CLIFF RICHARD – CONGRATULATIONS (United Kingdom 1968)
Until now, SOTW was full of more or less important events of history and world news influencing the song choice, now I allow myself to become a bit egocentric and use the fact that today is my 19th birthday as the reason for this week’s choice (plus the fact I already have a few things to say in my head about this, because I would have used it to honor the winner if there hadn’t been TWO zero-pointers last saturday). So let’s go back to 1968 when the BBC actually had a clue what Eurovision is about!If you look at the UK’s efforts today, it’s hard to believe that between 1968 and 1999, there have more contests with the UK on the podium than without (unless I made a counting mistake) which may actually be a record. Cliff Richard, the 1968 representant of the United Kingdom – and, according to family stories, my grandmother’s ex – came right into the first golden era of British Eurovision, coming second himself, in between winners Sandie Shaw (the UK’s first winner after five second places, a place that the UK had booked in the sixties) and Lulu, part of the famous quadruple-victory-edition of 1969. Surprisingly, all of those three became at least Eurovision classics, if not classics in “The Real World”™ as well.
Now let’s take a closer look at Cliff’s first Eurovision experience, taking place on a not-too-spectacular but pretty cool stage. The stage description certainly doesn’t fit Cliff’s shirt though, or his dancing – the stage doesn’t offer many options for a staging, but he certainly didn’t pick the best of them. Also, interesting to see that the concept of “hidden” backing singers is that old, especially as there’s no reason to hide them. At least they’re better dressed than Cliff. But maybe the BBC didn’t want anyone to see that they couldn’t afford more than one microphone for them? Musically, Congratulations is fun and catchy, however it gets repetitive pretty quickly, but apparently someone recognized that and told the orchestra “first you gotta slow it down, and then you gotta speed it up”. I’m not sure if it didn’t age as well as I thought or if it’s simply because I never really paid attention while listening to it, but somehow I don’t like it as much as I used to.
RATING: There’s not much to say against Congratulations in the studio version, but live, Cliff is distracting a bit too much from the song. But at least he gets to show that he really can sing it despite his silly dance moves, and one can understand why it became a classic. 7,5/10.