To celebrate 60 years of Eurovision, we're taking a look back at some of the highlights in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest.
24 Apr 2015 - 9:15 AM  UPDATED 5 May 2015 - 8:50 AM

1965

1965 was the year… the UK said farewell to Winston Churchill.

New York was plunged into darkness in the biggest power failure in U.S. history.

Russian Alexy Leonov became the first human to walk in space.

The Beatles received national honours at Buckingham Palace.

And it was the year Eurovision finally went POP!

Italy played host as the Song Contest enters double digits.

The largest number of countries to date came to Naples – with 18 singers taking to the stage.

Ireland joined the Contest for the first time – and came a creditable 6th.

Sweden sang their song in English prompting a rule change the following year that all songs must be sung in a national language.

Spain and Belgium – plus Finland and Germany scored “nul points” for the second time.

The UK took second place for the 5th time.

But victory went to the 17 year old from Paris representing Luxembourg - France Gall.

French music legend Serge Gainsbourg penned the track about a blond singing doll – not Gall at all!

Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son became the first pop song to win the Eurovision Song Contest.

The song sold half a million copies in France alone and was recorded in German, Italian, and Japanese.

 

1969

1969 was the year… man set foot on the moon for the first time.

Conflict was still raging in Vietnam.

The world’s first supersonic jet took off.

Belgian Eddie Merx won the world’s most famous cycling race.

Hippies gathered in the US to spread peace and love.

And it was the year Eurovision witnessed something that would never happen again.

Madrid played host for the first time – after Spain’s win in London the previous year.

Spanish artist Salvador Dali designed the stage which set the tone for what became a very surreal evening.

16 countries took part in the 14th Eurovision Song Contest – Austria stayed home as a protest against the competition being held in Franco’s Spain.

Monaco’s Jean Jacques was only 12 years old and came fifth.

British pop star Lulu gave a colourful performance.

There was a classy chanson from French singer Frida Boccara.

The hosts were represented by Salome in a dress made of porcelain that weighed 14 kilos!

And Lenny Kuhr got her guitar out for the The Netherlands folky number.

All 4 songs were expected to do well – but no one could have predicted what happened next….

With no rule at the time to decide a tie break – The UK, The Netherlands, France and Spain were ALL declared joint winners - and all 4 countries performed their songs again.

The decision was controversial - 4 countries pulled out of the Contest the following year in protest.

Since 1969 there’s only been one other tie break – in 1991 when Sweden triumphed over France.

Rules are in place now that mean there can be only ONE winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.

 

1974

1974 was the year… of Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.

Richard Nixon resigned as US President.

There was a Rumble in the Jungle.

3 million years after she died – Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia.

And it was the year Eurovision gave birth to a pop phenomenon.

The 1974 Contest took place in the English seaside town of Brighton – after Luxembourg the previous year’s winners declined to host the event.

Inside the Brighton Dome – Katie Boyle hosted the Contest for the 4th time.

Some big names were appearing on stage in 74.

The UK was represented by Olivia Newton John who came 4th. 4 years later she was starring in “Grease”.

Portugal's song started a Revolution – quite literally. Just weeks after the Contest it was used as a signal to begin the Carnation coup against the country’s military dictatorship.

Italy’s Gigliola Cinquetti had won Eurovision ten years earlier aged just 16. This time she only managed 2nd place.

And the winners were the fabulous four from Sweden - ABBA!

Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid took Europe by storm with their strong contemporary song – and glamorous costumes.

Waterloo went Top 10 in 20 countries and the group became one of the biggest selling artists in the world.

In 2005 Waterloo was voted the best Eurovision song of all time.

 

1980/87

1980 was the year… the United States stayed away from the Moscow Olympics.

Film star Ronald became President Reagan.

John Lennon was shot dead in New York.

The Solidarnosc trade union was formed in Poland by Lech Walesa.

And it was the year Eurovision first encountered the only singer to win the Contest twice.

The Eurovision Song Contest in 1980 very nearly didn’t happen at all.

Israel had won for the second year in a row in 1979 and chose not to host the Contest again.

The Netherlands saved the day and staged the 25th Song Contest in The Hague – just four years after it last hosted the event.

Katja Ebstein sang for Germany for the 3rd time and finished 2nd.

The Netherlands’ Maggie Macneal sang about another famous Dutch city.

And Belgian trio Telex paid tribute to the Contest itself.

But the night belonged to an Australian born Irishman who gave his country its second victory – Johnny Logan.

His song became a huge hit around Europe but further success eluded him until…

7 years after his first Eurovision win – Johnny Logan won again for Ireland in Brussels.

Johnny Logan is still the only Eurovision artist to win the Contest twice AND added a third trophy to his haul as a writer of another Irish winner in 1992.

He became known as Mr Eurovision and is still a hugely popular performer in many European countries.

 

1988

1988 was the year the Jamaican bobsled team became Olympic heroes.

Pyramids arrived at the Louvre in Paris.

The Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan after 8 years of conflict.

Car fans mourned the passing of a racing legend.

And it was the year Eurovision launched a legend…..

In 1988 Ireland hosted Eurovision for the 3rd time and decided the Contest needed a make- over.

A flashy hi-tech set was built to showcase the 21 songs competing that year.

A brand new video scoreboard was also used for the first time.

Denmark sent the group Hot Eyes for the 3RD time – and they came 3rd. Lead singer Kirsten was heavily pregnant. Her second son was born just 3 weeks after the Contest.

Israel's singer Yardena Arazi represented her country in 1976 and hosted the in Jerusalem in 1979

Luxembourg’s entrant Lara Fabian finished 4th but went on to have a huge international career.

