Portugal's Eurovision entry 1974 - consolation prize: Revolution!

Paulo de Carvalho "E Depois de Adeus"

Paulo de Carvalho "E Depois de Adeus" (And After Goodbye)

Flopped at Eurovision - but started a revolution back home

The song is about the end of a relationship. It's not in any way political. Paulo de Carvalho gives a good professional vocal performance, and he's singing in Portuguese. It's a respectable entry. But the musical paradigm is entirely American. And, even for 1974, out-of-date.

Eurovision is a song contest - it's for the best original new song. And the Portuguese entry sounds like something Sinatra, Matt Munro or any Sinatra clone might have sung. It is a mainstream American-style song, old-fashioned and behind the times. The UK had Matt Munro sing at the Eurovision contest - but a decade earlier, in 1964.

Stuck back in time

Portugal in 1974 was itself old-fashioned and behind the times. In fact so far behind the times it was still in the grip of a backward-looking fascist dictatorship, and running a ramshackle colonial empire after all the other European powers had turned away from empire. It was stuck in a timewarp, and its people were suffering - locked in a long war, economically going nowhere and with no end in site.

Culturally Portugal was isolated, and the autocratic regime was afraid of anything subversive or modern. Economically, it was ultra-protectionist. Coca-Cola, even though it was American, was banned - to protect the local soft drinks industry.

Singers and music were licenced by the state and song lyrics subject to censorship. Older American music was accepted, but not the new 60s stuff or anything with anti-war or political sentiment. This kind of thing leads to a dulled-down, safe officially-approved music. So the rebels (see Zeca Afonso) end up having the best tunes. That's exactly what happened 45 years ago in Portugal.

You could argue with some justice that Eurovision is not a fair test of a nation's musical vitality and talent. But some countries do put their top talent forward for the annual contest. In 1974 Sweden put up ABBA, with "Waterloo". This is almost universally acknowledged as the best winner in the Eurovision contest's entire history. Portugal didn't stand a chance. It came joint last with 3 points. (The UK managed fourth with Olivia Newton-John's "Long Live Love").

Revolution transforms Portugal and echoes round the world

Three weeks after ABBA's Eurovision triumph, on the 25th of April 1974, Portugal rose in revolt. It turned out to be uniquely peaceful - and one of the most significant revolutions of the 20th century. It brought to a close a whole epoch in human history. It reversed not just the dictatorships of Salazar and Caatano, and the army revolt of 1926, but much of Portugal' 550 year colonial history.

Portugal was the first big European empire, starting in the early 1400s, and it was the last to end. By the time things stabilised in late 1975 all of Portugal's territories in Africa had been granted independence. With Angola and Mozambique no longer held by an ally, the Apartheid regime in South Africa fought on alone, but its days were now numbered.

Music to start a rebellion

Back in Portugal in 1974, the army units carrying out the revolt were waiting for the "Go!" signals, two songs to be broadcast on different radio stations. The first went out at just before 11pm at night on the 24th of April on Emissores Associados de Lisboa (Radio Club of Lisbon). It was this - Paulo de Carvalho singing the Sinatra-esque "E Depois de Adeus". It's about the end of a relationship, appropriately enough. But it was a good stealth signal - a very popular tune, the recent Eurovision entry, and not glaringly out of place. It was the cue for the plotters to take over their bases.

The second tune chosen by the plotters was Zeca's Grândola, Vila Morena, going out on the Catholic radio station Rádio Renascença (Renaissance Radio) at 20 minutes past midnight, on the morning of the 25th of April. This Zeca song wasn't actually banned, but most of his other work was, and it stood out clearly on the programme as he was a well-known dissident figure.

This was the signal for all the rebel units to leave their barracks and move with their weapons (which included tanks and armoured cars) to their allotted positions, dealing with any opposition as necessary. After this there was no going back.

So - comparing ABBA's spectacular musical metaphor Waterloo to Paulo de Carvalho's dull conventional song of lost love. Which had the greatest world-historical significance? Portugal's Eurovision entry of 1974 wins on that.

See also

Zeca Afonso invites you to join him in a revolutionary endeavor

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