Another year, another set of songs. But unlike its predecessor, 1964 has one very unique trait, shared by only one other contest. The winner really kicked the competition out of the running but let’s listen to the rest of the pack.
Venue: Tivoli Koncertsal, Copenhagen, Denmark
Date: 21 March 1964
Host: Lotte Wæver
As if my gossamer-thin hints weren’t enough, there’s almost no video of this contest, one of two contests out of all 58, along with 1956. To remedy this problem with my ranking system, the “Staging” category has been removed and the sum of the other categories will be multiplied by 0.34285714 instead of .3 to get a score from 0 to 12. With that out of the way, there isn’t much to talk about 1964. Sweden’s popular singers
boycotted the contest went on strike to get more money (thanks for the correction, Eulenspiegel!) and therefore the country withdrew. The much-adored Portugal débuted in its absence and, along with Iberian neighbor Spain, was the source of a stage invasion decrying the right-wing dictatorships in these countries. Some have speculated that this display is the reason that the contest’s full video has never seen the light of day but it just sounds a bit too outlandish to me. Anyway, music time!
Also, the bar for Hall of Fame membership will be lowered from 10.5 pts. to 9.5pts., since it’s harder to accrue as many points under this modified system.
Song 1: Luxembourg
“Dès que le printemps revient” – Hugues Aufray
Opening the contest is this seemingly out of place ballad from Luxembourg. Despite sounding Spanish, the lyrics fall straight in line with the apparent tradition of early French-language entries having themes of nature and love; here, Hugues connects the return of springtime to the loss of a woman whom he shouldn’t have let go. He thinks about her more and more as “the evening become warm” and her memory occasionally makes him “want to die.”
The subtle twist of tragedy to the story is very appreciated and relates well to some of the more melancholy tones of the guitar and trumpet, which are put to very good use in the music. In fact, the melody builds up emotion very well into the key change, which signals a change in the lyrics from dealing with an outer conflict (the loss of his love) to an inner conflict (how he feels at the time). It’s very effective.
Listening to the live performance without seeing the performer was a bit odd but tolerable. It sounded like he definitely had trouble with some of the higher notes after the change and even with a few notes before that. As far as chanteurs go, Hugues isn’t one of the strongest. Still, it’s a distinct and quality start to an evening that is sure to align with those adjectives.
Live: 6 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 9 | Preference: 17
Total: 9.77 pts.
Song 2: The Netherlands
“Jij bent mijn leven” – Anneke Grönloh
That streak of goodness didn’t last very long. Not only is this song utterly annoying but it’s also mind-bendingly stupid. The lyrics portray Anneke as a doe-eyed lover who knows, knows, that the person she’s in love with is “lying and cheating” but she’s fine with that because they’re her life. Instead of doing the reasonable thing and leaving this lecher, she makes the decision to forgo any future sense of security or self-worth for a one-sided love. It’s shockingly vapid, especially for a period of time where so much was poetic. Terrible.
The melody, while more tolerable, still isn’t great and sounds far too sugary and further cements this song’s role as fodder for the feeble-minded. This key change is much more of an OKC and just degrades the quality of the song even more. I can’t stand it. At least Anneke sounded strong on the recording. It’s nice to find some sort of bright spot in this pile of shit.
Live: 8 | Lyrics: 0 | Music: 3 | Preference: 2
Total: 2.57 pts.
Song 3: Norway
“Spiral” – Arne Bendiksen
Right off the bat, this song has the huge advantage of not being a carbon copy of the last. There are some similar themes but they’d never be confused, which is phenomenal for Norway. The song itself doesn’t set my world on fire, but does a few decent things. Lyrically, Arne is professing his happiness at feeling alive, likening himself to a “floating balloon.” It’s all quite superfluous and repetitive except for one verse where it’s implied that he’s losing his mind as his “his brain is like an empty shell.” Rather annoyingly, the idea is just dropped and never developed.
The music is a sprightly affair, with heaps of rhythm and joviality. In many ways, it resembles a few jazz standards from the 30s, namely “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” There’s just an unshakeable feeling of movement and happiness. Adding the strings was a subtle but highly effective touch. There’s honestly nothing bad to say about it.
