Throwback Thursdays are back! After a little pause during the ESC season, we are coming back to our flashbacks and throwbacks and nostalgia moments… And for the first throwback of the 2019 off-season, let us ride to Monte-Carlo, and to the only Monégasque victory.
“On a tous un banc, un arbre, une rue” won the 16th Eurovision Song Contest, in Dublin, in 1971. Sang by Séverine, it was the first and only victory for the principalty of Monaco.
A few historical anecdotes
Séverine’s path to victory and her victory itself were nicely eventful. Did you know that in 1971 she first tried to represent France. The ORTF (the French broadcaster at the time) organized an internal selection, but prefered Serge Lama over her. She was later internally selected by TMC (for Monaco), and got her “revenge” on Lama by winning the contest in Dublin.
Séverine always said she never set foot in Monaco, and TMC never invited to visit after her victory, despite filming a promotion video in the principalty. Also, her manager stole her fee, and despite winning a trial against him, she never got the money back. Despite this, she still remained a fan of the contest!
Why this song?
But why have I chosen this song? It’s not because it’s the only winner, I am not that lazy. I actually hesitated, but very quickly I chose this one, mainly because of a memory from January 20th, my birthday.
After entering my business school, I became part of a theater association. Each member has their birthday publicly celebrated by an email sent to the association’s loop, with a description of them, some personality traits and their history in the association (in which plays they have played, etc.). This year, the person responsible for writing these emails entitled each of them with a pun on the lyrics of a song. My email’s subject was “On a tous Vincent, un arbre, une rue”. I was very touched by the detail.
I must also confess that I feel a particular connexion to the lyrics of the song. It is basically about growing up and starting one’s own life, going your own way, but without forgetting “the bench, the tree, the street where we cherished our dreams” . This academic year was basically that for me. getting my own flat, getting closer of my future professional life, being autonomous, etc. And interestingly, I also had strong nostalgic feelings of a symbolic bench/tree/street of my childhood, cartoons. Many of those born in the last 1990’s will remember Totally Spies! and maybe even Martin Mystery or Galactik Football (all French cartoons, by the way, something I discovered a few months ago). I think we actually lack songs about growing up and leaving our home in Eurovision these days. “On My Way” in 2017 sounds like the closest one in time, while they were quite common at the time.
What the others had to say:
Even though this is not among my favorite Eurovision entries, it is actually one of my fave winners! I’m not a big fan of high pitched voices, but in this song I feel it fits. A few years back I heard a cover of this, performed in a much lower voice, which I should have loved, but it was just all wrong. And there is no denying Séverine’s vocal abilities and the passion in her performance. I think one of the things that makes this song stand out is the way it just goes off with a bang! Starting by sort of throwing the chorus right in people’s faces is a great way of grabbing their attention. And what a chorus it is! I also love the way the backing singers hum the chorus as Séverine sings the verse. It’s a perfect, and perfectly sneaky, way of brain washing us! #iapprove
When I first learned about Eurovision, I was always more interested in the classic contest than the modern one, so I am quite familiar with the winner of 1971. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a song I still listen to often – before listening to it for this article, I probably hadn’t heard it in over a year – but within the context of 1971, it makes sense that this won. The chanson genre was the Balkan ballad of the pre-ABBA era, and this is the epitome of chanson. Add a “la la la” section and it’s a textbook vintage Eurovision winner. Although Germany, Spain, and the UK’s songs of that year are more my speed, I have to recognize the quality that Monaco gave us in 1971.
Note: a few hours after writing this review, I had the tune of the chorus stuck in my head, and I couldn’t stop whistling along. Maybe this song is catchier than I originally thought…
I have to confess to not seeing much of this contest, so I was very intrigued to watch the performance of ‘Un banc, un arbre, une rue’. What comes across imminently is how passionate Séverine is in selling the song, she delivers both confidently and pitch perfect. I very much like how the verses build into the song’s signature chorus, it all flows so naturally. Séverine rising her arms in the final 15 seconds to close the song really adds to the presentation and gives off a sense of satisfaction.
Having only really becoming an enthusiast of the contest from Lordi’s 2006 win onwards, my knowledge and appreciation of the early contests is rather limited. Of course being aware of some of the earlier winners, such as ABBA and Celine Dion, I admit to having never have listened to Séverine’s 1971 winning entry. Although, on first listen it’s easy to see why it stormed to the Grand Prix in 1971. Catchy, memorable and easy-on-the-ear, it makes for quintessential Eurovision fare. For a relative younger viewer and fan, like myself, who has been so accustomed to listening and enjoying more contemporary entries and winners, ‘Un band, un arbre, une rue’ is a welcome winner from another era. But, at the same, it also includes all the inherent traits of a Eurovision winner that you still see in contests today – which make for a timeless, if underrated, classic.