Going further back than ever before, we stumble upon a never-mentioned part of my history as a Eurovision fan. We’ll get into that in a moment but it’s time to introduce the second French win in the fifth contest ever.
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London, United Kingdom
Date: 25 March 1960
Host: Katie Boyle
Back in December 2012, I attempted to do this project starting at the very beginning in 1956. I had no scoring system and no notes, just basic ranks with too many points to allocate. After a few contests, I gave up hope at finishing and stalled right after finishing 1960. So as a first, I can compare my final results from now and then. As for the contest, aside from the results kerfuffle in 1956 that might’ve seen Germany take over 1957 hosting duties for Switzerland, this is the first time that a winning broadcaster declined to host after winning. Since the Dutch had won twice in four years and just hosted the contest in 1958, the BBC stepped in once NOS declared that they lacked sufficient funds. That makes this the first contest hosted by the United Kingdom, which has hosted more often than anyone else with eight contests under its belt.
Right, time for song, as this introductory paragraph is far too long.
Song 1: United Kingdom (Hosts)
“Looking high, high, high” – Bryan Johnson
Oh I remember this one. But how could anyone forget, especially with that ultra-repetitive hook introducing the chorus. As a pop song, this is a big win. However, that ends the goodwill section of this review because I can’t find too many positives about this. First, the sugary sweet melody has pretty much nothing to create balance in the music, which grates on me quickly. Actually, Bryan’s deep husky voice opposes the music nicely but when paired with the cutesy lyrics, the whole thing starts to sound a little ridiculous.
Most of this song’s strength comes from its lyrics, which manage to be fun yet concise and descriptive. The chorus wears thin after a while but the verses are strong enough to make up for that. Although I must say that Bryan’s chipper delivery of the line “I shall die, die, die…” was sort of hilarious.
At this point in history, staging really isn’t too big a deal but the almost starchy, buttoned-up delivery of this song felt right; it contrasted nicely with the lyrical content. Vocally, Bryan was very strong, if a tad out of place in such a sprightly song. Overall, it’s not hateful like many British entries but I’m not over the moon for it.
Live: 8 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 4 | Preference: 12
Total: 7.35 pts.
Song 2: Sweden
“Alla andra får varann” – Siw Malmkvist
What a fantastically modern little tune this is. Akin to Denmark’s 1963 winner, this song manages to create something very contemporary and emotive, except that “Alla andra…” aims to be brighter while “Dansevise” opts for a much more subdued energy. That being said, both Scandinavian songs hit the marks for modernity, timelessness, and energy.
Musically, the song ebbs and flows expertly, without any bumps from the quick scale at the beginning to the quiet woodwind section during the one-minute long instrumental. That smoothness is achieved through an understated cymbal/drum combination that plods throughout the song. Equally large and small when appropriate, Sweden really gave us a treat with this.
The lyrics, which are an introspective look at a relationship that’s going nowhere, don’t match up with the theme of music at first but, unlike the British song, go further to align. While the majority of the song is a wistful look at the love that could be had, the song ends with the lines “maybe also you and I, like all the others, we will have each other,” leaving the story open to a positive conclusion that doesn’t necessarily have to result in a Romantic traditional relationship.
While it would be surprising for Sweden to screw up the visual part of an entry today (2008’s Charlotte notwithstanding), this is really the only realm where this song underwhelms. That big drapey dress was such a bad move and the camera work, when it transitioned back from the orchestra onto an unexpecting Siw, made for an awkward showing. At least her vocals were stellar and utterly apropos. Aside from the two most recent Swedish entries, this is my favorite song from the grande dame de l’Eurovision. Tack Sverige!
Live: 10 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 10 | Preference: 20
Total: 11.1 pts.
