Eurovision has had some seriously big winning songs - Rise like a Phoenix, Kisses from Me, Puppet on a String, and Waterloo, just to name a few. But believe it or not, some of the biggest Eurovision songs didn’t win, they were runners up!
Catherine Ferry - France 1976: ‘Un, Deux, Trois’
In the height of disco, this French entry was more ‘sing-a-long Oktoberfest oom-pah’ than Euro smash hit. The four backing vocalists had to learn 18 words, clap quavers in 6/8 time, and the audience loved this catchy tune. 17 points separated the winner, UK’s Brotherhood of Man, with France, and both were a massive 54 points clear of Monaco in 3rd place. The song was so successful it was recorded in 5 different languages. It is still the highest score of any French entry to date, and it is wiki-rumoured this song has the dubious title of “highest average vote of any runner-up in Eurovision history”. Mmmm.
Sir Cliff Richard - UK 1968: ‘Congratulations’
In 1968, Cliff was set to win as the crowd favourite with the catchy bubble-gum hit, ‘Congratulations’. What he didn’t count on was Spain with a song that had more lah-lah-lah’s than the local day care facility. It’s said that when he lost, Cliff locked himself in his change room and cried. Incidentally, ‘Congratulations’ was #1 in the UK and Germany, it has earned him more than any other song to date, and it was played at Charles and Camilla’s wedding!!
Lys Assia - Switzerland – 1957 AND 1958
In 1956 Lys Assia won the first ever Eurovision Song Contest. Back then it was one winner, and no one loses. So ‘officially’ the acts that didn’t win, were all ‘runners-up’! Lys Assia is technically the only artist in Euro-history to win and come second - twice! She won in ‘56, was ‘runner up’ in 1957, they changed the rules in 1958 and she came second again, this time for real.
Gina G - UK 1996 - ‘Ooh Ah Just a Little Bit’
The UK (read: Australia) could’ve won Eurovision in 1996 with Gina G’s ‘Ooh Ah Just a Little Bit’. Yes she was singing for the UK, but this talented Queenslander was one of ours! ‘Ooh Ah’ was already number 1 in the UK, and soon to be top 10 in Belgium, Finland, Australia, USA, Ireland, and in the host country Norway. But Gina drew the short straw and performed in the ‘unlucky’ spot of 2nd in the running order. From odds-on favourite to win, Gina G trotted in at 8th.
But the greatest runner up would have to be…
Domenico Mudugno - Italy 1958 - ‘Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu’ (Volare)
Who? What? Oh! You mean Volare by Dean Martin?! Before Dean, this was Italy’s 1958 entry.
It became an instant global hit and has landed the title for “most covered Eurovision song of all time”. From Louis Armstrong to David Bowie, and even TISM, they’ve all done a version.
And to think, 30 million copies later and it didn’t even win. Ok, it came third. But it should’ve at least come second!