The tied 1969 Eurovision Song Contest: why your favourite actually won it
The 1969 Eurovision Song Contest is intriguing for a number of reasons.
As of 2020 it’s the only Contest ever held in Spain, ‘To Sir with Love’ crooner and future Bond theme singer Lulu graced the stage, and surrealist art icon Salvador Dalí designed both the promotional material *and* the stage
But amongst Eurofans, it is known for holding the distinction of being the only tied contest in the event’s history, with four nations – Spain, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands – ending the night at level pegging with 18 points apiece.
No tie-break precautions existed at the time, so the four nations shared in the victory.
This caused uproar among the remaining nations with six countries boycotting the 1970 contest (which was held in Amsterdam after a coin toss). This led the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) put in place tie-break measures to prevent such an eventuality. We saw these measures decide a result in 1991, handing victory to Sweden’s Carola over France’s Amina.
Here’s the current tie-break rules spiel as dictated to Wikipedia:
"The current tie-break procedure was implemented in the 2016 contest. In the procedure, sometimes known as a countback, if two (or more) countries tie, the song receiving more points from the televote is the winner. If the songs received the same number of televote points, the song that received at least one televote point from the greatest number of countries is the winner. If there is still a tie, a second tie-breaker counts the number of countries who assigned twelve televote points to each entry in the tie. Tie-breaks continue with ten points, eight points, and so on until the tie is resolved. If the tie cannot be resolved after the number of countries which assigned one point to the song is equal, the song performed earlier in the running order is declared the winner, unless the host country performed earlier (in which case the song performed later would be the winner)."
By their very nature, tied results evoke more questions than answers. Think of the drawn 2010 Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final – some believe that given an extra 10 minutes, St Kilda would have won the flag. Think the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize - inexplicably tied between Malala Yousafzai and some other bloke, and as a society we’ll always be wondering which of the two is more peaceful. Perhaps it’s human nature: we want to crown the leader of the pack. As ever, the Simpsons demonstrated it best:
Anyway, as Eurofans, we’re always going to be arguing over who really deserved the win in 1969, given such an unsatisfying result.
For reference, the voting system in 1969 consisted of national juries allocating ten points between their favourite songs in any way they choose, so they could award ten points to one song, or one point to ten songs. There was no hard and fast rule.
If you have a favourite, you’re bound to push that song’s case, so we’ve run our eyes over the 1969 results and given you a handful of lines – some serious, some slightly not so – that you can use in an argument to justify that song being the absolute winner. Feel free to begin each sentence with a “Well, actually…”
Spain: ‘Vivo cantando’ – Salomé
“Spain received votes from the most juries that night.”
Spain received points from 9 out of the 15 juries that could vote for it.
“Spain had the shortest song, so if you think about it, Spain averaged the most points per minute of music out of all of them!”
Spain’s song went for a tick over 2 minutes, while the rest edged closer to the three-minute mark.
“Spain performed first.”
If this were the current system, Spain could win under the ultimate tie-breaker: first in the running order! This was used to decide who actually finished last of the two nul points scorers in 2015.
“No-one took the title off them, so they should have kept the trophy.”
One for the cricket fans – like the Ashes, Spain should have retained the ESC trophy, given no-one actually beat them in 1969.
United Kingdom: ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang’ – Lulu
“The UK was the favourite of the most juries on the night.”
The UK received a maximum score from the most juries on the night, with four juries awarding it the highest score out of the four winners.
“If the four winners' votes are excluded, the UK wins.”
If we exclude these four countries’ votes and just count the votes of all twelve other competing nations, the UK comes out on top as the favourite of their peers.
“Spain performed first – but they were the host nation.”
If this were the current system, Spain wouldn’t be eligible under the “first in the running order” rule as they hosted the contest – the UK, as the next nation down the running sheet, would be awarded the trophy.
The Netherlands: ‘De troubadour’ – Lenny Kuhr
“The Dutch were the only nation to receive 6 points.”
If this were the current system, there would be a countback. As mentioned above, they would count the number of 12 points received, then the number of 10s and so on. The highest individual score received was a 6, sent from France to the Netherlands - which would hand Lenny Kuhr the win.
“The Dutch received the most votes from the fewest countries – so when juries loved it, they loved it.”
The Dutch only received votes from 7 countries, so they averaged around 2.5 points every time they received points – more than any other nation on the night.
France: ‘Un jour, un enfant’ – Frida Boccara
“Well actually, France also received votes from the most juries that night.”
Like Spain, France also received points from 9 out of the 15 juries that could vote for it.
“If it were just a contest between these four countries, France would have won.”
This is true! The UK and Netherlands both gave their maximum scores to France.
“France is the one fans love the most, regardless of the result on the night.”
In the annual ESC250 fan song poll, this song has made the countdown every year, averaging 150th place. The other songs haven’t achieved this feat.
“France came first… uh… alphabetically?”
If you really need some straws to clutch, France was the first of the tied countries alphabetically.
This writer, for one, is glad that there was a tie; unique results only serve to provide more intriguing chapters of our beloved Contest’s history, and to start conversations that will permeate throughout the Eurofandom forever. We'll never know who really should have won that night - you can decide for yourself.