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European Song Contest #1
by Thornchild/Angels/Occult

You guessed very right, dear friends. It is again Thornchild presenting you the article series. And this time it is also one dealing with history. But now the step into the past is farly less deeply, for this time it is the...


Before the real beginning I must state that I use the very good book: "Merci, Jury" by Jan Feddersen as my literal source. Some introducing words tackling with this subject have to be said at this place and time also.

The beginning of the European Song Contest (from now on abbreviated ESC) can be fixed in October 1955. The European Broadcasting Union, a community of european state-owned TV-stations (also called EBU abbreviated) realized the plan for a project which based on the idea to progress the principle of the Eurovision method. This meant that television also had the function of letting the viewers "see far-off".

To explain the need of realizing this, you have to know that in the 1950's far less people owned a TV set. So the medium had to be made more popular and the event like the ESC (which had the project title Grand Prix of the European Song) was deemed quite suitable for serving such a task the EBU had in mind.

I also have to clear some aspects that let the ESC be put in the true light. It never was true that the EBU has determined that the competing songs had to be in a special style. If a country would have sent an entry in the rock'n roll style in the 50's (or later) it wouldn't have been a problem. Which rank it was able to earn was another point.

Some that come along with a critic voice say that the songs were (and still are) judged unjust. Well, that is a subjective argument based on the gap between the personal taste of the critics and the juries (from 1998 on: televoters). Certainly the juries were subjective in many aspects but this had to be risked.

And a number of others think that the ESC isn't necessary. Well, due to this I must state, by being subjective, that I don't agree with that. I was ever fascinated due to the ESC's international flair. I can imagine that you get songs from Finland in the Scandinavian countries or Slovakian in the East-European, but it isn't easy to do so in Germany. At the ESC I have a chance to get a real multicultural festival. And why having it not once a year? Better than nothing, I always say...

But now back to the roots. After having planned the project of the song contest, it was time for the first one in...

- 1956 -

Lugano, in Switzerland, hosted the first ESC presenter, Lohengrin Filipello. The event took place in the Cure Hall.

Just at the beginning some things first. Certainly the first rules due to entering this contest as a competitor were different from those you know from those of today, e.g. the juries were present in the hall. There weren't restrictions due to the length of the titles or the number of the performers. And the voters of the juries were allowed to vote for their own entries.

You did read right, entries! The first ESC had 14 music titles from 7 competing countries (The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy and Germany), bringing two entries for each country into the competing race. Some of the songs that were performed at this evening were Jetty Paerl for The Netherlands with "De vogels van Holland", Fud Leclerc for Belgium with the title "Messieurs les noyes de la Seine" and Tonina Torielli for Italy, singing "Amami de vuoi".

The songs were dealing in their roots with the subjects that usually should be elements of the texts of many other entries that would follow in the next decades, e.g. love types and styles in various shapes and patterns, description of places in different countries etc.

At this very first time not only the voting process was kept out of public view but also the point results for the voting materials (paper sheets) were destroyed by burning them. So the points (and with these the rank list) couldn't be involved into the statistic tables.

At the end the winner was Lys Assia for Switzerland with her charming chanson "Refrain". The other performers all were set on rank 2. Due to the miss of statistic materials there were a lot of rumours. But these seem quite unrealistic to a lot of people...

- 1957 -

The second ESC saw three new European countries in the round of competitors, these were Great Britain, Austria and Denmark.

The Great Emission Hall in Francfort in Germany was the place the event ESC did happen to be brought on the stage and on the TV-sets of many European habitants.

The ESC was moderated by Anaid Iplikjan. Due to the rule that a competing country was allowed to compete with one song the former seven contestors and the three new ones there were 10 titles the juries had to decide about due to the points. Every country had ten voters in the jury, everyone of them was allowed to give one point to the most liked song. In this year the points were shown on a table, so every member of the country could see the development of its rank. And statistic tables could be begun to make (they should be of importance much later, after a number of ESC's were over).

A further rule was that a song shouldn't be longer than 3 1/2 minutes. The British entry was a bit shorter than two minutes, the song from Italy was a bit longer than five. This were records. The winning entry from The Netherlands was about 4 1/2 minutes long.

As in 1956 the songs were in ballad style, but they all indeed were different, partly melancholic, partly dramatic etc.

And now the list of the songs, in order of the ranks shall follow, so please switch over to the next page...

Interpr. Song. Pts.
C. Brokken - "Net als toen" nl 31
P. Desjard.- "La belle amour" fr 17
B. Wilke & G. Winckl. - "Skibet skal sejle..." dk 10
M. Hielscher - "Telefon, Telefon" de 8
D. Dupre - "Tant de peine" lx 8
N. Gallo - "Corde della mia..." it 7
P. Bredin - "All" gb 6
B. Schoepen - "Straatdeuntje" uk 5
L. Assia - "L'enfant que j'etais" ch 5
B. Martin - "Wohin, kleines Pony?" at 3

- 1958 -

Now it was explicitely founded that the winning country should be the organizer of the next year's ESC. So it was the turn of The Netherlands this year to do so. The arrangement of the emission must have been fascinating, twenty thousand tulips!

Great Britain paused, so Sweden came into the field of members. Another time the songs were quite slow and quiet. Former years winning performer Corry Brokken wasn't successful, also the countries Luxembourg and Denmark didn't get many points.

The event was held in the AVRO studios in Hilversum, the moderation done by Hannie Lips, concentrated basically on the given votes of the points.

France won the ESC. Many ask themselves why the Italian entry made only the 3rd rank. But later it was a really big hit, better known as "Volare" and adapted by an American music artist...