The UK’s Scott Fitzgerald was expected to win.

After the penultimate country had voted the UK had a five point lead over Switzerland represented by a then unknown artist called Celine Dion – and then this happened…

Celine Dion won the 1988 Contest by just one point and became a global superstar.

Celine has gone on to sell more than 200 million records worldwide and is now one of the top selling female artists of all time.

 

1993/94

1993 and 1994 were the years… Dinosaurs came to life in Jurassic Park.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the Oslo Peace Accords.

Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa.

The Channel Tunnel was opened connecting the UK and France.

And they were the years Eurovision welcomed Eastern Europe.

The early 1990s were a period of massive change in Europe.

By 1993 – new European nations were born and celebrated their fledgling independence in the tiny village of Millstreet in Ireland.

As war raged in the Balkans,

Croatia’s entry reflected the mood back home.

Bosnia sang of how “All the pain of the world tonight” was in their country.

And there was great support as the new Balkan nations gave their votes for the first time.

In 1994 the Contest remained in Ireland and moved to Dublin.

It was the year of Riverdance. The 7 minute interval act wowed Europe and was turned into a stage show that still tours the world today.

10 more Eastern European countries joined the party…

…including Hungary, Russia and Poland who finished 2nd at their first Contest.

And to top off a historical year - Ireland became the first country to win THREE Song Contests in a row.

Their song - Rock and Roll Kids - finished the night with the highest Eurovision score at that time – 226 points .

 

2004

2004 was the year… the Olympics returned to Athens.

US filmmaker Michael Moore won the Palm D’or.

The streets of Ukraine turned Orange in protest.

A tsumami in the Indian Ocean devastated Thailand.

And it was the year Eurovision broke new ground….

Turkey hosted the competition for the first time after competing for nearly 30 years.

A new logo was created – and the Eurovision heart was born.

The Song Contest had been a one night affair for nearly 50 years

But all that changed too in Istanbul;

So many countries wanted to take part now a Eurovision Semi Final was held for the first time.

Switzerland didn’t have much to Celebrate though they came dead last in the Semi Final with nul points.

4 new countries made their Eurovision debut this year – including tiny Andorra.

Greek superstar Sakis Rouvas made his first appearance and came 3rd.

But it was Ukraine though who stole the show…

The leather clad Ruslana danced her way to victory only a year after Ukraine had made their Eurovision debut.

Ruslana went on to become a political activist playing a part in the Ukrainian Revolutions of 2004 and 2014.

 

2009

2009 was the year… Roger Federer won the French Open on his way to becoming tennis’ biggest superstar.

Usain Bolt set a new world record in the 100 metres.

We lost the King of Pop.

Barack Obama picked up the Nobel Peace Prize.

And it was the year…. Eurovision went BIG!

The Contest was held in one of Europe’s largest cities – Moscow.

42 countries came to the Russian capital to try to win the 54th Eurovision.

The vast Olimpisky Arena was the venue with the stage using over a third of the world’s LED screens

Even Vladimir Putin, the then Prime Minister turned up to check on the organisation.

Azerbaijan came third at only their second Contest.

Iceland came 2nd for the 2nd time.

But Number One belonged to the runaway favourite from Norway.

Alexander Rybak gave his country its 3rd win and set a Eurovision record.

Fairytale came 1st with 387 points out of a possible 492 – the largest winning total ever – and was welcomed home as a hero.

 

2012

2012 was the year… Hurricane Sandy swept through New York.

The Costa Concordia cruise ship capsized.

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars.

Queen Elizabeth the 2nd celebrated 60 years on the British throne.

And it was the year Eurovision went to Azerbaijan.

The Contest controversially travelled to Baku for the first time -it’s most eastern host city yet.

The sparkling Crystal Hall was built to host Eurovision – and the contest shone a light on human rights in the country too.

Inside - 42 countries competed to win the Grand Prix.

The UK sent 60s singing legend Englebert Humperdinck. At 75 years old he was one of the oldest singers ever to enter Eurovision.

Englebert was in good company - Russia’s 6 Babushkis had a combined age of over 400. They baked cookies on stage and came in 2nd.

Sweden took the crown though winning their 5th Contest thanks to top votes from 18 countries.

Singer Loreen was born in Stockholm to Moroccan parents.

Her song became one of Eurovision's biggest ever winners.

Euphoria went on to become a huge worldwide hit reaching Number One in 18 countries and the Top 10 in 16 more.

 

2014

2014 was the year… Germany won the World Cup.

Students took to the streets of Hong Kong.

Europe landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first time.

George Clooney finally tied the knot.

And it was the year Eurovision launched one of its biggest icons.

Copenhagen played host for the third time and chose a former shipyard for the venue.

Millions were spent on turning an empty derelict space into the showbiz centre of Europe.

37 countries competed in the Danish capital.

The Netherlands gained their best result since 1998 when their slow country number finished in 2nd place.

But the Contest belonged to a striking bearded lady from Austria.

Conchita Wurst arrived on stage to a huge ovation from the 10 thousand strong audience.

And then swept all before her….

Europe had taken a bearded drag queen to their hearts.

Conchita’s win was triumph for acceptance,

and a massive symbol of diversity at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Following her triumph Conchita was invited to perform for MEPs in Brussels and met the UN Secretary General in Vienna.

 

Eurovision Semi Final 1: Friday May 22nd, 7:30pm on SBS ONE

Eurovision Semi Final 2: Saturday May 23rd, 7:30pm on SBS ONE

Eurovision Grand Final: Sunday May 24th, 7:30pm on SBS ONE