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What If The Beatles Had Entered The Eurovision Song Contest? Written by on May 1, 2023

As part of our ‘Mersey Music’ week looking at the music of Liverpool, Ewan Spence takes a look at an intriguing alternative history of the Eurovision Song Contest, one where the BBC decided to send The Beatles to the Song Contest.

Could the BBC have chosen The Beatles to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest? When would it have happened? What would they have sung? Would they have won?

Let’s start with the year. Obviously, The Beatles need to have formed, and also obviously it needs to be before they become bigger than Brian Cohen of Nazareth. Which really leaves just one year… 1963.

In that year’s UK  National Final, you had the likes of Anne Shelton (a ‘Forces Sweetheart’ from the Second World War), Maureen Evans (who had recently charted with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Like I Do), Vince Hill (who had just missed out on the Top 40 with his debut solo single ‘The River’s Run Dry’), the Swedish-based Jimmy Justice (probably best known for his cover of ‘Spanish Harlem’). Johnny Towers and Barry Barnet are in the mix as well, and of course, Ronnie Carroll, returning after singing at Eurovision the previous year, finishing Fourth

Listening to the National Final songs, there’s a sense of the BBC playing it incredibly safe. While Vince HIll and Jimmy Justice could have brought something a bit more chart-friendly, A Song For Europe in 1963 was very much a BBC Light Entertainment production, with songs more suited to variety shows than the pop charts.

This is where we have to jump to the alternative universe. Rather than inviting Ronnie Carroll back to try again, someone in the BBC decides to do their best Steve Buscemi and find something ‘for the youths’. Given the success of The Allisons two years previously, with ‘Are You Sure?’ echoing the sound of The Everley Brothers, approaching an up-and-coming band for a slower rock and roll styled number is not out of the question.

So, the BBC are looking for a band with a gentle sound, just enough rock and roll to shake things up, and to have popular appeal. October 1962 saw a band from Liverpool release their debut single. It reached number 17. A quiet start for a band that would change the world, but a start that could have put them on the BBC’s radar. The song moved away from the Tin Pan Alley sound of pop music in the 50s, instead leaning into the new sound of playing on the backbeat to drive the song forward.

That song? ‘Love Me Do.’

A Song For Europe

Now we have The Beatles in the National Final system, but with what song? A song released in October wasn’t going to cut it. Thankfully the soon-to-be Fab Four have been in the studio, hard at work on their second single. If we’re going to pick anything, it’s going to be ‘Please Please Me’.

In our universe, the single is released on January 11th. Would the band hold back this single for a few weeks so it can be entered into ‘A Song For Europe’ on February 24th? It’s a lot of TV exposure for a young band – even in the early sixties the currency of exposure would be offered. For our story purposes let’s assume the answer is yes; although you could easily argue the BBC would prefer the slower nature of ‘Misery’ would be more acceptable to the broadcaster’s management.

It’s unlikely anything else in the National Selection. It’s still rooted in a gentle blues/easy listening space of previous UK entries, but there’s a crackling energy to the song, the stage presence is of the charts. All it would take is an unsaid missive to the jury to try and appeal to a broader audience… and The Beatles are heading to the Eurovision Song Contest to be held the next month in London.

At Eurovision

Saturday, 23rd March, and Katie Boyle welcomes the Eurovision audience to BBC Television Centre for the eighth edition of the Song Contest. The show opens with a now familiar but then stunning aerial shots of the venue, and a roll call of the acts singing that night before Boyle introduces the opening act. The United Kingdom. The Beatles.

I’ll be honest here, I think The Beatles winning would be an absolutely huge ask. I can’t see a path to victory. Yes, they’re opening the show and will blow the competition away in the minds of many teenagers watching at home, but this is a 100 per cent jury vote. The Danish winner ‘Dansevise’ is not only a stunning song, but it’s also in keeping with the style of song that does well with the juries at the Song Contest. It takes the win with 42 points, second place goes to Switzerland with 40, Italy with 37, and in our timeline the crooning tones of Ronnie Carrol finds 28 points for the United Kingdom.

With 20 jurors in each country giving out 1 to 5 points to get a final ranking, which is then transferred to a national 1 to 5 points, scoring distribution is lumpy. You have a top four close to each other, a middling pack of four more songs, and then eight songs that score five points or less.

As it stands, six points would see The Beatles sneaking to the left-hand side of the scoreboard. That’s possible, it only needs two good scores to achieve that. Some could come from Germany? It blanked the United Kingdom in our universe, but ‘Please Please Me’ charted in the country. Is there a three- or four-pointer score in there? Perhaps. A few more twists like that, and you have a mid-table result.

The Beatles Never Needed Eurovision

Irrespective of the Eurovision result, does the appearance change anything about the trajectory of The Beatles? The two factors to consider are this; one, does a four to six-week delay of releasing ‘Please Please Me’ dampen the rise of Beatlemania?; and two, does a European-wide appearance on live television boost the rise of Beatlemania? They probably cancel each other out, because there’s little that could stop the group from changing the face of popular music forever.

It’s also worth noting the dates here. The Eurovision Song Contest 1963 took place on March 23rd. The day before, Friday, March 22nd, The Beatles released their first LP, also called ‘Please Please Me’. It remains to this day one of the pivotal albums in music history. Nothing is stopping that. And if nothing stops ‘Please Please Me’ then nothing is stopping The Beatles.

Did Eurovision Need The Beatles?

There’s going to be more impact on the Eurovision Song Contest thanks to The Beatles’ appearance. There will always be a group of people that declare ‘Eurovision made The Beatles’ and the eternal question in that universe will be if The Beatles could have achieved success without their appearance.

The debates will rage through the letters pages of NME, Melody Maker, and Backbeat, but when Eurovision 1964 comes around, would the BBC carry on looking at pop music? Or would it return to the easy-listening crowd and call Matt Monro?

The power of Beatlemania and its association with the Song Contest leads me to think that it would try to stay in the pop music space. I doubt they would go for another Merseybeat band (and it’s unlikely that bands such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, or The Searchers, would pick up the phone)… but 1963 saw Kathy Kirby win the NME’s ‘Top British Female Singer’ award.

Bringing Kathy Kirby’s UK entry forward a year to 1964 is an obvious option. As for 1965, there’s a good chance that the BBC go for a post-Sanremo Dusty Springfield, but we’ve already visited that universe here on ESC Insight.

I’d expect Eurovision to return to the established timeline in the mid-sixties. Take the thread of Serge Gainsbourg through the Contest. He was already working in yé-yé alongside his jazz and chanson work. Yé-yé and Merseybeat traded a lot of tones and textures, but he’s always going to enter the Song Contest and we’re always going to get ‘Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son‘ in 1965; which itself led Bill Martin and Phil Coulter to pen ‘Puppet On A String’ and ‘Congratulations’ the following years.

And our timeline is restored.

All You Need Is Love

The Beatles were always going to be The Beatles and change music forever. The Eurovision Song Contest was always going to be The Eurovision Song Contest and change television forever. These two ships were pulling in different directions in the sixties.

Now, in 2023, the home of The Beatles becomes the home of Eurovision. And we are left with one final, tantalising question…

…Are we finally going to see one of The Beatles on the Eurovision stage?

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (

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