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Gruesome Twosome: Crazy About The La La La Edition

Massiel: “La, La, La”
Spanish Eurovision Song Contest entry, 1968

Joëlle Ursull: “White and Black Blues”
French Eurovision Song Contest entry, 1990

Today I look at an entity at once comforting and strangely alien: the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m an American who finds this annual competition fascinating: the pageantry, the kitsch, the inter-country squabbling. Amidst all the hubbub, it’s easy to forget that Eurovision has produced some catchy, kick-ass songs over its fifty year history — all under three and a half minutes in length. 1968’s winner, Massiel’s rousing “La, La, La”, is typical in being grandly melodic without losing its essential Euro-ness (which is why Lesley Gore’s English language cover of the tune sank like a stone). Joëlle Ursull’s 1990 entry “White and Black Blues” finished third for its year, but comes through winningly with its unusual percussion and Ursull’s winsome vocal — and check out the fly backup dancers on the video. That’s Eurovision gold. Wikipedia offers an amazingly thorough history of the event with year-by-year breakdowns of all entries’ vote totals.

3 Thoughts on “Gruesome Twosome: Crazy About The La La La Edition

  1. The Eurovision Song Contest is virtually unknown in the USA…it was only after I emigrated to the UK that I found out about it’s strong and ongoing influence (at least in Europe and the British Isles)

    My ex-wife (born in London) absolutely LOVED a 1980s Eurovision winner called “Angelo” by The Brotherhood of Man – if you close your eyes you’d think it was ABBA, the most well-known Eurovision winners.

    Being quite a music buff myself, I always thought she (my ex) was out of her mind when she’d mention other Eurovision smash hits that I’d never heard of.

  2. While I have no footing to argue with you about Lesley Gore’s version of “He Gives Me Love (La La La)” sank like a stone (because…it did!), I think there’s a flavor of the bombastic in Lesley’s version (including a Spanish-style acoustic guitar) that’s just as present in the Spanish-language original. It may have well been the fact that Lesley and her talent were never given quite enough respect in the 1960s. The song debuted on the Billboard charts on June 8, 1968 (a mere 17 days after recording had been completed on her version of the tune) and after only 3 weeks on the charts, it peaked at #119. By 1968, Lesley was probably considered a bit passe by radio listeners/programmers and no amount of promotion was going to get that single (which I think was quite good on its’ own) to reach the Top 40. Maybe the fault lies with Mercury for not promoting it harder? Maybe Lesley didn’t promote it hard enough? Who knows?

    I know your post was FAR from knocking Lesley Gore (and I know you do like her stuff), but I try to think of things like that in a greater context. WHY did a record fail? Is it a bad song, bad promotion, bad timing…? Any number of things can factor in a record’s success or failure.

  3. Dan! I knew you’d take issue with that. I admit that I simplified things for the sake of this post, but yeah Lesley’s version did bomb as a single (I wonder how it did in Europe?) and there were undoubtedly many different factors which contributed to that fact. It’s a good song and I love Massiel and Lesley Gore’s versions equally. Truce!

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