August 3, 2021

‘Spain, zero points’: The old Spanish art of losing at Eurovision | TV

“When I visited Madrid for the first time and I met with the people of Ediciones Fonográfica Jercar, my record company, they told me very clearly not to get excited because it was going to be fatal,” recalls Anabel Conde in I didn’t win Eurovision either (Libros Cúpula), a review by Patricia Godes and Javier Adrados of Spain’s trajectory at the festival. Conde was second, but that warning from his record company is indicative of the attitude with which Spain seems to go to Eurovision every year: taking failure for granted and settling for, at least, not making a fool of himself.

More information

What of “Spain, zero points” –a phrase that is never uttered at the festival – it has become almost a national proverb. “United Kingdom, twelve points” (United Kingdom, 12 points), on the other hand, It even appeared in a Coca-Cola ad so popular that it was made during the 1960s and 1970s. This contrast encloses the old Spanish complex of being the village of Europe, a country that better explains itself through its defeats. A good example of this was Remedios Amaya’s last post in 1983 with Who drives my boat, viciously ridiculed by the public and the press, and which suggested a certain shame for having brought in a gypsy cantaora as a representative. How could you like that in Europe? “It was a clear example of racism,” says Adrados, co-author of the new book. “She did not know how to read or write and both the record company and TVE left her alone. The only one who supported her was Lola Flores, who said that if they had taken her with a tablao and some guitarists, Europe would have been amazed ”.

The book tells how, after finishing sixth in 1966 with I am the one and before the popular clamor of “they have mania for us”, Raphael denounced that “as long as we Spaniards cannot sing in French, a language that half of Europe understands, we will not be able to win”. Representatives such as José María Guzmán from Cadillac, Eva Santamaría, Antonio Carbonell and Marcos Llunas insist on the volume that the song says that “there are countries that vote among themselves.” The commentator José Luis Uribarri played to predict the votes (the book describes how he went through the corridors with a briefcase full of maps). However, each year a different country wins. And the country that accumulates the most victories, Ireland, has only one neighbor. Something will have to do with the song.

TVE is the spiritual villain of the story of I didn’t win Eurovision either. Nobody names him until the end, when the director of entertainment programs Toñi Prieto grants a brief interview and several eurofans they vent their frustration on a committee they consider outdated and reluctant. Paloma San Basilio recalls how in 1985 the TVE delegates “went shopping and I hardly saw their hair.” The year of the celebrations for the fifth centenary, 1992, TVE did not even bother to bring the composers of Hanging from a dream, who in theory would have to go up to collect the prize in case of victory.

It is a classical theory. Anabel Conde said, in an interview for ICON, that the TVE delegates began to make very nervous calls when Come back with me began to top the ranking. Conspiracy theories suggest that TVE simply does not feel like organizing the festival, so it opts for unambitious songs and poor staging. The fear of being ridiculous generates proposals such as With you till the end, Get the dance out of me O Do It For Your Lover that aspire, in the best of cases, to go unnoticed. They were in the bottom three places. The result is that, with or without neighbors, Spain is the country with the worst ratio in the last decade: seven times below 20th place out of 26 participants.

“I think that TVE gets involved as if it were just another television program”, Adrados believes, “The artists of the seventies and eighties speak of TVE in different terms than those of the nineties here. For the latter and for their entourage of fans, the fault is always on TVE and a power failure or that they were not allowed to do what they wanted. Some artists do not understand that they become part of a concept and that they have to be able to solve these unforeseen events. Artists always see flaws everywhere except in themselves. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending songs that suck. “

Rodolfo Chikilicuatre performs at Eurovision 2008.Joerg Carstensen / EFE

Eurofans agree that Spain is going to slip from past fashions. If in 2006 they won heavies disguised as orcs (Lordi, with Rock Hallelujah), the conclusion was that only the circus matters, so TVE gave an ironic performance, Baila el chiki-chiki, two years later. What he won then was a Russian with a ballad, Believe. most of eurofans consulted in the book agree that Rodolfo Chikilcuatre’s is the worst song ever sung at Eurovision. And if there is so much anger against her, it is, on the one hand, because the alternative that year was The sexual revolution of the blue house.

According to Javier Adrados, Spain has to stop feeling an inferiority complex for its musical tradition and accept it as the advantage that it is. “The three most successful artists to come out of Eurovision are ABBA, Celine Dion and Julio Iglesias. We have to embrace our musical culture. If someone from outside tries to do flamenco, it will be fatal. Well, we do the same when we try to look foreign. Dime (Beth’s song in 2002) had Spanish guitar arrangements that are unique. That only we know how to do ”.

The topic that Spain seems to feel comfortable in the masochistic pitorreo of the inveterate loser, of going to Europe a bit like Paco Martínez-Soria with the basket of chickens, finds a way out here. The only absolute Spanish victory, that of La la la de Massiel (Salomé won the following year with I live singing, but the quadruple draw marred his triumph), is often overshadowed by the theory conspiratorial that Franco bought it. It is as if Spain did not feel entirely comfortable with its successes and needed to qualify them. As if I had a good loss but a bad win.

The victories are more boring because they have only one explanation, but the losses are for endless conversations. Since 1988, televoting can be blamed or, as Betty Missiego does (second place in 1979 with Your song) in I didn’t win Eurovision either, that it did not exist: “In my mind I won. In 1979 there was neither the internet nor the televoting, I am sure it would have had the vote of the public ”. “We did not win because Germany failed us, that is clear! We had agreed on three points with them and they did not keep their word ”, explains the composer of Lady Lady de Bravo, Miguel Blasco, who finished third in 1984.

“Spain is an extremist country: you work by being the first or the last. They never like the in-between ”reflects José María Guzmán de Cadillac, tenth in 1986 with Valentino. Perhaps the biggest defeat at Eurovision, therefore, is irrelevance. “Just as the photographers and journalists left spectacularly, there was no one on arrival at the Madrid airport,” recalls Carlos Gil de Trigo clean, twelfth in 1980 with Stay tonight. “Nobody watches Eurovision, but the day after the festival everyone talks about how bad Spain has been,” says Adrados, “Everyone thinks they know what they would have to do to win. That really is good for us Spaniards ”.

You can follow EL PAÍS TELEVISIÓN on Twitter or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.