ESC 1963: Overview and Song Rankings

London hosts for the second time: the program begins with an aerial shot of what was then the new BBC headquarters in the city, so presumably this was to show off the unusually round shape of the building. 300 people are in the audience, who appear to be in a different space to the orchestra. Katie Boyle hosts again, and kicks off a return to the parade of the contestants, although at least this time their name and country appear on the screen rather than anyone having to awkwardly introduce themselves into the nearest microphone.

The United Kingdom opens the evening, and it’s clear that we already have a rule-change somewhere, as Ronnie Carroll is being sung at by three women on a sculpture representing a staircase. This results in some different camera shots which is progress. I’m guessing the BBC is also showing off the high-tech nature of their sound stage, given that I can’t see any microphones and Carroll is moving about freely. This is perhaps the birth of Eurovision as moving performance that has to be seen as well as heard.

While The Netherlands’ Annie Palmen didn’t come on with a music box as I’d expected, the initial close-up shot of a music box which then is layered on top of Palmen slowly spinning into the song like is a very nice touch. Palmen is reunited with the music box later in the song, in what is clearly going to be the first contest with creative license given to the delegations to do something else beyond just have the camera on the performer during the vocal sections and the orchestra during the instrumentals.

I’m enjoying the map of Europe with each capital light up with it’s that country’s turn to perform.

After Germany and Austria had their singers move about the stage a fair bit, Norway is the first country to deliver a straightforward performance.

Italy tried to be cute, with Emilio Pericoli revealing large photos of the women he’s having trouble choosing between, but his voice is far better than his acting skills, and I suspect he would have benefited from just standing behind a microphone.

Grethe Ingmann from Denmark is such a naturally talented performer she could have had a song half as good and still made a success out of it. I’m also starting to wonder if this is also the year where budgets start to come into it, given Yugoslavia‘s static performance followed up by Switzerland‘s carefully choreographed entry and France‘s layering to further enhance an already-strong performance.

Unusual camera technique from Spain: after José Guardiola begins as though he’s about to explain something to you, he starts looking down the camera lens as through he’s going to climb though it.

The ability to darken the background and have everything focus tightly on the singer really has helped songs like Sweden‘s entry, which are best portrayed in a smaller context than a large studio with hundreds of onlookers. This was one that I enjoyed much more once I saw it live.

For the interval act we have two acrobats on a bicycle, which was surprisingly impressive and entertaining.

This year the scoring has been upped from 3-2-1 to 5-4-3-2-1 from each country, and the countries announce their votes in running order, rather than reverse order as in previous years. It was the most thrilling count so far, with Switzerland and Denmark leading the pack. This culminated in a call to Katie Boyle to clarify and confirm the final numbers after the confusion regarding Norway’s vote and Monaco giving out too many votes. Nevertheless, I found this to be the most enjoyable contest so far, and even though I know there is no footage of 1964, I’m hoping that the advances in staging carry forward (although I have a feeling it takes a bit longer for other countries to catch up to the BBC).

My ranking:

1) Denmark — “Dansevise” by Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann
2) Switzerland — “T’en va pas” by Esther Ofarim
3) France — “Elle était si jolie” by Alain Barrière
4) Sweden — “En gång i Stockholm” by Monica Zetterlund
5) Germany — “Marcel” by Heidi Brühl
6) Monaco — “L’amour s’en va” by Françoise Hardy
7) Luxembourg — “À force de prier” by Nana Mouskouri
8) The Netherlands — “Een speeldoos” by Annie Palmen
9) Belgium — “Waarom?” by Jacques Raymond
10) United Kingdom — “Say Wonderful Things” by Ronnie Carroll
11) Italy — “Uno per tutte” by Emilio Pericoli
12) Spain — “Algo prodigioso” by José Guardiola
13) Austria — “Vielleicht geschieht ein Wunder” by Carmela Corren
14) Norway — “Solhverv” by Anita Thallaug
15) Yugoslavia — “Brodovi” by Vice Vukov
16) Finland — “Muistojeni laulu” by Laila Halme