A bit about ABBA
The History of ABBA ...
- Nine UK number one singles ...
- Sixteen additional UK top forty hit singles ...
- Nine UK number one albums including ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits which has sold in excess of twenty eight million copies worldwide and is one of the UK’s best-selling albums of all time ...
- Total worldwide sales in excess of three hundred and seventy million units (and counting) ...
- Over three million ticket applicants for just two ABBA concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London 1977 ...
- Thirty-six thousand tickets are sold for BBC Radio 2's Thank ABBA For The Music - A Celebration Of The Music Of ABBA concert in London's Hyde Park in September 2009 ...
- The smash-hit musical Mamma Mia, based on the songs of ABBA, has been seen by over fifty million people worldwide ...
- Mamma Mia, the movie phenomenon starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, is one of the biggest grossing musical films of all time earning more than two hundred million pounds at the worldwidebox offices ...
- ABBA’s back catalogue of hits feature in both blockbuster films Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding ...
- ABBA’s Dancing Queen was a massive world-wide hit, selling over three million copies and reaching number one in no fewer than fourteen countries around the world including the United States ...
Just a handful of fun facts and figures relating to Swedish supergroup ABBA ...
Benny Andersson (born 16 December 1946 in Stockholm, Sweden) became (at age 18) the member of a popular Swedish pop-rock group The Hep Stars. The band performed covers of international hits. The Hep Stars were known as The Swedish Beatles. Benny played the keyboard and eventually started writing original compositions for his band, many of which became major hits including "No Response" that hit number three in 1965, "Sunny Girl", "Wedding" and Consolation", all of which hit number one in 1966.
Bjorn Ulvaeus (born 25 April 1945 in Gothenburg, Sweden) also began his musical career at 18 (as a singer and guitarist), when he fronted The Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk-skiffle group. Bjorn started writing English-language songs for his group and even had a brief solo career alongside. The Hootenanny Singers and The Hep Stars sometimes crossed paths while touring. In June 1966 Bjorn and Benny decided to write a song together. Their first attempt was "Isn't It Easy to Say", a song later recorded by The Hep Stars. Stig Anderson was the manager of The Hootenanny Singers and founder of the Polar Music label. He saw potential in the collaboration and encouraged them to compose more. Both also began playing occasionally with theother's bands on stage and in the recording studio, although it was not until 1969 that the pair wrote and produced some of their first real hits together.
Benny wrote and submitted a song for the 1969 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish heat for the Eurovision Song Contest. The song tied for first place but re-voting relegated Benny's song to second place. On that occasion Benny briefly met his future spouse, singer Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, who also participated in the contest. A month later Benny and Frida had become a couple. As their respective bands began to break up during 1969, Benny and Bjorn teamed up and recorded their first album together in 1970 which included original compositions sung by both men. Their spouses were often present in the recording studio, and sometimes added backing vocals (Agnetha even co-wrote a song with the two boys). Bjorn would occasionally record and perform with The Hootenanny Singers until the summer of 1974 whilst Benny took part in producing their records.
Agnetha Faltskog (born 5 April 1950 in Jonkoping, Sweden) had a number one record in Sweden when she was 17 and was soon noted by the critics and songwriters as a talented singer and songwriter of schlager style songs. Agnetha’s main inspiration in her early years were singers such as Connie Francis. Along with her own compositions she recorded cover versions of foreign hits and performed them on tours in Swedish folkparks. In 1967 she submitted an original song for Melodifestivalen, but it was rejected. She briefly met Frida for the first time during a TV show in January 1968 and met Bjorn at a concert venue a few months later.
During filming of a Swedish TV special in May 1969 Agnetha met Bjorn again and they were married in 1971. Agnetha and Bjorn would eventually get more involved in each other's recording sessions and soon even Benny and Frida added backing vocals to her third studio album. In 1972, Agnetha starred as Mary Magdalene in the original Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar and attracted favorable reviews. Between 1967 and 1975 Agnetha released five studio albums.
Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad (born 15 November 1945 in Bjørkåsen in Ballangen, Norway) 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, the Anni-Frid Four. In the summer of 1967 she won a national talent competition. Frida released several singles and had many hits in the Swedish charts. When Benny started to produce her recordings in 1971 she had her first number one single for which all the future ABBA members sang the backup vocals. Frida toured and performed regularly in the folkpark circuit and made appearances on radio and television. She met Bjorn briefly in 1963 during a talent contest and Agnetha during a TV how in early 1968. Frida finally linked up with her future band mates in 1969. On 1 March 1969, she participated in the Melodifestivalen where she met Benny for the first time. A few weeks later they met again during a concert tour in southern Sweden and they soon became a couple. Benny produced her single "Peter Pan" in September 1969, her first collaboration with Benny & Bjorn, as they had written the song. Benny would then produce Frida’s debut studio album which was released in March 1971 and praised by critics. Frida also played in several revues and cabaret shows in Stockholm between 1969 and 1973.
