A Brit’s Guide to Eurovision

JUMP TO:
Australia isn’t in Europe! Why is it in Eurovision?
Everyone should sing in their own languages
But all the songs are crap
We should just pull out
But no one watches Eurovision!
It’s all political
But what about Brexit?
Everyone hates us
Who chooses the UK’s song?
We should just send Robbie Williams
It’s too gay
Why does the UK go straight to the final?
Why can’t Scotland be in Eurovision?


Australia isn’t in Europe! Why is it in Eurovision?

Short answer: because it wants to be.

You don’t have to be in Europe to be in Eurovision. You have to have a TV channel or network that’s a paid-up member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), be prepared to have the rights to broadcast all of the Contest (including the semi-finals), and send an entry to compete. Israel has been in Eurovision for years for this reason. Australia is a bit different – its SBS TV network is an associate member of the EBU (not a full member, like the other countries), but negotiated a place in the Contest partly because of the show’s popularity Down Under.

These countries could be in Eurovision this year if they wanted: Luxembourg, Algeria, Bosnia, Jordan, Libya, Monaco, Egypt, the Vatican, Tunisia, Andorra, Lebanon, Turkey

And these countries are associate members that could, in theory, negotiate a place in Eurovision in the future: India, the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Chile, Cuba, Iran, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Mauritius, Japan, Syria, Oman, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Georgia, Brazil, South Africa

So Eurovision is big Down Under?

The contest has been shown there since 1983, and they even used Terry Wogan’s commentary on occasion. In 2014, Aussie singer Jessica Mauboy performed as an interval act, and it was later announced, after negotiation, that Australia could enter in 2015 via the semi-finals. This year, Jessica is back to perform as Australia’s entry.

OK, so what if the Aussies win? It can’t go to Australia?!

Yes, fair point. Not least because when Eurovision is happening in Europe, it’s between 3am and 5am in Oz. When Eurovision took place in Azerbaijan, the time difference meant that the Contest began at midnight there. If Australia ever won, then its organisers would work with a European broadcaster to produce and host the contest somewhere in Europe. No firm details have ever been released, but NDR (Germany) and the BBC have both been mentioned as possible partners.

Unlikely places that Eurovision has been held include Harrogate, Millstreet (a village in Co Cork, Ireland), Baku (capital of Azerbaijan, closer to Iran than most other Eurovision countries) and Cinecittà, a film studio near Rome.


Everyone should sing in their own languages.

Demanding that each country sings in its own national language (or languages) is a bit unfair, given that English is the international language of western pop music – which is undoubtedly a situation the UK played a big part in creating. In two periods of Eurovision history (1966-73 and 1977-98), acts were indeed only allowed to perform in one of their country’s official languages. Sweden’s ABBA won in English with Waterloo in 1974 and went on to massive international success. Could the same have happened if they’d performed in Swedish? If performers want as many people as possible to understand their lyrics in Eurovision, then, like it or not, their best chance to do so is to sing them in English. It was the UK that created the foundations for both English being an international language and English being the language of rock ‘n’ roll, so we should probably just accept it.

The most successful languages in Eurovision (as far as 2017) are English (31 wins) and French (14 wins). Dutch and Hebrew songs have scored 3 wins each. Songs in Italian, German, Spanish, Swedish and Norwegian have won twice. Songs in Danish, Croatian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Crimean Tatar and Portuguese have all won once.


But all the songs are crap.

OK, here’s a Eurovision fan’s confession: at times, there is some right crap on that stage. Some songs aren’t as good as others. But let’s face it, it wouldn’t be Eurovision if every song was like Adele or Ed Sheeran (and then people would just say, “They’re copying Adele/Ed Sheeran”). You know it wouldn’t be as fun, either. It’s down to taste (and more than a few preconceived ideas). Eurovision generally hasn’t troubled the UK charts for many years (not including Sweden’s Loreen, who got to number 3 in 2012 with Euphoria and is the only Eurovision act to get on a Now That’s What I Call Music album), even in the days when we did well. That’s a shame, because some of the songs deserve success. Don’t assume that every other country obsesses over the entries though – many are like the UK (except Sweden. Sweden does obsess over it).

