Eurovision Song Contest 1974 Review

Welcome to 1974, another year hosted in the UK - Brighton to be specific. This year is mainly known because ABBA competed, but I think that’s unfair because there were other songs too, yet everyone forgets about those. For example, Greece debuted this year, which would’ve brought the number of participants back to 18 if France didn’t withdraw at the last minute because of the death of their president.

Preface

And we’re back to the UK, just after having left it the previous year. This is all because Luxembourg didn’t want to host for the second time in a row, which means the UK picked up the slack, as they liked to do.

We open with some sights of Brighton and the UK commentator praising the city, just how they did with Edinburg in 1972. This time, it doesn’t feel as genuine for some reason. The tonight’s host is Katie Boyle, for the final out of her four times. As usual, she welcomes us all in English and French (and let me tell you, her French is practically flawless - unlike the French we’ll hear in one of tonight’s songs) and we move to the songs.

Songs

Finland - Keep Me Warm

Performed by
Carita
Language
English

I have to agree with the commentator - this is a great opener. It’s a really well-executed piano ballad with passionate vocals - the best way to melt my heart and enchant me. Well, Carita absolutely succeeded at this - I loved every second of it. I really enjoyed the beautiful lyrics (that were adapted really well from Finnish - but reworked slightly to make them actually fit English).

My only wish for this would be to make the piano more prominent. As is, it gets lost in the orchestra a bit, and I love pianos way too much to allow this.

United Kingdom - Long Live Love

Performed by
Olivia Newton-John
Language
English

This is just some standard “gosh, isn’t love great” thing that usually fails to charm me, and this year is no exception. Not that there’s something particularly wrong with this, but it absolutely fails to stand out from the crowd. Olivia Newton-John didn’t really like this song (and wanted to perform another song called Angeleyes, which I checked out and yeah, she was right to want to perform it instead). It’s noticeable, because her performance is somewhat lacking in enthusiasm, even if there’s nothing wrong with it on a technical level.

Spain - Canta y sé feliz

Performed by
Peret Pubill Calaf
Language
Spanish

Everything in this song is Spanish. The thythm guitar, the clapping, the lyrics. Sadly, the song is too overwhelming for me. It starts out very hectic and continues being hectic all throughout. Listening to it makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon. It definitely would’ve benefitted from a small slow section somewhere to give us a breather. But it was still pretty enjoyable. And huge props to the performer for writing and composing it all by himself.

Norway - The First Day of Love

Performed by
Anne-Karine and the Bendik Singers
Language
English

Sorry, Bendik Singers, I’m not particularly impressed this time. Unlike your previous song, this one is rather plain and ordinary and fails to stand out. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it completely failed to stick in my mind after it finished.

Greece - Krassi, thalassa ke t’ agori mou

Performed by
Marinella
Language
Greek

Of course the debut entry from Greece had a bouzouki, it couldn’t have been any other way. But man this is captivating in the best way possible. It’s energetic, fun and upbeat and represent Greece’s culture so well.

It’s all about having a carefree life and only needing “a bit of wine, a bit of sea and [your] boyfriend” and I think we can all get behind it. At the end, Marinella gets out a tambourine and starts playing it, which adds even more charm to the performance.

Israel - Natati La Khaiai

Performed by
Poogy (Kavaret)
Language
Hebrew

Fun fact: Poogy, better known as Kavaret, had seven members, but the rules stipulate that there can only be six people on stage. Therefore, one of their members conducted the orchesta and all of them got to participate this way.

Anyway, Israel wasn’t messing around - they were very intent on winning (which they would do in just a couple more years) because they sent another big act with a very fun folksy pop rock song. This time, it also has some political subtext about Palestine and how people (which I read as “politicians”) can never agree on anything.

It’s also very Israeli in that it’s upbeat, but in a minor key. We’ll see a lot of Israeli entries that do the same.

