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

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