To enjoy Eurovision, you have to accept that, much as in life, not everything will be to your personal taste. So let yourself possibly be surprised. Or entertained.

The champions of nul points are Austria and Norway, who both ended up with 0 points four times each. Spain, Finland, Germany and Switzerland have all got 0 three times. Belgium, Portugal and Turkey all achieved 0 twice. The countries that got nul points just once are The Netherlands, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Monaco, Italy, Luxembourg, Iceland, Lithuania and – believe it or not – the United Kingdom.

With the way the voting is split between juries and the public now, it’s unlikely that any country will end up with nul points.


We should just pull out.

If the UK pulled out of Eurovision, it wouldn’t be the first country to do so – but why should we? The final pulls in really good viewing figures in the UK (see below) – and it’s actually value for money in terms of the licence fee. In 2012, the BBC spent around £310,000 on Eurovision, not including travel, accommodation, and so on. That’s likely to have been more this year due to increased costs and the decreased value of the pound – but in TV terms, still decent value. Putting Eurovision on TV compares (very roughly) to the cost of about an hour and a half of EastEnders.

Countries that were in Eurovision recently and won’t be there this year include Bosnia, Slovakia, Turkey, Andorra

But no one watches Eurovision!

Wrong! In 2017, the final averaged just under 7m viewers overall in the UK, with nearly 9m tuning in for the voting (for £310k, that’s a lot cheaper than most Saturday night shows). Considering that Eurovision has been up against Britain’s Got Talent on ITV for the last few years, any other show on BBC One would seriously struggle to get those ratings. The semi-finals have been broadcast on BBC Four in recent years, so pull in audiences in the hundreds of thousands – but as the UK doesn’t really figure in either semi-final, that’s also not surprising, and also gives the hardcore fans the chance to have more of a ‘fan show’ (a bit like those lower-league football matches that people love [or insert similar sports reference once checked with someone who knows]).


It’s all political.

Personally, and despite what Terry Wogan might have led you to believe, I think that’s just an easy excuse for the UK not doing that well. I’m not going to deny that there’s an element of truth in the politics argument, but probably not in the way you’re thinking (see below). While Eurovision itself is officially an apolitical event, politics has been a factor in Eurovision to various degrees, including controversial song lyrics, questions over voting, people behind the Iron Curtain being able to watch, and even the performance of one song in Brighton being used as a secret signal to start a coup in Portugal in 1974 (seriously). Neighbourly voting also exists, notably (thanks to Tel’s rants) between Greece and Cyprus. But consider this: if countries send music that represents what’s popular at home and represents their own cultures (like many Eurovisionsceptics demand), then obviously people in neighbouring countries are likely to identify more with those songs and want to vote for them. Let’s face it, the UK and Ireland are no strangers to giving each other high points either.

You’ve probably never let politics get in the way of having fun before, so why should Eurovision be any different?


But what about Brexit?

Eurovision isn’t run by the EU, so isn’t affected by Brexit. We’ll be in Eurovision for as long as a UK channel wants to do it.

Everyone still hates us.

That’s possible, but unlikely. People have a lot going on in their own countries and lives to be spending time actively hating the United Kingdom during the Eurovision Song Contest. Indeed, you’d think certain other countries would also be affected if that were the case, and their results have been markedly better than the UK’s. While Brexit may dominate the headlines here, it’s just another international news story for the majority of people everywhere else. Isn’t it also a bit weird that everyone would hate the UK just for Eurovision but not for every other cultural activity we’re involved in? You don’t see UK music acts having to cancel concerts around Europe because no one wants to see a Brit performing. We just have to face it: no country is too big a deal for Eurovision. Not even Sweden.


