Looking back to just like it was in 1957

Looking back to just like it was in 1957
Corry Brokken winner of the 1957 contest. Photo (c) EBU
Frankfurt-on-Main, Germany -

While fans today have still about two months to wait for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest - back in 1957 on Sunday the 3rd of March, tonight was the big night for audiences across western Europe to tune into their black and white television sets and watch the second ever edition of the contest. Incidentally the earliest it has taken place in the calendar year. Let's have a look back to see what they saw that evening.

Background

Just over nine months had elapsed since the inaugral edition of the contest had taken place in May, 1956; but in that time there were several changes made to the format of the programme.

The first was that each country would participate with just one song each; with Denmark, Austria and the United Kingdom joining the seven countries who had participated in the first event.

In the early years it was decided that each year a different broadcaster would take on the task of organising the contest, and it was the German broadcaster HR (Hessicher Rundfunk), who were selected to host it on behalf of ARD.

The other major change was the introduction of the scoreboard, so that viewers could follow the voting process. This had come about after the EBU had viewed a telerecording of the fifth heat of the Festival of British Popular Songs, that has been broadcast in the UK on the 27th August, 1956. Impressed by the format of contacting regional juries and showing their points on a scoreboard, the format was adapted for the Eurovision contest. Though in these early editions of the contest it was the song title that would appear on the board, rather than the name of the country.

The British heat had also included the London spokesperson delivering the results of their jury in vision, and with the exception of the 1971-1973 period when the juries were present in the host city, it took until 1994 before the jury spokespersons were seen on screen in the Eurovision Song Contest!

The Contest

The venue was the Großer Sendesaal des Hessichen Rundfunks in Frankfurt-on-Main that was used to stage the contest. There was an audience of just around 400 in the hall. The programme was introduced by Anaïd Iplicjian, who has the distinction of being the first female presenter to take on the role. The entire show lasted little more than an hour.

The Participants

  1. Belgium: Straatdeunje sung by Bobbejann Schoepen
  2. Luxembourg: Amours Mortes (Tante De Peine) sung by Danièle Dupré
  3. United Kingdom: All sung by Patricia Bredin
  4. Italy: Corde Della Mia Chitarra sung by Nunzio Gallo
  5. Austria: Wohin Kleines Pony sung by Bob Martin
  6. Netherlands: Net Als Toen sung by Corry Brokken (with violinist Sem Nijveen)
  7. Germany: Telefon, Telefon sung by Margot Hielscher
  8. France: La Belle Amour sung by Paule Desjardins
  9. Denmark: Skibet Skal Sejle I Nat sung by Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler
  10. Switzerland: L'enfant Que J'etais sung by Lys Assia

The Swiss entrant Lys Assia had won the 1956 contest with Refrain, In 2011 we took the opportunity to interview Lys Assia about those early contests.

The Voting

There were ten people on each national jury, who could each award one vote to his or her favourite song. They could not vote for their own country and no abstentions were allowed. You can see the breakdown of the voting in the History page for 1957 on our site. The countries voted in reverse order to that of performance order, ie starting with Switzerland. The Netherlands took the lead in the very first round and never looked seriously challenged for the title. They also managed to pick up votes from every country.

Did you know?

  • The Italian entry was 5'09" in duration. This led to the introduction of the three minute maximum duration. (Although many songs over the years have actually gone over this limit, but none have ever been disqualified).
  • Something else that went somewhat over the limit was the duration of the kiss at the end of the performance by the two Danish artists - Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler.
  • Several of the artists returned to the contest. In 1958 Corry Brokken, Margot Hielscher and Lys Assia all came back for a further attempt, whilst Birthe Wilke once again made a bid for the title in 1959.
  • Although the Dutch were the winners of the 1957 contest, they were not the automatic hosts of the 1958 contest. They only became the hosts when another broadcaster declined the opportunity to organise the 1958 event.
  • The 1957 contest is the earliest edition that survives in full in the archives.
  • That staple ingredient of the contest - a prop - made one of it's earliest appearances - with Margot Hielscher appropriately performing her song Telefon, Telefon with a telephone in her hands. [At least Bob Martin for Austria didn't appear with a pony on stage!]

About the winner

The winning song Net Als Toen, (or Just Like Then translated into English) was also recorded by Corry Brokken in French as Tout Comme Avant and in German as Damals War Alles So Schön.

Corry Brokken went onto release a number of records, and scored a big hit in 1960 with her version of Milord, reaching the top of the Dutch charts. In 1976, Brokken was the presenter of the Eurovision Song Contest, held in The Hague, thus becoming the first former artist and winner to take on the role,

Her musical career ended at this time when she decided to study law and become a judge. However, in 1996 she made a comeback releasing a mixture of old and new material. In 2000 she released a book entitled Wat mij betrefd which was a big success. Most recently she has appeared on various TV shows as a guest and released a second biography in 2009 entitled, Encore.


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