Song 3: Luxembourg
“So laang we’s du do bast” – Camilo Felgen
An appropriate word for this song is “deep.” Granted the zippy arrangement with the piano manages to create a nostalgic yet engaging atmosphere, but it’s the lyrics that pack the punches here. While it comes off as a typical love song, there are some immediate differences. First, the “you” is never personified. The entity is never given any characteristics, emotions, or human traits of any kind; we see it only from Camilo’s perspective. Then, its departure is made final in the middle of the song and the lyrics make it clear that it’s truly gone forever in the first line of the new section. With those two clues, there are two possibilities as to the context of this song. The first is that he’s singing to his dead lover (“going to the north,” “some things will go wrong in life”) and the second is that he’s lost his youth (“times of happiness pass by much too fast”, “as long as you are there, so love everything was fine”). Both are plausible, rich, unique, and gorgeous topics for a song. The fact that both can be found in the same is simply outstanding. Personally, I’m of the second camp because I feel like I can somewhat empathize with the sentiment but I love both.
We only briefly touched on the music but it deserves equal attention. Sure, at the beginning, it felt a bit heavy-handed. However, at the key change, which served a purpose to signal the tense shift and add to the drama and emotion in the lyrics, the piano was introduced and it should be no surprise that I am a sucker for staccato rhythms like the one here. The sappiness is almost fully replaced with nostalgia and the whole package just works.
Finally, Camilo looked very put together and professional. He also sounded great and was a perfect singer for this song, maybe a bit more so that Siw from Sweden. His aged voice had a certain depth to it that really accentuated the meaning of “So laang…” All in all, this is a little surprise that was terribly underrated 54 years ago.
Live: 10 | Staging: 9 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 9 | Preference: 20
Total: 11.7 pts.
Song 4: Denmark
“Det var en yndig tid” – Katy Bødtger
Why?! We were on such a high this year and then this came along and UGH. I feel done. Dramatics aside, what the hell is a song like this doing here? Sweet Katy is crooning about wanting to return to the times when crinolines were popular. Based on everyone’s favorite wiki, that would mean that she wanted to go back at least 90 years. Am I the only person who finds that level of conservatism excessive? In comparison to what Petra said in one of her “ESC History” segments at the 2013 contest regarding the “sexually liberated Danish people,” it’s mind-boggling to go from a song with a 12-second kiss to a song that highlights asking mother for dating permission and strolling in a dresscage as the perks of being a courting young person. Then in two years, this same insane country wins with an incredibly sensual and modern song! If Denmark sustains this level of variation in the 1957-63 period, we should be expecting the first schlager, some proto-Beatles rock, and an early version of death metal in the contests we’ve not heard yet. I can’t wait. /s
Seriously though, this song is mustier than a 200-year-old antique shop. Everything about it, from the lyrics, to the dated music, to the energy displayed by Katy felt tired. She looked like a grandma onstage twirling a parasol like she’d just lost her mind in the sanatorium! This was, with the exception of the live vocals, an unmitigated disaster.
Live: 8 | Staging: 0 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 1 | Preference: 2
Total: 2.25 pts.
Song 5: Belgium
“Mon amour pour toi” – Fud Leclerc
This marks a return to quality while failing to live up to the standards set by the Swedish and Luxembourgish songs. Musically, it’s a bit all over the place with no rhyme or reason. It starts off as a classical affair while the middle experiments with more jazz-like touches. However, nothing in the lyrics would signal this change. Combined with the lack of smooth transitions between these sections, the music becomes the least likeable part about the whole entry.
The lyrics aren’t great but do have some pleasing imagery. Using the sand, sky, and sun as a metaphor for a clear and untainted love was nice, if a bit trite and the crispness of the lyrics stood out. That doesn’t stop it from being repetitive and a bit bland but the attempt was good. Also, the two stanzas in the middle that focused mainly on creating a scene were nice but wholly out of place.
Fud carried the song well with a lot of gusto, even if it came off as a bit too much at times. The clearness of his voice worked well with the theme of the song. All things considered, this is anything but a bad song that just doesn’t do anything.
Live: 8 | Staging: 5 | Lyrics: 6 | Music: 4 | Preference: 10
Total: 6.45 pts.
