Eurovision Song Contest 1963 (London)

8. Eurovision Song Contest

London, United Kingdom

March 23, 1963

The 8th Eurovision Song Contest in 1963 was held in the BBC television center in London. France had won the contest the previous year, but they could not afford to host the event, as was their right, and thus the BBC stepped in once more. The British broadcaster had also hosted the 1960 contest as the previous year’s winner, The Netherlands, could not afford it. In the coming years and decades the BBC would continue to step in for smaller broadcasters, who could not stem the costs of producing such an event. The hostess of the evening was Katie Boyle, who became the first person to host the contest for a second time (after 1960). The 1963 edition was arguably the most controversial in the early days of the contest.

The set-up of the event was one of the many incidents that created discussions and rumors that year. While the mistress of ceremonies, Katie Boyle, the audience and the scoreboard were in one studio, the artists were performing in a neighboring studio. As there were no microphones to be seen during the performances and the props were changed very quickly between songs, many claim that that year some, if not all performances, were actually prerecorded and a playback was used. The BBC and the EBU refuse these claims and explained the absence of microphones as follows: According to them boom microphones (normally used for drama and comedy shows) were employed outside of the camera angle. We will probably never know. More strange things happened during the voting, but more about that later.

The host country, the United Kingdom opened the evening. The charming Ronnie Carroll had already represented his country the year before and had achieved a respectable 4th place, a feat he would repeat on home soil. His “Say Wonderful Things to Me” became a hit on the UK single charts. Carroll performed the song with three backing singers that were drooling all over him during the 3 minute performance. Altogether it looked like a pilot with his stewardesses who are all secretly in love with him. Accordingly, the song is a demand to say wonderful things, such as “I love you”. At the end of the performance one of the ladies even gave him a kiss on the cheek, followed by an excruciatingly long smile.

The Netherlands sent one of their most popular singers Annie Palmen to London. She sang a song about a music box “En Speeldos” . The lyrics deal with the love between a shepherd and a shepherdess, who are figures on a music box and who only through the intervention of a fairy can move closer together and become a couple. Palmen performed the song next to and at times singing at two figures on a music box to visualize the story of her song. The European jurors were not impressed at all: The Netherlands left London without a single point and became the first country to have two “Nil point” result in a row.

Germany sent the internally selected Heidi Brühl, a popular young singer and actress who had had success in Europe and even America. She would become one of the few Germans who would actually make a career for herself in Las Vegas. In London, she performed her entry “Marcel” with enthusiasm, spinning around and smiling into the camera. In the song she tells her lover, said “Marcel”, that he is too fast for her (thank god the German word for fast, schnell, rhymes with Marcel). Marcel is arguably one of Brühl’s less impressive efforts. The jurors agreed: 9th place was the result.

The American television producer Ed Sullivan had discovered the young Israeli singer Carmela Corren and brought her to America. At the beginning of the 60s she gained popularity in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. With “Vielleicht geschieht ein Wunder” (Maybe a miracle will happen), she represented Austria in London. The miracle she wants to happen is her finding love, but she accepts that she may “stay alone”. She was one of the first to perform a bilingual version of an entry in German and English. It didn’t help with the jurors: 7th place for Austria.

In Norway, the national final had a peculiar procedure at that time. The same song was sung by different artists with different size orchestras. In 1963, Nora Brockstedt had won the national final, but could not compete due to scheduling conflicts. Anita Thallaug was sent instead. Her last place with no points was such a disappointment for her, that she did not record the song at all. The only recording is by Jan Høiland, one of the other participants of the national final.

If his song is anything to go by, Italy sent a prime time macho to the contest: Emilio Pericoli had just had a Top 5 hit in the United States with a cover of “Al di là”. The year before he had entered the San Remo festival with the song “Quando, quando, quando”, which today is one of the most popular Italian songs. But back to Eurovision. His entry “Uno per tutto” was also a San Remo entry in 1963 and in it Emilio declares his undying love to Claudia… and Nadia… and Julia… and Laura. While doing so he revealed pictures of his love interests during the performance. The jurors were impressed: 37 points were enough for a Top 3 finish.

