Eurovision 1965: Ireland makes its debut in the year Europop is born

By Jamie McLoughlin on Jul 13, 09 10:04 AM


Winner 1965: France's France Gall performs France's Serge Gainsbourg's superlative French pop song Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son. For Luxembourg.

Although the winner two year's hence tends to be credited for bringing an uptempo vibe to much of the Contest's victors that followed it, that's not strictly true. It really started in Naples in 1965 where an 18-year-old girl from Paris was invited by the executives of Luxembourgeois telly to pick one of the 10 songs they had on a handy shortlist as her choice to represent the Grand Duchy at Eurovision.

She chose what went on to be one of the most influential two minutes and 14 seconds in Eurovision history.

And as usual, it's 1965 in various nutshells.

(a) The winning song, allegedly booed in rehearsals for straying so far from the sort of song usually heard in the Contest at this point, was written by none other than Francophonic saucepot Serge Gainsbourg. He was still four years off his universal airwaves ban for the very naughty Je t'aime... Moi Non Plus, when he took the trophy with the song he penned for his god-daughter.

The winner was an allegory of how the music industry produces a long line of pretty young girls with pleasant voices maried up with the sort of tune the record buying public wants at the time - even if the voice behind the mic is singing about situations and experiences they're far too young to understand. The title translates as 'Wax Doll, Singing Doll'.

francegall_single.jpgThere were no boos on the night after France performed, except in France itself - the nation was fuming that two of its most blossoming talents had hawked their wares (and won) for Luxembourg instead. Gainsbourg did go on to write a Eurovision entry for his homeland - but it would take him 25 years to do so. His relationship with France (the singer) soured somewhat after he wrote a rather suggestive song under the title 'Lollipop'. France - who went on to record with Elton John - sang the song in all innocence, then went into hiding when she realised what her scallywag of a godfather was up to.

As well as being the first Eurovision entrant to win with a pop song - France also became the first winner to do her utmost to wash her hands of the Eurovision associations at the earliest opportunity. Now 61, she still refuses to talk about the Contest and - despite continued success on the Continent - her winning song never finds its way onto her concert setlists.

It's a shame, as the song has become something of an evergreen in the French-speaking nations and is much appreciated by students of Gainsbourg's work as a brilliant piece of mid-60s European pop music. Even indie kings Belle and Sebastian covered it on their live Fans Only DVD.

You can even hear Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son played in Lark Lane's extra-trendy Negresco bar on occasion. The haunt of many a Hollyoaks cast member, I bet even the management aren't aware they're pumping out a Eurovision winner for the clientele on a regular basis.

There hadn't been a single song like Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son in the Contest until 1965. From 1966, the event was full of 'em - but nothing ever came close to matching this peerless piece of perfect pop.

(b) Six points behind Luxembourg's French Reserves once all the votes were in was - you've guessed it - the UK. Their fifth silver medal in eight appearances so far, it was just unfortunate that the showstopping I Belong - brilliantly belted out by former NME British Female Vocalist of the Year, Kathy Kirby, hadn't been entered in 1963 - the year she earned that particular accolade, as it would most likely have swept the board in Television Centre.

Why didn't Eric Robinson wait until she was in front of the mic before striking up the band?

This was also the first time the UK was drawn to sing from the dreaded second spot in the running order. Blighty would only get this draw a further two times in the 20th Century - it has only been in the 21st that we've been stuck to this accursed singing slot like glue.

Rumour has it that a rather disgruntled Kathy vented her spleen at France Gall backstage after the show, as she was convinced I Belong would walk it. If such an encounter did go on, it's a pity nobody was around to film it.

butchmoore.jpg(c) And this was the year that Ireland said hello to Eurovision.

This significant debut meant that there were two English language songs in the 18-strong line-up for the first time and there was a fierce domestic heat staged in Dublin as every showband and soloist worth their salt wanted a slice of the Naples action.

After a series of heats, the honour of performing Ireland's maiden song was local hero Butch Moore with I'm Walking the Streets in the Rain. Clearly, a man who has visited Glasgow regularly.

He's well butch. And he's singing for Ireland.

Walking the Streets in the Rain? That is butch. Especially if you haven't wrapped up properly. Mr Moore finished a very respectable sixth - but there were far richer pickings to come for Ireland's songwriters. And mostly - but not always - deserved.

(d) The other highlight of the 1965 Contest was the absurd, incomprehensible scoreboard. Instead of displaying a number next to each entrant to register their points, the designer had the ingenious idea (ahem) of making it look like 18 thermometers laid horizontally on top of each other. Every time a country scored points, its temperature went up.

The Spanish jury's excellent taste in popular music is represented on the strangest scoreboard a Eurovision set designer has ever conceived.

It's a wonder France Gall was able to reprise her winning song at all. That temperature of 32 must have left her feeling positively feverish.

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