Eurovision Through the Years – In this 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 1979 edition.
Eurovision Song Contest 1979
After Israel’s victory the year before, the contest moved outside of Europe for the first time in its history. It was held at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. Out of fear of terroristic attacks by the PLO, the security measures were extremely tight.
Especially for the contest, Israel had moved the introduction of color television forward: It was originally supposed to be introduced three years later. The presenters of the evening were Daniel Pe’er and Yardena Arazi. Arazi had represented Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1976 as part of the female vocal trio Chocolat, Menta, Mastik. She would also return for Israel in 1988. At the time she was the only presenter to return as a singer (now joined by Sakis Rouvas and Zeljko Joksimovic).
Turkey had already selected an entry for the contest in Jerusalem. Maria Rita Epik and 21. Peron were supposed to fly the Turkish flag with the song “Seviyorum“. However, due to immense pressure from Arab countries, who did not approve of a Muslim country participating in a contest held in Israel, Turkey eventually withdrew from participation. Apart from Turkey withdrawing, Yugoslavia and Malta did not return and the number of participants was thus 19.
The contest started with an almost 6 minute-long video of sites in Jerusalem. The hosts started their welcome speech in Hebrew, then continued in English and French, naming the running order, last year’s winner and more in all three languages. The show was broadcast to all participating countries, Hong Kong, Romania and Iceland. The postcards featured typical stories (Max und Moritz for Germany for instance) or the usual stereotypes (Leaning Tower of Pisa for Italy) of the participating countries.
First up was Portugal that once again sent the winner of the Festival da Canção. Manuela Bravo, the daughter of a known fado singer performed her song “Sobe, sobe, balão sobe” (“Rise, Rise, Balloon Rise“) in a yellow shoulder free gown and with 4 backing singers each dressed in a different color. In the mid-tempo song, Bravo sings that her life is carefree. She says that she sends a balloon to the sky to ask for a place to live with her lover. The song came ninth, which is one of Portugal’s better results.
Italy sent the popular band Matia Bazar to Jerusalem. They competed with the love song “Raggio di luna” (“Moon beam”) in which the lead singer tells his lover that something as simple as the beaming moon can make things more enjoyable, including their own relationship. The female lead singer performed in a wine red outfit with leggings and the first part of the band’s name written on her blouse, probably to remind the juries whom to vote for. The juries were not too impressed, however, and Italy only came 15th.
Tommy Seebach started his long-lasting Eurovision and Dansk Melodi Grand Prix career in 1979. In his first and most successful of three participations for Denmark he sang the song “Disco Tango”, which is about a girl who dances to disco music at night but listens to Beethoven during the day. The song is moderately up-tempo and a mix of the music styles named in the song, for instance it includes South-American influences. Seebach performed the song sitting at a piano in an all brown suit and with ‘big hair’. The song was a big hit in Denmark and the juries liked it: Denmark came 6th, their best result since their win in 1963.
Ireland sent a very happy man to Jerusalem. Cathal Dunne had won the Irish national final with his song „Happy Man“ against former Eurovision participants Tina Reynolds and Red Hurley and future Eurovision legend Johnny Logan. The self-penned song is moderately up-tempo and in it Dunne sings about his lover who had made him a “happy man” and brought the “sun inside” and now “the whole world can see: I’m a happy man”. For the performance Dunne wore a vest and Renaissance shirt, showing his chest hair. The chorus expresses the joy Dunne feels and he showed his enthusiasm through his body movements as well. The juries liked it and Ireland came 5th.
Finland was represented by Katri Helena. Today, she is the best selling female artist in Finland after Madonna. In the song “Katson sineen taivaan” (“I’m Looking at the Blue Sky”) she sings to her lover saying that he is the “brightest star” for her. However, she also sings that the “child of the earth keeps looking for love, sadness in her eyes” and asks “Will I ever find peace?” She wore a simple shoulder free, white dress and performed quite well. Arguably, the Finnish language diminished the chances of the song as some of the pronunciation did not fit the atmosphere of the song. The song only came 14th, but is remembered in Finland as one of Helena’s signature songs.
Monaco sent Jean Baudlot with his song “Notre vie est la musique” (“Our Life Is Music”). Baudlot later became popular as a composer for other artists and also for music for computer games in the 80s. He competed under his alias Jean Vaguener. He co-wrote the song with Paul de Senneville, who had also written the Monegasque songs in 1977 and 1978. The entry is an up-tempo song about the power of music, in which the singer expresses his love for “songs from Great Britain and America” from “Harlem” and “Paris”. He says he likes it most when a girl likes him due to his songs. Monaco only came 16th , however. For 25 years the song would be Monaco’s last Eurovision entry, as the principality withdrew from the contest after 1979.
Greece sent Elipda, one of the most successful Greek singers in the 1970s and 1980s. She performed a song about the philosopher Sokrates. The song “Sokrati” refers to the thinker as being a “superstar”. His trial and forced suicide is mentioned as well and the song links the people of Athens to Pontious Pilatus, as they did nothing to prevent his death. Her and her backing singers performed in gowns resembling those of Ancient Greece. The many references to Ancient Greece went rather well with the juries who voted the song into 8th place.
