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ABBA

ABBA was a Swedish pop/dance group active from 1972 until 1982. The quartet was formed through the friendship of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and their respective girlfriends Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog, and together they topped charts worldwide from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The name "ABBA" is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's given name.[1]

They remain a fixture of radio playlists and have sold more than 370 million records.[2][3] ABBA was also the first pop group from mainland Europe to enjoy consistent success in the charts of the English-speaking world (mainly the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand), and its enormous popularity subsequently opened the doors for other Continental European acts.[4] The music of ABBA has been re-arranged into a blockbuster musical Mamma Mia! that has toured worldwide and is in production for a movie version to be released in 2008.

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1969–1971: the formative years

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ABBA - The Definitive Collection [2002] DVD

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Benny Andersson was, from the age of 18, a member of The Hep Stars, a popular Swedish pop-rock group that mostly performed covers of international hits. Their live shows were often accompanied by mob scenes. Andersson played keyboards and eventually started writing original compositions for his band, many of which became major hits including "No Response" (#3 in 1965), "Sunny Girl", "Wedding", "Consolation" (all of which hit #1 in 1966), and "Speleman".

Björn Ulvaeus from the age of 18 fronted The Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk-skiffle group. Ulvaeus started writing material for his band, and also attempted a brief solo career alongside it.

His band and the Hep Stars sometimes crossed paths while touring, and on one such occasion in June 1966 Ulvaeus and Andersson decided to write a song together. This, their first attempt, was "Isn't It Easy to Say", later recorded by The Hep Stars. Stig Anderson, manager of the Hep Stars and founder of the Polar Music label, saw much potential in the collaboration, and encouraged them to compose more.

Both also began occasionally playing with the other's band on stage and on record, although it wasn't until 1969 that the pair wrote and produced some of their first real hits together: "Ljuva Sextiotal" ('Merry Sixties'), recorded by Brita Borg and The Hep Stars' 1969 hit "Speleman".

Andersson also had a fruitful song writing collaboration with Lasse Berghagen, with whom he wrote and submitted the song "Hej, Clown" for the 1969 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest finals. The song tied for first, but re-voting relegated Andersson's song to #2.[5]

As their bands began to break up, Andersson and Ulvaeus teamed up and eventually recorded their first album together in 1970, called Lycka ("Happiness" in Swedish), which comprised original compositions sung by the two men. Ulvaeus still occasionally recorded and performed with the Hootenanny Singers until the summer of 1974, alongside ABBA.

Agnetha Fältskog had a #1 record in Sweden when she was only 17 and was soon noted by the critics and songwriters as a talented composer, most of her songs being in the schlager style. Fältskog's main inspiration in her early years was singers in the style of Connie Francis. Along with her own compositions, she also recorded covers of foreign hits and performed them on tours in Swedish folkparks. She even submitted a self-written song for Melodifestivalen when only 17 ("Försonade"), which was rejected. Agnetha had briefly met Anni-Frid Lyngstad for the first time during a TV show in early 1968, and Björn Ulvaeus at a concert venue a few months later. During filming of a Swedish TV special in March 1969, she met Ulvaeus again, and they eventually became a couple and married in 1971. In 1973, Fältskog starred as Mary Magdalene in the original Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar and attracted favourable reviews. Between 1967 and 1975, Fältskog released five studio albums.[6]

Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad sang from the age of 13 with various dance bands and worked mainly in a jazz-oriented cabaret style. She also formed her own band named Anni-Frid Four. In the summer of 1967, she won a national talent competition with the song "En Ledig Dag". (included in double EMI CD Frida 1967-1972). The first prize was to perform live on the most popular TV show in Sweden. This show was broadcast on the same day Sweden went from driving on the left side to the right, so it was a very special day and almost the whole population saw Frida sing. This first and unique performance can be seen in "Frida the DVD". Included in the prize was a recording contract with EMI. Lyngstad released several singles on EMI and had many hits in the Swedish charts. When Benny Andersson started to produce her recordings in 1971, she got her first number 1 single. On that single, "Min Egen Stad" (My Own Town), all 4 ABBA members are singing the backup vocals. Frida toured and performed regularly in the folkpark circuit and made appearances on radio and TV. She had met Björn Ulvaeus briefly in 1963 during a talent contest, and Agnetha Fältskog during a TV show in early 1968. She finally linked up with her future colleagues in 1969. On May 1, 1969, she participated in the Melodifestivalen, where she met Andersson for the first time. A few weeks later they met again during a concert tour in southern Sweden and they soon became a couple. Andersson also invited Lyngstad to sing backup vocals with Fältskog on the Björn & Benny debut album, Lycka (October 1970), and during this time he also started producing Lyngstad's debut album, Frida, which was released in March 1971 and praised by critics. Lyngstad also played in several revues and cabaret shows in Stockholm between 1969 and 1973. After ABBA formed, she recorded another successful album in 1975, Frida Ensam, which included the original Swedish rendition of "Fernando", which became a huge hit in Scandinavia before the English version was recorded.[7]

First performance as foursome - and first 'group name': "Festfolk"

An attempt at combining their talents started in April 1970 when the two couples went on holiday together to the island of Cyprus. What started as singing for fun on the beach ended up as an improvised live performance in front of the United Nations soldiers stationed on the island -- the future ABBA stars' first ever performance. Björn & Benny were at this time recording their first album together, "Lycka" ('Happiness'), which was to be released in September 1970. Their girlfriends added backing vocals on several tracks, and the idea of them all working together saw them launch their own stage act, Festfolk (meaning in Swedish both 'Party People' and 'Engaged Couples') on November 1, 1970 in Gothenburg. The cabaret show attracted good reviews. Among the odd numbers, the foursome performed the B&B hit "Hej, Gamle Man" and solo numbers from respective albums, but the foursome didn't feel like working together, and soon concentrated on individual projects again.[8]

1971–1973: From "Festfolk" to "Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid" to "ABBA"

After the 1970 release of Andersson & Ulvaeus' album "Lycka", two more B&B singles were released in Sweden: "Det Kan Ingen Doktor Hjälpa" and "Tänk Om Jorden Vore Ung", with more prominent vocals by Anni-Frid and Agnetha, and moderate chart success. Anni-Frid released her first studio album "Frida", and performed on her own; Agnetha released her fourth album and married Björn July 6, 1971. Benny, Björn and Agnetha started performing together on a regular basis this summer.

