The UK Selections: 2 Saturday Special

sfet2

By 1967, out went the light-entertainment artists, the hosting by dear old David Jacobs, and in came swinging-sixties pop music and presentation. The Song For Europe became integrated into prime-time Saturday night BBC1. The number of songs remained at five and Sandie Shaw, who was about as cool as it got in 1967, sang them week by week on the Rolf Harris show. This approach brought immediate results, and in a nice touch Rolf Harris was in Vienna to commentate on Sandie’s European victory.
After our first victory anticipation was intense as the 1968 contest loomed. The number of songs reverted to six for Cliff Richard to present on the Cilla Black show. As we now know the winning song “Congratulations” went on to become a pop standard, but what’s less remembered is the fourth place song “The Sound Of The Candyman’s Trumpet” whose lyrics contained coded references to some in-vogue illegal substances of the time.
The first two years of the new style selection were blessed by two very good songs winning that have both stood the test of time. Both were catchy, bouncy and uptempo. One won by a landside and the other was pipped at the post. In the light of this it’s not surprising that British viewers believed that this type of song would be the best bet for UK success, a belief that has taken several decades to wear off. Come 1969 Lulu performed six songs on her very own TV show, and despite a variety of styles (including a very early song by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, which came last) the public in their wisdom chose “Boom-Bang-A-Bang”, a song whose title only cemented the genre of song that the BBC audience thought would be most successful. To be fair it DID win though!.
1970 saw Welsh singer Mary Hopkin roped in as her singles career was somewhat on the wane. Six songs were performed on the Cliff Richard show, and to no-ones great surprise, “Knock Knock” followed “Bang A Bang” in the UK lexicon of honour. This would be the one and only time when a Eurovision entry was released on the Beatles Apple label.
The 1971 contest was to be in Dublin, and recent events in Northern Ireland had suggested the UK might not get the warmest welcome. After English, Scottish and Welsh vocalists three previous it was Northern Ireland’s turn anyway, and so Clodagh Rodgers was selected, again performing six songs on the Cliff Richard show. True to form “Jack In The Box” was selected, but the song finishing in fourth “Another Time Another Place” was later covered with some success by Englebert Humperdinck. Regional juries returned temporarily this year due to a problem with postal services.
1972 saw two developments. Firstly the New Seekers became the first group to represent the United Kingdom (the European Broadcasting Union had limited the contest to a maximum of trios until the year before), and secondly there wasn’t even a “Jack-In-The-Boom-Bang-Knock-Knock” style in the final! The winning song fully deserved it’s victory, but in last place trailed “Songs Of Praise” written by none other than Roy Wood of the Move and Wizzard.
After hosting the last three selections, Cliff Richard returned as the artist in 1973, as our Cilla played hostess once more. The winning song “Power To All Our Friends” polled more votes than the other five songs combined. However Cliff liked the song that finished third “Help It Along” so much that he released it as a single later that year.
1974 saw Olivia Newton-John temporarily plucked from her fledgling career as a US country singer to perform six slices of Euro-cheese on, you guessed it, the Cliff Richard show, although the final was hosted by Jimmy Savile. Much like 1969, despite a good variety of songs the uber-cheesiest won through, much to Olivia’s dismay apparently.
1975 saw the last one-artist final for seventeen years. Apparently viewing and voting figures had fallen, and it was getting harder to sign-up big performers to a long commitment of several weeks. The last of these were the Shadows, who performed their songs on Lulu’s show. Apart from the winner the most notable finalist was “Don’t Throw It All Away” which finished fourth, yet went on to be a top twenty hit for it’s composer Gary Benson.