Finland sent the young singer Laila Halme, who was also a television presenter. Her song “Muistojeni laulu” (Melody of my memories) is form the perspective of a woman who hears a record that reminds her of a former lover: “Although it is worn out, I play the record over and over again. But my memories will never wear out”. Finland came shared last without a single point. It was Finland’s first but unfortunately far form the last “nil points” result.

The winner of the evening was Denmark. The first Scandinavian country to win also sent the first duo to win the contest: Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann. Under the name “Jørgen Ingmann and his guitar“, the male part of the duo had had numerous Top 10 hits all over the world. The married couple had a clear division of labor on the Eurovision stage: While Jorgen played the guitar on a stool, his wife sang the song. The entry talks about the joys of dancing, especially with a “beloved friend” (Hence the longing looks toward her husband). The melody and guitar passages are setting this love for dance to music. The song has become a fan favorite and Eurovision classic. At the time, however, many felt that it had not won the competition fair and square, but more about that later!

Yugoslavia sent a song composed by Mario Nadelli, one of the best known composers on the Balkans. The performer Vice Vukov had already performed in music festivals in his home country Yugoslavia, but also in Germany, Austria and Poland. The beginning of the entry may today be qualified as an early form of rap. The song “Brodovi” (Ships) deals with the importance of ships in the singer’s neighborhood. Obviously, there were big white sails behind the charming Yugoslav singer. The dramatic performance did not impress the judges and only garnered 3 points.

Just like Austria, Switzerland borrowed a young singer from Israel. Esther Ofarim would become a household name together with her husband Abi Ofarim. The duo even scored a number one hit in the UK and toured the world in the 60s. For Switzerland, she performed the song “T’en va pas” (Don’t go). With her beautifully sung and emotional performance, in which she begged her lover numerous times (seemingly with tears in her eyes and with increasing intensity) not to go. For her effort, she found a lot of support from jurors from all over Europe. In the end she only had 2 votes less than the winners from Denmark, which created a certain controversy.

The first composer of the evening singing his own composition, came from France: The handsome Alain Barrière performed his song “Elle était si jolie” (She was so pretty) with conviction and to a woman standing in front of what can only be a wind machine. The blending of singer and woman are so elaborate that it seems quite impossible that this was done live. In the song Barrière reminisces about a woman he knew, who was so beautiful that he did not dare love her. The jurors liked it and a Top 5 finish was the result.

José Guardiola represented Spain. He was later dubbed the “Spanish Crooner” due to his style and the types of songs he sang. He performed and recorded mostly Spanish versions of foreign songs and reached his maximum fame in Spain and Latin America in the early 1960s. The performance focused completely on the singer, who performed his song “Algo peligroso” (Something marvelous) with fervency. With only 2 points the entry came 12th.

Monica Zetterlund, representing Sweden, was known to audiences not only in Sweden but also in the United Kingdom where she appeared on television and radio shows multiple times. Zetterlund was a singer particularly noted for her jazz work. She began by learning the classic jazz songs from radio and records, initially not knowing the language and what they sang about in English. She went for the melody, rhythm and feeling. She did not have to worry about that on the Eurovision stage. Her entry “En gång i Stockholm” (“Once Upon a Time in Stockholm”) was completely performed in Swedish. Zetterlund had won Melodifestivalen together with Carli Tornehave, but Swedish television decided to send Zetterlund alone. In the end that may not have been a wise decision, while the duo from Denmark won the competition, Sweden came last without a single point.

In Belgium, it was the Flemish’s turn to choose the entry for the bilingual country. Jacques Raymond performed under the Belgian flag in London. The song is based around rhetorical questions, with Raymond wondering why the question “I love you – do you love me too?” is so powerful in the human experience. With 4 points it reached 10th place.

The representative for Monaco was no other than Francoise Hardy, who is today an iconic figure in music, fashion and style. At the time she had already crammed “more success into her few years than do many people in their entire lifetime” as the British commentator put it. Her difficult childhood had made her very shy which shines through the entire performance. At the age of 18, she was also the composer of her entry “L’amour s’en va”. Today, Hardy carefully avoids the topic of her Eurovision participation despite the respectable result: Her shy, but effective performance came 5th.