As a vocalist, Arne was highly competent and had a fantastic voice for this sort of song. The higher register of his voice worker very well with the subject matter and he just really did a good job. However, I’d prefer for him to stay off the stage and write songs, because that’s where his true talent lies… apparently. All I can say for certain is that he is the most heroic elevator occupant I’ve known. 😉
Live: 9 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 8 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.89 pts.
Song 4: Denmark (hosts)
“Sangen om dig” – Bjørn Tidmand
Even though the adage goes “don’t rest on your laurels,” I must say that I would’ve enjoyed “Dansevise 2.0” far more than this. This is supposed to be “the song about” Bjørn’s love so if that’s the case, she must be totally mental because there’s not enough coherence between the verses to paint a connected picture. One bad example of this is the verse “the poets write so many times about the power of love, but even the most wonderful songs don’t say everything,” which tries hard to be philosophical but just ends up saying nothing. But, at least it says more than one thing and doesn’t just repeat itself ad nauseam.
This string of chipper music is starting to wear thin but like the last song, the little touch of Parisian accordion just lifts everything and functions as a great distraction from the rest of the piece. Another OKC leaves me wanting some more deviance from an era that’s supposed to be fantastic and glorious. Heck even a key change going down would be better. It’d be something different, at least.
The performance of the song was okay but Bjørn’s voice didn’t have the same richness possessed by the last two performers. That’s not necessarily what was necessary for this song but it would’ve done a lot to combat the sugar rush provided by everything else. I think I’ve had my fill of sweetness for a while.
Live: 7 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 7 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.51 pts.
Song 5: Finland
“Laiskotellen” – Lasse Mårtenson
Now I’m just bored. There’s not too much about this song that is outwardly interesting, since the melody seems to lack any sort of spontaneous touch or hint of whimsy anywhere. It simply plods along with its painted-on smile doing absolutely nothing for nobody. However the lyrics do have some interest; it’s basically an ode to the Lazy Sunday, when you don’t have to do anything and the “idlers are singing.” So it’s essentially my life’s anthem. Not. Seriously, though, I do like how relaxed the atmosphere is to match the message, but it just laid back a bit too much and now the lounge chair has flipped over.
Like his predecessors, Lasse sang well and had the advantage of not being as reedy as the last singer. Still, this song really didn’t test his abilities well, so it’s hard to render a verdict on his strength. However, it’s a fact that I’m not too thrilled with the quality of the first five songs.
Live: 8 | Lyrics: 5 | Music: 4 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.34 pts.
Song 6: Austria
“Warum nur warum” – Udo Jürgens
Alright Copenhagen and DR, pack it up, we’re done. Obviously nothing else can be better than this. Nevertheless, let’s dig in to a masterpiece. First, the piano introduction is absolutely mesmerizing and heartbreaking. And when it was obvious that it was a good idea (the realization probably took all of five seconds), Udo ran with it throughout the composition and made it the epitome of melancholy. Even when the rest of the orchestra comes in, that bittersweet feeling is carried expertly by the other instruments but never so much to distract from the original chord progression. After maneuvering all that, the melody manages to navigate through a totally distinct section in the middle before handling a key change with utter tact and wit. The violins almost sound like they’re crying and then, Udo’s piano and voice to end the song. It’s simply spellbinding in every sense.
Then there are the lyrics, where a jilted Udo is, in the midst of a bitter separation, pleading for an answer as to “why” their love didn’t work. That’s his only question and it haunts him throughout his life, as he doubts “why flowers bloom so beautifully” and focuses on “when they will fade and die.” At the aforementioned key change, he repeats the line “before you leave me, turn your head back and the give me the answer- ‘Why?,’” to which the music adds a powerful air of desperation and emotion. Despite that, they’re simple lyrics, restating honeyed words like “often I hear your words: ‘I will be yours in eternity’” that give the story a raw edge. These are equally beautiful.