Who chooses the UK’s song?

You can vote, if you want. The way the song is chosen depends on what the BBC decides to do each year. This year and last, we’ve had Eurovision: You Decide – a live show with some preselected artists performing in front of an audience and a panel, and then a viewer phone vote. Before that, the BBC’s Eurovision production team chose the song with no public input (which led to the likes of Engelbert Humperdinck and Bonnie Tyler performing). And before that it has always been either a viewer vote or an internal selection. The EBU decided a short while ago that the selection of songs must have some public vote element, so it looks like You Decide or something similar will be the way forward. Less than a million people tuned in to the Wednesday night BBC Two show this year (a shame, because it was really good fun and had loads of ABBA in it), so I say why not put it on a Saturday night some time? Even you must agree that it’s got to be better than Partners in Rhyme


We should just send Robbie Williams.

If he wants to do it and has a great song, then yes, we should just send Robbie Williams. But Eurovision duty isn’t (as yet) obligatory for singers, so he’d need to agree to do it. It’s quite a big deal for an established artist to do Eurovision – they’re essentially going up against 40-odd other acts, some new, some experienced, some possibly famous. The artist would have to put themself/ves through the most direct judgement processes possible – phone votes and juries (possibly twice, at home and at Eurovision) – and have to grin and bear the criticism if they didn’t win. That’s a lot to ask of someone. Some fans point to Sweden’s Melodifestivalen competition, where that scenario actually happens over the course of six Saturday nights to choose a Eurovision entry, but acts there arguably get an easier ride from the press if they don’t do well than they would from British media. Will Young once described doing Eurovision as “a poisoned chalice”, referring to the lack of mainstream success that acts have enjoyed following their Contests. I’d agree with that, but it’s also up to music fans to support those artists if they like what they did at Eurovision and want to hear more from them. The list of credible songs that haven’t done well at Eurovision is very, very long.

Established singers who went to Eurovision for the UK include Engelbert Humperdinck (25th), Bonnie Tyler (19th), Blue (11th), Katrina and the Waves (winners), West End stars Michael Ball (2nd) and Frances Ruffelle (10th), and Sonia (2nd). Further in the past, Cliff Richard and Lulu were among other well-known artists who did Eurovision.


It’s too gay.

Sigh. You need to get out more.

Also, if you really think that, then here’s something to annoy you even more: the super-gayness of Eurovision is probably thanks to the UK. Hurray!

When the Contest arrived in Birmingham in 1998, it had, until then, been a relatively straight-laced (ahem) couple of hours full of formality, French and the odd strange novelty entry. The UK hosts were Terry Wogan and Ulrika Jonsson. Wogan brought his trademark sarcasm, while Ulrika (unintentionally) caused a camp storm with her handling of the voting (particularly with the Netherlands). The other big decision by the BBC producers was to get loads of LGBTQ+ people in the front rows and treat the whole thing as a party. Which they did, with more whooping, hollering and general festivity than had ever been heard before. The days of dinner jackets and forced grins were gone. The participation and victory (and super diva-ness) of Israeli trans singer Dana International was merely the icing on the cake. The BBC helped Eurovision out of the closet and it would never be the same again. And we’re not sorry!


Why does the UK go straight to the final?

As more countries wanted to be part of Eurovision following the collapse of Communism in central and eastern Europe, the contest had to change to give everyone a chance to participate in the final without turning it into a six-hour feat of endurance (three hours+ is sometimes enough as it is). This developed into semi-finals to ensure a maximum of 26 countries in the final show (this year, 43 countries have entered). As one of the ‘Big Five’, the UK doesn’t have to earn a place in a semi-final (along with Germany, France, Spain and Italy). These five countries all make the biggest financial contributions to hosting Eurovision, which is the main reason for their free pass to the final. For the UK and Germany, you could also argue that big viewing figures would be affected if they weren’t in the final (less so for France and Spain, and very much less so for Italy). Some fans say that this isn’t always a benefit, because viewers have been able to see all the other performances in the semi-finals. This is debatable, though, as the majority of viewers who make up the core audience probably don’t bother with the semis.