Luxembourg as so often went abroad to find a representative. This time they found it in Greece: Nana Mouskouri was the first contestant to wear glasses during her performance and became one of the most successful artists that ever competed in Eurovision. Some sources claim she sold over 250 million records in her long career, which would make her one of the best selling music artists ever. Two years prior to the contest, she had had her breakthrough with the German language song “Weiße Rosen aus Athen” (“White Roses from Athens”). In her Eurovision entry, Mouskouri tells her love interest that “by persistently praying” (“A force de prier”) she will make him love her. Her 8th place was justified for the song and did not hamper her future career.

The interval act was an artistic cycling act from Sweden. The biggest controversies of the year occurred during the voting. Each country had 5,4,3,2 and 1 point to award to their Top 5 songs (apart from the own entry of course). The spokespersons were supposed to announce their points in the order the songs had been performed. Norway did not do so and was asked to come back when they would have sorted out their difficulties. The results the Norwegian spokesperson announced at first were: 5 UK, 4 Italy, 3 Switzerland,2 Denmark and 1 to Germany . Before the Norwegian jury was called again, Switzerland was in the lead and 2 points ahead of Denmark. Now the Norwegian jury announced these results: 5 UK, 4 Denmark, 3 Italy, 2 Germany and just 1 for Switzerland, which meant that Norway’s neighbors Denmark were now the first Scandinavian winner. Furthermore Monaco had to be called again as they had awarded one point too much. However, this didn’t change the final result. Switzerland felt that is was betrayed for victory. At the end of the 90s, however, the original score sheets of the Norwegian jury appeared and proved that the second set of votes was the correct one.

The BBC controller of television service, Stuart Hall presented the awards to the singers and the composers from Denmark. He added a notable thought: After praising the human ingenuity and technical progress that had allowed to broadcast the program to all over Europe, he added: “Perhaps like me, you have been happy to think that for once we were able to enjoy the achievements of modern science without that chill of fear which so often accompanies the miracles of technology today.”

Here is the full contest:

Here is the scoreboard:

Place Country Artist Song Points
1 Denmark Grethe & Jørgen Ingmann Dansevise 42
2 Switzerland Esther Ofarim T’en va pas 40
3 Italy Emilio Pericoli Uno per tutte 37
4 United Kingdom Ronnie Carroll Say wonderful things 28
5 France Alain Barrière Elle était si jolie 25
5 Monaco Françoise Hardy L’amour s’en va 25
7 Austria Carmela Corren Vielleicht geschieht ein Wunder 16
8 Luxembourg Nana Mouskouri A force de prier 13
9 Germany Heidi Brühl Marcel 5
10 Belgium Jacques Raymond Waarom? 4
11 Yugoslavia Vice Vucov Brodovi 3
12 Spain José Guardiola Algo prodigioso 2
13 Netherlands Annie Palmen Een Speeldoos 0
13 Norway Anita Thallaug Solhverv 0
13 Finland Laila Halme Muistojeni laulu 0
13 Sweden Monica Zetterlung En gang i Stockholm 0

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

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4 thoughts on “Eurovision Song Contest 1963 (London)

  1. I’m moving off to 1963, one of the best ESC years. Since there are two posts about this year here at ET, I’ll post this review on both places.

