Eurovision Song Contest 1958 (Hilversum)

3. Eurovision Song Contest

Hilversum, Netherlands

March 12, 1958


The third Eurovision Song Contest in 1958 was held in the AVRO Studios in Hilversum in the Netherlands. It was the first year that the contest was held in the country that had won the contest the previous year, a rule that would prevail. The United Kingdom withdrew that year, but as Sweden became the second Scandinavian country to participate, there were still ten participating countries. Together with 1956, this was the only year in Eurovision history that no song was performed in English. According to the Dutch commentator “55 million viewers all over Europe” watched and listened to the contest that year.

The song from Italy was the 25th performed on a Eurovision stage. The 24 coming before it and the over 1000 coming after it could not achieve what it did: Domenico Modugno’s “Nel blu di pinto di blu” is still the most successful Eurovision song. Under the title “Volare” It went on to win the Grammy for “Record of the year” and “Song of the Year” at the 1st annual Grammy Awards in 1959. It spent 5 non-consecutive weeks atop the US Billboard Top 100 and was covered by countless artists among them Dean Martin and the Gypsie Kings. The song is a ballad in a dramatic chanson style with jazz elements. Modugno sings about his feelings when he is with his lover, which resemble flying. The song’s title “Nel blu di pinto di blu” (“The Bluest of Blue”) describes the color of the sky while he is flying. Modungo performed the self-penned song with enthusiasm and passion. The jurors did not sense the hit they had on their hands. Behind France and Switzerland, “Volare” only came 3rd.

The Netherlands sent the previous year’s winner Corry Brokken to the contest. Having won the contest in 1956, Lys Assia had also returned to compete in 1957. However, this did not turn into a tradition. Corry Brokken was the last winner trying to defend her title until 2011 when Lena tried the same for Germany. Maybe Brokken’s last place set a bad example for later winners. Brokken is the only artist to have come first and last at the Eurovision Song Contest. In 1957 she performed a typical chanson. In “Heel de wereld” (“The Whole World”) the she sings that she wants to tell the whole world her “secret”. She never says what her secret is, but the French version of her song entitled “Toi mon coeur, tu sais” (“You My Heart, You Know”), may give a clue.

The winner of the evening was France which sent André Claveau who performed a lullaby-chanson. “Dors,mon amour(“Sleep, my love”) is a lullaby for Claveau’s lover. He tells her that they have “all the time to love, tonight” and that she is “protected by his arms” that surround her. While many of today’s Eurovision fans may say that the lullaby did its job for them, the jurors in 1958 liked it a lot and awarded it 27 points. However, the song is one of the least popular and known Eurovision winners.

As usual, Luxembourg found its representative abroad. The Belgian singer Solange Berry performed the chanson “Un grand amour” in Hilversum. In it, she sings about a “great love” that appeared unexpectedly. By the end of the song, this love has also ended and she claims that it is not a bad thing if a friendship between her and her lover is established instead. In 1960, Berry would enter the Belgian national final, but would lose out to Fud Leclerc (whom she competed with in Hilversum as well). She gave a good and elegant performance. The jurors seemingly did not care: Luxembourg came equal last.

For its first Eurovision participation, Sweden sent Alice Babs to Hilversum. She performed her ballad “Lilla stjärna(“Little Stars”) in a Leksand national costume. There is no studio recording of the song because of a conflict between Babs and the original composer. Ake Gerhard had written the song and given it the title “Samma stjärnor lysa för oss två” (“The same stars shine for the two of us“). As neither the Swedish national broadcaster SVT nor Alice Babs approved of the lyrics, a journalist of SVT was engaged to rewrite the lyrics without Gerhard’s consent. The latter thus prohibited the recording of his composition and the only recording of the song is the Eurovision performance. Sweden started its long and successful Eurovision career with a 4th place.

