Germany and the Eurovision – Part 1: Rough Start

by Joshua Reduch

The Eurovision Song Contest (or Grand Prix, as most Germans still call it) has had its high ups and deep lows among the german viewers in its almost 60 years old history.

In my next four articles I want to give you a closer look at the sometimes very difficult relationship between Germany and the Eurovision we all love.

Today, I will focus on the first 24 contests from 1956 to 1979:

After the Second World War, the destroyed Germany recovered itself with a successfull industry. The so called ”Wirtschaftswunder” (Economy miracle) has managed to make people more confident and happy after years full of war. But also the television broadcasters put up amazing shows to entertain. One of these was the ”Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Europénne 1956” or for the ones who are not fluent in French: the first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, held in the beautiful city of Lugano, Switzerland.

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Freddy Quinn

The never seen before concept of countries sending their most talented singers who perform a song and hope to get the maximum amout of points from the juries was not an instant success.

At this time, Television was still something for upper class families and devices costed up to thousands of German Marks. A lot of money in these times.

The first german participants were Freddy Quinn and Walter A. Schwarz. While the latter did not become a star afterwards, Freddy Quinn managed to become one of the biggest singers of the 50’s and 60’s in Germany.

Germany did good in the further contests, but after none of the entries has become a big hit, that makes the Eurovision known among the german population.

That changed in 1962 when Conny Froboess sang her song „Zwei kleine Italiener“ in Luxemburg. The song about two hard-working Italian workers who miss the bright sun in their home country was an instant classic and the first ESC Song to achieve the No.1 spot on the german charts, although it only placed 6th.

So, after a No. 1 hit, Germany should have got some better placings in Eurovision? Well, unfortuneately they did not. In 1964 and 1965 Heidi Brühl and Ulla Wiesner even placed last with ”zero points”. After these failures, german Broadcaster ARD and its flagship Das Erste decided to change their selcetion procedure and selceted their acts internally. This didn’t make things better with the exception of 1968 when the beautiful norwegian Wencke Myhre placed 6th.

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Katja Ebstein

But finally in 1970, a red-haired hippy girl entered the stage and sang ”Wunder gibt es immer wieder“ (Miracles keep on happening again and again). I’m talking about the wonderfull Katja Ebstein. She was the first act for Germany who placed in the Top 3, which wasn’t really hard that year, because only twelve countries competed. After the 1970 contest, she released English, Spanish, Italian and even Japanese versions of ”Wunder gibt es immer wieder”.

The broadcaster was so satisfied about her performance that they asked her to do it again in 1971. In a national final she sang six songs and again she placed third at Eurovision with ”Diese Welt” (This World). Just a few years later, she achived her biggest result in Eurovision, but I will talk about that in the next article.

Most Germans thought that the streak of great placings has now come to an end, but fortuneately they were wrong. 23 year old singer Mary Roos placed third again for the third time for Germany with her power ballad ”Nur die Liebe lässt uns leben” (Only love let us live). She also returned several years later and is known as the Grand Lady of Schlager. In 2013, she was the head of the jury in „Unser Song für Malmö“ and even announced the votes:  

Then things got a little worse again: Gitte only placed 8th, although she was a hot favorite to win, Cindy & Bert (Germany’s biggest Schlager duo ever!) placed last in 1974.

The german public was confused. Why is Germany bad at Eurovision? Germany, the country with the biggest populaton of the participating countries and the third most important music industry in the world (After US and UK). Even the Beatles started their career in Hamburg and released songs in German in their early years. What does it take to win?

And in 1976 they thought they found the answer: Les Humphries Singers! With hits like ”Mexico” and ”Mama Loo” they even performed in the USA. The thing is that this was already some years before their Eurovision performance. At the end, they placed 15th.

In a documentury about the band, german member Jürgen Drews (who is one of the biggest Party-Schlager singers in Germany and especially in Mallorca) said: ”It was a bad song. We should have done it a few years earlier. The magic was already gone.”

For the 1976 Contest ARD did something very controversial and I’m not talking about selecting internally. No, they sent a song in English! Ok, more countries did that while the language rule did not exist. English is indeed widespread in german choices today, but in 1976 this was a brave move. Silver Convention did a nice job in London and placed a respectable 8th place.

To end today’s article I will tell you something about Germany’s most loved Eurovision entry (which did not win): ”Dschinghis Khan” by the band of the same name. From the very first time the song was performed in the national final, people danced and sang along. Although it only placed fourth in Jerusalem, the song is played at every party and I have even heard it at the Public Viewing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in my hometown.

