Saturday, 14 May 2011

Those Radio Times! - Eurovision Song Contest 1974

Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard
on the cover of Radio Times dated 4 April 1974
Everyone's getting excited about Blue's 2011 UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest and quite rightly so!

Olivia Newton-John in Radio Times, 1974
At one time or another Eurovision has had a cause to get us excited.

My mother, heavily pregnant,  nearly dropped me when Cliff Richard almost (and apparently should have) won with Congratulations in 1968.

I probably became aware of Eurovision around 1974 when it became one of those shows I was allowed to stay up and watch.

In later years I'd try and sync up the live Radio broadcast with the TV broadcast so I could hear the songs in stereo.

I probably loved it because despite the calibre of performers we usually had representing us in the UK back then - they were real pop stars!

Cliff did it twice (1968 and 1973), Sandie Shaw (1967), Lulu (1969), The Shadows (1975) and Olivia Newton John (1974) who appeared on the cover of Radio Times (with Cliff) the week Eurovision took place at the Dome in Brighton in 1974.

Things were looking good for Australia's Olivia, she had been in the UK for several years already and had  a string of successful hits as well as regular television appearances with Cliff. Her entry for 1974 Long Live Love was written by Valerie Avon and Harold Spiro (not to be confused with Sandie Shaw's song of the same name which hit the top of the UK charts ten years earlier) and had been one of six shortlisted songs picked for Eurovision that year. The vote was put out to TV viewers and the British public responded with answers on a postcard to the BBC with their favourite entry scribbled on it.

The jolly romp about the Sally Annie band was almost light gospel with its approach and one wonders if it was maybe written more with Cliff in mind. Still, Olivia belted out a competent version which won the hearts of the British voting public.

The chart listing the 1974 Eurovision
entries on page 16 of Radio Times
The Eurovision Song Contest went out live on BBC1 television at 9.30pm on Saturday 6 April 1974, live from the Dome in Brighton.

The BBC had stepped in to stage the show after the winner of the previous two years, Luxembourg had pulled out of staging it on the grounds the event was too expensive to produce.

The show was hosted by everyone's favourite TV presenter of the time Katie Boyle, while the commentary was provided by David Vine. On BBC Radio 1 and 2 Terry Wogan provided the commentary to the delight of radio listeners across the land.

The Radio Times got in on the action with a feature on previous entrants and  any advice they could offer Olivia.

Olivia however; already had a game plan of her own. Olivia told Radio Times: "I won't think about how many people are watching, in case it makes me nervous." She continued: " All I can do is my best. I'll just try and be myself."

There was also a chart of the songs on page 16 of Radio Times so viewers could do their own scoring at home.

Radio Billing for
Eurovision broadcast
on BBC Radio's 1 and 2
Olivia's entry seemed to have no more competition than any other entry usually would, but ever-hungry for a win and staging the event, the British expectations were high.  That is, until a group from Sweden called ABBA got onto the stage and belted out a song about Napoleon Bonaparte at the battle of Waterloo. They won the contest, changing the course of their careers to become the most popular pop group of the 1970s.

Long Live Love ended up with 14 points and placed fourth with Luxembourg and Monaco.

Nevertheless; greater things were still to come for Olivia Newton-John, her album Long Live Love was released featuring her beautiful recording of the song I Honestly Love You which proved to be a smash success in the USA.

Years later she'd achieve movie success in Grease and Xanadu  and changing her girl next door image for a slightly raunchier one scoring greater hits with Physical and A Little More Love.
Olivia Newton-John and friend on
Brighton Beach pictured in Radio Times
  • Do you have any radio or television recordings from this or any other years of the Eurovision Song Contest? If so I'd be delighted to hear from you for a future blog post. I'm particularly looking for any recordings prior to 1985. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • For further information on Olivia Newton-John check out her official website

1 comment:

  1. Funnily enough when we watched it tonight I was saying how they used to list all the songs in the RT, but of course that was before the days of semi-finals.



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