Finally, the former two would be nothing without the performer himself, who just elevates everything to a whole new level. Udo’s voice was just perfect for this song with this message and melody and then he injected his own feelings and intensity into it, which made it beyond stellar. The cracks of the voice and trembling notes just can’t be achieved without having a piece of the performer in the song. Fully awesome. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than giving this song the only score it deserves, a perfect 12. Vielen dank, Österreich! This might be top five all time, certainly top 10. 😀
Live: 10 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 10 | Preference: 20
Total: 12 pts.
This contest’s average jumped from 2.00 to 2.75 just like that. Just FYI.
Song 7: France
“Le chant de Mallory” – Rachel
Oh! How sad, both in the fact that this song isn’t as good as the last and that I misconstrued the lyrics. The latter is a cause of the fact that Mallory is a common girls’ name so it wounded like this was a song about a lesbian relationship. But alas, the note on the bottom of the Diggiloo page set me straight and I was left a little empty. Still, there’s a little scandal involved, since the Michael Mallory of the song was married when he and Rachel had their Irish tryst, which is the theme of the song; she recounts the facets of their love in between searching for “their summer love song.” It’s cutesy, simple, but a tad boring. I like it, though.
The music is incredibly forgettable, though. Without actually listening to the piece, I can’t remember anything about it, other than the fact that there was a piano. Now that it’s playing, there’s a very common sound, in that it feels very period appropriate. That’s not a bad thing and neither is the key change, which marks a tense shift in the story. It works well.
As a singer, Rachel carried the song but didn’t add anything special to it. It’s fine as a technical effort but leaves something to be desired. I don’t love this song but I really do like it. Finally, there’s a change for French fortunes of the past millennium.
Live: 8 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 5 | Preference: 14
Total: 8.4 pts.
Song 8: United Kingdom
“I Love the Little Things” – Matt Monro
The cheapening of the evening recommences with this song, sadly. While simple lyrics are often better than ones that are weighted, these just feel too meaningless. This style really only works when singing about something that could easily be complicated and undecipherable but the message of “I love you and I’m lucky to have you” either needs to be expanded upon or hidden behind platitudes. The choice for this song, therefore, is neither smart nor endearing, as the chosen lyrics sound bland and obvious.
Music-wise, this hides the total lack of development in the lyrics with two OKCs, both of which were completely unnecessary. The proto-Beatles sound is a good sign for this song, as it manages to stay somewhat relevant but not for ESC in general (that’s totally a personal preference). The guitar is the “highlight” here.
As expected for vacuous British entries, the singer is almost always great at making the best of a terrible song. Matt is no exception, with an airy jazz voice akin to that of Michael Bublé. Every note was absolutely crystal clear and he really made the song tolerable. Any extra points will surely be for him, because I can’t stand the song.
Live: 9 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 4 | Preference: 8
Total: 5.31 pts.
Song 9: Germany
“Man gewöhnt sich so schnell an das Schöne” – Nora Nova
Word salad, must we really meet at this time? Alas, this song is a black hole for lyrical development. Like it’s contemporaries of the 2000s, the chorus is heavily featured in this song, with short little bursts of a story about Nora’s relationship ending. It’s a new level of uninteresting. However, there’s a tiny bit of irony found in the line “treue, treue, welch grosses Wort” which translates to “faithfulness, faithfulness, what a big word” since the German word that’s 12 letters long in English is shorter than the word for “big.” But that’s just me speaking.
The music is quick and awakening without sounding overtly poppy like the British entry. Without any key changes, this piece manages to move proceedings along swiftly without drawing too much attention to itself. Translation: it’s not memorable in the slightest but does its job. Nora has the same problem in that I can remember that she sounded good but I can’t actually remember her voice. Oh well, this’ll still won’t sink into “awful” territory. Good for you, Germany.
Live: 7 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 5 | Preference: 9
Total: 5.66 pts.
Song 10: Monaco
“Où sont-elles passées” – Romuald
This is another instance of myself doing a 180 with the meaning of the lyrics. At first, the “forbidden fruit” line made me think that he was converted. Then I thought a little harder and came to a very different conclusion; a call girl seduced him and they subsequently fell in love. Using Eve and the Serpent as a metaphor was a great choice and good indication of less than honorable intentions but the clincher was the final verse, in which Romauld admits that the idea “seemed mad” at the time but the “nostalgia will be worth it,” referring to the “lost first loves” of the girls who will never see their clients again. It’s tastefully done and almost too subtle for its own good. So it’s just my cup of tea.
