18 August 2015

Gigliola Cinquetti: Si: 1974

Gigliola Cinquetti
Gigliola Cinquetti: Perfect Best

It Should Have Won

Italy: Si

In the UK, the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest was all about Olivia Newton-John's chances of capturing the country's third victory with a song she later admitted that she hated, Long Love Love.

Viewing that year's Contest through a wider lens, however, it looked as if Olivia would have some very hot competition. Several potential victors were about to take the stage in Brighton. Something quite rare for most Eurovisions.

Big names in Eurovision '74

Apart from Olivia, other well-known names on the European circuit were there; among them Mouth and MacNeal (The Netherlands), Tina Reynolds (Ireland), Ireen Sheer (Luxembourg) and Italy's 1964 winner, Gigliola Cinquetti.

Gigliola Cinquetti Returns to the Contest

Si - 1974 record sleeve
As was usual back then, Italy's state broadcaster, RAI, selected both the singer and the song to go forward to the final. They had chosen well. Gigliola obviously had Eurovision pedigree following her victory a decade earlier and the song was soon to become considered a classic among the Euro fraternity.

It's easy to understand why. Apart from the fact that Gigliola had blossomed into a stunningly beautiful woman, it was evident that her vocals had matured in tandem. Although seemingly nervous on the night, she gave a superb rendition of the emotionally-charged and superbly dramatic Si. It was the last of the sixteen songs to be performed and it looked as if she may have just clinched the competition on a photo finish.

ABBA Win the Battle

ABBA in 1974
No-one had reckoned with ABBA, of course. At least, not until their glam rock-inspired performance of the evening.

As good as it was though, not everyone was impressed by Waterloo, Sweden's inaugural winner - not least, we Brits. Famously, the United Kingdom jurors did not award the song a single point, instead preferring to give their highest score to Gigliola. Even the Italian jurors were indifferent to the now-famous Swedes. They followed the UK's lead and ignored them altogether.

For all that, Gigliola still found herself in the runners-up position. ABBA had scored consistently with almost all of the other juries, while half of Italy's eighteen votes were composed of those given by the UK and Monaco alone.

A UK Commercial Success

Even though the British jurors awarded Waterloo a big fat zero, the great British public loved it and sent it to No.1 in the UK charts. Thankfully, we Brits also agreed with our jurors, buying enough copies of Go (Before You Break My Heart) - the English version of Si - to deliver a Top 10 placing in late May 1974.

It remains one of the very few songs not to have won the Contest to make such an impression on the UK charts, as well as affording Gigliola Cinquetti a place in the Eurovision history book. She is still just one of a handful of artists to finish in both first and second places in the competition. Still a very impressive accomplishment.

Italy Meets Its Waterloo

If not for ABBA though, it should (and would) have won - giving Ms. Cinquetti an even more impressive entry in the book: the first double winner.

Never mind, Gigliola. In many people's minds, you were and still are the winner. It's just a shame you found yourself up against the runaway freight train that was ABBA - meeting your Waterloo in the process.

*ABBA image by AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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