Running Order: Recap of Eurovision Song Contest 1956

Welcome to Running Order, a new Eurovision Lemur series in which I, an ignorant American whose Song Contest knowledge only dates back to 2006, tries to get caught up on the whole of Eurovision history from the beginning.

I’ve always felt bad that I’ve never systematically gone back and watched all of the older shows. Not that I’m totally ignorant of the past: I’ve probably seen most of the shows from 1970 through 2005 at least once (although often only once). But I’ve almost totally ignored the 1950s and 1960s. That’s a lot of music I have been missing out on.

Until now. During Eurovision off-seasons, I will be (re)watching all of the pre-2006 Song Contests in order expand my Eurovision horizons. And also to bolster my Pantheon pages.

OK, so this may be a bit self-serving.

Of course, there is one drawback with starting with the beginning: the 1956 show only exists in audio form. This means means I won’t find any additions to the Misfires and Campiest Performances pages. (Lys Assia is already on the Divas page, of course.) So really, I’m just looking for some awesome songs to bestow a Seal of Approval upon.

Let’s dive in.

The Netherlands: Jetty Paerl – “De vogels van Holland”

“De vogels van Holland” is a pleasant waltz and a nice way to kick off the competition. However, the song is very old fashioned, and Jetty’s vocal is a bit stiff and way too formal. I also reckon that about 30 seconds could have been cut and we’d have been none the wiser.

Switzerland: Lys Assia – “Das alte Karussell”

The Swiss took advantage of having two entries by entering songs in German and in French. “Das alte Karussell” is quite charming: the waltz arrangement emulates the rise and fall of a carousel going around. It may be cheesy and a bit too long, but I still think it’s adorable.

Belgium: Fud Leclerc – “Messieurs les noyés de la Seine”

“Messieurs les noyés de la Seine” is long on drama. There is a lot of tension in the arrangement that never really resolves. It’s all build-up without any sort of structure. I like how evocative it is in its storytelling, but it’s not a tune you can hum.

Germany: Walter Andreas Schwarz – “Im Wartesaal zum großen Glück”

Walter Andreas Schwarz was a cabaret performer and does it show! He gives “Im Wartesaal zum großen Glück” a dramatic flair that must have been compelling to see live. It’s quite melodramatic and, like “Messieurs les noyés de la Seine,” it suffers from a similarly formless structure. But Walter Andreas gives his song so much gravitas. “Im Wartesaal zum großen Glück” is rumored to have finished second (the final votes were never revealed), and it would have been a worthy winner. Although, honestly, “Refrain” is way more accessible.

France: Mathé Altéry – “Le temps perdu”

It’s a bit jarring hearing a trilling operetta voice singing over an easy listening pop standard number. “Le temps perdu” sounds like something out of a 1930s Jeanette MacDonald musical, which makes it weirdly old-fashioned even for 1956.

Luxembourg: Michèle Arnaud – “Ne crois pas”

If Georges Brassens sold out, he’d have recorded something like “Ne crois pas.” There’s a lot of verve in its bouncing arrangement, and I love the drama Michèle gives the song. The intense, galloping strings tie the whole package together.

Italy: Franca Raimondi – “Aprite le finestre”

The opening bars to “Aprite le finestre” sound like “Morning Mood” from Peer Gynt, so in my head, I was imaginging Bugs Bunny dancing around a field. When the song kicks in, though, it sounds more like something added to a 1950s Disney film to break up the plot a bit. It’s a bouncing romp and I bet it’s a fun song to dance to.

The Netherlands: Corry Brokken – “Voorgoed voorbij”

Corry Brokken is going to win Eurovision in 1957, but she made her Song Contest debut in 1956 with the surprisingly sultry “Voorgoed voorbij.” She gives the thumping orchestration some smoky flair.

Switzerland: Lys Assia – “Refrain”

“Refrain” is iconic not only because of its place in history, but also in the way the Song Contest would frequently remind you Lys Assia won. (I saw her a lot when I first started watching Eurovision.) It has a strong, dramatic opening, and the backing vocals add a dream-like quality to it. It’s hard to say if it stands out because I know it or if it is just better than the other songs. But really, I don’t think anything else was close.

Belgium: Mony Marc – “Le plus beau jour de ma vie”

Oh my gosh, play “Ja Ja Ding Dong.” “Le plus beau jour de ma vie” sounds like a Christmas song, but the more Mony says “ding dong ding dong,” the more I want it to be over.

Germany: Freddy Quinn – “So geht das jede Nacht”

Why, is this rock and/or roll music? “So geht das jede Nacht” at the very least has a jazzy blues rhythm. While Freddy’s vocal doesn’t quite fit the song, he gives an energetic performance of a song that has a touch of Duke Ellington mixed in with its Elvis.

France: Dany Dauberson – “Il est là”

“Il est là” is another dramatic, pulsating French entry, although it suffers a bit in comparison to “Ne crois pas.” That said, the piercing strings add a lot of drama to it, which makes it a lot of fun for me.

Luxembourg: Michèle Arnaud – “Les amants de minuit”

“Les amants de minuit” is a drab little ditty without a lot of personality. It just sort of rolls along aimlessly through its bland, tedious orchestration.

Italy: Tonina Torrielli – “Amami se vuoi”

“Amami se vuoi” is a beautiful, lilting romantic song with a lovely vocal melody. There is nothing extraordinary about it, but it is a great way to cap the show.

Now, let’s get down to the brass tacks: Are there any entries here that will earn the Eurovision Lemur Seal of Approval? Well…

Seal of Approval

Under Consideration

Luxembourg: Michèle Arnaud – “Ne crois pas”
The Netherlands: Corry Brokken – “Voorgoed voorbij”
Switzerland: Lys Assia – “Refrain”
Germany: Freddy Quinn – “So geht das jede Nacht”
France: Dany Dauberson – “Il est là”

My pick: None

Generally speaking, the quality of songs on offer at the 1956 Song Contest was quite high. That said, nothing really grabbed me by the ears and said, “This is your latest obsession.” I listened to the five contenders frequently in the past week, and as much as I like them, I’m also quite ready to move on from them.