The music seemingly channels the spirit of yé-yé and Monaco’s last entry, the fantastic “L’amour s’en va” but mashes it together with something akin to “T’en va pas,” the Swiss song for 1963. The result is and odd amalgamation that actually works quite well but is marred by some UKCs (unnecessary key changes). Otherwise the piano meshes very well with the surprisingly light strings and the overall atmosphere is very relaxed without giving away the plot of the lyrics.
Like seemingly everyone, Romauld sang wonderfully. However, had the singer had a huskier, seedier, darker quality to his voice, the song as a whole might’ve been improved by tying everything together. Ah well, it doesn’t really matter too, too much. This is another enjoyable and thoughtful song from lovely Monaco. I’m a fan.
Live: 8 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 7 | Preference: 15
Total: 9.09 pts.
Song 11: Portugal
“Oração” – António Calvário
Compared to what Portugal will do in the future, this is a strongly misleading début effort in that it’s surprisingly anonymous. This unfortunate feature is most present in the music, which has absolutely no points of interest, except for an OKC that was necessary to maintain any interest in the song, whatsoever. I have a vague memory of flutes and piano but other than that, I’m drawing a blank. Lyrically, the situation isn’t too much better. Basically, António has hurt (or as the Diggiloo translator put it, “hurted”) his love and he’s asking for God’s forgiveness. The constant pleading with the higher power isn’t appreciated by me and neither is the final verse, which is the most secular of the bunch. At least there’s that common Portuguese flair to lighten things up.
Vocally, António was quite strong, lending a very resolute tone to the song. But like preceding Monaco, it doesn’t feel like the right fit for the message of a desperate sinner. They probably should’ve just swapped songs, both would’ve been better off as a result. Sadly for the fourth-best country by average, this song just won’t cut it. It’s a shame.
Live: 7 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 3 | Preference: 8
Total: 5.14 pts.
Song 12: Italy
“Non ho l’età” – Gigliola Cinquetti
It’s all about youth with this song. Musically, it’s very fresh, relying on a harp’s arpeggio and sporadic bursts of “Dansevise” guitar (who said copying in ESC was new?) and sharp piano chords. Every third verse, things intensify as the whole orchestra joins the party but it’s really not necessary, in terms of the story, which has Gigliola telling some man that she “doesn’t have the age,” the wisdom or experience, to be in a relationship with him. She assures him that “someday, all her love will be for him,” but in terms of development, that’s it. Most of the lyrics are repeated. Surely they could’ve found something else to talk about, like the lead-up to her confession or the aftermath of the revelation. This is just boring.
However, it’s not like Italy won for nothing, because Gigliola was totally phenomenal onstage. She sounded mature beyond her years and her voice alone probably secured her crushing victory (kicking, crushing, could it be more obvious that I’m talking about the shape of the country? It could? I know…). That being said, I don’t see the appeal in this song. It’s the first time I’m truly amiss to a song’s victory.
Live: 10 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 6 | Preference: 11
Total: 7.2 pts.
Song 13: Yugoslavia
“Život je sklopio krug” – Sabahudin Kurt
Subtlety is a quality that is frequently appreciated in a Eurovision entry but this just takes it too far. Like I’ve been saying all night, there’s nothing that sticks out about this song. Sure, there’s a pleasant instrumental break about 105 seconds in but that’s all. Some of the lighter touches like the flute were smart but that’s it. The lyrics are far more interesting but also less conclusive. Sabahudin observes that “lif coming full circle” has trapped the natural progression of things and has made everything equal. Seasons would stop changing and those who changed would be isolated, like he would become a “thinking blue stone, alone on the shore.” They’re poetic but blurred, unable to form a totally conclusive message. But in this case, that’s a benefit and I enjoy it.
As a singer, Sabahudin was strong enough but too clinical for my taste. He didn’t add anything to the song and his presence only served to transmit the song from pen to viewer. That might be a bit harsh so I’ll try and soothe the sting with the fact that I love his name. And aside from the lyrics, it’s the only thing I love about this entry.
