Eurovision Song Contest 1974. Abba. Brighton. Katie Boyle.
Despite it being almost 38 years ago, I remember that evening as if it was yesterday. 6th April 1974 had not been an ordinary day. My beloved grandad had died earlier that week, and that was the day of his funeral. He may not have been an obvious Eurovision fan, not really: but as my mum reminds me every year at Eurovision time, he had predicted Dana's win in 1970. I wonder what he'd have made of Abba?
At 8.00 pm we all gathered round the TV for the Eurovision Song Contest, which "came home" to Brighton that year. Eurovision was a part of my life as long as I can remember but I can honestly say that 1974 was the first contest I could remember from beginning to end.
So many of the entries scream "easy listening" such as the opener “Keep Me Warm” from Finland however I strangely like this...however I can't say the same for the Sally-Army-anthem "Long Live Love" and the divine Olivia singing for Royaume-Uni in her nightgown. A good performance of an embarrassing song.
I distinctly remember the Israel entry being one of my favourites that year. “Natati La Khayay” by Poogy (Kaveret) still sounds OK today, and they’ve got a co-ordinated tank tops thing going on too
By this time we were into a rather good section of the contest. “Generacija 42” a.k.a. “Moja Generacija” by Korni represented Yugoslavia, and as befits the time they were all multicoloured satin and facial hair, yet even as a child I was struck by the seriousness and intensity of this song amid all the 1974 jollity. I had kept a book where I wrote down all the entries and noted this as one of my favourites.
What came next was to change everything forever. On that night I will never forget the first time I saw the Swedish group Abba - two women and two men in striking costumes with a conductor dressed as Napoleon. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before, and we completely loved them. This song, "Waterloo" must surely win!
It was a very significant year as it wasn't just the eventual winning song which became a hit. The Dutch entry "I See A Star" by Mouth & MacNeal and Italy's "Go" (Si) by Gigliola Cinquetti also made our charts: pretty unthinkable these days, but a significant sign of how Eurovision mattered more back in the less cynical 70s.
There wasn't much more to mention about ESC 1974 except for one more significant entry from Portugal - "E Depois du Adeus" sung by Paulo de Carvalho was the signal for the country's 'Carnation Revolution', a military coup which delivered Portugal from dictatorship to democracy.
That year's interval act was, believe it or not, the British musical phenomenon of the time - The Wombles :)
After the voting - which didn't last as long as today's hour long marathons - Abba secured Sweden's first ESC victory. A very satisfactory one...but we didn't know at that time just how fantastic and influential they would become!