But now the rank list of this year's ESC:

Interpr. Song. Pts.
A. Claveau - "Dors, mon amour" fr 27
L. Assia - "Giorgio" ch 24
D. Modugno - "Nel blu dipinto..." it 13
A. Babs - "Lilla stjaerna" se 10
L. Augustin - "Die ganze Welt..." at 8
F. Leclerc - "Ma petite chatte" be 8
M. Hielscher - "Fuer zwei Groschen..." de 7
R. Rastenni - "Jeg rev et blad..." dk 3
S. Berry - "Un grand amour" lx 1
C. Brokken - "Heel de wereld" nl 1

As in the year before the voting juries saw a new competitor with friendly eyes, In the later years this wasn't the case everytime. We will see that closely...

- 1959 -

In March 1959 the fourth ESC took place, hosted by Jaqueline Joubert. The place was the Palais des Festivals in the town of Cannes. More and more this event became quite well known reflected to be an interesting one by the viewers. This was the first ESC in which the performers were presented as the representatives of their countries. So it had to be accepted that not a song was a winner (as it was announced in the years before) but the country for which the song went into the race.

So the ESC changed in some aspects from a composer and texter contest into an artist presenting contest. We will see in the description of the later ESC's that not the performance is the main ingredient in this event, but the show is.

In the juries of the former ESC events musical experts formed the juries. This time amateurs became masters of the points. It was thought to be nearer on the line of the taste of the public.

In that year the songs were a bit more joyous then in the first years. An example for that was the Danish entry. Domenico Modugno sang the beautiful "Piove", a song that Europe came to know as a hit song later under "Ciao, ciao, bambina". German's twin sisters Kessler didn't perform an ESC song but made a little revue style dance number, perhaps their show based entry would have had a real chance in later years. It was one of the entries of more untensed style.

After the ranks were made clear the three best ranked entries were allowed to be performed again.

This year was also the beginning of a development that may be wasn't visible such strong as some competing countries were willed to show: some had real thoughts which rules could be suitable to be obeyed to create an entry that produces a high rank. It should be remarked produces, Monaco became new member of the event.

And here, as for the years before, the rank list:

Perf. Song. Pts.
T. Scholten - "N beetje" nl 21
P. Carr & R. Johnson - "Sing little birdie" uk 16
J. Philippe - "Oui, oui, oui, oui" fr 15
C. Williams - "Irgendwoher" ch 14
B. Wilke - "Uh, jeg ville..." dk 12
B. Benny - "Hou toch von mij" be 9
D. Modugno - "Piove" it 9
A. & E. Kessler - "Heute abend wolln..." de 5
B. Borg - "Augustin" se 4
F. Graf - "Der k. & k. cal..." at 4
J. Pills - "Mon ami pierrot" mc 1

Teddy Scholtens' winning entry was of a light and legere style, compared with the former victory songs. The so called chanson had been added the more lively variety. Luxembourg paused, Monaco went into the ring...

- 1960 -

This time the British BBC hosted the ESC, I don't know why The Netherlands didn't host it. The juries were allowed to hear the dress rehearsal to be able to vote easier about the 13 songs.

Luxembourg came back again and Norway entered the event. Meanwhile Monaco was ranked last place in 1959, the first try of Norway was far more successful.

A statistical fact (just compare the explicite list materials!) is that the entries that started as second in the starting order oftenly had bad ranks at the end. I can't imagine how this can be explained. I guess you should think about that on your own...

One of the main ideas of the ESC (if we let the most important thought that was explained in the introduction out of sight now) was that a hit for the European countries should be found. The winning song from France should be the one that could be deemed as fulfilling this aim at the very first.

Katie Boyle moderated the ESC in the Royal Festival Hall in London. You certainly know that the Saturday is the day of the week the ESC is taking place, but it wasn't in the first years. That year, for example, it was on the last thursday of March.

Rudi Carell for The Netherlands and Camillo Felgen became quite well known showmasters in their countries. Felgen also moderated radio emissions. Here and then they unfortunately hadn't a good evening. Siw Malmkvist started for Sweden and reached a place almost at the end. The German entry, sung by Wyn Hoop, made a place in the upper stage, fourth. Many experts had the opinion that Germany would have had a better place when the very talented woman Heidi Bruehl would have performd "Wir wollen niemals ausein andergehen". And maybe they weren't such wrong by thinking so for the song of H. Bruehl became a big hit meanwhile W. Hoop's song is almost forgotten. My opinion to that? Well, I know and like both songs the same...

After the many words, here is the urgently needed and well-loved list:

Perf. Song. Pts.
J. Boyer - "Tom Pilibi" fr 32
B. Johnson - "Looking high, high..." gb 25
F. Deguelt - "Ce soir la" mc 15
W. Hoop - "Bonne nuit, ma..." de 11
N. Brockstedt - "Voi-voi" nl 11
F. Leclerc - "Mon amour pour toi" be 9
H. Winter - "Du hast mich so..." at 6
R. Rascel - "Romantica" it 5
K. Bodtker - "Det var en yngdig..." dk 4
S. Malmkvist - "Alla andra far..." se 4
R. Carell - "Wat een geluk" nl 2
C. Felgen - "So laang we's du..." lx 1

Many experts say that the juries that voted in the first about fifteen years of the ESC had a special fable for songs of a simple, light and melodic style. Well, this is right for a lot of ESC emissions.

Some of you may ask themselves: how long the ESC lasted in time usually? I can tell you that quite explicite, about 1 and a half hour. Since 1975 they regularly last between 2 and 3 hours...

Ok, my dear friends, here my first article about the historic basics of the ESC shall find end for this time. In the next issue of the "Attitude" you'll get more information about the ESC emissions from 1965 on.


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