The interval act that year came in between the 5th and 6th performance to “give the jurors time to take their decision”. The orchestra performed “The wedding dance

After the short intermezzo, the second Scandinavian effort of the evening from Denmark was performed. In her song “Jeg rev et blad ud af min dagbog (“I tore a leaf out of my diary”), Raquel Rastenni apologizes to a lover for the “words she used”, which is why she tears a leaf out of her diary. She askes him to forgive her. During the intro of her performance, Rastenni wrote into a diary she brought up on stage to then tear out a page. During the performance she also continued to look into the book. Rastenni was Jewish and had to leave her native Denmark in 1943 as the country came under Nazi occupation. She fled to Sweden, but could return to Denmark in 1945 and became the countries’ leading ballad singer. Her song came 8th in 1958 only above Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Belgium sent its representative of 1956, Fud Leclerc to the Netherlands. Apart from his singing career, Leclerc was also a pianist (among others for Julie Gréco), accordionist and song writer. In his entry “Ma petite chatte” (“My Little Sweetie”), Leclerc sings about walking in a bad part of town, where he meets the girl of his dreams. The mid-tempo ballad got 8 points from the jurors and thus came 5th. Leclerc would return to the Eurovision stage two more times.

After her good 4th place the year before, Germany sent the popular singer, model and actress Margot Hielscher again. Just like the year before she used gimmicks to visualize the lyrics of her entry. In the song “Für zwei Groschen Musik” (“Music for two pennies”). she sings, that there is a “Miss Germany”, a “Miss Frankreich”, but as there isn’t a Miss Jukebox yet, she wants to take the position. She thus performed the song wearing a crown and with a “Miss Jukebox” sash. She also held up different LP’s when she asks which kind of music (Dixie music, music from the Rhine, Verdi’s operas) the audience would like to hear. No matter what they choose, according to the lyrics for very little money, they will “own a world”. Hielscher could not repeat her result from the year before and only came 7th.

Austria selected the German-Austrian singer Liane Augustin for Eurovision. In the ballad “Die ganze Welt braucht Liebe” (“The whole world needs love”), Augustin sings that the whole world needs love and asks whether that is different for her. She answers her own question negatively saying “No, it can’t be any different”. After their last place in 1957, Augustin’s 5th place was a success for Austria.

Switzerland sent the winner of 1956, Lys Assia for the third time in a row. Assia thus performed all 4 of Switzerland’s first Eurovision entries. Her 4th effort “Giorgio” is about a “weekend” the singer spends with said Giorgio at the Laggo Magiore in Ascona. Assia adds a number of Italian phrases and especially Italian culinary vocabulary such as “polenta” “risotto” and “espresso” to the German lyrics, suggesting that they spent most of the weekend eating. She performed the song with a “grain of salt” and the jurors apparently liked the driving melody despite the rather senseless lyrics: Assia ended her Eurovision career (for now as it seems) with a second place.

After all songs had been performed, the hostess of the evening, Hannie Lips came on stage for the first time to announce in Dutch (later on struggling through the same announcement in English and French) that due to problems with the broadcast in certain countries, Italy’s performance had not been heard in all participating countries and that thus Modugno had to perform his song again.

Once more every country had a 10-member jury and each member could give 1 point to his/her favorite song. During the voting, the French song got 9 out of ten points from Denmark (which seemingly surprised the host) and high marks from Austria. However, before the last country’s (Italy’s) votes, France only lead Switzerland by one point. However, 6 points from the Italian jury to France and only 4 to Switzerland secured the first French victory.

The Austrian spokesperson was much too fast just like the year before and Hannie Lips had to tell him several times to slow down. She also seemed to have some problems with the French language and her own problems made her giggle at times. Incidentally, the highest votes for “Volare” came from Germany (4) and Belgium (4).

In a heavy Dutch accent, the head of the Dutch broadcaster thanked the orchestra and the winning composer and performer in French. Claveau then took the microphone to thank the composers of his song and then performed the reprise of his song.