Stig Anderson, owner of Polar, was determined to break into the mainstream international market with music by Benny and Björn ("One day the pair of you will write a song that becomes a worldwide hit", he predicted).[9] Stig encouraged Ulvaeus and Andersson to write a song for the Swedish preliminary of the Eurovision Song Contest, Melodifestivalen, and after two rejected entries in 1971 ("Det kan Ingen Doktor Hjälpa" and "Välkommen Till Världen"),[10] Andersson & Ulvaeus submitted for the 1972 contest their new song "Säg Det Med En Sång" ("Say It With A Song"), and they chose newcomer Lena Anderson to perform. The song came third, convincing Stig he was on the right track. The song became a huge hit in Sweden.[11]

B&B Success in Japan

The first signs of foreign success came as a surprise, as the Björn & Benny single "She's My Kind of Girl" was released by chance by Epic in Japan in March 1972, giving the duo a Top 10 hit. Two more B&B singles were released in Japan: "Merry-Go-Round" and "Love Has Its Ways".[12]

1972: "People Need Love": the first 'real' ABBA song

Ulvaeus and Andersson persevered with their song writing and experimented with new sounds and vocal arrangements. One of the songs they came up with was "People Need Love", released in June 1972, featuring guest vocals by the women, who were now given much greater prominence. Everyone involved felt enthusiastic about the new sound and Stig Anderson released it as a single, credited to Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. The song reached #17 in the Swedish combined single & album charts, enough to convince them they were on to something.[13] The single also became the first record to chart for the quartet in the United States, where it peaked at #114 on the Cashbox singles chart and #117 on Record World's singles chart. Billed as Björn & Benny (with Svenska Flicka), it was released there on Playboy Records. However, according to Stig Anderson, "People Need Love" could have been a much bigger American hit, but a small label like Playboy Records did not have the distribution resources to meet the demand for the single from retailers and radio programmers.[14]

Anni-Frid and Agnetha's first take at ABBA harmonies

As 'People Need Love' did so well, the foursome decided to record their first album together. Recording sessions began 26th September 1972, and by October, a handful of tracks were in the can. A particular track gave the two women the shared lead vocal: "Nina, Pretty Ballerina". The women's voices combined in harmonies for the first time gave them an idea of the qualities of their combined talents.

"Ring Ring"

For 1973, the foursome and their 'manager' Stig Anderson decided to have another try at the Melodifestivalen, this time with the song "Ring Ring." The studio sessions were handled by Michael B. Tretow, who experimented with a "wall of sound" production technique that became the wholly new ABBA sound. Anderson arranged an English translation of the lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody and they thought this would be a sure-fire winner, but in the Melodifestivalen, on 10th February, 1973, it came third, and thus never reached the international contest. Nevertheless the proto-group put out their first album, called Ring Ring. The album did well and the "Ring Ring" single was a hit in many parts of Europe, but Stig Anderson felt the true breakthrough could only come with a UK or US hit.[15]

The ABBA name: October 1973

In the spring of 1973, Stig Anderson, tired of unwieldy names, started to refer to the group privately and publicly as ABBA. At first this was as a joke, since Abba was also the name of a well-known fish-canning company in Sweden. However, since the fish canners were more or less unknown outside Sweden, Anderson came to believe the name would work in international markets. A competition to find a suitable name for the group was held in a Gothenburg newspaper. The group were impressed with the names Alibaba and Baba, but in the end all the entries were ignored and it was announced in the summer that the name "ABBA" was official. Later the group negotiated with the canners for the right to the name.[16] "ABBA" is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's name: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid (Frida).[17] The first 'B' in the logo version of the name was reversed on the band's promotional material from 1976 onwards and became the group's registered trademark. The first time the name is found written on paper is on a recording session sheet from the Metronome Studio in Stockholm, dated October 16, 1973. It was first written as "Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida", but was subsequently crossed out with "ABBA" written in large letters on top.

1974: "Waterloo" and Eurovision victory

Just as in 1972 and 1973, Ulvaeus, Andersson, and manager Stig Anderson believed in the possibilities of 'using' the Melodifestivalen and Eurovision TV contests as a way to make the music business aware of the band and Björn, Benny and Stig as composers. In late 1973, the composers were invited by Swedish television to contribute a song for the 1974 contest, and from a number of newly written compositions, the foursome chose the upbeat "Waterloo"; the group was now inspired by the growing glam rock scene in England. "Waterloo" was an unashamedly glam-style pop track produced with Michael B. Tretow's wall-of-sound approach.

ABBA won their national heats on Swedish TV on February 9, 1974, and with this third attempt were far more experienced and better prepared for the international contest. With an album's worth of material released when the show was held at the Brighton Dome in England on April 6, 1974, the song won and catapulted them into British consciousness for the first time—and to the top of the charts all over Europe.[18]

Winning the ESC gave ABBA the chance to tour Europe and perform on major TV shows; thus the band saw the "Waterloo" single climb the charts in most countries. "Waterloo" was ABBA's first UK #1 single. In the US, it reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, paving the way for their first album there (their second album, Waterloo, but now billed as ABBA)—although it only peaked at #145 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

ABBA's follow-up single, "Honey, Honey", reached #27 in the US, and was a Top 3 hit in Germany. However, in the UK, a cover version of the song by the act Sweet Dreams made #10 on the chart. This was primarily because ABBA's British record company, Epic, decided to re-release "Ring Ring" (albeit in a remixed format) instead. It failed to reach the Top 30, increasing growing speculation that the group were simply Eurovision one-hit wonders.

1974 Tour

In November 1974, ABBA embarked on their first European tour, playing dates in Denmark, West Germany, and Austria. It wasn't as successful as the band had hoped, since most of the venues didn't sell out, and due to a lack of demand, they were even forced to cancel a few shows, including a sole scheduled concert in Switzerland. The second leg of the tour which took them through Scandinavia in January 1975 was entirely different: they played to full houses and finally got the reception they hoped for. For three weeks in the summer of 1975, ABBA compensated for the Swedish tour they had tentatively scheduled for the previous summer, but had to cancel after their Eurovision triumph. They played sixteen open-air dates in Sweden and Finland, attracting huge crowds. Their Stockholm show at the Gröna Lund amusement park was seen by an estimated audience of 19,200.[19]

1975: "SOS", "Mamma Mia" and the breakthrough in Australia

The release of their third album, ABBA (known to fans as "The Limo Album"), and their single "SOS" finally brought back their presence in the UK, where the single hit #6 and the album reached #13. Huge success was further solidified with "Mamma Mia" reaching the #1 spot in the UK at the end of January 1976.

In the US, "SOS" reached #10 on the Record World Top 100 singles chart and #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, picking up the BMI Award along the way as one of the most played songs on American radio in 1975.

Yet the success of the group in the United States remained uneven. While they managed to break into the US singles market where, by early 1976, they already had four Top 30 singles, the album market proved to be tough to crack. The eponymous ABBA album generated no fewer than three real American hits, and yet it only peaked at #165 on the Cashbox album chart and #174 on the Billboard 200 chart. Opinions were voiced, by Creem in particular, that in the US ABBA had endured "a very sloppy promotional campaign".

