6 April 1968: Spain triumphs at the Eurovision Song Contest in London

Massiel on stage in London in 1968.
Massiel on stage in London in 1968. / SUR
  • This week sees the 50th anniversary of a win that met controversy 40 years later

The 13th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, held in the Royal Albert Hall on 6 April 1968, was won by the Spanish singer and actress, María de los Ángeles Félix Santamaría Espinosa. Better known as Massiel, the Madrid-born artist was just 21 when she triumphed with the song, La La La. However, she was only given nine days' notice that she was to represent Spain in the contest.

The Catalan singer, Joan Manuel Serrat, was originally selected to represent Spain, but Serrat had intended to sing in Catalan. This was considered an affront to the Francoist regime which insisted that the entry be performed in Castilian. Serrat refused. At the time, Massiel was on tour in Mexico, but she returned to Spain in time to learn the song that would bring her worldwide recognition.

The contest was hosted by British television personality, Katie Boyle, and it was the first time that the Eurovision was broadcast in colour.

The song, written by Manuel de la Calva and Ramón Arcusa, received 29 points, beating Cliff Richard (Congratulations) by just one point. However, Bill Martin -writer of the UK entry - claimed the Spanish song was &ldquoa piece of rubbish&rdquo.

Massiel recorded the song in four languages. The English version was called He Gives Me Love (La La La), while the German and Italian versions kept the original Spanish title.

Massiel went on to enjoy a successful career, releasing more than 20 discs and appearing in numerous stage productions and films.

In 1997, she re-recorded her Eurovision winner with a hip-hop beat, but it did not receive the same acclaim as the original.

Massiel sang La La La at the fiftieth anniversary edition of the contest in Kiev in 2005. In 2007, she became a member of Spain's Mission Eurovision jury, a programme to select the song to represent the country in the contest.

However, her victory in Eurovision was to hit the headlines again 40 years later, when a documentary alleged that the competition had been rigged by General Franco.

Made by the Spanish film director, Montse Fernández Villa, the documentary claimed that Franco had sent state television officials across Europe offering cash and making promises in order to swing the result. The allegation was based on the testimony of José María Íñigo, a journalist and former employee of Television Española (TVE), who claimed that rigging was commonplace in the competition.

The documentary declared that the contest should in fact have been won by Cliff Richard's song, Congratulations. Massiel was outraged by the allegations, accusing La Sexta - the broadcaster of the documentary - of manufacturing the scandal.

Íñigo, Spain's longtime Eurovision commentator, apologised to Massiel, claiming that he had merely repeated a widespread rumour.