Yugoslavia - Generacija ‘42

Performed by
Korni Grupa
Language
Serbian

And here we have an entry that isn’t very Eurovision-y at all, which makes it stand out from most entries that have been sent both before and after it. Instead of a ballad or a pop song, we have some progressive Yugoslav rock with a theremin-like sound in the background and really well-written and personal lyrics about how it felt to be born during WW2.

It’s really a composition that blows me away because of how out there it is. It’s a very complex composition that feels very fluid and otherworldly because it doesn’t really have a well-defined key and changes it very frequently (at least in the verses). The chorus is slightly simpler, but not by much. It’s honestly one of those entries that stay with you forever.

Also wow, those outfits are very colourful.

Sweden - Waterloo

Performed by
ABBA
Language
English

I honestly don’t even know what to say about this song. It’s easily the most famous Eurovision song of all time and anything I’ll say will have been said a million times before.

Instead, I’ll talk a but about myself. I’m an avid ABBA fan - they’ve been my most listened artist for many years and I love nearly every song they’ve released. “Nearly” because there’s one song I’ve never clicked with - Waterloo (btw, my favourite ABBA song is Elaine from their Super Trouper album). I can’t even describe why, I just never found it interesting. What I love about ABBA is that they’ve never been scared of incorporating interesting progressions and instruments into their songs.

Waterloo is anything but complex. Perhaps this is why it won Eurovision - I doubt Head Over Heels would’ve done anywhere near as well for example. Of course, I don’t hate it - no, absolutely not. But the song just does nothing for me. I’m sorry.

Luxembourg - Bye Bye I Love You

Performed by
Ireen Sheer
Language
French (with a hook in English)

You won’t hear me saying this phrase a lot, so enjoy it: this would’ve been better in English. Why did Luxembourg decide to get an English-German singer, translate a song that was originally written in English and have her sing it in French, even though the language rule was suspended and Ireen clearly struggled with her French pronunciation. As someone who’s been working on his accent in French for a long long time, I just can’t like this song because of her accent.

Monaco - Celui qui reste et celui qui s’en va

Performed by
Romuald
Language
French

Again, here’s a song that doesn’t interest me at all and leaves me with absolutely nothing to say. It’s fine, I guess, nothing awful, but nothing standout either.

Belgium - Fleur de liberté

Performed by
Jacques Hustin
Language
French

Unlike the previous entry, which didn’t stand out and wasn’t even really good, this is an entry that doesn’t really stand out a lot, but is still pretty good. Jacques has a strong vocal performance, the arrangement is very contemporary and the lyrics are pretty interesting too. But I wish it had more variation, because it does lose me a bit by the end.

Netherlands - I See a Star

Performed by
Mouth and MacNeal
Language
English

I really enjoyed this song, but I can’t really articulate why. Maybe it’s the fun and energetic performance, maybe it’s the portable handheld organ, maybe it’s Maybelline the strong hook, but I really liked the song. It was clearly designed to win and, in all honesty, might’ve had a great shot at winning if it wasn’t for ABBA being in the same year.

Ireland - Cross Your Heart

Performed by
Tina Reynolds
Language
English

Ok, here’s some pretty simple pop, but it just works for me for some reason. It has a very appealing melody and the lyrics might be pretty trite and the verses might be pretty weak, but the chorus more than makes up for it. Though the “la la la"ing was totally unnecessary.

Germany - Die Sommermelodie

Performed by
Cindy and Bert
Language
German

This song sounds very messy. It isn’t bad per se, but the slow and mellow instrumental in the first verse doesn’t match the quick singing. The chorus slows down the orchestra to better match the singing, but that only makes it worse as the song loses what little energy it had. It’s a bit of a drag to listen to in all honesty.

Switzerland - Mein Ruf nach dir

Performed by
Piera Martell
Language
German

Maybe the previous entry put me in a more mellow mood, but I actually found myself enjoying this. It’s definitely quite old-fashioned for 1974, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. At least, it has a clear direction and knows what it wants to be, even if it’s a direction I don’t love.

