ABBA, The New Seekers & More: Eurovision's Top Charting Songs

Iveta Mukuchyan, Eurovision 2016
Andres Putting/Eurovision

Iveta Mukuchyan performing during Jury Semi-Final 1 of the 2016 Eurovision contest on May 10, 2016.

During the 61-year history of the Eurovision Song Contest, a very small selection of entries has managed to chart in America. Perhaps the songs' chart fortunes will improve this year, with the first live broadcast in the U.S. at 3 p.m. EST on Saturday, courtesy of Logo.

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Of those who have seen success stateside, the winner of the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest, the Irish/Norwegian new age duo Secret Garden, has had seven titles debut on Top New Age Albums, including the 2005 release "Earthsongs," which spent six weeks at No. 1. The performer who sang the winning entry for 2005, Greece's Helena Paparizou, saw her Eurovision song "My Number One" charting on two dance surveys. And in 2007, the previous year's winners made their first appearance on a Billboard album chart: Finnish rock band Lordi, who look like a cross between KISS and the Klingons, found their album The Arockalypse (The End) entering the Heatseekers chart at No. 37.

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But most of the Eurovision action has been on the Hot 100. Not because the songs were in the contest, but in spite of it. Here are the top 10 Eurovision songs according to their chart performance on the Hot 100:
 
"Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)," Domenico Modugno
Hot 100 peak: No. 1, 1958
 
If you've ever been to an Italian wedding or an Italian restaurant, you know this song. But you probably didn't know its origin, as Italy's entry in the third Eurovision Song Contest, held in Hilversum, the Netherlands, in 1958. Oddly, this was not the winning tune (that honor went to "Dors, Mon Amour" from France). Modugno, a film actor, radio star and well-known singer in his home country, placed third with the song that describes a dream -- a man painting his hands in blue and flying through the "blue painted in blue."

English lyrics were added later and a flood of releases hit the U.S. to compete with the original. The July 21, 1958, issue of Billboard reviews seven cover versions, including singles by Dean Martin, Nelson Riddle and Jesse Belvin. Martin's version peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 and two years later teen idol Bobby Rydell took the song to No. 4.

Despite the flood of competing versions, Modugno's single topped the Hot 100 for six weeks, starting on Aug. 18, 1958. It was only the second No. 1 on the newly-introduced Hot 100, following Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool."
 

 
"Love Is Blue," Paul Mauriat
Hot 100 peak: No. 1, 1968
 
In 1968, Paul Mauriat became the only artist from France to have a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. His instrumental "Love Is Blue" was a cover of "L'amour Est Bleu," Luxembourg's entry in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest, performed by Greek singer Vicky Leandros. While the song placed fourth (the winner was "Puppet on a String" by the U.K.'s Sandie Shaw), it became one of Eurovision's best-known songs, thanks to Mauriat's cover, recorded for his Blooming Hits album.

A number of vocal versions charted in America, including singles by Al Martino (No. 57 in 1968), Claudine Longet (No. 71 in 1968), Manny Kellem (No. 96 in 1968) and the Dells, in a medley with "I Can Sing a Rainbow" (No. 22, 1969).
 

 
"Waterloo," ABBA
Hot 100 peak: No. 6, 1974
 
"Volare" might be the best-known song to ever compete in Eurovision, but ABBA is the biggest-selling group to come out of the contest. And that was their plan -- to break out beyond the borders of Sweden by entering the pan-European singing contest. "You have to understand one thing about the Eurovision Song Contest," Björn Ulvaeus told me when I asked why he and Benny Andersson wanted to enter the competition. "At that time, that was the one and only vehicle to reach outside Sweden. Because there was no way anyone in England or America would listen to anything coming out of this obscure country. You could send your tapes, knowing they would throw them away immediately. So the only chance was to enter Eurovision."

In 1973, the Swedish foursome known as Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny competed in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish heat to choose the country's entry for Eurovision, with "Ring Ring," The audience reaction for their song was overwhelming but the judges chose a song with a title that translated into English as, "Your Breasts Are Like Nesting Swallows."

They didn't give up. Renamed ABBA, they competed again in the 1974 Melodifestivalen and narrowed their choice down to two songs: "Hasta Manana" and "Waterloo." The former was "the more typical Eurovision song," said Ulvaeus. "We went for 'Waterloo' because it was more fun to perform." Following ABBA's victory at the Eurovision Song Contest on April 6, 1974, "Waterloo" became an international hit and gave the group its first charted entry on the Billboard Hot 100.


 
"Eres Tú (Touch the Wind)," Mocedades
Hot 100 peak: No. 9
 
After placing second at the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, Mocedades released an English version of "Eres Tú" in America, but the translated "Touch the Wind" had to settle for being the B-side of the original Spanish version, which soared to No. 9 on the Hot 100, a rare top 10 U.S. hit for a song without any English lyrics.