Why can’t Scotland be in Eurovision?

The short answer, whether you like it or not, is that Scotland is in the UK, so already is in Eurovision.

Regions of nations are not permitted to enter their own songs. Scottish channel STV (part of ITV) is an EBU member and could be Scotland’s way to be in Eurovision if it were an independent nation. As it stands, the BBC has the exclusive rights to broadcast Eurovision in the UK, and is responsible for choosing and sending the UK’s entry. If the BBC ever loses those rights, STV could, in theory, take over and send its own entry ­– but the act would still participate as the United Kingdom until such a time as Scotland became independent. ITV itself, and Wales’ S4C are also EBU members, and could also take over the UK’s Eurovision participation if they tried to. Changing the Eurovision rules to allow regions is very unlikely to happen, though.

Remembering The Harcourt

Note: this is a blog I wrote in 2016 about the much-missed Harcourt pub in Marylebone, London.

Lowculture’s recent brilliant post about schlager divas mentions the ridiculous London schlager scene (the ultimate lowculture subculture) that emerged in the mid-2000s. At its heart was The Harcourt pub, which shut its doors in 2014. As it prepares to reopen as “a new elegant restaurant/cocktail bar” later this year, it’s unlikely to play host to raucous Mello nights again (never say never, of course). Back in 2012, Göteborgs-Posten newspaper sent reporter Lisa Thanner to The Harcourt to document a typical Melodifestivalen viewing, and her photos are probably the only ‘official’ record of what we used to get up to there.

If New York punk had CBGB’s and Manchester rave had the Haçienda, London schlager had The Harcourt.

 

The Harcourt was London’s “Swedish pub”. Swedish pubs don’t even exist in Sweden, so The Harcourt was a an English boozer (and most definitely a London boozer) that offered the community of Marylebone’s ‘Little Sweden’ a place to congregate.

 

The Harcourt’s ‘Swedish Lounge’, located down the back to the right of the bar, was the only part of the pub’s decor that contained anything relating to Sweden in any meaningful way. With a small soft seating area, a bit of pine and some Swedish advertising posters, it was the world’s most half-hearted attempt to create the IKEA brand of coziness. But it was also pretty much perfect for the surroundings.

To be fair to The Harcourt, most of its bar staff did come from Sweden. It was always funny to hear one of the Brit schlager fans trying to order an “öl” in Swedish as the confused barmaid/man got him to repeat it at least twice before the word ‘Fosters’ came into play. They served a lot of Fosters.

The thing about the bar staff was that they worked in a local boozer that showed sports on the TV (including Swedish ice hockey, of course) and catered to a largely professional office-worker crowd. This was until someone realised that the ice hockey-receiving satellite dish on the roof was pointing in the same direction as the Melodifestivalen stage. And that’s when, on Saturday nights for six weeks each winter, The Harcourt became London’s biggest pop-up gay bar. The barmaid on the left is wearing the expression of shock (and slight awe) that most of the pub’s staff had on a Melodifestivalen night. I’m not kidding.

 

The reason that people are looking in two different directions is because there was no full screen in The Harcourt. The TV to the left, right next to the main entrance, was slightly bigger than the one to the right. The one on the right also had some tuning issues (Britain was fully digital, but The Harcourt was not), so there was some slight ghosting on the screen (we all thought Sanna Nielsen was a duo). However, the TV on the right was in a warmer position. If you stood in the middle, you could alternate between TVs and warmth. But you also had to make constant way for people who actually wanted to drink and those who needed the toilet. Schlager is tough, and we knew it.

