Our Man Cliff 

12 May 2018 tbs.pm/65716

The Eurovision Song Contest 1968


From the Radio Times North of England edition with BBC Radio Merseyside for 6-12 April 1968

It’s the pop world’s highlight of the year, the songwriter’s Derby… and here TOM SLOAN, Head of BBC-tv Light Entertainment, sets the scene for Saturday’s ‘live’ broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall


‘Well,’ as Dorothy Parker said, ‘here we are again.’ At the Royal Albert Hall in London we have the thirteenth International Song Derby, or, as it is officially known, the Eurovision Song Contest.

What an extraordinary event this is — and who, way back in 1956, could have imagined that it would grow in such a way as to involve seventeen nations in Western Europe — and be transmitted through the Iron Curtain to Russia, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Poland? And yet it has.

It is, of course, the element of competition which makes it compulsive viewing. Difficulties of language seem to matter little — what we are all involved in is seeing how our country’s tune compares with the others because that is what it is all about.

I know it is said that young pretty girls stand a better chance than men, but over the years I remain convinced that the tune is all-important — although it has been greatly aided on more than one occasion by the addition of an attractive performer.

Do you remember the charming ‘Tom Pillibi’ sung in 1960 by Jacqueline Boyer or the haunting ‘Non Ho L’Eta’ of Gigliola Cinquetti in 1964? And who can forget our winning entry last year, Puppet on a String sung by Sandie Shaw! Yes, the girls have tended to carry everything before them, but always with a good tune.

How does the whole thing work? Well, first of all each competing country is asked to submit a new song which has not been published in any way before March 11.

How the selection is made is up to the country concerned. Most, like us, have an internal competition to decide the entry, but whatever the method the singer and the song will arrive at the Royal Albert Hall for rehearsals a few days before the contest.

The order of singing is decided by drawing lots and then the contest is on!

When the songs have been performed there is a short pause while the juries in each country allot their votes. Each jury consists of ten members — half of them must be under thirty years of age — and no professional songwriters or publishers are allowed to serve. In other words they are a group of primarily young people from all walks of life representing the country as a whole.

Each member has one vote — no abstentions are allowed (naturally, a national jury cannot vote for its own song).

Thus with seventeen countries competing, the maximum possible total of votes for any song is 160.

Although the programme will be transmitted ‘live’ on BBC-1 in black and white, it will also be seen on BBC-2 later in colour. Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Switzerland will also transmit it in colour.

Commentators from all the countries will be relaying their impressions of the scene in their own language while the multilingual Katie Boyle will act as hostess for the entire contest — having discharged these duties with admirable efficiency and charm on two previous occasions in 1960 and 1963.

I know we have a great song — and in Cliff Richard we have a great singer. This event has never been won two years in succession by any country, but there’s always a first time, so ‘Good luck, Cliff — and may the best tune win!’





Born Harry Roger Webb in Lucknow, India, on October 14, 1940. Educated at Stanley Park Road Secondary School, Carshalton, and Cheshunt Secondary Modern. Taught the guitar by his lather.

After leaving school, took job as a clerk. Joined a vocal group and made his first public appearance at a Youth Fellowship dance in Cheshunt in 1954.

Followed up with appearances at holiday camps. Made his first broadcast in ‘Saturday Club’ in 1958. First number one hit was in 1959 with ‘Living Doll’ and in the same year ‘Travellin’ Light’ topped the charts.

In 1960 ‘Please Don’t Tease’ got to No. 1 as did ‘The Young Ones,’ ‘The Next Time,’ ‘Summer Holiday,’ ‘The Minute You’re Gone.’

Films include: ‘Expresso Bongo,’ ‘The Young Ones,’ ‘Summer Holiday,’ ‘Finders Keepers,’ ‘Wonderful Life,’ ‘Two a Penny.’






1956 ‘Refrain’ (Switzerland)
No British entry

1957 ‘Net Als Toen’ (Netherlands)
Britain’s ‘All’ sung by Patricia Bredin was seventh

1958 ‘Dors Mon Amour’ (France)
No British entry

1959 ‘Een Beetje’ (Netherlands)
Britain’s ‘Sing Little Birdie’ sung by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson was second

1960 ’Tom Pillibi’ (France)
Britain’s ‘Looking High, High, High’ sung by Bryan Johnson was second

1961 ‘Nous les Amoureux’ (Luxembourg)
Britain’s ‘Are You Sure’ sung by The Allisons was second

1962 *Un Premier Amour’ (France)
Britain’s ‘Ring a Ding Girl’ sung by Ronnie Carroll tied for fourth place