Three cover versions of "Eres Tú" also appeared on the Billboard charts. Eydie Gorme's "Touch the Wind" peaked at No. 41 on the Adult Contemporary tally. An instrumental by Sonny James went to No. 67 on Hot Country Singles in 1976. A year later, a vocal version by Johnny Rodriguez reached No. 25 on that same country singles chart.
 

 
"Al Di Là," Emilio Pericoli
Hot 100 peak: No. 6, 1961
 
Italian singer Emilio Pericoli had the biggest hit version of "Al Di Là" in his own country as well as the U.S., where it peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100 in 1961. But Pericoli's version was a cover of the original by Betty Harris, also an Italian singer, born in Milan.
Curtis performed "Al Di Là" as the 16th and final song in the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest. She tied for fifth place, with Luxembourg taking home the trophy with "Nous Les Amoureux" by Jean-Claude Pascal.

While Curtis' original did not chart on the Hot 100, other cover versions made the survey. Connie Francis took the song, recorded in Italian, to No. 90 in 1963 and the following year the Ray Charles Singers' English-language version peaked at No. 29.
 

"Ooh Aah…Just a Little Bit," Gina G
Hot 100 peak: No. 12, 1997
 
This year, Dani M is tipped to do well as Australia's representative in Eurovision. But she and last year's Aussie singer, Guy Sebastian, are not the first artists from down under to appear on the ESC stage. In 1996, Brisbane-born Gina G sang for the United Kingdom with a song the British delegation was certain would bring the trophy back to the U.K. for the first time since 1981 (when the winner was "Making Your Mind Up" by Bucks Fizz).

Gina G placed eighth and the U.K. had to wait one more year to reclaim the trophy. Katrina and the Waves of "Walking on Sunshine" fame were victorious in 1997 with "Love Shine a Light."

Meanwhile, "Ooh Aah…Just a Little Bit" became a worldwide hit, peaking at No. 12 on the Hot 100 on its own merits.

"Save Your Kisses for Me," Brotherhood of Man
Hot 100 peak: No. 27, 1976
 
In the March 14, 1970, issue of Billboard, the singles reviews page listed five songs tipped to make the top 20 of the Hot 100. Two of them did: "Let It Be" by the Beatles and "American Woman" by the Guess Who. Close behind, with a No 27 peak, was "United We Stand" by the Brotherhood of Man. The latter group was a U.K. vocal outfit that had a rotating membership until 1973 when they became a permanent group of four. That was the configuration that entered -- and won -- Eurovision in 1976 with "Save Your Kisses for Me." It was the third victory for the U.K. (following Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a String" in 1967 and Lulu's "Boom Bang-a-Bang" in 1969).

"Save Your Kisses for Me" topped the U.K. singles chart for six weeks and returned the group to the Hot 100 after a six-year-gap. They had some competition from American singer Bobby Vinton, who quickly released a cover version. His single also charted on the Hot 100, going as high as No. 75.
 

 
"Say Wonderful Things," Patti Page
Hot 100 peak: No. 81, 1963
 
At the 1962 Eurovision Song Contest, Ronnie Carroll sang for the U.K. with "Ring-a-Ding Girl." The song placed fourth. Carroll returned to Eurovision a year later to sing "Say Wonderful Things" for the U.K., and once again placed fourth.

His single peaked at No. 6 in Britain and was released in America on the Philips label. It peaked at No. 91 the week of June 15, 1963. But Carroll had some competition from a popular American singer -- Patti Page. Her Columbia single bested Carroll's original, peaking at No. 81 the week of June 29.

"Beg, Steal or Borrow," the New Seekers
Hot 100 peak: No. 81, 1972
 
Only one song in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest was performed in English -- the entry that placed second, "Beg, Steal or Borrow" by the New Seekers. The U.K. group was already well-known in the U.S., thanks to its top 10 single, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)," so it wasn't a shock that their Eurovision entry made it to the Billboard Hot 100, even though Americans continued to remain unaware of the song contest.
 

Knock, Knock Who's There," Mary Hopkin
Hot 100 peak: No. 92, 1972
 
Mary Hopkin was already well known in the U.S. for her singles "Those Were the Days" and "Goodbye" when she represented the U.K. at the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest. She was the heavy favorite to win with "Knock Knock Who's There," but had to settle for second place, runner-up to the Irish entry, "All Kinds of Everything" by 18-year-old Dana.

Still, "Knock Knock" was Hopkins' fourth consecutive top 10 single at home, where it peaked at No. 2. On the Billboard Hot 100, it was her seventh and final entry, peaking at No. 92.

This chart is based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100, through the May 14, 2016, ranking. Songs are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 earning the greatest value and weeks at No. 100 earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, certain eras are weighted to account for different chart turnover rates over various periods.
 

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