There’s no remaining evidence of the toilets, and I only ever experienced the gents. But they really were the gents-est gents you’d ever pissed in. A 1950s public convenience would have been more comfortable. The hand dryer, produced some time in the early 80s (possibly earlier), would let out only a soft waft of heat. It would have been quicker to wave one hand at a time over a candle. There was a touch of Sweden here though, in the form of a little wall-mounted tray marked “SNUS HERE”. The used snus pouches were always disposed of in the urinal gutter, never in the tray.

 

The picture above sums up a typical Melodifestivalen night (no one ever called it ‘Mello’ back then) in The Harcourt. Swedish expats who would never dream of spending Saturday night watching the show at home would flock in to stand alongside British gays. The ratio of Swedish women to British gays changed regularly, and towards the end it was mainly the Brits in attendance. However, reactions always stayed the same. The Swedish punters always cheered the familiar names and laughed at the jokes, while the British punters were only there for the schlager divas (see the Lowculture post mentioned at the start). A Linda Bengtzing performance would provoke huge cheers, while a Carola appearance would cause meltdown. The Swedish viewers never understood this, or ever wanted to. In the middle of all this, at least two people would just want a bloody drink from the bar. Look at that man’s frustration.

 

This picture was either taken before the show started (that’s the right-hand dodgy TV switched off) and completely posed, or these two are listening to some of the schlager compilation CDs I used to demand were played following the show. The Harcourt had one CD with the same tracks, so each week without fail, I would turn up with a new one. To their credit, they usually did as I instructed, and even let me operate the CD player when they couldn’t be bothered to deal with it. The landlady once asked me to DJ at a summer barbecue, and insisted on giving me her number. It never happened – most definitely for the best.

About an hour after the show had ended, she or her husband would emerge to take their Basset Hounds for their constitutional. The hounds never batted one of their heavy eyelids at the scene in that bar.

My two favourite members of staff were barmaid Sara and then-manager Martin. Martin was never a schlager fan. You could tell. And when you got to know him, he would tell you he hated it all with just a shake of his head. I always knew my music would get played when Martin was working. His girlfriend Sara absolutely loved the pub’s complete change of character, though. I once insisted on taking her for a dance. It was a sad day when they returned to Sweden. I went to The Harcourt a couple of days before it closed down, and Martin and Sara – now engaged – were also there paying their respects, so it clearly meant something to all of us. I didn’t play any schlager for Martin, though.

 

While I’m very happy that these pictures exist, we did have to have words with the photographer at one point during this particular evening. She stood right in front of the TV to take a picture just as Charlotte Perrelli was about to launch into The Girl. “But I’m a journalist!” she said. I can’t remember our exact response, but it was something very close to “We haven’t paid six quid each to look at you when SHE is on stage”.

The Harcourt, after realising how popular the Melodifestivalen nights were, decided to sell tickets. £6 was the highest it got, if I remember correctly, but it did entitle you to a raffle ticket that would give you a bottle of beer (always 275ml) or a glass (small) of wine. By this stage, the bar manager was Czech Marek, who went on to transfer the title of ‘Swedish Pub’ to the nearby Duke Of York (which is still going and showing Mello). His face at the sight of the hoards descending was a powerful, visual expression of confusion combined with tired resignation.

 

The Harcourt has gone now. The Duke of York shows Mello (and ice hockey if you fancy it) [1], while the Swedish Church across the road is now packed almost to capacity for its Mello screenings. Plus the church has a small bar (with card machine – no 80p charge either, unlike The Harcourt) and shows the show on a BIG SCREEN. In addition, our broadband speeds are marginally better than a few years ago, and SVT’s online presence is excellent – so there’s little need to leave the house if it’s raining.

But I miss The Harcourt. It was a funny place – welcoming one week, and completely unwelcoming another – and was certainly not the sort of place you’d choose for a Saturday night out. However, purely through necessity (its expensive subscription to SVT World) did pub and punter come together for some brilliant, and always unique, evenings.