In Australia, the airing of the videos for "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" and "Mamma Mia" on nationwide TV in August 1975 started an immense interest for ABBA, resulting in #1 positions on both the single and album charts for months. ABBA-mania was born.

This phenomenon for ABBA is further strengthened by the fact that the 1976 compilation album 'The Best of ABBA' is still the biggest selling album ever in Australia, selling 1.1 million copies and spending 16 weeks at #1.

On Saturday, March 20, 1976, at 6.30 pm, Australian TV's Channel 9 broadcast "The Best of ABBA", filmed during the group's visit the week before. The transmission had more than half of the population watching: 54% of viewers according to contemporary reports (the previous record was held by the Moon landing in 1969). The record is unbeaten to this day.[20]

1976: Greatest Hits, "Fernando", Arrival, "Knowing Me Knowing You", "Money Money Money" and "Dancing Queen"

In March 1976, the band released the compilation Greatest Hits, despite having had only six Top 40 hits in the UK and the US. Nevertheless, it became their first UK #1 album, and also took ABBA into the Top 50 on the US album charts for the first time, eventually selling more than a million copies there. Also included on Greatest Hits was a new single, "Fernando". This song had first been written by Bjorn & Benny in Swedish for Frida's 1975 solo album Frida ensam (Frida alone). After the huge success Frida scored with the song in Scandinavia, the group decided to record an English version. It was a wise step, with "Fernando" hitting #1 in twelve countries worldwide, occupying the top position in Australia for 14 weeks, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time in that country. Also in 1976, the group received its first international prize, with "Fernando" being chosen as the "Best Studio Recording of 1975". In the US, "Fernando" reached the Top 10 of the Cashbox Top 100 singles chart and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, ABBA's first American number one single of any kind.

The group's next album, Arrival, represented a new level of accomplishment in both song writing and studio work, prompting rave reviews from more rock-orientated UK music weeklies such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express, and mostly appreciative notices from American critics. In fact, hit after hit flowed from Arrival: "Money, Money, Money", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", and "Dancing Queen". In 1977, Arrival was nominated for the inaugural BRIT Award in the category "Best International Album of the Year". By this time ABBA were very popular in the UK, most of Western Europe and Australia.

Their popularity in the US would remain on a comparatively smaller scale, and "Dancing Queen" became the only Billboard Hot 100 #1 single ABBA ever had there (they did, however, get three more singles to the #1 position on other Billboard charts, including Billboard Adult Contemporary and Hot Dance Club Play). Nevertheless, Arrival finally became a true breakthrough release for ABBA on the US album market where it peaked at #20 on the Billboard album chart and reaching platinum there as well.

1977: Europe and Australian tour, The Movie and The Album

In January 1977, ABBA hit the road. By this time, the group's status had changed dramatically and they were clearly regarded as superstars. They opened their much anticipated tour in Oslo, Norway, on 28 January, and mounted a lavishly produced spectacle that included a few scenes from their self-penned mini-operetta. The concert attracted immense media attention from across Europe and Australia. They continued the tour through Western Europe visiting Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Essen, Hanover, Hamburg and ended it with shows in the UK in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and two sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. Tickets for these two shows were available only by mail application and it was later revealed that the box-office received 3.5 million requests for tickets, enough to fill the venue some 580 times. There were, however, complaints about the group's performance lacking "personality" and being "too polished" and "sterile".[21] One of the Royal Albert Hall concerts was filmed and recorded for the intention of a television special.

After the European part of the tour, in March 1977, ABBA played eleven dates in Australia before a total of 145,000 people. The opening concert in Sydney at the Sydney Showgrounds on March 3 before over 20,000 was marred by torrential rain and Frida slipped on the wet stage during the concert. However, nothing could dampen the fans spirit and all four members would later recall this concert to be the most memorable of their career. Upon their arrival in Melbourne, a civic reception was held at the Town Hall and ABBA appeared on the balcony to greet a hysterical crowd of 6,000 people. In Melbourne, ABBA played three concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with 14,500 at each including the Australian Prime Minister. At the first Melbourne concert, an additional 16,000 people gathered outside the fenced-off area to listen to the concert. In Adelaide, the group performed one concert at West Lakes Football Stadium before a record- breaking 21,000 people with another 10,000 listening outside. During the first of five concerts in Perth, there was a bomb scare with everyone having to evacuate the concert hall. The trip was accompanied by mass hysteria and unprecedented media attention, and is vividly captured on film in ABBA: The Movie, directed by Lasse Hallström.

The Australian tour and its subsequent ABBA: The Movie produced some ABBA lore, as well. Agnetha Fältskog's blonde good looks had long made her the band's 'pin-up girl', a role she disdained. During the Australian tour, she performed in a skin-tight white jumpsuit, causing one Australian newspaper to use the headline "Agnetha's bottom tops dull show". When asked about this at a news conference, she replied: "Don't they have bottoms in Australia?"[22]

In December 1977 (January 1978 in many territories), ABBA followed up Arrival with the more musically and lyrically ambitious fifth album The Album, which was released to coincide with ABBA: The Movie. Although the album was less well-received by the critics in the UK, it did spawn more worldwide hits: "The Name of the Game" and "Take a Chance on Me", both of which topped the UK charts, and reached #12 and #3, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. (Although "Take a Chance on Me" did not top the American charts, it has actually proved to be ABBA's biggest hit single in the United States, selling more copies than "Dancing Queen").[23] The Album also included the ABBA signature tune, "Thank You for the Music", released as a single in the UK in 1983, and had been the B-side of "Eagle" in countries where the latter had been released.

1978: Polar Music Studio opens, US visit and "Summer Night City"

By 1978, ABBA was a mega group. They converted a disused cinema into the Polar Music Studio, a new state-of-the-art studio in Stockholm which was used by several other bands (for example, Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door and Genesis' Duke were recorded there).

During May, the group went to the US for a huge promotional campaign, being guests on Olivia Newton-John's TV show among other things. However, a lot of effort was put into the new recording studio in Stockholm. The recording sessions for "Summer Night City" were an uphill struggle, but upon release the song became another significant hit for the group. The track would also set the stage for ABBA's foray into disco with their upcoming album.[24]

1979: Agnetha and Björn's divorce, Voulez-Vous and the US/Europe tour

On January 9, 1979, the group performed Chiquitita at the Music for UNICEF Concert held at the United Nations General Assembly. ABBA donated the copyright of this worldwide hit to the UNICEF; see Music for UNICEF Concert. The single was released the following week, and reached #1 in ten countries.

In mid-January, Björn and Agnetha announced they were getting divorced. The news caused a massive interest from the media, and led to discussion about ABBA's future: were they going to split up? The foursome assured the press and their fanbase they were continuing their work as a group, and that the divorce would not affect them. Nonetheless, the media continued to confront them with this in interviews.

