09 August 2016

Eurovision 1978: And The UK's 12 Points Go to...Belgium!

Jean Vallée / Eurovision 1978 / L'amour ça fait chanter la vie
Eurovision 1978: Jean Vallée sings for Belgium

"And our twelve points go to..."

With the victory of L'oiseau et l'enfant by Marie Myriam at the 1977 competition, the Eurovision Song Contest travelled to Paris in 1978 - specifically the Palais des congrès.

It was there where we learned that it would be Israel's year, winning the coveted crown for the first time since her début in 1973. In fact, it was the Middle Eastern nation which pocketed the most maximum scores on the night, with six countries awarding Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta's A-Ba-Ni-Bi their twelve points.

However, that song was not everyone's favourite. Five nations much preferred the entry which had been performed tenth out of that year's field of twenty: L'amour, ça fait chanter la vie, Belgium's effort sung by crooner Jean Vallée.

The United Kingdom was among that quintet, which included Ireland, Greece, Monaco and France.

Jean Vallée / Eurovision Song Contest 1970
Jean Vallée in 1970
In fact, Vallée was no stranger to the Eurovision stage. In 1970, he had previously competed for Belgium with the song Viens, l'oublier (Come, Forget Him), but in a year which was dominated by both Ireland and the UK, his song was only able to accumulate five points and finish joint eighth.

1978 would be different, though. At the point when the UK awarded Belgium its maximum score, the Belgian song had already received two sets of twelve marks and only two points separated it from the consistently high scoring Israeli entry.

However, although Vallée would be awarded the top score two more times, it was following the British vote when A-Ba-Ni-Bi really began to motor. Israel was immediately gifted a collection of five consecutive twelve points and the writing was on the wall for L'amour, ça fait chanter la vie. By the time the voting was completed, Belgium had to be content with a very worthy second place - albeit 32 points behind the Israeli winner.

A-Ba-Ni-Bi seemed as if it should have been the natural recipient of the the UK's twelve points; a song crafted in the style of several of the then-recent British entries - very bouncy and very catchy. So, it was something of a surprise when Belgium bagged our top score.

Nevertheless, there's no doubting that the late-lamented Jean Vallée was a gifted performer and a superb singer, but his vocal style was very much a throwback to a bygone era - even for the late 1970s. L'amour, ça fait chanter la vie sounded as if it was straight out of the Jacques Brel songbook and Vallée's dramatic vocals and story-telling quality echoed his countryman at his best.

In retrospect, Israel's entry was perhaps the more logical winner as it reflected one of several popular music genres of the era: the disco craze. However, the Belgian song - while an excellent example of its type - appeared to be completely out of step with the times.

The UK's Top 3 in 1978

Belgium: Jean Vallée: L'amour, ça fait chanter la vie - 12 points
Monaco: Caline and Olivier Toussaint: Les jardins de Monaco - 10 points
France: Joël Prévost: Il y aura toujours des violons - 8 points

B&W image by Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 - negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang, bestanddeelnummer 923-3710 (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons

29 July 2016

Eurovision 1977: And The UK's 12 Points Go to...Ireland!

Ireland's Swarbriggs Plus Two

"And our twelve points go to..."

Three years after hosting it in Brighton, the Eurovision Song Contest returned to the UK in 1977 following the Brotherhood of Man's victory the previous year with Save Your Kisses For Me.

As established in 1975, the scoring system followed the the now familiar format with each country awarding twelve points to its favourite song, followed by ten points and eight points etc.

Although the United Kingdom received the most twelve points in 1977, it was France which scored most consistently with the juries and secured its fifth win with Marie Myriam's L'oiseau et l'enfant (136 points).

But which song benefited from the UK's twelve points? 

In fact, every jury voted for France - but the UK only afforded the French song six points on the night. It was the entry which eventually finished third which would secure the top marks from the British jury: Ireland's It's Nice to Be in Love Again by The Swarbriggs + 2. Actually, the United Kingdom was not alone in its approval of the Irish entry as Norway, Sweden and Israel agreed with the British assessment.