So, Germany had a rough start in the first contests, but still they placed in the Top 3 a few times. It’s nice to see that ARD did not lose its interest in the Contest even after some painful failures.

Next time, I will focus on the Contest for 1980-1999 with Germany’s first win and the big chances after the Fall of the Berlin Wall which even affected Eurovision.

What is your favorite entry from 1956 to 1979? Let us know in the comments below!

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How are Eurovision fans utopians ?

1 Because Eurovision is a Utopia

The official reason the contest was created for, is because in a torn Europe rebuilding itself, the European Broadcasting Union wanted to find “ways of bringing together the countries of the EBU around a “light entertainment programme”.” Although it was more seen as a technological experiment in live television first, the contest actually managed to bring together the countries of Europe throughout the following decades up to this day, and this, no matter how tense some periods have been during the post-war epoch.

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Yugoslavia will always rock the fans

Yugoslavia which doesn’t exist anymore took part from 1961 to 1992. It only took a year for some countries that came out of the dissolution to join the contest on their
own, in 1993.

The same applies for Serbia & Montenegro, after Montenegro parted from Serbia, both taking part independently from 2007, one year after Montenegro’s proclamation of independence.

Also, in more recent times, and no matter the reactions of the public and the fans, the EBU feels free to work hard remaining the “bringing together ideas” by actions like maintaining the participation of both Russia and Ukraine despite the recent turmoil.

We thus have every single year, for decades now, arenas throughout Europe full of flags, happiness and excitement. So in the end, although the contest firstly is a mean to put technological ideas in place, it has this common thing with a utopia to be enliven by the desire to make people move forward (here technologically more than politically, or ?…)

2 Because Eurovision fans always support their country, no matter what

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How many times can we win or lose ?

They always feel butterflies when they see their flag appearing to the screen announcing the big moment when the artist or the band representing them is going to take the stage (or be taken by the stage…), as if a part of themselves was going on that stage too, with their hearts beating faster than for any other contestant. The world stops spinning for a moment and they can’t hear anything but the sound coming out of the TV. I know it because I felt it every single year, and this year too actually until Lorent Idir opened his mouth and the whole feeling turned into furious anger against the impostors of producers we have in my country to work on the contest.

3 Because Eurovision is something easily taken personally for them

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Looks like she knew the Kate Ryan title was hers this year

They spend their time mourning bad results, even if it’s not for their country (even especially so), even decades after (Germany 1996, Belgium 2006, United Kingdom
1968, this list is very long and we already know we can add Israel 2014…). They will always overdramatise the outcome of what in the end simply is a song contest (Yeah, I am being reckless on this one). They will always put the blame on everyone else and never on the artist/performances (politics, even when it often is a crime for them to say that Eurovision is about politics…, corruption…). This reaches such lengths that sometimes the EBU feels like they have to bind to some suggestions like in the late 2000’s, when the national juries got back after so many complaints about the qualifications of only eastern countries in 2007 and the victory of Russia in 2008. We noticed this year that after a few misfortunes like Poland (who would have ended 5th only by televoting) that those same people want to scrap the juries !

Nothing ever pleases anyone, there’s always something wrong. So about this 3rd point, I’d say that if you’re looking for a definition of fanatism, schizophrenia or hyprocrysy, or the 3 of them combined, looking at eurovision fans wouldn’t be so much of a bad idea.

4 And as a result they spend their time redoing the contest, recreating what would be the perfect contest and therefore by definition, just like utopias, can’t exist.

They’ll do it over and over again, countless times; forums and Facebook groups are full of this. When some only like to think about what it would have been like if other voting systems were in place (that is to say how would a utopia be written by someone living under different political systems), others will totally rethink the contest with the outcome of the National Finals (yeah, no capitals there would be a crime), and so many other things people can custom as they like when you know that every year, it’s in the end thousands of musical productions that are involved. That’s a DIY customisable Eurovision that a lot of fans will spend huge amounts of time with, because it can be as large and infinite as imagination; the thing you can’t take away from anyone, fan or not.

An Australian Playlist

Because our dear friends from the New World can make good music too, here is a selection of some Aussie pieces I’ve been listening quite a bit lately :

The dancing is nice in this one.

This must be the work of a reflection fetishist director.

The quiet one. 

Don’t watch this if you’re epileptic. Those who aren’t may want to get the next flight to Sydney after it. 

This guy looks way to gay for the song to be fully appreciated. So even if it’s just here, listen but don’t watch .

She’s been one of the most famous Aussie singers for years, and no she’s not competing here. 