After ABBA formed, Frida recorded another successful album in 1975 which included the original Swedish rendition of "Fernando", a hit in Scandinavia before the English version was recorded by ABBA.
The ABBA Years 1972 – 1983
Stig Anderson (manager of The Hootenay Singers and founder of Polar Music) had encouraged Bjorn and Benny to write a song for the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest. Their contribution was 'Say It with a Song' which was performed by Lena Anderson. It came third in the Swedish heats and was a hit in several countries. Stig realised he was onto something here. The first real ABBA single was 'People Need Love' which featured backing vocals by Agnetha and Frida and brought the band some success in Japan. Released in 1972 and credited to 'Bjorn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid', the single reached number 17 in the Swedish charts. The seeds of ABBA had now been sown ...
A year later ABBA entered the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest with the song 'Ring Ring', once again coming third. In the studio, producer Michael B Tretow, had been experimenting with new production techniques which were to become the whole new ABBA sound. The proto-group, still clumsily called 'Bjorn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid' released the album 'Ring Ring' (1973), which did well, the title single becoming a hit in many parts of Europe. Stig was hungry to break into the UK and US markets. He was becoming tired of the lengthy band name so, using an acronym of the first letters of their names, started referring to the band as ABBA. It was actually a bit of a joke, as at the time, there was a fish-canning company in Sweden of the same name. Stig decided though, that as the fish-canners were unknown outside of Sweden, they would keep the short and far catchier name of ABBA. The band had to later negotiate with the fish-canners for the right to use the name.
On 6 April 1974 the group finally won the Eurovision Song Contest held at The Dome in Brighton with 'Waterloo'. It was a glam-rock inspired song, once again produced by Michael B Tretow and put them firmly on the music map. Britain was now fully aware of the distinctive ABBA group and 'Waterloo' became ABBA’s first UK number one and peaked at number six in the United States.
ABBA reissued 'Ring Ring' in the wake of their Eurovision triumph then 'So Long' and 'I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do', two new singles. Sadly, there was very limited UK chart success.
It wasn’t until the release of their second album 'ABBA' (1975) which included the single 'SOS', that ABBA had truly made their presence felt in the UK. The song became a top ten hit. They were no longer considered ‘one-hit-wonders’. So pleased were they with their success, that ABBA released their 'ABBA Greatest Hits' (1975) album, even though they had only had five Top 40 hits in the UK and US by that time. In January 1976, 'Mamma Mia' made number one in the UK.
ABBA’s 1976 'Arrival' album not only showed a new height of achievement in terms of song writing and studio work but produced the hit singles 'Money, Money, Money', 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', and 'Dancing Queen' (the latter arguably being both their most definitive and most enduring song).
Other European pop groups, keen to share in the limelight, quickly copied ABBA’s sound as well as their two-boy/two-girl format. These groups include Brotherhood of Man and Bucks Fizz, who both won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 and 1981 respectively, perhaps validating this formula.
'ABBA The Album' (1977) was released to coincide with 'ABBA The Movie' (1977), a feature film made of their Australian leg of their European and Australian tour. UK hits from this album included 'Take A Chance On Me' and 'The Name of the Game' whilst 'Thank You for the Music' was released in mainland Europe.
ABBA would soon move into the arena of disco which had exploded in 1977 with the Bee Gees 'Saturday Night Fever'. ABBA released the single 'Summer Night City' (1978) and after that the album 'Voulez-Vous' (1979), both with a distinctly disco sound. The reaction to this album from the UK and Europe was not as strongly favourable as that of the US. However, singles from the album including 'Does Your Mother Know', 'Chiquitita', 'Voulez-Vous', and 'I Have a Dream' all found their way onto the charts.
In January 1979, the group performed 'Chiquitita' at the Music for UNICEF Concert in New York, donating all future royalties from the song to the UNICEF children’s charity. One of their best-known disco hits, 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)', was featured as a brand new track on their 'ABBA Greatest Hits Volume Two' (1979) album. Also that year, ABBA toured the US, Canada and Europe playing to massive audiences.