It wasn't the first time that Eurovision juries had judged a Swarbriggs song. Back in 1975, the brothers had brought their composition That's What Friends Are For to the competition, but it proved less popular than this 1977 effort by placing ninth in a field of 19 (and is now forever associated with Father Ted's My Lovely Horse).

By adding the "Plus 2" to their line-up - singers Alma Carroll and Nicola Kerr - it gave Ireland's presentation a familiar Brotherhood of Man vibe, no doubt hoping that this would inspire a second victory for the country. In many ways, this familiarity achieved its objective.

The song, with its relatively up-tempo beat and the singers' choreographed dance moves, impressed virtually all the juries enough to award Ireland at least some points - except Finland which scored the track a big fat zero.

Nevertheless, It's Nice to Be in Love Again finished in a strong third place with 119 points, only two behind the UK's Rock Bottom.

Of course, The Swarbrigg brothers were very familiar to the Irish public having been prominent entertainers since the mid-1960s. It was no surprise then that the song would go to Number 1 in the nation's pop charts just after the conclusion of Eurovision '77.

The UK's Eurovision Top 3 in 1977 

04 July 2016

Eurovision 1976: And The UK's 12 Points Go to...Switzerland!

Peter, Sue and Marc / Eurovision 1976 / Switzerland
Switzerland's Peter, Sue and Marc

"And our twelve points go to..."

Peter Sue and Marc / Djambo Djambo / Switzerland Eurovision 1976
In 1976, the Eurovision Song Contest moved to The Hague in The Netherlands following Teach-In's victory with Ding A Dong the previous year.

The same scoring system that was introduced in 1975 continued. Each jury awarded (the now familiar) twelve points to their favourite song, followed by ten and eight points etc to their next favourites.

Of course, 1976 was a special year for the United Kingdom, when the nation secured a second victory via The Brotherhood of Man's memorable ditty, Save Your Kisses For Me.

But what of the UK's twelve points? What was the country's decision?

The consensus among many of the nations which hadn't given their top mark to the UK was that France's Catherine Ferry should be 1976's winner. However, members of the British jury had other ideas. They liked Ferry's Un, deux, trois, but much preferred Switzerland's entry presented by Peter, Sue and Marc called Djambo Djambo.

Originally from Bern, the trio was no stranger to the Eurovision Song Contest having already participated in 1971 with Les illusions de nos vingt ans which placed twelfth in a field of eighteen. In 1976, however, with the help of the United Kingdom's twelve points, Switzerland managed to climb the scoreboard to finish with a total of 91 points and a highly respectable fourth place.

Djambo Djambo was typical of continental Europe's Eurovision output of the era. While ABBA had tried to inject a modicum of modernity into the Contest, Peter, Sue and Marc - who appeared to be Switzerland's sub par answer to Peter, Paul and Mary - kept it firmly in the middle of the road. A folky pop number - its staging was a little reminiscent of Mouth and MacNeal's I See A Star from 1974 - it told the story of an ageing clown named Djambo Djambo, recalling his glory days of performing in the circus.

With lines like..."And sometimes you can see him on the side-walk with little boys and girls around his feets," it had its obvious problems. Nevertheless, it succeeded in being a jaunty sing-along tune - even possessing an obligatory key change - something that seemed to appeal to British Eurovision sensibilities.

Although Djambo, Djambo ranked well, Peter, Sue and Marc decided to soldier on in their bid to win Eurovision. Sadly, it was to no avail. A failed attempt in 1978 led to a return to the Finals in both 1979 (10th place) and 1981 (4th place).

A solo effort by Marc Dietrich in 1987 could only secure the runners-up spot in the Swiss finals - the last time any of the vocal group attempted to compete for a spot in the main Final.

While they could never win the competition, Peter, Sue and Marc nevertheless left behind their own piece of Eurovision history. They represented Switzerland on four occasions, singing in four different languages: French, English, German and Italian.

The UK's Eurovision Top 3 in 1976

Switzerland: Peter, Sue and Marc: Djambo Djambo - 12 points
Ireland: Red Hurley: When - 10 points
France: Catherine Ferry: Un, deux, trois - 8 points

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