The group's sixth album, Voulez-Vous, was released in April 1979, with two background tracks recorded in the famous Criteria Studios in Miami, U.S. with the assistance, among others, of the recording engineer Tom Dowd. The album topped the charts across Europe and in Japan and Mexico, hit the Top 10 in Canada and Australia and the Top 20 in the US. None of the singles from the album reached #1 on the UK charts, but "Chiquitita", "Does Your Mother Know", "Angeleyes" (Double A-side in UK for the single "Voulez-Vous") and "I Have a Dream" all charted no lower than #4. In Canada, "I Have a Dream" became ABBA's second #1 on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart (the first being "Fernando").

Later that year, the group released their second compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, which featured a brand new track: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", their best known disco hit in Europe. In Russia during the late 1970s, they were paid in oil commodities because of an embargo on the ruble.[25]

On September 13, 1979, ABBA began their first (and only) North American Tour at the Northlands Coliseum, in Edmonton, Canada, with a full house of 14,000. During the next four weeks, they played a total of seventeen sold-out dates, thirteen in the U.S. and four in Canada.

The last scheduled ABBA concert on U.S. soil, in Washington, DC, was cancelled due to Agnetha Fältskog's emotional distress suffered during the flight from New York to Boston, when the private plane she was on was subjected to extreme weather conditions (see Windsor Locks, Connecticut Tornado) and could not land for a long time. The tour ended with a show in Toronto, Canada at Maple Leaf Gardens before a capacity crowd of 18,000. The shows also generated the same type of complaints that were expressed during the group's 1977 tour: many fans regarded ABBA as more of a studio group than a live band.

On October 19, 1979, the tour resumed in Western Europe where the band played 23 sold-out gigs, including an unprecedented six sold-out nights at London's Wembley Arena.

1980: Japan tour and Super Trouper

In March 1980, ABBA travelled to Japan where upon their arrival at Narita International Airport, they were besieged by thousands of fans. The group played eleven concerts to full houses, including six shows at Tokyo's Budokan. This tour was the last "on the road" adventure of their career.

The year 1980 saw the release of ABBA's seventh album Super Trouper, which reflected a certain change in ABBA's style with more prominent use of synthesisers and increasingly more personal lyrics. It set a record for the most pre-orders ever received for a UK album after one million copies were ordered before release. Anticipation for the album had been built up by "The Winner Takes It All", the group's eighth UK chart topper (and their first since 1978). In the US, the single reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became ABBA's second Billboard Adult Contemporary #1. The song was allegedly written about Ulvaeus and Fältskog's marital tribulations. The next single from the album, "Super Trouper", also hit #1 in the UK, the group's ninth and final UK chart-topper. Another track from Super Trouper, "Lay All Your Love on Me", released in 1981 as a 12-inch single only in selected territories, managed to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart and peaked at #7 on the UK singles chart becoming at the time the highest ever charting 12-inch release in UK chart history.

Also in 1980, ABBA recorded a compilation of Spanish-language versions of their hits called Gracias Por La Música. It was released in Spanish-speaking countries as well as Japan and Australia. The album became a major success, and along with the Spanish version of "Chiquitita", this signaled the group's breakthrough in Latin America.

1981: Anni-Frid and Benny's divorce, The Visitors, "One Of Us" and "When All Is Said And Done"

In January 1981, Björn married Lena Källersjö, and manager Stig Anderson celebrated his 50th birthday with a huge party. For this occasion, ABBA recorded the track 'Hovas Vittne' as a tribute to him, and released it only on 200 red vinyl copies, to be distributed to the guests attending the party. This single has become a most sought-after collectible.

In mid-February, Benny and Anni-Frid announced they were filing for divorce; later it surfaced their marriage had been an uphill struggle for years, and Benny had already met another woman, Mona Nörklit, whom he married in November the same year.

Björn & Benny had song writing sessions during the first months of 1981, and recording sessions began in mid-March. At the end of April, the group recorded a TV special with the US talk show host Dick Cavett. Recording sessions came to a halt when the Polar Studio acquired a new digital tape recorder to replace an existing analogue one. Further recordings continued for the forthcoming album during the autumn, with the aim of a Christmas release.

The Visitors, ABBA's eighth and final studio album, showed a song writing maturity and depth of feeling distinctly lacking from their earlier recordings but still placing the band squarely in the pop genre, with catchy tunes and harmonies. Although not revealed at the time of its release, the album's title track, according to Ulvaeus, refers to the secret meetings held against the approval of totalitarian governments in Soviet-dominated states, while other tracks address topics like failed relationships, the threat of war, ageing, loss of innocence, a parent watching a child grow up and so on. This change of content was reflected in the relative commercial decline, mostly evident in the UK, after the release of the #3 single "One of Us" in December 1981.

Although it topped the charts across most of Europe, entered the Top 20 in France and Japan and the Top 30 in the US and Australia, The Visitors was not as commercially successful as its predecessors.

A track from the The Visitors, "When All Is Said and Done", was released as a single in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and became ABBA's final Top 40 hit in the US, while reaching #4 on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart in Canada. The song's lyrics (as with "The Winner Takes It All" and "One of Us") dealt with the painful experience of splitting up from a long-term partner, though it looked at it more optimistically. With the now publicized story of Andersson and Lyngstad's divorce, speculation increased of tension within the band. Also released in the US was the title track of The Visitors, which hit the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

1982: The last recording sessions, future plans and breaking up

In the spring of 1982, song writing sessions had started and the group came together for more recordings. Plans were not completely clear, but a new album was discussed and the prospect of a small tour suggested. The recording sessions in May and June were a struggle, and only three songs were eventually recorded: You Owe Me One, "I Am The City" and Just Like That. Andersson and Ulvaeus were not satisfied with the outcome, so the tapes were shelved and the group took a break for the summer.[26]

Back in the studio again in early August, the group had changed plans for the rest of the year: they settled for a Christmas release of a double album compilation of all their past single releases to be named The Singles: The First Ten Years. New song writing and recording sessions took place,[27] and during October and November, they released the singles The Day Before You Came/Cassandra and Under Attack/You Owe Me One, the A-sides of which were included on the compilation album.

There was little interest in the singles in the UK, though both singles became Top 5 hits in The Netherlands and Belgium. The album went to #1 in the UK and Belgium, Top 5 in the Netherlands and West Germany and Top 20 in many other countries.

The two other songs recorded during the summer, I Am the City and Just Like That, were left unreleased on The Singles for possible inclusion on the next projected studio album from ABBA, though this never came to fruition. I Am the City was eventually released as a bonus track on the compilation album More ABBA Gold in 1993, while Just Like That has been recycled in 'new' songs with other artists produced by Björn and Benny (a reworked version of the verses ended up in their musical 'Chess' 20 years later[28]). The chorus section of "Just Like That" was eventually released on a retrospective box set in 1994. Despite numerous requests from fans, Ulvaeus and Andersson are still refusing to release ABBA's version of "Just Like That" in its entirety, even though the complete version surfaced on bootlegs.

