Personalities | ABBA | Seventies | Rock
The most commercially successful pop band of the 1970s, ABBA rose again in the 1990s when ABBA Gold (1992) revived their peerless singles’ legacy, which has carried on ever since.
ABBA were formed in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden, by Benny Andersson (born Goran Bror Benny Andersson, 16 December 1946), Bjorn Ulvaeus (born 25 April 1945) and their girlfriends Frida Lyngstad (born Anni-Frid Lyngstad-Ruess, 15 November 1945) and Agnetha Faltskog (born 5 April 1950).
Andersson and Ulvaeus had been a songwriting partnership since 1969 after leaving their respective bands The Hep Stars (Sweden’s top pop band) and The Hootenanny Singers. Their girlfriends were both singers and Faltskog – who married Ulvaeus in 1971 – had had several hits. Invited to write a song for the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest entry in 1973, Andersson and Ulvaeus submitted ‘Ring Ring’, which did not win the contest for Sweden’s entry but was a big Swedish hit when released as a single. In 1974 ABBA tried again and this time ‘Waterloo’ was picked as the Swedish entry. The glam rock singalong won the Eurovision Song Contest convincingly and became a No. 1 single in the UK and around Europe.
‘I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do’ in 1975 failed to click in the UK but the girls’ distinctive voices and harmonies and the boys’ acute sense of pop melody and clever arrangements would not be denied for long. ‘SOS’ restored ABBA to the UK Top 10 and broke them into the US Top 20. And ‘Mamma Mia’ sent them back to the top of the UK charts at the end of 1975, although the US preferred ‘I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do’.
Kings And Queens Of Pop
The next two years saw ABBA dominate the British and European charts with a string of brilliantly conceived and executed hits with sublime choruses and multi-layered voices and instruments. ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, ‘The Name Of The Game’ and ‘Take A Chance On Me’ all topped the UK charts while ‘Money Money Money’ made No. 3. They were all taken from No. 1 albums – Greatest Hits (1976), Arrival (1976) and The Album (1978).
In America, ‘Dancing Queen’ was their only No. 1 although ‘Take A Chance On Me’ got to No. 3. ‘Fernando’, ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ and ‘The Name Of The Game’ made the Top 20. The rest of the world was falling under their spell, particularly Australia where the band toured in 1977, a film of which was released in 1978 as Abba The Movie. The band maximized their revenue by making separate licensing agreements for each country. In the Soviet Union, where the rouble was a non-convertible currency, they were paid in oil instead.
In October 1978 Andersson and Lyngstad got married, but ominously two months later Ulvaeus and Faltskog announced that they were separating. ABBA’s personal relationships did not affect the songs, however. They built their own studio and...
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