It’s mad, it makes no sense, and yet we all watch it year after year! But how do Spain usually get on? Let’s find out…
Ah, the Eurovision Song Contest! Europe’s premier celebration of all things pop has been held annually since 1956. Spain joined the contest in 1961, and are one of six countries to have won the contest twice. Let’s dive into the history of the Spanish entries…
Off to a rocky start
Spain’s first foray into the glitz and glamour of Eurovision came in 1961 when Conchita Bautista finished 9th out of the 16 countries taking part. That contest was won by Luxembourg with the UK coming second.
The following six contests held similar success. In 1962, they were joint last with ‘nul points’ along with France, Germany and the Netherlands. 1963 and 64 both saw a moderate improvement coming in 12th before crashing to rock bottom again in 1965 with a ‘nul points’ performance of Que Bueno, Que Bueno by Conchita Bautista.
1966 saw a much improved 7th place for Raphael’s Yo Soy Aquél and Raphael returned in 1967 to go one better earning 6th place with Hablemos del Amor.
Victory and controversy
In 1968, Eurovision was hosted in London following Sandy Shaw’s victory the previous year with Puppet on a String. The Spanish originally entered Joan Manuel Serrat to sing the song La La La. Serrat’s desire to sing the song in Catalan, however, was against the language policies of Francoist Spain and Serrat was replaced by little-known singer Massiel.
Representing the UK was the already-successful singer Cliff Richard with Congratulations. The voting was so tense that Cliff reportedly had to hide in the toilet! It was all on a knife-edge but when the final votes were cast, Massiel had beaten our Cliff by a single point!
It was later claimed, but never proved, in a documentary that Spanish TV executives, on the orders of Franco, offered bribes to national judges to vote for their song. The intent was to secure hosting rights to the contest and showcase Spain on the world stage.
We’ll never know whether this is true, or whether the insane catchiness of La La La won on its own merit, but either way Spain had their first taste of glorious Eurovision victory!
The following year Spain hosted the contest from the Teatro Real in Madrid. One country, Austria, refused to participate in the contest due to Franco’s rule of Spain. Spain chose Salomé to sing Vivo Cantido, the UK entered Lulu with Boom Bang-a-Bang, The Netherlands entered Lenny Kuhr with De Troubadour and France entered Frida Boccara with Un Jour, Un Enfant.
In what must have been a nailbiting vote announcement, the world of Eurovision was rocked by its first tie! And not only a tie but a four-way tie between Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and France! All four of the countries received 18 points and as there were no rules on what to do in the event of a tie, all four were declared the winner.
As Spain had hosted in 1969 and the UK in 1968, France and the Netherlands decided who would host by a coin toss. The Netherlands won and the 1970 contest was held in Amsterdam. Due to the four-way tie the previous year, only 12 countries would participate in Amsterdam. To pad the show out, the Dutch introduced the opening video and ‘video postcards’ of the countries – two practices which survive to this day.
Spain’s great hope was Julio Iglesias, a young upcoming singer whose career as a football goalkeeper had been cut short by a devastating car crash. Julio’s song Gwendolyne came a respectable 4th place in a contest won, for the first time, by Ireland.
The rest of the 1970s were a mixed bag. Three runner-up places in 71, 73 and 79 were punctuated by two 9th places, two 10th places and an almost-disastrous 16th out of 18 in 1976.
The 1980s were even worse for Spain, with 1983 bringing yet another last place, with ‘nul points’, for Quién Maneca Mi Barca performed by Remedios Amaya – and if you check it out on YouTube you’ll see that it was well-deserved!
The following year brought some light with a decent 3rd place for Lady Lady by Bravo but that was the high point of the 80s.
Enter the 1990s and, for Spain, sadly it was more of the same. With the exception of 1995 when Anabel Conde came second with Veulve Conmigo behind Norway’s winning entry of Nocturne by Secret Garden.
Just when it seemd like Spain might end the decade without the embarrassment of a last-place finish, though Antonio Carbonell had tried his best in 1996 coming 20th out of 23, in Jerusalem in 1999 Lydia pulled it out of the bag, placing last with No Quiero Escuchar, which earned a single solitary point from Croatia.
Leaders of the pack
Since 2000, the four biggest contributors to Eurovision – Spain, Germany, France and the UK – have automatically qualified for the contest regardless of previous results. They were joined in 2011 by Italy who had sat out the previous 14 years for reasons best known to themselves.
Thus, Spain have managed to maintain their continuous record since first appearing in 1961. This hasn’t really helped Spain’s chances much as, like the other members of the Big Five, they haven’t managed even close to a victory in that time!
Through the 2000s, their best position was 6th and their worst was 24th out of 26. In the 2010s, they’ve managed two 10th places with the rest of the time coming mostly in the bottom six.
in 2017 Spain managed a disappointing 26th place (that’s ‘last place’ to you and me) in with Manel Navarro’s Do It For Your Lover, which sounded a bit like a cheap Ed Sheeran cover artist trying to mash-up Jessie J’s Do It Like A Dude with OPM’s Heaven is a Halfpipe, but in Spanish.
Spain’s 2018 entry, intended to restore glory to the kingdom, was a sickly sweet duet called Tu Canción by Amaia y Alfred. It came 23rd, which is remarkable only in that it beat the UK into 24th place with only Finland and hosts Portugal sparing our national blushes.
I think it’s safe to say that, like the UK, Spain’s best Eurovision days are behind them. But who knows what the future holds?
Now, of course, you want to watch the 10 best Spanish Eurovision songs of all time, right? Well…YouTube has you covered. You’re welcome!