Song 6: Norway
“Voi Voi” – Nora Brockstedt
Easily one of the most recognizable tunes from the first five contests, the song did a few things quite at odds with the rest of the lot. First, staying in minor while keeping the jazzy tempo was distinctive and no other song was as fast on the night (so far, at least). Second, the “voi voi” hook was instantly grabbed and would’ve meant huge voting numbers today.
Lyrically, it’s a retelling of a Sami love song where the girl enchants her lover with a provocative plea to join her. I could say more about this one but the lyrics are so refreshingly simple, that I’ll just quote them. She says that “Saturday night will be nice” and that “a wonderful dream will become reality.” That’s mostly it.
The music is the main selling point of this entry and it’s done incredibly well. The bracing quickness of the orchestra gives this song plenty of well-executed pep that’s simply unmatched. The same goes for the radiant Nora herself, who manages to charm in her Sami-inspired outfit. Really, that’s all I have to say about this entry, which is just a wonderfully simple song.
Live: 9 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 10 | Preference: 18
Total: 10.5 pts.
Song 7: Austria
“Du hast mich so fasziniert” – Harry Winter
Let’s get right to it. There’s nothing outwardly good or bad about this entry. Everything feels somewhat mediocre. Musically, the piano feels out of place, even with the lyrics taken into consideration. Also, the whole arrangement is about as interesting as damp toast, making the three minute run time feel like three days. There’s very little in the way of variety or growth, as the piece feels very stagnant and too comfortable being entrenched in its familiar string arrangement.
The lyrics deal with a semi-interesting subject matter; suppressed love. So much could’ve been done with this type of song both in terms of story and construction. Rather than do anything daring, Harry bemoans how he lost the love he never shared, repeating the chorus too many times to be interested to count. There’s very little in terms of development here too, as it comes off as whiny and meaningless.
Harry’s solid performance of this song was probably the best thing about the Austrian entry for 1960, as he really drove the song and made it seem interesting, the same way that calling vanilla ice cream “Malagasy Vanilla Bean Deluxe” enhances it. Other than him, it was dull, dull, dull. In many ways, that’s the worst thing to say about a song; even the really awful ones leave some sort of impression. Too bad for this one that I have nothing else to say.
Live: 9 | Staging: 4 | Lyrics: 2 | Music: 2 | Preference: 7
Total: 4.65 pts.
Song 8: Monaco
“Ce soir-là” – François Deguelt
Jesus Christ Monaco, PLEASE come back to us. We promise to forget all about 2004-2006, ‘kay? Anyway, this is a fantastic song. The music is complex, building off of that exotic drum for energy and movement. Otherwise, it retains this veil of mystique that is just begging to be torn down. I love it to pieces.
(I know I do this a lot, but bear with me) While the music creates a proto-James Bond feel, the lyrics couldn’t be further from that. The line “In your arms, I understood that from that night, life would never have attraction for me far from you” is a bit clunky but (as I’ve chosen to believe) means that this is a gay relationship. Aside from how he’s in the other’s arms, which is usually done with a man holding, the latter clause represents how life will give him few opportunities to share his love for another, save for this one time. With that in mind, the rest of the song’s allusions to an unfulfilled opportunity make perfect sense, such as “I’ve never been able to free myself from a crazy dream that I cherished,” and “maybe you didn’t understand that you tore my childhood dream by leaving me.” And even without that “controversial” entendre, the lyrics are still poignant and stunning, just by themselves.
Performance-wise, François fell victim to a few awkward facial expressions but delivered the song with ample gusto and emotion. Unlike the Austrian song, this felt deeply believable and so much more interesting. I really don’t have anything bad to say about this song. It’s just another fabulous Monégasque song.
Live: 9 | Performance: 5 | Lyrics: 10 | Music: 9 | Preference: 19
Total: 10.65 pts.