Here you can watch the entire contest:

Here is the scoreboard:

Place Country Artist Song
1 France André Claveau Dors, mon amour 27
2 Switzerland Lys Assia Giorgio 24
3 Italy Domenico Modugno Nel blu dipinto di blu 13
4 Sweden Alice Babs Lilla stjärna 10
5 Belgium Fud Leclerc Ma petite chatte 8
5 Austria Liane Augustin Die ganze Welt braucht Liebe 8
7 Germany Margot Hielscher Für zwei Groschen Musik 5
8 Denmark Raquel Rastenni Jag rev et blad ud af min dagbog 3
9 Netherlands Corry Brokken Heeö de wereld 1
9 Luxembourg Solange Berry Un grand amour 1

Inspirations: youtube, wikipedia, Klaus Berg – ESC Geschichte(n)

See more Eurovision (Hi)Stories!

13 thoughts on “Eurovision Song Contest 1958 (Hilversum)

  1. Well, now I’m off to comment the next Eurovision edition. And once again, feel free to comment anyone.

    Switzerland: Lys Assia’s last (latest?) attempt was her most interesting. The song doesn’t even sound like a song but more like a vocal practice. But it’s done in such a imaginative, clever way that it actually works really good. Paul Burkhard, the man who wrote Assia’s greatest hit “Oh, mein Papa”, has written a galloping, cheerful song with wonderfully joy infectous lyrics in tourist Italian. (9/12)

    France: A completely different song than “Giorgio”, but in the same standard. It is a smooth, romantic lullaby with a charming and confident deliver by Claveau. It reminds very much of Maurice Chevalier and was rather old-fashioned already back then, but the flow of it has a timeless, soothing effect. (9/12)

    The Netherlands: Brokken would return and defend her title with a song in the same style as “Net als toen”. Once again, we are served a nostalgic, dreaming song performed flawlessly by Corry and her deep, expressful voice. The only minus is the lyrics which are quite generic and doesn’t hold up to the rest of the qualities. (9/12)

    Sweden: Our debut was with a song that leaves me divided. I think that it is a sweet, innocent melody also performed in a sweet and innocent way by Alice Babs. The only problem is that it is a bit too sweet and innocent, and it almost becomes childish in the end. Plus that the lyrics are poor and have a rather clumsy flow. (6/12)

    Belgium: But here comes Fud Leclerc and makes the contest much more adult. After he sung about drowned men in 1956, he sings about how he meets his dream girl in a light district… Despite the bizarre choice of theme, the result is actually rather convincing, mostly because of the clever double meaning in the title, but also for its lively, optimistic performance. Too bad it somewhat loses its charm after a while. (6/12)

    Italy: Now I commit sacrilege by pulling this ESC classic down so far. But “Nel blu dipinto di blu” is not a convincing song for me. It’s much drama and pathos from Mudugno and the lyrics are very fine, but the song lacks the nerve to hit me and the orchestration is somewhat off with its quick changes between verse and chorus. (6/12)

    Austria: The sweeping melody is the best to say about this one. It is enchanting in its flow and very nice listening to, but I’m sad to say that the rest of the song isn’t that much. Liane feels too forced, just smiling for the sake of it. And the lyrics have a really outdated theme (yes, I consider them outdated already back then). You need a much better idea to make the theme of “we all need love” to work for me. (6/12)

    Luxembourg: The typical French chanson you’d always expect from the Francophone countries. But you would also expect a song with more quality than this. The dramatic, longing elements that are so typical of French chansons are surprisingly absent here, and instead we get a rather mismatched performance by Solange which is too unfocused and brisk for this kind of song. (5/12)

    Denmark: The interesting title doesn’t give much of what it promises. The song is, sad to say, a very generic ballad with few ideas and a boring melody. The Swedish papers made fun of the song rhyming “dagbog” with “efterklog”, and though I don’t find the lyrics stupid, they are at least as generic as the rest of the song. (5/12)

    Germany: Margot Hielscher’s second attempt was much weaker than her first. While “Telefon, Telefon” was using a gimmick to make the point of the song more clear, this one relies 100% completely on its gimmick: Hielscher as Miss Jukebox, telling us about all the different songs she can play. There is not much of a song to notice behind this, and the performance becomes tiring rather quick. (4/12)

    To sum it up, this year was much weaker than 1956 and 1957. Most of all, it was a very bland year with too many middle of the road songs. None was hateful, but few were great. They were mostly in the middle.