Gayer than the gayest British band, and you know who I am referring to…

Finally, Aussie hip-hop has nothing to envy American. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back…(Semi Final 2)

by Joshua Reduch

We continue our look-back to Copenhagen with the predictions of the 2nd Semifinal:

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As you can already see, we didn’t had the same favorites as in the 1st Semi. Malta is the perfect example for this with Frederic awarding 9pts and me only giving a single point to Firelight and „Coming Home“ (It’s just not my type of music, sorry. But I love the island!)

Overall our Top 3 were Ireland with 17.5, Norway with 16.5 and Romania with 15.5 points. A interesting top 3 when you see it now.

The songs from Greece, Poland and Georgia formed our bottom 3 with 8, 7.5 and only 4 points respectively.

To our defense, I must say that our results now would be quite different, because some of the lower placed countries had great performances (f.e Austria, Switzerland and Poland) and therefore would got some more points from us.

We predicted 7 out of 10 qualifiers correct. Those countries were Malta, Norway, Austria, Finland, Belarus, Greece and Romania.

Unfortunately, we said that FYR Macedonia, Ireland and Israel would advance to the final, while Poland, Switzerland and Slovenia will find themselves in the land of tears.

In the end, 16 of 20 qualifers were correctly guessed by us, which is in my view a pretty fine result.

What do you think about our predictions? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking back…(Semi Final 1)

by Joshua Reduch

Now that the Eurovision season is over until Autumn, it’s time to see how good our Predictions were.

Before the shows started, Frederic and I guessed the qualifiers for the 1st Semifinal.

Let’s take a look:

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Our Favorites in Semi 1 with 18 points each were: Sweden, Hungary and The Netherlands.

The Songs we liked the least were the ones from Moldova, Russia and Albania with 8.5, 8 and 6.5 Points each.

It’s interesting to see that we both predicted the songs from Armenia, Sweden, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belgium, The Netherlands, Montenegro and Hungary. And with the exception of Belgium, they all went through !

We also thought that Estonia would qualify, which surprisingly did not happen. Also the pleasant qualifications of San Marino and Iceland were not on our list.

Overall you can say that 8/10 is a good result! We did a good job, didn’t we?

 

One bookmark

By having a flick trough the pages of this blog, it wouldn’t take too much to understand that I have a certain interest in Swedish culture. That goes without saying the language is among the points of my interest and listening to the radio is a great thing, when you want – as well as learning the language – to learn about the culture of the country. On SverigesRadio’s P4, Sunday is the best day to get an idea of what makes the people of this Nordic country who they are through the music they’ve produced over the past century up to this day. If you share the interest I have for this culture, then you just can’t miss Da Capo, an amazing show playing Swedish songs of the 1940’s 1950’s and 1960’s every Sunday evening. In case you’ve never heard about it, you can always thank me later…

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Cas de figure

Suite à la catastrophe du résultat obtenu lors du dernier concours Eurovision , certaines voix se sont faites entendre quant au possible avenir de notre pays dans la compétition. Parmi les suggestions les plus curieuses, nous retiendrons celle de la chanteuse Régine, au micro de RTL il y a une semaine : “Bien sûr [que je suis intéressée par le concours] ! Et je le gagnerais. Je prendrais le meilleur auteur, je n’ai que des chansons formidables”

Alors que notre pays au cours de ses 5 victoires au concours et de son dernier classement honorable (Patricia Kaas) ne semble réussir que grâce à des prestations relativement sobres – et cette année servira aussi de leçon – …Bon pour aller droit au but, on va dire clairement que cette proposition de Régine peut paraître grotesque à plus d’un au premier abord, c’est d’ailleurs pour ça que la presse qui s’améliore en terme d’analyses et de recherche d’information l’a autant reporté (Le Point, Le Figaro, Le Soir, entre autres).

Cependant, à travers cet article, je vais m’efforcer d’expliquer comment – puisque me destinant à la production audiovisuelle – cette proposition pourrait aboutir à des résultats intéressants.

De par sa carrière et l’image que la chanteuse nous représente, Régine n’est pas qu’une simple personne, c’est un personnage. Et s’il y a bien quelque chose qui caractérise le concours de chanson européen au delà des chansons originales (qui cartonnent dans les classements itunes de l’Europe entière pour celles de cette année – non non, je ne mens pas), ce sont les personnages, parce que comme l’indique son nom, il y a du visuel dans la vision de l’Eurovision.

Aussi exubérant que les personnages qui ont foulé la grande scène du concours peuvent l’être, la victoire n’est pas un fait accompli pour ce genre de candidats non plus…

Islande 2006, même pas qualifiée pour la finale.

