As I (finally) reach the end of the first full decade of this Eurovision retrospective, it’s a good time to look back at how far the contest has already come from its humble beginnings. I’ll do a poll for the four 1950s winners separately, but for now let’s take one last look at the 14 winners of the contest’s first full decade.
1960: Jacqueline Boyer – Tom Pilibi (France)
The first winner of the 1960s was a jaunty French pop tune about a compulsive liar. Jacqueline Boyer was the youngest winner to date at that point, and although the song now sounds rather antiquated, it was a breath of fresh air in an era packed with languid ballads.
What I said: A beautiful young French girl with a sweet, quavering voice, Jacqueline Boyer is the perfect vehicle for this jaunty tune about an untrustworthy but irresistible lover.
1961: Jean-Claude Pascal – Nous les amoureux (Luxembourg)
A smoky, atmospheric French ballad that gave the duchy of Luxembourg their first of five victories to date. Apparently the lyrics about forbidden love helped the song to become something of a cult gay classic in French-speaking countries.
What I said: It isn’t the most interesting song, but it drips with gallic cool and builds to a triumphant but understated finish.
1962: Isabelle Aubret – Un premier amour (France)
Yet another Francophone winner, this smoky ballad was dripping with class and sophistication.
What I said: For the first time watching these early shows, there really is no contest in my mind – this song and performance is absolutely streets ahead of everything else tonight. It isn’t an especially catchy song, but it’s magnificently performed by the strikingly beautiful Isabelle Aubret, a model of composure and sultry delivery.
1963: Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann – Dansevise (Denmark)
The first ever Scandinavian winner, this jazz-tinged Danish confection has a beguiling late-night feel.
What I said: Moody, haunting and well deserved winner.
1964: Gigliola Cinquetti – Non ho l’età (Italy)
This soothing ballad was one of the first really big hits to emerge from the contest, and gave Italy a long overdue first victory.
What I said: The song is a gorgeous lullaby, perfectly suited to Cinquetti’s rich, velvety tones.
1965: France Gall – Poupée de cire, poupée de son (Luxembourg)
Penned by infamous French provocateur Serge Gainsbourg, this fast-paced bubblegum hit helped breathe new life into the contest.
What I said: (Poupée de cire) is almost all chorus – it starts in high gear and barely slows down until the end. Gall’s live vocal could generously be described as shaky, but it’s not the kind of song that really relies on the singer being pitch perfect.
1966: Udo Jürgens – Merci, Chérie (Austria)
Austria’s sole pre-Conchita win was a soulful ballad by iconic songwriter Udo Jürgens that remains a popular standard to this day.
What I said: …a fascinating example of a smart, talented songwriter refining his craft in order to bring it into line with the requirements of the contest.
1967: Sandie Shaw – Puppet On A String (United Kingdom)
After no fewer than five runners up, the UK finally scored their first win with the help of chart topping sixties icon Sandie Shaw. Shame she hated the song herself.
What I said: The lyrics may be easily read as sexist, but it doesn’t feel malicious or ill-natured, indeed the bouncy melody allows room for humour that Shaw exploits to good effect. From the very first “Iiiiii” note, it’s a big belting singalong that seems to have been constructed entirely out of strong hooks.
1968: Massiel – La, La, La (Spain)
Not exactly a lyrical miracle, this maddeningly catchy Spanish singalong narrowly beat the UK’s Cliff Richard to the victory – much to the annoyance of the UK audience.
What I said: Why did it win? Probably for the exact reasons everybody thinks it won – it was stupidly catchy and anyone could sing along to it.
1969: Frida Boccara – Un jour, un enfant (France)
There were four winners in the 1969 contest. The French entry was a haunting ballad in the classic chanson style, given a powerful, impassioned reading by Frida Boccara.
What I said: Alone onstage with nothing to distract from her performance, she delivers easily the most compelling three minutes of the night. It’s not a catchy song in the way that the other three winners are, but it’s stirring, passionate and Boccara’s emotional vocal draws you into the story from start to finish.
1969: Lenny Kuhr – De troubadour (The Netherlands)
With a faintly olde worlde sounding ballad about a wandering minstrel, 19-year old Lenny Kuhr became the first woman to win the contest with a self-penned song.
What I said: (Kuhr) has a striking throaty voice for a young girl, which gives the song a pleasingly odd medieval beer-hall feel that’s entirely in-keeping with the song’s lyrics. One of the quirkier Eurovision winners of the era.
1969: Salome – Vivo Cantando (Spain)
A maniacally energetic performance from the glamourous Salome helped Spain to secure their second (and to date last) victory.
What I said: One of the campest spectacles I’ve ever witnessed.
1969: Lulu – Boom Bang-a-Bang (United Kingdom)
Like Sandie Shaw, Lulu expressed little fondness for her Eurovision winner after the event, but she did admit she was relieved not to have come second.
What I said: A song like Boom Bang-A-Bang would be impossible to treat reverently, so Lulu’s solution is to ham it up outrageously. At this point the 19 year old singer already had years of experience not just as a stage performer but also as a TV star, and she’s evidently comfortable in both mediums.