Como Tudo Começou…
Hello out there in ESC-land! Hope you’ve all had a wonderful Holiday Season, no matter what festivals you may have indulged in.
I hope you’ll pardon my brief absence from writing here; to tell you the truth, I was having a bit of trouble deciding which direction I wanted to take the ESC Insider. I’ve been creating a list of topics that I’d like to cover at some point, and I had no idea where to start. One might think that Eurovision is not much more than frothy pop music and flashy costumes. Granted, that’s about 50% of the fun, but it gets so much more in-depth than that! In the future, I’ll be writing about politics, linguistics, fashion, comedy, GLBT topics…and I’m just getting warmed up!
So, after all of that, where do I start? Well, frankly, it’s a bit difficult and almost unreasonable to produce a Eurovision blog geared towards a generally American audience (hi, Mom!) without providing a bit of background information on the contest, isn’t it? So, to steal shamelessly from “The Sound of Music”, let’s start at the very beginning…
In the years following the Second World War, Europe was somewhat caught between the still-open wounds of the past and the need to move on into the future. As cities and infrastructure were being rebuilt, national television and radio broadcasters from all over the continent united in early 1950 into the European Broadcasting Union, or EBU. This organization now contains members from over 50 nations in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, plus associate members from all over the rest of the world (including American stations ABC, CBS, NBC, and National Public Radio). In 1955, Swiss EBU member Marcel Bezençon came up with the idea of parlaying this emerging technological unity into a cultural exchange. After watching the Italian Sanremo Song Festival, which had been established in 1951, Bezençon hatched the idea of a Pan-European song contest, where EBU member nations could go head-to-head against one another in friendly competition. In 1956, Lugano hosted the inaugural edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, where Lys Assia won the roses for Switzerland with her chanson, “Refrain”. Few video recordings of this first ESC remain, but you can see Assia’s victory reprise below.
The 1956 contest was a pretty modest undertaking, a major contrast from today’s circus. Only seven nations competed (although the United Kingdom, Austria, and Denmark had submitted songs, they had missed the deadline for application, so they were not included in this edition). Furthermore, this was the only ESC where nations could submit multiple entries. Finally, 1956 was the only contest where no point totals or jury deliberations were released. We only know that Lys Assia won, but the second-place finisher and all of the other details have been lost to the ages.
It’s really amazing to think how far Eurovision has come since its inception back in the mid-1950s. But, in a way, it’s a pretty fair to say that the world as a whole has changed dramatically in the past 54 years.
Well, it’s getting late here in wintry Minnesota, so I’m going to tuck into bed for the evening. But I’ll be back soon with more insights! In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment! 🙂