Switzerland sent the trio Peter, Sue and Marc to Eurovision for the third time. After their French language entry in 1971 and their English language entry in 1976, they now performed in German. (They would later perform an Italian song in 1981 and thus set a record for singing in four different languages). The three Eurovision veterans were supported by another trio: Pfuri, Gorps& Kniri, a Swiss folk and blue music band accompanied the singers with unusual music instruments. They used garbage bags, a garden hose and a watering can. One of them had metal lids strapped to the side of his knees and used them as an instrument as well. All these devices had produced some misunderstandings at the airport, as the Israeli security officials did not understand how they should be used to play music. The song the two trios performed together is called “Trödler und Co” (“Second handers and co.”) and deals with how they got the idea to play music with every-day objects: “In old things lie the best ideas sometimes, we make them into musical instruments and that’s how our band came together.” Incidentally, they were conducted by popular German child music composer Rolf Zuckowski. The unusual performance got 60 points and thus came 10th.
Germany sent another Siegel/Meinunger composition. The band Dschinghis Khan had been cast especially for the Eurovision Song Contest and performed a song of the same name. The disco tune is about the titular Mongol warrior. The lyrics praise his military “About his enemies he only laughed” and sexual power “He fathered seven children in one night”. The performance was just as excessive, with one of the band members dressed in a Dschingis Khan costume, dancing around and trying to attract the attention of the female band members. The song caused some stir in Germany as many felt that a song promoting violence and military strength (“They carried fear into every country” ) was not an appropriate representation of Germany in Israel. Some radio stations even banned the song on the basis that it promotes violence and alcohol consumption. Despite these concerns, Israel awarded the song 6 points and to this day it is one of the most popular Eurovision songs in Israel, Germany and even Russia. On the night, the band came 4th. They later had a big hit with the song Moscow, a number 1 hit in Australia among others.
The winner of the evening was, for the fourth time in Eurovision history, the host country. Israel sent the band Milk & Honey supported by popular female singer Gali Atari to their own contest. They sang a melodic praise to god called “Hallelujah”. The performance was rather special as Atari and the band members entered the stage one by one instead of all at once. The song became an international hit and is often called a “modern Jewish classic” with many people in North America recognizing the song, even though they do not know Eurovision. The song was also performed by all participants of the 1999 contest also held in Jerusalem at the end of the broadcast as a tribute to the victims of the war at the Balkans. Atari’s flawless and crystal clear vocals as well as the unique performance and harmonies charmed the judges and Israel won with 125 points, though only 9 ahead of Spain.
France sent a former Eurovision winner to Jerusalem: Anne Marie David had won the contest in 1973 for Luxembourg with Tu te reconnaîtras. With the song “L’enfant soleil” (“The Sun Child”), she tried to repeat her triumph. The song is a blues and jazz influenced ballad written by Eddie Marnay, who also penned Céline Dion’s first French hits. David performed the song in a classy, light yellow dress. Her vocal power and emotional intensity gave the performance a very special atmosphere. In the song she sings of a “Man from the North” (her being the titular sun child) who appears at her father’s door to ask for accommodation. Her father gives him work “at the old oak tree”. She is fascinated and seemingly falls in love with the stranger: “our love made the earth tremble”. She then sings that men come to take him away. He tries to flee but “the trap has already closed around him”. He is taken away with “his hands above his head”. The strangers “They thanked my father and then they left”. The song ends with David calling for the return of her lover. The song rests ambiguous about the identity of the “man from the North” and the men that take him away and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In a tight race with Israel and Spain, France finally came third with 106 points.
Belgium sent singer-actress Micha Marah to Jerusalem. There had been some tensions between Flemish broadcaster BRT and Marah about the Belgian entry. Marah would have preferred to perform another song from the national selection entitled “Comment ca va” and thus never recorded a studio version of her actual entry “Hey Nana”. She performed the song in a blue dress and without visible discomfort. In the song she suggests marriage to her lover and predicts that he will be her “henpecked husband” soon. The judges apparently agreed with Marah when it came to the song and Belgium came shared last with 5 points.
Luxembourg sent the American born singer and actress Jeane Manson. She had been the Playmate of the Month in the August 1974 issue of Playboy in the US. She then moved to France and had success as an actress in soap operas and as a television presenter. She performed her song “J’ai déjà vu ca dans tes yeux” (“I have already seen that in your eyes”) in a shoulder-free golden top and a black skirt with a slight American accent. In the blues influenced ballad she tells her lover that she sees romantic visions (such as a family) in his eyes. Luxembourg came 13th.
Sandra Reemer, alias Xandra returned to the contest for a third and last performance (tying with Corry Brokken for the most appearances for the Netherlands). Her entry in Jerusalem “Colorado” was unfortunately the least successful of her attempts. In the mid-tempo song, she asks her lover to fly to Colorado in the US with her as “the dollar is not very expensive anymore”. To save even more money she also suggests to rent a “second-hand horse”. Xandra and her backings all wore black clothes with lots of yellow, violet and black triangles attached to them. She performed the song with happy dance moves including an “ACDC leg” part. 12th place was probably a disappointment for Xandra, but the song became a hit in Sweden.