The group travelled to London to promote The Singles: The First Ten Years in the first week of November 1982, appearing on Saturday Superstore and The Late, Late Breakfast Show, and also to Germany in the second week, to perform on Show Express.

On November 19, 1982, ABBA appeared for the last time in Sweden on the TV programme Nöjesmaskinen, and on December 11, 1982, they made their last performance ever — transmitted to the UK on Noel Edmonds' The Late, Late Breakfast Show, via a live link from a TV studio in Stockholm.

In interviews, ABBA talked about a future Massive Tour, performing in front of famous sites like the pyramids etc,[29] but behind the scenes a growing disagreement with manager Stig Anderson led to the four members selling their shares in the record company and leaving future plans for ABBA on hold.[30]

Although plans suggested future recording work as a foursome, they never professionally reunited.

Andersson and Ulvaeus had meetings with Tim Rice in December 1981, and in early 1983 started song writing sessions for their musical project Chess, while Fältskog and Lyngstad both concentrated on international solo careers.

After ABBA/Last performances/Reunions

While Andersson & Ulvaeus were writing and producing the musical 'Chess' together with Tim Rice, and Lyngstad & Fältskog were concentrating on their respective solo careers, a further cooperation between three of them came with the musical "Abbacadabra" being produced in France for television; a children's musical utilizing 14 ABBA songs. Alain and Daniel Boublil (of Les Miserables fame) had been in touch with Stig Anderson about this project, and the tv musical was aired over Christmas 1983 on the British tv channel ITV.

Frida, who had recently moved to Paris, participated in the French version, and recorded a single, "Belle" a duet with French singer Daniel Balavoine. The song was a cover of ABBA's instrumental 1976 track "Arrival".

As the single "Belle" sold well in France, Cameron Mackintosh wanted to stage an English language version of the show in London, with the French lyrics translated by David Wood and Don Black; Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, got involved in the project, and contributed with one new song, "The Seeker". "Abbacadabra" premièred December 8th 1983 at The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London, to mixed reviews and full houses for 8 weeks, closing on January 21st 1984. Among the actors were Elaine Paige, Michael Praed, Finola Hughes, B A Robertson and Jenna Russell.

Elaine Paige recorded a single -a cover of ABBA's My Love My Life: "Like An Image Passing By".

Frida was involved in this production as well, recording 'Belle' in English as "Time"; a duet with actor and singer B.A. Robertson: the single sold well -this time produced and recorded by Benny and Björn- (an interesting take on their own 1976 track Arrival). The b-side was the above mentioned "The Seeker", a song that was almost forgotten for 24 years, until Benny Andersson re-recorded the song (with a new chorus) on his 2007 album BAO 3 as a Swedish language track sung by Helen Sjöholm: "Upp Till Dig".

Björn, Benny and Frida met occasionally when out promoting their solo projects across Europe, but it would take a couple of years before the foursome met again:

All four members made their last public appearance — as four 'friends' more than as ABBA — in January 1986, when they recorded a video of themselves performing an acoustic version of "Tivedshambo", (the first song written by their manager, Stig Anderson), for a Swedish TV show honouring Anderson on his 55th birthday. The four had not seen each other for more than two years.

That same year the foursome also performed privately at another friend's 40th birthday: their old tour manager, Claes af Geijerstam. They sang a self-composed song titled "Der Kleine Franz" (later to surface in Chess).

1986 also saw the release of their ABBA Live album, featuring selections of live performances from the group's 1977 and 1979 tours.

Their last known appearance (filmed privately by Anders Glenmark) as a group, was as guests in 1999 on the 50th birthday of Görel Hanser, long-time friend of all four, and also former secretary of Stig Anderson. Görel still works for Benny Andersson in his Mono Music offices, and handles matters concerning all four former members. Honouring Görel, ABBA performed a Swedish birthday song ("Med En Enkel Tulipan") a cappella.[31]

Nowadays Andersson and Ulvaeus are frequently at premières of the musical Mamma Mia! or other galas, every now and then joined by Frida Lyngstad, as at the show's fifth anniversary in London in April 2004. All four members attended the première in Stockholm of the Swedish staging of the musical in February 2005, but were not seen nor photographed together. January 2007 saw Andersson, Fältskog and Ulvaeus attend the show's last performance.

Benny Andersson has on several occasions performed old ABBA songs. In June 1992 he and Björn Ulvaeus appeared with U2 at a Stockholm concert, singing the chorus of "Dancing Queen", and a few years later during the final performance of the B & B in Concert in Stockholm, Andersson joined the cast for an encore at the piano. Andersson frequently adds an ABBA song to the playlist when he performs with his BAO! band (recently during his October/November 2007 concerts). He also played the piano during new recordings of the ABBA songs "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" with opera singer Anne Sophie Von Otter, and "When All Is Said And Done" with Swede Victoria Tolstoy. Benny and Björn both did an a capella rendition of the first verse of "Fernando" as they accepted their Ivor Novello award in London in 2002.

Frida Lyngstad performed and recorded an a cappella version of "Dancing Queen" with the Swedish group The Real Group in 1993, and has also re-recorded "I Have a Dream" with Swiss Dan Daniell in 2003.

Apart from this, none of the former members perform their old songs.

The four members have never officially announced the end of the group, but as the years pass by the chances of ABBA working together again have become increasingly slim, and the group is now considered dissolved.

Benny and Björn after ABBA

In October 1984, Ulvaeus and Andersson released the musical concept double album Chess, created together with lyricist Tim Rice, and with vocals by among others Elaine Paige, Murray Head, Barbara Dickson and swedes Tommy Körberg and Björn Skifs. The singles "One Night in Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well" were both huge successes. In May 1986, the musical premièred in the West End of London, and ran for almost three years. On Broadway it opened in April 1988, but closed within two months due to very bad reviews. The musical has been staged regularly on small scale to great success, and even the concert version is popular. In Stockholm, the composers staged Chess På Svenska ('Chess in Swedish') in 2003, with new material.

What is considered to be Andersson and Ulvaeus' masterpiece, however, is Kristina från Duvemåla, a Swedish epic musical, which the composers premièred in Malmö in southern Sweden in October 1995, directed for the stage by Lars Rudolfsson and based on the The Emigrants tetralogy by Swedish novelist Vilhelm Moberg. In Sweden, the tale of one family's migration from the poor Småland of 1840 to the promised lands in Minnesota is considered a national treasure. (The film version of 1971 was nominated for four Academy Awards.) The musical ran for five years in Stockholm, and an English version has been in the works for a long time, and it had been reported that the Broadway pre-production is in its earliest stage.[32]

Their next project was Mamma Mia!, a musical built around 24 of ABBA's songs and produced by Ulvaeus. It is a worldwide box-office blockbuster with versions in several languages currently being played in many countries, including the UK (West End première in April 1999), USA (Broadway première in 2001) and Sweden (Swedish language première in 2005).