    • We really disagree on 1958. I haven’t done my new ranking yet but I do not expect my list to be turned upside down once I have done it.

      Here is my old list:

      NL 7/12
      DE 7/12
      BE 7/12
      IT 6/12 (at leat we agree on this classic …)
      LU 6/12
      SE 6/12
      FR 5/12
      CH 5/12
      DK 4/12
      AT 2/12

      Well, I realise that it is pretty close and thus I might come up with an upside down list after all.

      Btw, I hope that you had nice Midsummer celebrations. I have booked the first part of my Balkans trip today (Croatian coast and BiH). I will be off next Sunday. :)

      • Thank you for your own list. Yup, we seem to disagree quite much on this year. At least, we do both agree that it was a very average year.

        The midsummer celebration was made up of tons of herring and strawberries, the two main ingredients for a Swedish summer. :) And a waterfall of rain, of course.

        The “Nostalgija” music video has made me fall in love with the Croatian towns of Split and Dubrovnik. I’d love to visit them one day.

        • When we talk towns, I look forward to Zadar and Sibenik (the Cathedral!!!) most … generally, I am a culture and history guy but I have set my mind on enjoying the fantastic nature they have their too, in particular the Velebit and Biokovo mountains, the Kornati Islands and Telasica and Mljet. :)

          I will take the strawberries, preferably with pepper and a touch of basil. The herring can stay in Sweden …

          • I’m also a guy of humanities and therefore prefer cultural sightseeing in front of nature. But a beautiful landscape is of course great to witness too.

            Eurovision music videos are often an interesting way to get to know sights. Especially Malta, who made complete tourist music videos in the 90’s. But many others too; now I suddenly remembered the beautiful Mostar we see in the video of “Lejla”.

            This is a Croatian favourite of mine: Branimir Mihaljević, who finished third in Dora 1998 with this song, is somewhat of a Croatian cowboy here. :)

  2. It seems to be a contest of very different opinions. Just made my ranking of it, and this is the result.

    9/12: Italy
    8/12: Sweden
    6/12: Netherlands, Luxembourg
    5/12: France, Denmark, Belgium
    4/12: Germany, Austria
    0/12: Switzerland
    Average: 5,20 (one of the worst, with only 2002 and 2006 having a lower average)

    • The points are all over the place between us. Huge disagreement concerning Assia’s romantic adventures at Lago Maggiore obviously. We do all seem to agree though that 1958 was very average overall.

      • I already regreat giving it a zero. But still, I think it’s extremely silly with these Italian phrases. There’s very little musical and lyrical content in it, as I hear it. Lifted to 2/12 ;-)

        • Feel proud then that it was the Danish jury who prevented a Swiss victory. ;)

          P. S. Yay. Was it me who made you change your mind?

          • No, it was myself. I had to admit that it hangs together as a musical entity somehow. So at least a couple of points should be appropriate.

  3. From my first attempt at sailing through ESC history, 1958 actually had the highest average of the four I made it through. The points system was ridiculous, though, so I’m only giving places. (Mind you, this was based purely on a quick listen and skim of the lyrics. Also, I can’t remember anything about the contest.)
    1. Belgium
    2. Italy
    3. Luxembourg
    4. Sweden
    5. Switzerland
    6. France
    7. Germany
    8. The Netherlands
    9. Austria
    10. Denmark
    Now, 1958 is far down in the running order at 41, so don’t wait on an update to this with bated breath. Just a preliminary thing and something which will be a comparison for the next review.

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