Belgique 1973, 17e/17  (heureusement qu’ils étaient là pour nous épargner une dernière place… oui, à l’époque déjà on ne faisait pas des scores fameux…)

Portugal 2011, même pas qualifiés pour la finale (avant derniers de leur demi-finale).

D’autres, parviennent tout de même à effectuer une combinaison parfaite…

Ukraine 2007, 2

Finland 2006, 1er

Autriche 2014, 1er 

D’ailleurs pour se concentrer sur le dernier lauréat, il faut savoir que Conchita Wurst s’était présentée à la sélection nationale de son pays il y a deux ans mais qu’elle avait échoué certainement parce que la chanson faisait trop référence à son apparence de manière évidente….

Et elle avait donc perdu contre ça.

« Rise Like A Phoenix » est beaucoup plus subtile autant dans le style que dans les paroles, expliquant certainement le plus grand impact de cette candidature.

Donc voilà un premier point important pour Régine, la combinaison.

Il faut une vraie formule et d’un point de vue de la production, cette formule est plus à même de prendre de la dimension, s’étoffer, ici, dans un cas de figure particulier pour Régine. En effet, sa proposition aurait beaucoup plus de portée si elle était faite dans le cadre de l’organisation d’un concours national pour la version internationale.

Son seul envoi direct ne pourrait marcher parce qu’elle – il faut bien le reconnaître – pâti d’une image qui n’est pas des plus glorieuses (autrement on ne l’aurait pas vue dans une ferme de chaîne privée, ou continuent à apparaitre beaucoup d’animaux d’ailleurs…, il y a quelques années). Cette image pourrait être brisée ou bien recalée si elle s’imposait dans ce concours national.

Encore faudrait-il que ce concours national suscite un intérêt qui fait que les téléspectateurs lui accorderaient du crédit. Il faut des noms et de la qualité autant musicale de la part des candidats que de la qualité technique de la part des équipes de production et de réalisation dans ce genre d’entreprise, loin du pipi de chat de cette année et de la dernière sélection nationale en 2007. Il serait très important qu’on ait la couleur dès la présentation de la « combinaison » des candidatures dans ce concours national. La légitimité d’une équipe, d’un nom, artistes, choisis au travers de cette compétition serait ainsi d’autant plus grande que lorsque que l’on impose un « choix interne » ou un faux choix (cette année), d’une vraie pauvreté, et ce, sur de (très) nombreux aspects.

Régine représente un type populaire de candidat à un concours national ; il y en a tous les ans dans les pays nordiques. Le genre de candidats que les moins de 20 ans ne peuvent pas connaître, mais que le reste de la famille connait très bien, qui a eu sa carrière et qui interprète des chansons d’un ton plus ou moins sérieux, créant en engouement qui élargit le public et donne donc lieu à des retombées intéressantes.

On peut par exemple penser à la Russie en 2012, même si contrairement à la rousse elles n’étaient pas particulièrement connues et n’avaient pas eu de carrières marquantes, ce groupe de personnages a construit au travers de sa sélection nationale deux mois avant le concours et le long de son parcours jusqu’au grand soir, une histoire. Et ça tombe bien parce que c’est exactement ce qu’il faut quand on se présente en tant que personnage. Les gens seront plus à même de comprendre et de voter pour ces personnages là.

Russie 2012 

D’autres parts, les fans du concours de tous pays ne manquent jamais de contribuer à faire tourner le mot dans ce genre de cas, et la popularité se construit ainsi pour faire belle figure les jours précédents la grande réunion.

De cette façon, Régine bénéficierait d’un engouement suite à une victoire nationale qui serait contagieux à presque tout le continent. (Si la combinaison proposée dès le début a de la gueule, encore une fois par l’artiste lui-même, et la technique mise en place par le diffuseur). Il faut que le côté vision frappe d’emblée; il faut qu’il marque au point que les vues des vidéos du concours national du diffuseur demeure pendant des mois plus importantes que le clip lui-même, comme c’est le cas pour les diffuseurs sérieux qui tendent à mettre en avant leur candidats – respectant ainsi leurs téléspectateurs et leur contribution financière.

La Suède au concours national…

La Suède au concours international…

Tout ces détails ne sont en aucuns cas à négliger, d’autant plus que si un ou une candidate surprise venait à remporter le combat de David contre Goliath (en terme de renommée, j’entends), l’attention se décuplera de façon beaucoup plus forte donnant lieu à un écho probablement bien plus intéressant jusque dans l’Arena du concours international qui finirait par enfin voir flotter haut nous couleurs.