A film version of Mamma Mia! is scheduled to première on 18 July 2008.[33]

Since 1983, besides Chess and Kristina Från Duvemåla, Benny Andersson has continued writing songs with Björn Ulvaeus. The pair produced two English language pop albums with Swedish duo Gemini in 1985 and 1987. The same year, Andersson released his first solo album on his own label, a collection of his own folk music material called Klinga Mina Klockor, and followed it with November 1989. In the 1990s, Benny wrote music for the popular Swedish cabaret quartet Ainbusk Singers, giving them two massive hits: "Lassie" and "Älska Mig", and later produced Shapes—an English language album by the group's Josefin Nilsson—with all-new material by him and Ulvaeus. Andersson has regularly written music for films (most notably to Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor), and in 2001 put together his own band, BAO!, which has released three successful albums in 2001, 2004 and October 2007. Benny Andersson has the record of staying in the longest ever run in the Svensktoppen charts in April 2007 (the song "Du Är Min Man", sung by Helen Sjöholm is still there, in its 181st week as of December 23rd, 2007)[34] Andersson has recently released his 3rd album BAO 3 with new material with his band BAO! and vocalists Helen Sjöholm and Tommy Körberg -as well as having filled two of Sweden's largest concert venues in October and November 2007 with an audience of altogether 14.000 - as well as putting the finishing touches to producing the soundtrack to the Mamma Mia! film, using the musicians of ABBA's backing band.

Björn Ulvaeus is heavily involved in the musical Mamma Mia! and its current staging's worldwide. He has not appeared on stage performing music since ABBA, but had a reunion with his co-members of The Hootenanny Singers on 16 July 2005 at a music festival in his hometown of Västervik.

Björn continues writing lyrics to Benny's new music, as well as writing new Swedish lyrics to previous English language songs (or vice versa) that the two have written earlier.

Frida and Agnetha after ABBA

Both female members of ABBA pursued solo careers on the international scene following the break-up of the band.

In 1982, Frida felt it was time for a solo-album again. At that time she wanted to distance herself from the "typical ABBA sound", which she thought had got a bit stuck by then, after 10 years work with the group. She chose Genesis drummer and singer Phil Collins to produce the album Something's Going On. Recording began in ABBA's Polar Studios in Stockholm in February 1982. With new songs, new musicians and a new producer, this team gave Frida a totally new sound. In the autumn of 1982, Frida unveiled the results of these recording sessions by releasing the single and video "I Know There's Something Going On". An extensive promotion tour around Europe and America began. Audiences around the world accepted the new sound and both the album and single soon started to climb the charts. Later in 1982 the single became a #1 hit in France (spending five weeks at the top), Belgium, Switzerland and Costa Rica. The track reached #3 in Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Poland, and was also a Top 10 hit in Germany, Italy, South Africa and Finland. In the United States the single reached #13. In all, "I Know There's Something Going On" sold 3.5 million copies worldwide and is the biggest selling single any of the four members have had outside ABBA. Meanwhile, the album sold 1.5 million copies internationally.[35]

Agnetha Fältskog followed in 1983 with the album Wrap Your Arms Around Me. This included the hit single "The Heat Is On", which was a hit all over Europe and Scandinavia that year. In the US, Fältskog scored a Billboard Top 30 hit with "Can't Shake Loose". In Europe, the single "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" was another successful hit, topping the charts in Belgium and Denmark, reaching the Top 5 in Sweden and the Top 20 in Germany and France. Her album sold 1.2 million copies worldwide.[36]

Frida's second solo album after ABBA was the experimental Shine (produced by Steve Lillywhite), released in 1984. The album proved a big success in Sweden, reaching #6 there. It was also Frida's final studio album release for twelve years.

Fältskog's second post-ABBA solo album was Eyes of a Woman, released in March 1985. It reached #2 in Sweden and performed reasonably well in Europe. The first single from the album was "I Won't Let You Go".

In November 1987, Faltskog released her third post-ABBA solo album, the Peter Cetera-produced I Stand Alone, (which also included the Billboard hit "I Wasn't The One"). The album sold phenomenally well in Sweden, where it spent eight weeks at #1 and thus became the biggest-selling album of 1988. Later that year, however, Fältskog withdrew from public life and halted her music career. In 1996, she released her autobiography, As I Am, and a compilation album featuring her solo hits alongside some ABBA classics. In 2004, she made a successful comeback, releasing the critically acclaimed album My Colouring Book, which debuted at #1 in Sweden (achieving triple-platinum status), #6 in Germany, and #12 in the UK (winning a silver award). The album also achieved gold status in Finland. The single "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" became Fältskog's biggest solo hit in the UK, reaching #9 in the midweek sales, but finally settling for the #11 position. The single reached #2 in Sweden and was a hit all over Scandinavia and Europe. Lately, Fältskog's public appearances have been more frequent. In January 2007, she sang a live duet on stage with Swedish singer Tommy Körberg (of Chess fame) at the after party for the final showing of the ABBA musical, Mamma Mia!, in Stockholm, at which Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus were also present. It is rumoured that Agnetha Fältskog is currently planning a new solo album to be released in 2008.>

In 1992, Frida was asked and chosen to be the chairperson for the environmental organisation "Artister för miljön" (Artists for the Environment) in Sweden. Frida accepted and became chairwoman for this organisation from 1992 to 1995. To mark her interests for the environment, she recorded the Julian Lennon song Saltwater and performed it live in Stockholm. She arranged and financed summer camps for poor children in Sweden, focussing on environmental and ecological issues. Her environmental work for this organisation led up to the decision to record again. When planning the record, long discussions with the record company took place if the record should be in English or, as Frida wanted, Swedish. Frida decided to record in her mother tongue, Swedish, as she did not want the huge attention an English-spoken album would lead to. Recording took place in Polar Studios, Stockholm, and the album Djupa andetag (Deep Breaths) was released towards the end of 1996 and became a huge success in Sweden (where it reached #1) and Scandinavia. The lyrics for the single from this album, "Även en blomma" (Even a Flower), deal with environmental issues. In 2004, Lyngstad recorded a song called "The Sun Will Shine Again", written especially for her and released with former Deep Purple member Jon Lord: The couple made several TV performances with this song in Germany, amongst others, "The Sunday Night Classics" and "The Golden Henne Show". The following year, she released a career retrospective DVD, "Frida the DVD and also a boxset, The "Frida Box Set". Nowadays, Lyngstad lives a low-profile life but every now and then appears at a party or charity function. On August 26, 1992, she married Prince Heinrch Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen (24 May 1950 – 29 October 1999), of the German Reuss family. Von Plauen died of lymphoma at the age of 49. In addition to losing her husband, Lyngstad had also lost her daughter in a car crash a year earlier.

