17 April 2015

Ronnie Carroll: A Eurovision Tribute

Ronnie Carroll at the 1962 Eurovision Song Contest
Ronnie Carroll at the 1962 Eurovision Song Contest
"I sang trite songs, and they're still trite, aren't they? If someone came on in the middle of all this tripe and sang a new song of the quality of 'When I Fall In Love', they'd romp home". 
Like Sandie Shaw, it seems that the late Ronnie Carroll - who died on April 13 - had little regard in later life for the Eurovision Song Contest. It's unclear what prompted his jaundiced view of the competition - although the title of his 1962 entry, Ring-A-Ding Girl, might give a pointer, as well as an early clue as to the direction the Contest would take.

Nevertheless, the exposure afforded a singer by Eurovision was obviously something Carroll felt he could benefit from. That 1962 entry was not his first attempt at representing the United Kingdom in the competition, though. He had tried two years earlier, when he sang the now long-forgotten song, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter in the second semi-final of the UK national final of 1960. He came fourth - a position that would go on to haunt him.
In 1962, he may have been forgiven for thinking that he would fare no better at the domestic final. He was up against some heavyweight names of the day such as Karl Denver, Kenny Lynch and Frank Ifield. As it turned out, the fourteen juries from across the country placed Ring-A-Ding Girl (written by Stan Butcher and Syd Cordell) in first place with 59 points, a total which was more than double the score of the runner-up, Frank Ifield's Alone Too Long.

Carroll travelled to Luxembourg in March 1962 for the Eurovision final where he performed thirteenth in a field of sixteen. Once all the votes had been announced he had scored a total of ten points, placing his song in fourth position, well behind the eventual winner that year, Un premier amour representing France. Moreover, unlike some other Eurovision entries of the period, Ring-A-Ding Girl was not a major hit in the UK, only managing a peak position of Number 46. 

Ronnie Carroll Say Wonderful Things
Ronnie Carroll in 1963
As trite as the song may have been, it didn't stop Carroll returning to the Eurovision stage the following year. He competed at the national final in February 1963 with the Norman Newell/Phil Green composition, Say Wonderful Things. A better song than its predecessor, it secured first place - its only real competition coming from Barry Barnett's If You Ever Leave Me.

However, at the Eurovision final held at the BBC studios in London, it did no better than his 1962 entry. Selected as the first of the sixteen songs to compete, Say Wonderful Things scored 28 points and left Carroll in fourth place again - this time at the expense of Denmark's first victory with their entry, Dansevise.

Carroll's recording sold well enough though, completing a fourteen week run on the UK chart and peaking at Number 6. He might have secured an American hit with it too had US singer Patti Page not beaten him to the punch by taking it into the Billboard Hot 100.

Carroll died at the age of 80 holding hopes of becoming an independent political representative in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency at the 2015 UK general election.

Eurovision watchers, however, will remember him as the only UK representative (to date) to appear at the Contest in successive years. RIP, sir.

Main image by Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 - negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang, bestanddeelnummer 913-6611 (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl], via Wikimedia Commons

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