    Denmark: The best Danish entry ever and one of the best ESC songs ever. A really enchanting little piece, with a fantastic presentation. I love the suggestive verse, and how it builds up to the chorus and the lyrics are summery and illustrative. Everything matches, and the Ingmann couple were great as well. (12/12)

    Switzerland: And this is the best Swiss entry ever. Once again a great composition by Voumard/Gardaz and this one has a very effective melody and wonderful lyrics. The repeating title line throughout the song creates a magnificent atmosphere and it is also delivered extra well by Ofarim. The way she delivers the line in almost a trembling way in the end works in a surprisingly convincing way. (12/12)

    Monaco: When you listen to the typical French chanson, you often find it very old-fashioned in its sounds. This is a completely different one. The young chanson star François Hardy delivers an astonising entry; rough and pessimistic in a suprisingly non-sentimental way, but with a yet carefree melody. The obvious contrast is genious and striking. (12/12)

    Sweden: Maybe it’s a bit unfair to rate this so high, because I have learned to like this throughout the years, while I’ve only heard many of the other songs three or four times. But with that said, this was our first great entry. Monica’s cool performance of this poetical, jazzy description of a dark Stockholm covered in snow is just so irresistible. (10/12)

    Luxembourg: I have a very weak spot for songs that just grows bigger and bigger towards the end. That lifts the song and makes the whole musical experience more interesting, at least for me. And with the camrea nailed at Nana Mouskouri’s expressive face, this one works really well. The jubilant and cheerful ending is more or less happening in the singer’s mind, thinking of her day of glory. Powerful and impressive. (10/12)

    Yugoslavia: We are not too spoiled when it comes to these kind of songs up here in the North. The poetic, romantic lyrics are splendid and the song is delectable. There is also a touch of sentimental longing in Vukov’s performance. I have nothing more to add about that. (10/12)

    France: The restrained and quiet melody is very pretty but also very well-working to deliver the message of the song. It is a sad, vulnerable story put together with music and Alain expresses everything in a classy and fine way. The simple piano accompaniment is finally icing this chanson cake. (10/12)

    Belgium: There is a very clear charm in this very simple but yet effective song. The orchestration is distinct and works very well together with the deep, wonderful voice of Jacques Raymond. The lyrics are also charming, and also playful in a rather naïve but at the same time mature way. A great lift from the country who gave us “Ton nom” the year before… (9/12)

    Spain: When you look at it first, the song and the lyrics don’t really match together. The song expresses passion, intensity and fire while the lyrics are a pretty description of the beauty of a child. But maybe if you look one step beyond, they melt together in a convincingly perfect way. It’s a jubilation from heart and mind and the passionated (and great) orchestration just tell you the thin line between the different joys of the heart. (9/12)

    Austria: It’s a romantic song with a longing theme. It’s also interesting since it was the first song to bring some English lyrics into it, which I’m personally is somewhat against. But nonetheless, the lyrics are actually quite interesting, dealing with a preparation for a life without love, and matched with the melody the result is pleasant. (8/12)

    Norway: The song that no one wanted to do, because everyone was sure that this one would flop, which it did. But it was actually kinda undeserved because the song was not bad at all. A bit anonymous, which is a death sin in ESC, but also charming and filled with pretty lyrics. (8/12)

    The Netherlands: While the UK entry was cheesy/cute, I think this one is more charming/cute. It’s a little fairytale being told here, with a neat, pleasant and innocent orchestration added to it all. The only downside for me is Annie Palmen’s exaggerated smile that simply doesn’t fit the song, and it also steals some of my attention. (8/12)

    Finland: Finnish melancholy again, and that’s what I really love. Unfortunately, the melancholy in this one is not as great as they usually are. Especially the lyrics, with too much lalala for my taste, are quite underwhelming in the end. But it’s a nice composition and indeed at least some melancholy are touching my heartstrings. (7/12)

    Italy: Oh God, this song has annoyed me for so long. The cabaret tune in it is going on my nerves, but now when I’ve studied the details of it, I have started to see some positive parts too. Especially Emilio is great here, and the performance is really nice. He gives a charming profile to all of it, and it makes the whole song easier for me to enjoy. :) (6/12)

    Germany: Not one of the best German entries, if I may say so. There are some elements in this that I like but altogether I think that the song is a little bit too light and non-interesting to care for in the long run. (5/12)

    United Kingdom: The two songs by Ronnie Carroll were by far the worst UK songs in the early years. And it was not his fault. It’s simply that they are forced, false smiling, jolly tunes without anything interesting. The lyrics are somewhat cute/cheesy at the same time while the melody is syrupy and shallow. (4/12)

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