Its been reported in November 2007, that Frida and Jon Lord are planning to do some demo-recordings together. If the results of these recordings turn out well, Frida will recorded a new album with Lord as producer.

Revival: "Abbacadabra" (1983) / 'ABBA Gold'(1992) and 'Mamma Mia!' (1999)

The same year ABBA went separate ways, the French production of a 'tribute' show; a children's TV musical named "Abbacadabra", using 14 of ABBA's songs, spawned new interest in the groups music. The London staging of the musical had stars like Elaine Paige, and Finola Hughes singing new lyrics to the old hits. After receiving little attention during the late 1980s, ABBA experienced a major resurgence in the new decade: starting with UK synth-pop duo Erasure's release of an EP featuring cover versions of their songs, which topped the charts in the spring of 1992. As U2 arrived in Stockholm for a concert in June of that year, the band paid homage to ABBA by inviting Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson to join them on stage for a rendition of "Dancing Queen", playing guitar and keyboards. The September 1992 release of ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits, a new compilation album, ended up selling massively worldwide and setting chart longevity records. In the U.S., the album became the most popular ABBA release ever there, selling more than six million copies to date.

The enormous interest in the Gold compilation saw the release of More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits in 1993. This collection also contained the bonus track "I Am the City", one of the unreleased songs from the 1982 recording sessions.

In 1994, two Australian movies caught the attention of the world's media, both focussing on admiration for ABBA: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding. The same year, Thank You for the Music, a four-disc box set comprising all the group's hits and stand-out album tracks, was released with the involvement of all four members. For this release, several demo versions and odd tracks were discovered in the Polar vaults.

ABBA were soon recognised and embraced by other acts: Evan Dando of The Lemonheads recorded what fans consider the best cover version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You",[37] Sinéad O'Connor and Boyzone's Stephen Gately have recorded "Chiquitita", Tanita Tikaram, and Blancmange paid tribute to "The Day Before You Came", Cliff Richard covered "Lay All Your Love On Me", while Dionne Warwick recorded her version of "SOS". U.S. alternative-rock musician Marshall Crenshaw has also been known to play a version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You" in concert appearances. Swedish metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen covered "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" with slightly altered lyrics".

Tribute albums were released both in Sweden and the UK, and tribute bands such as Bjorn Again and Arrival found a market; the former had to put together several incarnations of themselves to cover the huge demand.

In Sweden, the growing recognition of the legacy of Andersson and Ulvaeus resulted in the 1998 B & B Concerts: a tribute concert (with Swedish singers who had worked with the composers through the years) showcasing not only their ABBA years, but even hits from the 1960s and after ABBA. The concert was a huge success, released on CD, and later toured Scandinavia and even went to Beijing in the People's Republic of China for two concerts. In 1999, Sweden saw the birth of ABBA Teens, later re-named A*Teens, recording techno-pop versions of ABBA songs to huge success worldwide: not only the English original versions, but ABBA's Spanish versions also.

In April 1999, the Mamma Mia! musical opened in London, and soon premièred in cities worldwide to huge success.

In 2000 ABBA were reported to have turned down an offer of approximately US$1,000,000,000 (one billion US dollars) to do a reunion tour consisting of 100 concerts. [10][11]

With Mamma Mia!'s huge success worldwide, and the forthcoming film starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, there is a huge interest in ABBA's music. However, in a November 2004 interview with the German magazine Bunte, Ulvaeus said a reunion would not satisfy ABBA's many fans, even though there are legions of them around the world often clamouring for one.

Trivia

  • Although "Dancing Queen" gave ABBA their only #1 in the U.S. on 9 April 1977, "Take a Chance on Me" (which reached #3 in 1978) — measured in sales and other statistics — actually remains the group's biggest American hit[38]
  • 12,000 tickets were available for ABBA's two 14 February concerts at the Royal Albert Hall during their 1977 European tour. The Hall received 3.5 million ticket applications.[39]
  • On Saturday, 20 March 1976, at 6.30 pm, Australian TV's Channel 9 broadcast The Best of ABBA, filmed during the group's visit a week before. The transmission had more than half of the population watching: 54% according to contemporary reports.[40] (The previous record was held by the Moon landing in 1969.) The record is unbeaten to this day.
  • Björn Ulvaeus' father was born Gunnar Andersson, but decided to change his surname to Ulvaeus.[41]
  • Anni-Frid Lyngstad briefly met Björn Ulvaeus at a talent contest in September 1963; Ulvaeus performed with The Hootenanny Singers (at this stage named The West Bay Singers; "West Bay" as in Swedish "Västervik", Björn's home town.[42]
  • Agnetha Fältskog went to see The Hootenanny Singers perform when she was only 15, and remembers: "All the girls were looking at Björn. My friends said, 'Isn't he cute?' But I said Johan (Carlberg) was the cutest. I knew that in reality I liked Björn the most — I just wanted to stand apart from my friends."[43]
  • Anni-Frid Lyngstad once happened to see The Hep Stars perform at a folk park venue, and was shocked by their stage act. She did not find their music interesting at all[44]
  • Björn Ulvaeus remembers seeing Agnetha Fältskog on TV in January 1968 (her television debut), and became immediately interested in the blonde songwriter — so much that he cannot recall the brunette Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who also performed on the show[45]
  • When Sweden hosted the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest, ABBA was not even invited to be present[46]
  • During their recording years (eight albums), ABBA only recorded their own written material apart from a short 4-minute medley of three songs recorded in 1975 for a charity album: "Pick a Bale of Cotton"/"On Top of Old Smokey"/"Midnight Special". These were American folk songs recorded by artists as diverse as Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and Burl Ives. The medley also appears on the CD re-release of ABBA's self-titled 1975 album.
  • Alongside their own recording sessions, the four members of ABBA also spent a considerable amount of time in the studio backing other artists: the women's voices are prominent on records by Ted Gärdestad, Lill-Babs, Lena Andersson and Finn Kalvik and several others. In 1975, their recording engineer, Michael B. Tretow, supervised recording sessions for an album named Let's Boogie, and all four members of ABBA joined in: backing vocals were provided by Lyngstad and Fältskog, the latter also played the piano, Ulvaeus guitar and Andersson keyboards. Fältskog also added vocals to Ulf Lundells "Snön faller och vi med den", and Lyngstad did the same for Adam Ant's "Strip".
  • Agnetha Fältskog opted for a career in West Germany only months after her breakthrough in 1968, and recorded some 16 songs in German. Fältskog was engaged to German singer/songwriter Dieter Zimmermann for almost a year before she met Björn Ulvaeus.
  • The 1981 album The Visitors was the first music CD produced.[47]