Sweden sent the popular singer and actor Ted Gärdestad to Jerusalem. Ted had come to fame in Sweden at an early age and was dubbed a musical wonder child in the media for his ability to play almost any instrument. He also worked together with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus , the male members of ABBA (his first four albums were produced by Andersson ans Ulvaeus) . Due to the ABBA-connection and his fame in Sweden, expectations were high after Ted won Melodifestivalen (after three unsuccessful tries in the 70s). His entry “Satelit” is a mid-tempo rock song with some Toto influences. He performed the song in Swedish, sitting at a piano and wearing a woolen pullover. In the song he sings “”I feel like a satellite, high in the sky, and now I understand how small the world really is” and compares himself and his lover to the moon and the earth, that attract each other. The song failed to impress the judges. With only 8 points, Sweden experienced a big disappointment. Ted’s result actually was the second worst ever for Sweden at the time.
Norway sent the popular singer-songwriter Anita Skorgan. 1979 marked her second of three Eurovision appearances (plus two as a backing singer). Skorgan was married to another popular Norwegian singer-songwriter: Jan Teigen, with whom she performed her third Eurovision entry in 1982. Her entry “Oliver” is directed at the titular man, a former lover, whom she sees at a disco. In the song she tells him that she will give him a second chance and will dance with him. The chorus thus includes seemingly unending repetitions of “Dance with me Oliver”. After her 14th place two years before, she now came 11th.
Black Lace for the United Kingdom looked and sounded like a typical Britpop band of the time and were often compared to Smokie. So much so, that Smokie actually filed a complaint saying that the Eurovision entry “Mary Ann” was a rip-off of Smokie’s song Oh Carol. The case was dropped when Black Lace proved that the notation of the two songs was different. The song is about titular Mary Ann and the singers problems to express his true sentiments to her. The judges gave the song 73 points and it came 7th.
Austria sent the arguably most highbrow entry of the year. The musical and jazz singer Christina Simon was selected and sang the song “Heute in Jerusalem” (“Today in Jerusalem”). The song was the first (but not last) to mention the host city in the lyrics. The song is a jazz and blues influenced ballad. The lyrics call for “peace in Jerusalem” and for “sense against the nonsense”. The lyrics use powerful imagery to depict the current situation in Israel: “In this time of bitter fruits Friends, be vigilant , To fight against the crying and tears“. The lyrics became all the more thought-provoking as only five days prior to the contest the historic Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement was signed. Despite all the good intentions, Austria only got 5 points and thus came last. She had considerable success as a songwriter all over the world (for instance, writing the Starship US number 1 hit “Sara”)
Spain sent a native of Peru. Betty Missiego had achieved some television success in Peru before moving to Spain in 1969 to pursue a singing career. She received Spanish citizenship in 1972. She was internally selected by TVE to represent Spain, probably due to her experience with music competitions, having represented Peru in the Festival de OTI in 1972. In her song “Su canción”, Missiego is an “old woman” who has lived a lonely life and now finds joy in children, who ask her to sing with them. Missiego was accompanied by 4 children as backing singers. They sat and danced around Missiego who thus seemed like a strict teacher (her hair style didn’t help either). In the last part of the performance the children unrolled banners with “thanks” inscribed in English, French, Hebrew and Spanish on them. Years before the introduction of a minimum age of performers, the children could play their charm on the jurors. Spain received many votes and came second just behind Israel.
The voting was the longest until that point as all the votes were repeated in English, French and Hebrew. The voting was very close. Israel gained a lead in the beginning, while Spain managed to catch up and France was never far behind the two leaders. Before the last voting from Spain, Israel was one point behind Spain. Israel could win the contest when Spain attributed 10 points to Milk & Honey and Gali Atari. The audience thus broke out in cheers. Rumor has it that Spain actually only awarded Israel so many points as they did not want to host the next edition.
Here is the full scoreboard:
|1||Israel||Milk & Honey with Gali||Hallelujah||125|
|2||Spain||Betty Missiego||Su canción||116|
|3||France||Anne-Marie David||Je suis l’enfant soleil||106|
|4||Germany||Dschinghis Khan||Dschinghis Khan||86|
|5||Ireland||Cathal Dunne||Happy man||80|
|6||Denmark||Tommy Seebach||Disco Tango||76|
|7||United Kingdom||Black Lace||Mary Ann||73|
|9||Portugal||Manuela Bravo||Sobe, sobe, balao sobe||64|
|10||Switzerland||Peter, Sue & Marc||Trödler & Co.||60|
|13||Luxembourg||Jeane Manson||J’ai déjà vu ca dans tes yeux||44|
|14||Finland||Katri Helena||Katson sineen taivaan||38|
|15||Italy||Matia Bazar||Raggio di luna||27|
|16||Monaco||Laurent Vaguener||Notre vie c’est la musique||12|
|18||Belgium||Micha Marah||Hey Nana||5|
|18||Austria||Christina Simon||Heute in Jerusalem||5|
Inspirations: youtube, wikipedia, Klaus Berg ogae.de – ESC Geschichte(n)