Eurovision Through the Years – In this new series I will (in irregular time intervals and non-chronologically) present a year of the Eurovision Song Contest. We will look at songs and singers, hosts, gossip, interesting stories and funny incidents. Today we will take a close look at the second edition from Frankfurt am Main. You can find all reviews we already published here: Eurovision Through the Years: The (Hi)Story.
The second Eurovision Song Contest was held in the “Großer Sendesaal des Hessischen Rundfunks” in Frankfurt am Main in West Germany. Rumor has it, that Germany got to host the contest because the German entry “Im Wartesaal zum großen Glück” by Walter Andreas Schwarz had come second behind Switzerland in 1956. Other sources claim that the participating countries were originally supposed to take turns organizing the contest. The increasing number of participants made this impractical and from 1958 on, the winner of the previous year got the right to host the event.
The hostess of the evening was Anaïd Iplicjian, of Armenian descent, spoke German throughout the show with only a few exceptions during the voting. The rule that the viewers had to be greeted in the official languages of the EBU, English and French had not been established yet. In her greeting Iplicjian already set the musical theme of the evening: The best “chansons” and “schlager” would be vying for the Eurovision crown.
The second edition introduced some changes that are still valid today: As Austria, Denmark and the UK joined the contest and thus there were now enough songs to fill one evening, each country could only enter one song into the competition. Furthermore the jurors of the participating countries could not vote for their own country. The rule that only soloists were allowed to perform was also abolished. The first duo in the contest’s history came from Denmark.
The second edition of what is today Europe’s most popular television show, was still mostly a radio program. However, the number of television sets in European households had increased since the previous edition. Luckily, contrary to the first contest, video material has survived.
The first entry of the evening was from Belgium. Bobbejaan Schoepen sang a song about a tune that travels up and down a street and is sung by everyone that hears it. “Straatdeuntje” (“Street Tune”) was thus the title of the song. Schoepen performed several whistling solos in front of a picture of cobblestones. Rumor has it, that he only learned what song he would sing when he arrived in Frankfurt and only rehearsed it once before his performance. The jurors were not too impressed: 8th place with 5 points.
As they would do so often in the coming decades, Luxembourg sent a French singer to compete in the contest. Danièle Dupré performed a melancholic chanson about the pain she felt after her lover had broken up with her. Accordingly, the title of her song was “Amours morts (tant de peine)” (Dead love, so much pain). Despite the respectable 4th place she achieved, Dupré retired from the music business in 1958 as she felt that rock and roll was eclipsing the music she performed. She turned to interior design, where her most notable work is the terminal of the São Paulo airport.
The first entry for the United Kingdom was performed by Patricia Berdin. Her entry “All” was only 1 minute 52 seconds long and is thus the shortest performance ever at a Eurovision Song Contest. “All” was also the first ever Eurovision entry in the English language which would come to dominate the contest later on. Bredin sang with conviction and in soprano (?), but the jurors were not impressed. The glorious days of the UK at Eurovision were still ahead: In 1957, the Brits only got 6 points and 7th place.
The time the UK had not used was filled by Italy. “Corde della mia chitarra” by Nunzio Gallo was, with 5 minutes 9 seconds, roughly 3 minutes longer than the British entry and is the longest performance ever at a Eurovision Song Contest. The beautiful guitar solo by Piero Gozo at the beginning alone is almost one minute long and the (only) highlight of the performance. The rest oft he song is quite forgettable, however. Gallo asks the strings of his guitar to play for him as he has realized that his former lover is no longer interested in him. The jurors had 7 points which was enough to reach 6th place. The excessive length of the entry was one of the reasons to limit a song to 3,5 minutes (later to 3 minutes)
Austria sent Bob Martin with a moderately up-tempo number to its neighboring country. Martin asks his little pony (The songs title is “Kleines Pony” (Little Pony)) where they should travel today. Despite the rather modern orchestration, the senseless lyrics probably destroyed any chance of Austria making a good debut. With one point form the Netherlands and two from the United Kingdom, Austria came last and the first participation was thus a portent for future Austrian failures at the contest.