Portugal - E depois do adeus

Performed by
Paulo de Carvalho
Language
Portuguese

ABBA may have started a musical revolution, but this song started an actual revolution (this joke is half-stolen from John Kennedy O’Connor). This song was one of the signals to begin the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, which would bring down the Estado Novo regime. Just three weeks after tying for last place, this song would help usher in a new age for Portugal. I think this deserves a little respect.

As a song, it’s not particularly interesting to me. Well, the verses are pretty good, I suppose, but they’re heavily weighted down by a very uninteresting chorus. I can see why the juries weren’t inspired by this song. Though I have to say, I think his performance was great and I wish he had a better song. The British commentator agrees with me, he said that he “sold this song” and yeah, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it anywhere near as much if it was performed by a lesser performer.

Italy - Sì

Performed by
Gigliola Cinquetti
Language
Italian

And we close with what is easily the most complex orchestration in this contest. It’s honestly hard to describe, because I don’t actually have a very expansive musical theory lexicon, but I really enjoyed the layering. It felt like every section of the orchestra got to contribute in some meaningful way. The part I’d like to highlight are the strings before the second verse. They create a very tense atmosphere in the song, especially after a very light and dreamy chorus.

It’s also the reason why RAI didn’t broadcast this contest live. Since Italy was holding a referendum a month later, they were afraid that this song would influence people to vote “yes”. Yes, this is absolutely ridiculous, but I felt that I had to point this out.

Results

  1. Yugoslavia - Generacija ‘42
  2. Finland - Keep Me Warm
  3. Greece - Krassi, thalassa ke t’ agori mou
  4. Italy - Sì
  5. Israel - Natati La Khaiai
  6. Netherlands - I See a Star
  7. Sweden - Waterloo
  8. Ireland - Cross Your Heart
  9. Spain - Canta y sé feliz
  10. Portugal - E depois do adeus
  11. Switzerland - Mein Ruf nach dir
  12. Monaco - Celui qui reste et celui qui s’en va
  13. Belgium - Fleur de liberté
  14. United Kingdom - Long Live Love
  15. Norway - The First Day of Love
  16. Luxembourg - Bye Bye I Love You
  17. Germany - Die Sommermelodie

Winners

  • Austria - 1 (1965)
  • Belgium - 1 (1961)
  • Denmark - 1 (1963)
  • France - 1 (1969)
  • Germany - 2 (1957, 1972)
  • Italy - 1 (1958)
  • Luxembourg - 3 (1956, 1964, 1973)
  • Monaco - 2 (1968, 1970)
  • Netherlands - 1 (1959)
  • Norway - 1 (1966)
  • Portugal - 1 (1967)
  • Spain - 1 (1971)
  • Sweden - 1 (1962)
  • United Kingdom - 1 (1960)
  • Yugoslavia - 1 (1974)

Hi, Yugoslavia, nice to see you here.

Conclusion

Yup, this was a very influential year and ABBA’s victory changed the course of Eurovision forever. It’s hard to deny that and it’s hard to argue that they probably were the most deserved winners in history of Eurovision.

The interval act was based on the Wombles, which were a British children’s show. Since I didn’t grow up in Britain (and especially not 1970s Britain), I have no nostalgia for this. Even then, I found it charmingly naff.

The voting was weird this year. For some reason, they held a separate draw to decide the order in which the votes will be presented (which is something that would only be done again in 2006). We started with Finland, who gave 5 points to Sweden, but we soon had the UK, who completely blanked Sweden and gave 5 points to Italy. Sadly, Sweden continued getting good points and had a very strong lead all throughout the voting (sadly for the excitement part). Funnily enough, if they awarded the votes in order of performance, the race would’ve been much closer and Sweden wouldn’t have got a decisive lead until the 15th jury - Switzerland - would’ve awarded their points.

But in any case, I’ll see you all in 1975, where we finally get our modern 12/10/8-1 voting system and a debut from Turkey.