The most memorable Eurovision moments of all time

We look back at the songs, the costumes – and the dreaded ‘nul points’ – of the infamous song contest...

Eurovision

by Katharine Wootton |

After the last couple of years we’ve had, there’s something about Eurovision – with all its unique silliness and catchy songs – that feels reassuring.

So how did it all begin? The first Eurovision Song Contest was the brainchild of Marcel Bezençon, a member of the Eurovision Broadcasting Union, formed in 1950 to bring together broadcasters from around Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War as television and radio boomed. Having taken inspiration from Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival, Marcel had a vision for a singing competition, initially called the Grand Prix Eurovision, that would appeal to viewers across the continent.

In May 1956, the first contest was held in Lugano, Switzerland, with each of the seven participating countries performing not one but two songs (can you imagine if they did that now?) before a jury from each nation cast their votes, from one point to the famous ‘douze points!’

In the early years it was a must for countries to sing in their native language until it quickly became apparent that those who performed in languages better known to the judges had a stronger advantage. Soon, artists were performing lyrics that were a bit vague language-wise, from Massiel’s 1968 La La La, to Lulu’s Boom Bang-a- Bang in 1969, to get around it.

In 1973 the rules were changed – a timely move as the very next year Swedish group Abba changed history with their hit English language song, Waterloo.

Abba

From the original seven countries in that first contest, the event soon grew, with a huge boom in the Nineties when the end of the Cold War meant many former Eastern Bloc countries jumped at the chance to take part.

Since then, other non-European countries who are nevertheless members of the Eurovision Broadcasting Union, have joined the party, including Israel, Armenia, Morocco and more recently Australia. From 2004 Eurovision has had so many potential entrants it has held semi-finals to whittle them down.

Over the years, many of the Eurovision traditions have stayed the same – from the parties to the ‘political’ voting, the cheesy victory speeches to the hilarious ‘hello Europe’ moments as each country gives their votes.

But performances have also become grander, more impressive and in some cases, very odd indeed – from Russian knitting nanas to Austrian butter churners, screaming Finnish monsters to the Lithuanians who boldly sang, We Winners (they were not!). Whether you love or hate Eurovision, there’s no doubt it’s an ingrained part of our yearly calendar now and after a year without it, we’re glad to have it back.

I can’t believe they didn’t win!

Some of the biggest Eurovision songs we remember weren’t actually winners but runners’ up. Cliff Richard’s much-loved Congratulations, our UK entry for 1968, is an example, losing out to Spain’s Massiel by just one point. Meanwhile, the most covered Eurovision song, Domenico Modugno’s Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (better known as Volare) and later performed by artists including Dean Martin and David Bowie, came only third in 1958.

A fashion contest, too!

It may be a singing contest but often the outfits are just as interesting, as some of these choices prove...

Elina Nechayeva (2018) – This Estonian entrant certainly made a fashion statement with her dress that, at 52msq, covered the entire floor with projected animations.

Dschinghis Khan (1979) – It didn’t get much more outrageous than this German disco entry which resembled a panto line-up.

Verka Serduchka (2007) – Ukraine took inspiration from the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man for its entry’s spectacularly sequinned outfits.

Bucks Fizz (1981) – Not only did they help us make our minds up to make them the winners, their snazzy rip-away skirts also kickstarted a new fashion trend for Velcro, which sold out within 48 hours of the show.

Sandie Shaw (1967) – Sandie epitomised the Sixties with her choice of shift dress as well as raising a few eyebrows with her decision to go bare foot!

The top 5 most memorable moments

ABBA Waterloo

Bucks Fizz

Concita Wurst

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