Influence

  • The hit song "Bring Me Edelweiss" (1989) by Edelweiss features the tune and some lyrics from "SOS". This caused some controversy between Ulvaeus and Andersson, and manager Stig Anderson, who had granted approval to use the song without consulting the others[48]
  • Kylie Minogue performed "Dancing Queen" at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and also performed it in her live shows.
  • The ABBA tribute band Björn Again became so successful that as of 2004 there were five casts of Björn Again performing in various parts of the world. The original Björn Again had been touring for 15 years, longer than the original group.
  • Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt regularly lists ABBA as his favorite band.
  • North American pop group Scissor Sisters performed a live version of Super Trouper on the famous German TV show Wetten Dass in 2006.
  • Elvis Costello included three lines from "Dancing Queen" in the lyrics of the title track of his 2002 album, When I Was Cruel.
  • British singer, songwriter, drummer, producer and actor Phil Collins has often shown his admiration by ABBA's musical genius.
  • Some unpredictable ABBA fans include Sid Vicious and Glen Matlock from British punk-rock pioneers The Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, The Who's Pete Townsend, former USA secretary of state Colin Powell, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and Prince Charles of Wales, punker Joey Ramone from The Ramones, American electronic artist Moby, Sharleen Spiteri from Texas, film director Steven Spielberg and Roy Wood, member and co-founder of the bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard.
  • Cliff Richard plays a live version of Lay All Your Love On Me on his 2003 World Tour, released on VHS format.
  • The Fugees sampled ABBA's "The Name of the Game" for their contribution to the 1996 When We Were Kings soundtrack, Rumble in the Jungle. It was the first time ABBA ever gave permission for one of their songs to be sampled.
  • Madonna sampled the group's "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" in her 2005 single "Hung Up". She subsequently honoured them during the finale of her Confessions tour (2006) when she donned an outfit based on Fältskog's and Lyngstad's costumes from ABBA's 1979 world tour, and a sequined cape emblazoned with the legend "Dancing Queen". ABBA's ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits album was sold alongside her own merchandise during the tour. She admitted spending much of her time in the studio, when recording sessions to Confessions On A Dance Floor began, listening to ABBA's music constantly, alongside with producer Stuart Price.
  • During the Zoo TV tour in 1992/93, U2 frequently played "Dancing Queen." In the Swedish leg of the tour they were joined for the song by Benny and Björn. Bono and The Edge went down on their knees shouting "We're not worthy", in a reference to Wayne's World.
  • British rocker Noel Gallagher, usually a fierce critic of music industry colleagues, has hailed the quartet's songwriting genius. In an interview to the Musical Hall of Fame TV show, broadcasted by Channel 4, he said "Their songs are incredibly well recorded, produced, sung and written. From a songwriting point of view they were up there with the best. Look at their song SOS? if I could drop that into Oasis and get away with it I would. I wish I wrote Waterloo and Super Trouper.”
  • Tina Turner is quoted saying “ABBA were pop music in its purest form; my favorite is Dancing Queen.”
  • Philip Oakey, Nirvana's lead singer Kurt Cobain, REM's frontman Michael Stipe, Holly Lindin of Ophir fame, and Spice Girls' Geri Halliwell have cited ABBA as a musical influence.
  • When questioned what group was most likely to succeed The Beatles' popularity, John Lennon named ABBA.

Notable tribute albums

  • In 1992, Erasure released an EP called ABBA-esque. It consisted of four covers of ABBA songs: "SOS", "Lay All Your Love on Me," "Voulez-Vous," and "Take a Chance on Me".
  • Techno and house remakes of many original ABBA hits were recorded in the late 1990s by Abbacadabra, a group comprised of studio musicians and singers and released through Almighty Records. Another group called Angeleyes released a similar album entitled ABBAdance in 1999. In 2003, a group called Euphorica released their own electronica/techno tribute album entitled ABBA Dance.
  • In the late 1990s, the teenage band A*Teens was formed. Their entire first album was made up of ABBA covers, including "Mamma Mia", "Dancing Queen", and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)". Original singles of the band include artwork that list them as the ABBA*Teens.
  • Numerous ABBA tribute albums have been released by various solo artists and groups over the years including one by British singer Hazell Dean, Tribute To ABBA by U.S. indie singer Pamela McNeill, Thank You For The Music by German eurodance group E-Rotic, Funky ABBA by Swedish musician Nils Landgren, and I Let The Music Speak by Swedish opera singer Anne Sofie Von Otter.
  • Numerous ABBA tribute compilations with tracks by various artists have been released over the years. Some of the more notable ones include ABBA: A Tribute - The 25th Anniversary Celebration from 1999 which includes artists such as Mike Love, Peter Cetera, Information Society, Evan Dando, Bananarama, and Army Of Lovers; the 1999 album Abbamania which featured British teen-oriented pop acts at the time including B*Witched, S Club 7, Steps, and Westlife; the 2004 follow-up ABBAMania 2 which featured various British TV stars like Will Mellor, James Gaddas, Tricia Penrose, and Michelle Hardwick; the German ABBA Mania album (tie-in to a TV special) which featured Belinda Carlisle, Samantha Fox, Right Said Fred, and Doro Pesch; the dance-oriented Lay All Your Love On ABBA; an electronica tribute entitled An Electronic Tribute To ABBA; and ABBAlicious, a compilation performed by various American drag queens.
  • There is a heavy metal tribute album to ABBA entitled ABBAMetal (AKA A Metal Tribute to ABBA) featuring prominent Swedish metal bands such Therion, Flowing Tears and Tad Morose.

Fashion and videos

ABBA were widely noted for the colourful and trend-setting costumes its members wore. The videos that accompanied some of their biggest hits are often cited as being among the earliest examples of the genre. Though the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, Bob Dylan and others had made several videos to promote their songs, it still hadn't become the industry standard by the early to mid-1970s.> Most of ABBA's videos (and ABBA: The Movie) were directed by Lasse Hallström who would later direct the films My Life as a Dog, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.

ABBA made videos because their songs were hits in so many different countries and personal appearances weren't always possible. This was also in an effort to minimise travelling, particularly to countries that would have required extremely long flights. Fältskog and Ulvaeus had two young children, and Fältskog, who was also afraid of flying, was very reluctant to leave her children for such a long time. ABBA's manager, Stig Anderson, realised the potential of showing a simple video clip on television to publicise a single or album, thereby allowing easier and quicker exposure than a concert tour. Some of these videos became classics because of the 1970s era costumes and early video effects, such as the grouping of the band members in different combinations of pairs, overlapping one singer's profile with the other's full face, and the contrasting of one member against another.

Nowadays, most of their videos can be seen on the DVDs ABBA Gold and The Definitive Collection.

Winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
1974

References and Notes

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Comments

fab don't need nothing else. fiona. xxx


 


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