ABBA’s 1974 hit song “Waterloo” was voted the “All-Time Best Song of the Eurovision Song Contest” Saturday during a show organized on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) by Danmarks Radio (DR). “Like Napoleon said, Waterloo obviously cannot be forgotten,” ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus quipped.
“Waterloo” was selected as the winner from 2.5 million televotes and SMS text messages. As the Swedish supergroup did not attend the event, Universal Music Sweden managing director Marten Aglander accepted the honor on its behalf. Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland in 1988, also declined the opportunity to attend.
Aglander presented the award to Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson today (Oct. 25) on behalf of the show’s producers and DR at a private ceremony in Stockholm. “Bjorn and Benny are extremely happy about the award,” Aglander said. “I don’t think they even thought they would win.”
“I voted for ‘Volare’ myself, but am happy that so many voted for us,” Andersson said. “Volare,” known originally as “Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu Is,” was performed by Italy’s Domenico Modugno in 1958. It finished second in the new contest, with two-time ESC winner Johnny Logan from Ireland placing third with his 1987 entry “Hold Me Now.”
The show was aired from Copenhagen’s Forum in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest, taking its name from the song “Congratulations,” which was the contest’s runner-up for Cliff Richard in 1968.
Fourteen vintage performances from past contests were selected to compete: 10 from a public online vote and four additional wild cards picked by the ESC “Reference Group.” Footage of the original broadcasts was aired during the show, some along with the original artists appearing on stage.
Among those were two acts with songs that went on to become worldwide hits: the U.K.’s Brotherhood Of Man with “Save Your Kisses For Me” from 1976 and Spain’s Mocedades, which placed second in 1973 with “Eres Tu.” Also attending were the very first contest winner, Switzerland’s Lys Assia, and the most recent, Swedish-born Helena Paparizou, who won in 2005 for Greece.
Eurovision Song Contest winners are typically said to be one-hit-wonders that quickly fade into obscurity, but for Richard, Dion and other past participants like Olivia Newton-John, the event has proven to be a launching pad for an international career. This was especially true for ABBA, which promptly rocketed to stardom worldwide.