Song 9: Switzerland
“Cielo e terra” – Anita Traversi
Honestly, I wish I could be nicer to this song because a lot of what’s going on is stuff I like. The jazzy overtone plays well with the modern cut of the lyrics and the whole mood is very enjoyable, à la 60s Riviera relaxation. However, there’s one fatal flaw; it’s so slow! I listened to this song twice and I always thought it would pick up steam but it just never did.
With the negative out of the way, it’s time to focus on everything else, starting with the lyrics. Anita’s story is one of mistake and acceptance, as she comes to realize that the lover whom she thought was “on the road to the one who loves you” was just not working out. Rather than be blue, though, she doesn’t bother with sadness and emerges into “heaven and earth” back on the road. Using themes of brightness (her nickname for her lover is “sun,” her heart is “colored with his name”), the song keeps a feeling of optimism that the two will amicably part ways and she’ll be happy again. As a perpetual optimist/realist, this pleases me greatly, no matter how much I swoon over beautiful descriptions of human misery.
Musically, the jazz influence compliments the modern (woman leaving man without malice) theme incredibly well and makes the song soar as high as it can. Otherwise, it’s light on the melodrama, paring back as much as possible to let Anita’s voice shine through. And when everything else that’s good is competing for attention, it’s better to just step away for a bit.
Finally, let’s discuss Anita’s magnificent performance. Her soprano-leaning voice did wonders for a song that benefits with some drama injected into the performance. Unlike her story, this was a perfect marriage between song and artist. The only other negative might be that the camera was incredibly static, thus adding to the dragging quality of the song. Aside from those two gripes, there’s nothing I don’t like about this Swiss jewel. Bravo!
Live: 10 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 8 | Music: 9 | Preference: 15
Total: 9 pts.
Song 10: The Netherlands
“Wat een geluk” – Rudi Carrell
Normally, this kind of song would be a lock to do well with me. Sadly this one gets quite a bit wrong, namely the lyrics and performer. Starting with the former, they suffer from one of the cardinal sins; repeating a 90-second snippet twice. There’s absolutely no development possible and it makes the song go by slower. Aside from that, they’re simple nature-inspired lovey-dovey lyrics, so any sort of uniqueness that could’ve saved them is gone. That being said, a few lines present in the first half of the song only seem wonderfully self-aware. Rudi pretends to be us and has us ask “is that trite?,” to which the answer is a huge “yes!”
The music certainly is the best part of the package but still has one flaw. That would be the bongo drum, which presents a nasty double-edged sword. While it provides an eccentric flair to the piece, it also comes off as grating and out-of-place. As the song goes on, it stands out more and more to the point where it gets annoying. I don’t know if this was the fault of the performer or composer but it should not have been that pronounced. Excluding that slip up, it’s a bouncy affair with plenty of pep and joviality to go around. That’s the clincher for me.
(Now here’s a first on the night) Performance-wise, Rudi was not up to par. Aside from not being a spectacular singer (good but not great), he felt way too serious for this song. Immediately, something felt off about this song and when it got to the “la la la” refrain in between the two lyric halves, it became clear. His energy just was not right and, technically, he sounded flat. Otherwise, the staging was quite nice, with frequent yet understated camera changes and a horseshoe that, while often indiscernible, framed the stage perfectly. To sum it up, this song actually flips the expected strong points on their heads and scores well in an odd way.
Live: 6 | Staging: 7 | Lyrics: 4 | Music: 7 | Preference: 13
Total: 7.5 pts.
Song 11: Germany
“Bonne nuit ma chérie” – Wyn Hoop
It seems like we’re experiencing a freefall from quality. Like the Swiss song earlier, this song just sounds like it’s waiting to die. However, the brightness of that piece is replaced with a half-hearted Spanish mystique that ends up being very creepy. The shadowy overtones of the properly-executed drums and guitar are quite nice on their own and the piece overall is good.
Alas, something’s got to give, and here, the lyrics fall flat on their face. While it seems to be harmless, lines such as “even in your dreams, I’ll always be with you” and “please dream of me” set off the Creep-o-Meter. That whole theme of never leaving this woman and whispering to her in seductive French has some heavy overtones of rape, which shuts the door on this song faster than a hurricane.