Germany sent the winner of their national selection. The popular film actress (until 1994 she appeared in over 50 movies) and singer Margot Hielscher presented what can be seen as the first gimmick performance in Eurovision. She is singing to a telephone (“Telefon”) and says she enjoys receiving news (from her lover). During the performance an actual telephone rings, she picks up the telephone receiver and answers in French, English, German and Spanish. Can you imagine someone singing to his smart phone or netbook in Eurovision today? (Remember San Marino 2012??). Incidentally, the song was written by one Ralph Maria Siegel, father of the German Mr. Eurovision Ralph Siegel (again San Marino 2012!!). Hilscher came 4th in the end and the gimmick box of Pandora was opened.
France sent Paule Desjardins with a typical chanson. “La belle amour” (“How else could a song from France be called” as Mrs. Iplicjian put it) is a praise of spending time with one’s lover in a wonderful restaurant on the outskirts of a city. The change of feelings is compared to the change of seasons. Desjardins performed the song with excessive facial expressions. Despite of because of that, the jurors liked the song and it came 2nd.
The first Scandinavian entry in the contest was from Denmark. Birthe Wilke & Gustav Winckler were also the first duo ever to perform on a Eurovision stage. Their “Skibet skal sejle i nat“ (“The ship is leaving tonight”) is a love duet in which a woman says goodbye to her husband, who will go on a sea voyage on said ship. The two acted out the lyrics of the song for the entertainment of the few television viewers: Gustav wore a captain’s uniform, while Birthe was dressed in what can only be assumed to be a rain coat. He shows her a picture of hers that he kisses and then puts into his pocket. He then also gives her a ring to remember him by. At the end of the performance the two exchanged the longest kiss in Eurovision history: 11 seconds as one member of the production staff had allegedly forgot to make a pre-arranged sign that the kiss should stop. In the prude 50s this created somewhat of a scandal in some countries. The second gimmick performance of the evening also did well: Top 3 for Denmark and a good start for Scandinavia into a bright Eurovision future.
Switzerland sent the winner of the previous year. Lys Assia had won the 1956 with her song “Refrain” which reserved her a place in the audience of many Eurovisions still to come (most recently in 2012). Her third performance at the Eurovision stage (in 1956 she had performed both Swiss entries) was not as successful as her first one. Her slow nostalgic chanson “L’enfant que j’étais” only came 8th.
The Netherlands sent their representative from 1956 again: Corry Brokken performed her song “Net als toen” (Not as it used to be) smilingly and cheekily. She sings to her husband and asks him, whether he remembers their early days as a couple, suggesting that the romance they once had is now gone. The beautiful orchestration with a violin solo and jazz elements as well as Brokken’s fresh performance apparently convinced the judges: The Netherlands won the competition with 31 points by a big margin. Brokken returned the following year and came last. She is thus the only artist to have come first and last.
For modern eyes, the voting was quite peculiar. In front of the camera, two men carried in a table with two telephones. The hostess had a personal assistant who established the connections to the ten juries. Each country had designated 10 jurors and each of them could give one point to his/her favorite song. Pointing at a map of Western Europe behind her, Anaïd Iplicjian also pointed out that „the map is supposed to portray the big distances the telephone connections have to travel”. She had some trouble with the language changes typical for a Eurovision voting. For instance, she addressed the Danish jury in German. Copenhagen quite obviously did not understand her and then answered in English. To which Anaïd Iplicjian said quite surprisedly “Oh, do you speak English?”. Furthermore, after speaking to the French jury, she called “Francfort” in French and added “Well, they do speak German, don’t they”. Exactly one hour after the start of the program, the Netherlands were announced as the winners. The head of the Hessische Rundfunk thanked Brokken in Dutch for her beautiful song.
Watch the full contest:
Here is the scoreboard:
|1||Netherlands||Corry Brokken||Net als toen||31|
|2||France||Paule Desjardins||La belle amour||17|
|3||Denmark||Birthe Wilke & Gustav Winckler||Skibet skal sejle i nat||10|
|4||Luxembourg||Danièle Dupré||Tant de peine||8|
|4||Germany||Margot Hielscher||Telefon, Telefon||8|
|6||Italy||Nunzio Gallo||Corde della mia chitarra||7|
|7||United Kingdom||Patricia Bredin||All||6|
|9||Switzerland||Lys Assia||L’enfant que j’étais||5|
|10||Austria||Bob Martin||Wohin kleines Pony ?||3|
Inspirations: youtube, wikipedia, Klaus Berg ogae.de – ESC Geschichte(n)