01 September 2016

Eurovision 1979: And The UK's 12 Points Go to...Israel!

Milk and Honey / Eurovision 1979 / Israel / Hallelujah
Eurovision 1979: Milk and Honey ft. Gali Atari representing Israel

"And our twelve points go to..."

Milk and Honey / Hallelujah / Eurovision 1979
Hallelujah: The Single
It was the last day of March 1979 when, for the first time, the entire Eurovision Song Contest entourage arrived in Jerusalem for the broadcast of the competition from the city's International Convention Center.

As is routine, the baton had passed to the previous year's winner to host the Contest. Thus, on the back of Izhar Cohen and Alphabeta's victory, the honour fell to Israel.

Not surprisingly, political pressure from around the Muslim world was placed on Turkey to withdraw from the Contest - even though the country had chosen its entry: Maria Rita Epik with 21. Peron singing Seviyorum. Eventually, Turkey decided to quit while Malta and Yugoslavia declined to return. As a consequence, the number of participants was pegged back to nineteen.

Of those nineteen, the UK's voting position was seventeenth and, as such, could potentially swing the result one way or the other. Norway had just voted, generously awarding 10 points to the UK - as well as a fifth maximum score of 12 points to Israel's song, Hallelujah. However, it was Spain's Betty Missiego who led the scoreboard at this stage (by a mere six points) with just three countries left to vote - one of which was Spain itself.

With the scores so close, the 1979 voting was to become one of the most tense of recent years and the UK's results were to add yet another layer of tension to the proceedings. The British jury had decided that Israel would receive its 12 points - pushing Hallelujah to 107 - while Spain's Su canción was awarded 5 points, bringing it to 106.

Eurovision 1979 / Scoreboard
1979: Israel captures Eurovision victory
Austria's verdict put even more cats amongst the pigeons, when their votes separated Spain from Israel by one point yet again. Only this time Spain was leading - and was also about to have the final say.

Even though both Portugal and Israel were erroneously awarded ten points during this exciting final phase, it was actually Hallelujah which received 'dix points' from Spain.

Indeed, it was Portugal which was in receipt of SIX points; Spain had unwittingly shot itself in the foot and had handed the victory to Israel for the second consecutive year.

Six sets of 12 points had helped in the win; the UK's coming as the last part of a late triumvirate following similar determinations by Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and Norway.

Of course, Hallelujah has since become a classic of Eurovision, helped in no small part by its highly memorable melody which sent it high into the music charts of many countries across Europe.

The UK's 12 points translated into a Number 5 British hit and a chart run of eight weeks - easily beating the Number 42 peak of the UK's entry that year by Black Lace: Mary Ann.

The UK's Top 3 in 1979  

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 

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