singing “La” more than 100 times. The success of Puppet On A String and its Spanish version Marionetas En La Cuerda was serious though, spending 8 weeks at the top of the Spanish charts.
The presenter in 1967 was the very elegantly dressed Erika Vaal, who introduced the show in no less than six languages, including Russian, as the contest was also broadcast on Intervision to countries in Eastern Europe. She actually apologised to the viewers in the countries that she didn’t have time to learn the language of. As if the ten minute long introduction hadn’t been enough, she promised to learn the other languages in case Austria would organise the contest again "in the near future."
It wouldn’t be the last time Ms Vaal would apologise during the show as the voting sequence was filled with errors on the scoreboard. The concerned attitude of the scrutineer, Clifford Brown, prompted some nervous yet charming responses from Erika. At the end of the voting she declared the United Kingdom winner of the song contest before the last jury's votes, Ireland, were even cast!
Despite the confusion during the voting, there was no doubt about the winner. The United Kingdom won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, nine years after participating for the first time. The winning entrant, Sandie Shaw famously, performed her song, Puppet on a String, barefoot.
France came third with Noëlle Cordier's Il Doit Faire Beau Là-Bas but it would be another French song which would become a huge success to come out of the 1967 class. Luxembourg placed 4th with Vicky and L’amour Est Bleu. The song was a hit in numerous versions but, especially, in the instrumental take by French musician Paul Mauriat, Love Is Blue, which spent 5 weeks at No. 1 in the US charts in 1968. Vicky herself would go on to win the Eurovision Song Contest five years later as Vicky Leandros with the song Après Toi.
Earlier this month Sandie Shaw gave a rare interview where she spoke about the Eurovision Song Contest, check it out below:
About the winner
The winning song Puppet On A String was the favourite and won with one of the largest margins ever witnessed in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest at that time. The song gathered more than twice as many votes as the runner-up, Ireland, with Sean Dunphy's If I Could Choose.
It wasn't only the juries that were charmed by Sandie Shaw's song, it became a huge success all over Europe and is nowadays remembered as a Eurovision Song Contest classic. It finished the 1967 year-end Global Chart at number 17 after having spent 9 weeks in the Top 10 peaking at #2 around the world, kept from the top spot by the Frank Sinatra’s Somethin’ Stupid.
Puppet On A String became the trend in Eurovision, as in the following years many songs were entered with striking resemblances to either the melody, the arrangements or the lyrics of Puppet... and artists with the style and stage presence of Sandie Shaw.
Sandie took Eurovision to London and to the Royal Albert Hall in 1968, where the contest was broadcast in colour for the first time.