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Thursday, April 06, 2017

April 6, 1974

Hi, there!  Welcome to the first Throwback Thursday of April!  And you know, sometimes when it comes to picking topics, one just happens to stand out.  In this case, I really can't remember if I ever did a blog post on today's subject before (then again, I've been doing this for nearly six years now, so I'm starting to forget what I talked about in 2011 and 2012).  So, I thought...why not today?

Before we get to today's selected topic, let's see some of the others that didn't make the cut - though still very interesting subjects nonetheless.  This is April 6 in a nutshell...

1453 - Mehmed II begins his siege of Constantinople

1520 - Renaissance artist Raphael dies at the age of 37 - some reports state that he actually died on his 37th birthday

1712 - The New York Slave Revolt of 1712 begins, near Broadway

1808 - John Jacob Astor incorporates the American Fur Company

1841 - Two days after the death of William Henry Harrison, John Tyler is sworn in as the tenth President of the United States of America

1862 - The Battle of Shiloh begins during the American Civil War

1865 - The Battle of Sailor's Creek takes place

1869 - Celluloid is patented

1896 - The opening of the first modern Olympic Games takes place in Athens, Greece

1917 - The United States declares war on Germany during World War I

1929 - Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long is impeached

1937 - Country singer Merle Haggard is born in Oildale, California - sadly this date would be significant for him in another way...

1941 - Comedian Phil Austin (d. 2015) is born in Denver, Colorado

1947 - The Tony Awards hold their inaugural awards ceremony

1957 - Aristotle Onassis founds Olympic Airlines

1968 - Pierre Elliot Trudeau wins the Liberal Leadership Election, paving the way for him to become Prime Minister of Canada

1992 - The Bosnian War begins

1994 - The airplane carrying Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira is shot down, which sets the stage for the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide

1996 - Actress Greer Garson dies at the age of 91

1998 - Country singer Tammy Wynette dies at the age of 55

2001 - Charles Pettigrew of Charles and Eddie dies at the age of 37

2009 - 307 people lose their lives near L'Aquila, Italy following a 6.3 earthquake

2014 - Actor Mickey Rooney passes away at the age of 93

2016 - Country singer Merle Haggard dies on his 79th birthday

Now, let's see which famous faces are turning one year older today...James Watson, Billy Dee Williams, Roy Thinnes, Don Prudhomme, Barry Levinson, John Ratzenberger, Marilu Henner, Patrick Doyle, Rob Epstein, Michael Rooker, Cathy Jones, Warren Haynes, John Pizzarelli, Rory Bremner, Black Francis, Kathleen Barr, Jonathan Firth, Paul Rudd, Zach Braff, Candace Cameron Bure, James Fox, Imani Coppola, Tim Hasselbeck, Myleene Klass, Max Bemis, Heidi Mount, and Charlie McDermott.

All right.  Shall we have a look at what today's Throwback Thursday date is?

We're going back to the 1970s for this one.  Specifically April 6, 1974.

We're also going to take a trip to the city of Brighton in the United Kingdom, for it is here that our story begins.

Have any of you ever heard of the Eurovision Song Contest?  It has been a song competition that has gone on in the continent of Europe since 1956.  It is also one of the most watched television broadcasts worldwide, with up to 500 million people watching at least part of the contest.

The way that the contest works is that each country that enters the contest chooses an artist or a band to submit an original song that is then broadcast live on radio and television.  The songs are judged by a jury of panelists - and recently votes cast via phone are also a factor in determining a winner.  The winner of the contest would usually become the host country for the following year's contest (though there were five years in the contest's 60-year history where that rule was not observed).

Interestingly enough, the 1974 contest was one of those years.  If the tradition continued, the contest would have been held in Luxembourg.  Abut with the country winning the contest in 1972 and 1973, they declined the offer to host again, and they opted to let another nation host the contest instead.  And when it came down to the 1974 Contest, there certainly was a lot of stiff competition.

Seventeen countries participated in the 1974 Eurovision Contest that year, and many of them had submitted some really great tunes.  In fact, one of the competitors was Olivia Newton-John, who was representing the United Kingdom (she was born in Great Britain so she was eligible to compete).  Would you believe though that she came in fourth that year?  Sure, her song "Long Live Love" was wonderful, but she didn't realize that the competition would be so fierce.

In fact, the winners of the contest hailed from the country of Sweden.  Made up of two men and two women, they ended up with a final score of 24 points.  Each country (without voting for their own) gave their favourite song five points, the second favourite would get four, and so on and so forth.  Though this group from Sweden only received fives from Switzerland and Finland, they received enough ones and twos from other countries to beat Italy, whose second place score only tallied eighteen points.

Little did this group know that this victory at the Eurovision Song Contest would be the starting point towards a lengthy singing career - one that would last from 1974 until the band's break-up in 1982.  They would become the most successful group to have won the contest, having sold a total of well over 100 million records worldwide.

And that song that they performed at the contest would become the band's first of many chart-toppers, reaching #1 in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.  Interestingly, the song only peaked at #3 in their native Switzerland.

In the United States, it made the Top 10.  Have a listen.

SONG:  Waterloo
ALBUM:  Waterloo
DATE RELEASED: March 4, 1974

Yes, it was on this date forty-three years ago that Swedish group ABBA won the Eurovision Contest with this song.  The band - made up of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Faltskog - initially had a different title for this single (it was originally supposed to be called Honey Pie).  As well, the band had initially wanted to release a different single entitled "Hasta Manana" for the contest, but decided that "Waterloo" would make a better choice.

It certainly was a show stopper for the group.  Most entries for the Eurovision Song Contest were slow ballads - but the song entry by ABBA was an upbeat rock and roll song, with the members of ABBA dressed in flashy outfits with silver platform boots! 

ABBA also made a bit of history at the time by singing the song in English.  I know it seems kind of weird, given that most of ABBA's discography is English.  But prior to ABBA winning the contest, the Eurovision Song Contest had a rule that stated that all songs must be performed in the language that is the singer's native tongue, and is most used in the country of their residence.  So, this meant that Italy would release an Italian song, or Greece would release a Greek song, and so on.  Given the old rules, ABBA would have had to have released "Waterloo" in Swedish (which they would later do in their native country).  But since that rule was not in practice at the time that ABBA entered the contest, they were free to sing the song in English.  Which was a good thing, as I'm not so sure I'd understand the Swedish version.

So, that's the story of how ABBA began.  The winners truly did take it all.  And while they may have had several moments where they wanted to send out for an S.O.S., their fans decided to take a chance on them, and they became the kings and dancing queens of an entire generation.

If that doesn't make you sing Mamma Mia, I don't know what will.

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