1963 ‘Dansevise’ (Denmark)
Britain’s ‘Say Wonderful Things’ sung by Ronnie Carroll was fourth

1964 ’Non Ho L’Eta’ (Italy)
Britain’s ‘I Love the Little Things’ sung by Matt Monro was second

1965 ‘Poupee de Cire, Pouple de Son’ (Luxembourg)
Britain’s ‘I Belong’ sung by Cathy Kirby was second

1966 ‘Merci Cheri’ (Austria)
Britain’s ‘A Man Without Love’ sung by Kenneth McKellar was ninth

1967 ‘Puppet on a String’ (Britain) sung by Sandie Shaw





Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, the two young songwriters who wrote last year’s winner ‘Puppet on a String,’ have got their song in the final again.

Says Phil Coulter: ‘It’s no good kidding yourself that you can just stroll up and win this contest. Last year Bill and I did some intensive research into the voting system and the way the Eurovision Contest is run and what appeals to people on the Continent. A sort of market research.

‘Yes, of course you need inspiration, but it doesn’t come in a blinding flash. It’s very hard work: inspiration.’

‘The song that wins must not be too involved,’ says Coulter. ‘Remember ninety per cent of the people listening won’t be able to understand the words, so the beat is very important. “Puppet” had a variety of universal fairground noises in it. “Congratulations,” this year’s song, has a strong boom-boom drum beat.’

The two songwriters will be at the Royal Albert Hall hoping that they and Britain can pull off the double.



The singers in order of performance


If you don’t want to know the results, look away now:

The winner, with 29 points, was TVE’s ‘La la la’ by Massiel. The BBC’s ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richard came second with 28 points. ORTF were third, RTÉ fourth, SVT fifth. The United Kingdom and Spain gave nul points to each others’ entries.

You Say

8 responses to this article

Glenn Aylett 12 May 2018 at 12:15 pm

Perhaps the best British entry never to win, but which came second in 1977, was Rock Bottom by the late Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran. This was a coded attack on the state of the country under Labour, both musicians being known for their Conservative sympathies, and ironically the final in London would be postponed for five weeks due to a technicians dispute. Politics aside, this was a very good song without the naffness of the previous year’s British winner and was the last hit for Lynsey De Paul, who later found writing television music and property development more profitable.

Westy 12 May 2018 at 1:47 pm

I gave up after 1998!

Kif Bowden-Smith 12 May 2018 at 3:06 pm

Do get in touch as we think you should write for us again….we seemed to mislay your email address about 5 years ago! Chris.

Paul Mason 13 May 2018 at 2:37 am

Glenn- I ab solutely LOATHED that song (on merit). It only reached number 20 before vanishing. The worst ESC entry from UK was the awful “Long Live Love” by Olivia Newton John (1974) which sounded like Blue Minks “Banner Man of 1971. Who won it in 1974 I wonder? The groups name was Hebrew for father.
ONJ hated the song but she went on to greater fortune by the 80s.
Katie Boyle, mentioned here has died recently (2018).
Later on in 1968 it fell to Tom Sloan to present a tribute to Tony Hancock after the evening news. Sloan himself died a year or so later.

Back to the ESC I don’t think Cliff Richard is celebrating 50 years since Congratulations.

Paul Mason 13 May 2018 at 3:30 am

The UK and Spain gave each other nul points over the issue of Gibraltar. Spain still had to suffer seven more years of General Franco

Joanne Gray 13 May 2018 at 9:09 pm

After watching this year’s absolute farce, I wish we could turn the clock back to when Eurovision wasn’t a freak show with politically motivated voting.

David Barron 13 May 2018 at 9:17 pm

Very short show compared to the 2018 Contest which was last night at the time of writing. 1968 was just over an hour and half. 2018 was nearly three and three quarter hours.

The one thing I did notice about the schedule for BBC1 on the day of the contest in 1968: https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/bbcone/london/1968-04-06 is anyone waiting for Match of the Day must have been really annoyed to be on so late and given what game was shown that day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d17jgyj2BN0&ab_channel=ThomasPhilpott and why it wasn’t shown before the contest.

Paul Mason 15 May 2018 at 12:19 am

Can I point out that the worst UK ESC entry is a very crowded field. I don’t remember anything before Puppet On A String. My parents must have watched ABC on ESC Saturdays.
The 1961 UK entry Are You Sure by duo The Allison’s was decent for its era but the rest forget it! And I agree with Glenn about Save Your Kisses For Me, which was a rip off of Dawns Tie A Yellow Ribbon apart from the BofM song nausea inducing ending.

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