Live: 7 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 4 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.86 pts.
Song 14: Switzerland
“I miei pensieri” – Anita Traversi
Okay, now we’ve gone straight from subtle to downright boring. Could this song be any more demure? The lyrics have Anita confess her love to her distant friend via a cloud that illuminates them with the sun and makes them “star words.” They’re very cutesy lyrics but carefully executed to attain some balance between reality and fantasy. However, they’re pretty heavy and need some sort of light and bouncy melody to move them. And, predictably, it’s not here. Instead, there’s a very typical-sounding, orchestra-heavy piece in the way that just drags on and on like an anvil. It’s highly irritating and a huge damper on the lyrics.
Anita’s performance was nice but, again, a bit generic for my taste. She really did do a good job with the song and fit right in with the character of a woman fancifully and subtlety informing her lover of her feelings. I’m certainly not over the moon about this song, but I am drawn to it somehow. At least it’s sweet, I guess.
Live: 8 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 3 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.37 pts.
Song 15: Belgium
“Près de ma rivière” – Robert Cogoi
I’m puzzled about this entry. On one hand, it’s somewhat plodding but otherwise it’s just adorable. The drum was a big aide to the melody, which really needed that pick-me-up. For the most part, though, it was quite conventional but enjoyable. Lyrically, Robert is waxing poetic about how he and his love shared precious moments “near his river” of love, most likely and how alone with each other they were. Unlike some other songs of the evening, this manages to walk the line between fanciful and simple expertly and sounds rather nice.
Robert was a little reedy for my ear but there was nothing outwardly wrong with his performance. He seems to be par for the vocal course, I’m happy to report. The sweetness of the evening has finally cracked my shell and I’ve given into this song’s appeal. You’re lucky, Belgium.
Live: 7 | Lyrics: 7 | Music: 5 | Preference: 14
Total: 8.06 pts.
Song 16: Spain
“Caracola” – Los TNT
And that’s how to end strong. The lyrics improve on the precedent set by Belgium and draw a metaphor between Nelly’s heart and a “conch” shell, in which her lover’s voice is trapped. In the chorus, she questions “why he saved her” and “changed her heart” into something his conch. It seems like this could be a sly way of saying that she truly was saved, since she reconsidered her whole idea of herself and how worthy she was of love. It’s surprisingly deep and very intriguing.
Musically, it was surprisingly zippy after the initial verse. Having the brass drive the composition was a nice change of pace from the usual piano and the accents from the rest of the orchestra were lovely additions. Overall, there was a sea-like feeling in that there was something serious happening in the midst of some chaos. It felt like Nelly was singing on the bluffs overlooking a violent sea. To have music do that is a very good sign of quality work.
And finally, at the end of the show, we have another singer who’s dripping with personality and emotion that’s ready to be injected into a song. Nelly sounded absolutely gorgeous and authentic, with a perfect tone in her voice that channeled the doubtfulness of the lyrics. Even the backings, which were the first of the night, I believe, were stellar and added to the performance in their own way. This certainly was a high note to exit upon and I’m elated to have experienced it.
Live: 10 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 9 | Preference: 17
Total: 10.63 pts.
Average score: 7.425 pts.
Hall of Fame Entrants: 3
My Favorite Song: Austria (1st)
Technically Best Song: Austria (1st)
My Least Favorite Song: The Netherlands (Last)
Technically Worst Song: The Netherlands (Last)
Compared to the fantastic 1963, ’64 is sort of blah. The lack of video was less of a hindrance that I thought it would be but it didn’t help anything. The stage photos looked interesting but could’ve been distracting with the staircase right in the middle. Austria was a huge highlight and, combined with Spain, made for a surprising evening. Lotte was an adorable host, even if I couldn’t understand her 75 percent of the time. Like Jacqueline Joubert from 1961, her radiance moved past language barriers. Talking of hosts, hopefully you enjoyed Gigliola Cinquetti because she’ll be taking over as mistress of proceedings for the next year of 1991 (along with Toto Cutungo)! But first, we’ll be making a quick rest stop and take another look back at the first 10 contests of this project. See you in a few days.