[1] Sadly, the Duke has also closed down now. No one knows what happened to the schlager-satellite dish, if anyone knows do tell me.

Pictures: Lisa Thanner/Göteborgs-Posten

Glamour, smash hits and viewer fury – the birth of Melodifestivalen

For 60 years, Melodifestivalen has gone from stiff suits to a glitzy TV ratings hit. Before Saturday’s launch show, here is ‘The Early Years’, the first chapter of ‘Melodifestivalen’, written by Dagens Nyheter’s Hanna Fahl.

Considering how the most recent Eurovision Song Contests have been tainted by political rows between Russia and Ukraine, audience booing, accusations of countries bribing their way to success, corrupt juries, and banned song titles such as We Don’t Wanna Put In (which allegedly sounds like ‘we don’t want a Putin’), it can be hard to imagine that Eurovision actually began as a project of peace, with the aim of unifying the fragmented continent following the Second World War, and to create a shared European identity.

Also, considering how the Eurovision Song Contest has evolved over the years into the colourful, kitsch parade of craziness we see now, it’s hard to imagine just how slow and, for so long, how black and white it once was.

The network of European television corporations called ‘Eurovision’ first began broadcasting in 1954. At that time, there were just eight countries exchanging newsreels and film clips. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), representing the continent’s radio and TV stations, had overall responsibility for the Eurovision network. In 1955, it set up a committee to develop ideas that could bring the member nations together through light entertainment. Sergio Pugliese, from the Italian broadcaster RAI, suggested a format similar to the San Remo music festival, which had proved a big success in Italy. Marcel Bezençon, the committee’s chair, was intrigued.

It was a hugely ambitious technical undertaking to broadcast a production live to so many countries – satellites weren’t an option then, so everything was done via radio link. Regardless, it was decided to host the first song contest the following year in the Swiss city of Lugano. Seven countries would take part: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The first host nation was also the first winner. Lys Assia, a 32-year-old singer from Rupperswil, won with the wistful and lush Refrain.

Carli Tornehave, Monica Zetterlund, Inger Berggren, Otto Brandenburg, Lily Berglund, Mona Grain and Östen Warnerbring in 1962. Picture: BERTIL STILLING

In 1956, Sveriges Television (SVT), then known as Radiotjänst (the Radio Service), commenced regular transmissions. It soon realised that the Eurovision network was something it needed to be involved with if it wanted to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in broadcasting. In November 1956, the local television service in Gothenburg succeeded in connecting to the Eurovision network for the first time when it broadcast an international football match from Frankfurt. The following year, it was able to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest – known then as the Eurovision Grand Prix. In 1958, Sweden made its debut in the Grand Prix, broadcast live in Gothenburg. The rest of Sweden had to wait to see a recording of the show later on, and it wasn’t until 1959 that live broadcasts from the Eurovision network were possible throughout the country.

The EBU wanted national broadcasters to hold song contests in their own countries to find singers to send to Eurovision, believing that such local shows would increase interest in the main contest. However, Sweden’s first entry in 1958 was chosen by a jury made up of members of SKAP, the Swedish Society of Songwriters of Popular Music, and people from Swedish television’s entertainment section.

The jury chose the song Samma stjärnor lysa för oss två (The Same Stars Are Shining For Us) – which immediately led to the first schlager plagiarism scandal. One jury member thought the song was suspiciously similar to an American song, so the composer, Åke Gerhard, quickly made some subtle changes to the tune. Alice Babs was persuaded to perform the song, but trouble soon reared its head once again. The singer demanded that the lyrics were rewritten, so radio producer Gunnar Wersén came up with new words, as well as a new title – Lilla stjärna (Little Star). Gerhard was furious with the changes, and refused to allow the new version to be recorded. In the end, Alice Babs went to the Eurovision Grand Prix in the Netherlands and came fourth.