Normally the performance review would be here (in short, it was a strong performance with no interesting features) but those lyrics are enacting a “veto” of kind against this song’s score. If it ends up being higher than I feel it deserves, the whole score is downgraded. This’ll probably happen maybe 20 times at most, since I have such low standards but this is completely unacceptable.
Live: 8 | Staging: 3 | Lyrics: 0 | Music: 7 | Preference: 0
Total: 2.7 pts. reduced to 1.8 pts.
Song 12: Italy
“Romantica” – Renato Rascel
This is a total sleeping pill. We’re again given a tired piece of music that develops very little, outside of a UKC, and lyrics that fail to inspire. Starting with the latter, the lyrics had a tolerable simplicity to them (“I love you and want to give you everything because you love me”) and would be okay in another song, but therein lies the problem; every component of the song was over simplified. An unchallenging story, melody, and performance all just cancel each other out and the song becomes meaningless and boring.
With that said, the music is predictably shallow and filled with some moderate highlights. Again, this would’ve worked with something else but here, it almost feels incomplete. The same with Renato, who gave a performance that was far too understated to matter. Annoyingly, changing even one of these things would’ve been enough to elevate the entire song. It just seems that this will be the poster child for mediocrity’s failure.
Live: 7 | Staging: 6 | Lyrics: 3 | Music: 3 | Preference: 9
Total: 5.55 pts.
Song 13: France
“Tom Pillibi” – Jacqueline Boyer
We’re ending on a brighter note, in no small part thanks to Jacqueline’s joyous performance of a bright song. The march style of the melody is singular on the night and is a breath of fresh air, especially against the preceding wall of boredom. And considering that the subject of the song seems to be a larger than life king, that sort of style is very apropos.
Lyrically, the simplicity is right on the money, telling a varied story with many details and an engaging way. In a nutshell, Jacqueline fantasizes about getting into a relationship with a playboy, Tom Pillibi, who travels the world and has a few secrets and flaws, the most major of which is a penchant for lying. Plenty of charming name drops (Scotland, Montenegro, corals, etc.) and eagerly girlish gossip voice make this somewhat strange in a time where every song was seemingly a competition to fit more into three minutes.
Finally, like all winners, the lynchpin was the performer and Jacqueline was more that up to the task. All of 18 years old, the innocence of her voice fit in perfectly with the naïve girl taken advantage of in the lyrics. Granted at some points, she did get a little sharp, but it all worked out in the end. Finally, the visual aspect of this entry was strong, with varied angles and a theatric singer leading the way. Another French victory in real life translates to another good finish for la grande nation. Quelle surprise!
Live: 9 | Staging: 8 | Lyrics: 9 | Music: 7 | Preference: 17
Total: 10.05 pts.
At first, I thought that 1960 could be a year to finally rival 1963 at the top of the leaderboard. Sadly, the strength of the first six songs was just an illusion. However, this year does have the record for its proportion of Hall of Fame entrants to competitors; four songs from a lot of 13! Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Also, here’s a list comparing this run through to the one from 2012.
1. Luxembourg (+6) | Monaco
2. Sweden (+2)| Norway
3. Monaco (-2) | Switzerland
4. Norway (-2) | Sweden
5. France (0) | France
6. Switzerland (-3) | The Netherlands
7. The Netherlands (-1) | Luxembourg
8. United Kingdom (+1) | Denmark
9. Belgium (+1) | United Kingdom
10. Italy (+1) | Belgium
11. Austria (+1) | Italy
12. Denmark (-4) | Austria
13. Germany (0) | Germany
Well at least past me was able to identify Germany as shit. Seriously, it’s nothing too interesting, aside from the ascent of Luxembourg, which probably came with my advanced age. 😉 Anyway, another really good edition to add to an interesting Eurovision history book. Talking of history, next time we’ll look at the last year of the second millennium as we go to Israel and Eurovision 1999! See you there.