Brita Borg receives a hug from husband Allan Johansson, as well as 1959’s winning artists Povel Ramel and Felix Alvo. Picture: TT

In 1959, Sweden held its first proper Eurovision selection, planting the seed of what we now call Melodifestivalen. There are some critics today who complain about the length and complexity of Melodifestivalen – but in 1959, there was just one final, on one single evening. However, that final was the culmination of eight semi-finals that had been broadcast on the radio, with listeners voting by sending in postcards. The final was on television, and the winner was decided by a jury.

That year’s winner was Augustin, sung by Siw Malmkvist. However, Siw didn’t get to sing in that year’s Eurovision Grand Prix in Cannes. TV executives had already decided that Brita Borg would be Sweden’s representative, and she performed instead.

In subsequent years, the selections were equally as confused. In 1960, Siw Malmkvist didn’t take part in Sweden’s pre-selection, but still performed at Eurovision as compensation for what had happened previously, denying winner Östen Warnerbring his place at the contest in London. In 1961, Siw did compete in the Swedish contest, and won – but was accused of ‘monkeying around’ during her final performance (in reality, she forgot her words, so started laughing and whistling to keep going). Her crime was so serious that she was replaced by Barbro ‘Lill-Babs’ Svensson at Eurovision. How the songs were chosen to compete also varied during this time. Some years, the general public was allowed to submit entries, while at other times, selected composers were asked to contribute. And sometimes, there was a combination of both.

 

Throughout the history of Melodifestivalen, at least one headline is almost guaranteed to appear: THE WRONG SONG WON! It was much the same even in the early days. In 1963, Expressen newspaper declared that the “schlager winner causes national fury”. Apparently, some members of the audience rose from their seats to boo and whistle when Monica Zetterlund’s En gång i Stockholm (Once Upon A Time In Stockholm) was declared the winner. However, few Melodifestivalen winners have caused as much controversy as Lill Lindfors and Svante Thuresson. Their ‘Nygammal vals’ (A New Old-fashioned Waltz) had lyrics such as ‘tjong i medaljongen’ and ‘klang i kantarellen’[1]. Expressen’s telephone lines were abuzz with fury when it won, with the Swedish public seemingly “incensed”, and believing the song didn’t have “the slightest chance” of success at Eurovision.

“Perhaps the 55 wise schlager judges have gone gaga?” wrote one T Forsberg to the newspaper Aftonbladet. Another correspondent, Arg Dalmas, thought that, “in addition, the 1,000-kronor prize should be paid in compensation for the very serious damage done to Sweden’s international reputation”. Jan Sjöholm, a journalist from Expressen who was part of the Karlstad jury whose points pushed the song over the finish line, was forced to publish a defence in the paper. “I have no regrets”, he wrote.

The selection shows were becoming increasingly sophisticated. In 1966, a ‘semi-automatic’ scoreboard was introduced, with a large board featuring gaps for the points to be displayed. Neither viewers nor critics were impressed. As a stray hand was seen here and there emerging from the gaps, Dagens Nyheter thought that “it brought The Addams Family to mind”. Its advice? “A few girls to hang the numbers in a calm and sensible manner would have been better.”

The following year, there was something different. The points were displayed through the medium of ping-pong balls, which led to a seemingly unending flow of balls rolling down through plastic tubes. However, the 1967 contest was a historic year for another reason. It was the very first time that it was called the Melodifestival – a name that would last for decades to come.

Melodifestivalen – från frack till folkfest, by Hanna Fahl, ISBN 9789171264404

Translated from Hanna Fahl: Glamour, slagdängor och tittarstormar – så föddes Melodifestivalen www.dn.se/kultur-noje/glamour-slagdangor-och-tittarstormar-sa-foddes-melodifestivalen

 

[1] Neither lyric is easy to translate into English, but they’re kind of along the lines of ‘Wow!’, ‘Oooh!’ and so on – the rhyming of the sounds is the point. It was the sixties.