Moving into the 1980s and ABBA’s style shifted to more personal lyrics and more pronounced synthesisers. Releasing the single 'The Winner Takes It All' in January 1980 sufficiently piqued public interest in the upcoming 'Super Trouper' album (1980) and set the record for the most pre-orders ever received for a UK album. Many claim 'The Winner Takes It All' was based on Agnetha and Bjorn’s marriage which had ended in divorce the previous year. Additional hit singles from this album included 'Super Trouper' and 'Lay Your Love on Me'.
ABBA released their final studio album 'The Visitors' in 1981. Whilst this album showed a new found depth and maturity, it was the start of their commercial decline. One of ABBA’s last hit singles was 'One of Us', a global hit in December 1981.
The group was starting to show signs of personal distress with both marriages by now having ended in divorce. They came together in the summer of 1982 to record a new album but settled instead for a double compilation album of past hits with two new songs thrown in. 'ABBA The Singles - The First Ten Years' (1982) contained the new tracks 'Under Attack' and 'The Day Before You Came', which sadly was the last song ABBA ever recorded together.
They had recorded two other songs earlier in 1982, 'I Am the City' and 'Just Like That'. Of the two, only the former was ever released, on the compilation album 'More ABBA Gold - More ABBA Hits' (1993). Benny and Bjorn still refuse to release the latter single, much to the frustration of fans.
ABBA would disband at the end of 1983, collectively deciding to take a break and pursue their individual projects. There was no official announcement, no final tour, no farewell single ...
The Post ABBA Years
Agnetha and Frida
Agnetha and Frida both went on to work, with some success, on their solo albums. Frida released 'Something’s Going On' (1982), produced by Phil Collins, with the hit single 'I Know There’s Something Going On'. Agnetha followed with her album 'Wrap Your Arms Around Me' (1983), which included the hit single 'The Heat Is On' which sold over one million copies worldwide.
Frida’s second solo album 'Shine' (1984), produced by Steve Lillywhite, received a lacklustre reception and she decided to retire. In contrast, Agnetha’s second post-ABBA solo album, 'Eyes Of A Woman' (1985), did rather well in Europe and reached number two in the Swedish charts. She released 'I Stand Alone' (1987) and then withdrew from public life, refusing to give any more interviews.
Almost a decade later, ABBA's Agnetha Faltskog released her autobiography 'As I Am – ABBA Before & Beyond' as well as a compilation of her solo hits. 'My Colouring Book' (2004) was an album of cover songs which went triple-platinum in Sweden, gold in Finland and silver in Great Britain.
In 2013 Agnetha release her long-awaited 'A' album. This new album of original material included 'I Should Have Followed You Home', a duet with Take That's Gary Barlow. Agnetha spent two weeks in London to promote the album including live appearance at GAY and interviews on BBC Radio 2. 'A' charted in the UK at No 6, the highest album chart position of Agnetha as a solo artist.
Bjorn and Benny
Bjorn and Benny wrote the music for the West End show 'Chess' (1984), in collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice. Featuring the hit singles 'I Know Him So Well' (Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson) and 'One Night In Bangkok' (Murray Head), the show ran successfully in London for three years but closed after only three weeks on Broadway.
Bjorn and Benny’s next venture into musical theatre came in the form of 'Kristina Fran Duvemala' (1995), a smash-hit musical based on the Swedish immigrants seeking a better life in America. The musical became a huge hit in Sweden.
The global smash hit musical 'Mamma Mia!', based on the songs of ABBA, was co-written and co-produced by Bjorn and Benny. The musical premiered in London in 1999 and is still going strong. The musical has proved to be a major international success.
ABBA’s popularity didn’t seem to wane after they broke up, perhaps thanks to various compilation album releases of their greatest hits including 'Thank You For The Music' (1983) and their most recent, 'ABBA The Complete Studio Recordings' (2005).
On 6 April 2004, Bjorn, Benny and Frida travelled to London to mark the 30th Anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win in 1974. They appeared on stage after the 5th anniversary performance of 'Mamma Mia!'. In October 2005, during the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest held in Copenhagen, ABBA’s 'Waterloo' was voted best Eurovision song in the history of the contest.
In July 2008, for the first time since their disbandment in 1983, all four former ABBA members appeared in public together, at the gala of 'Mamma Mia! The Movie' in Stockholm, Sweden (see below).
Mega-exciting news indeed when, in April 2018, Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Frida officially announced they have recorded two brand new songs scheduled for release at the end of 2018. The ballad I Still Have Faith In You is described as melancholic while the second song, Don’t Shut Me Down, is up-tempo but not dance music.
A statement from Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid on the band’s website explains that, after working on a virtual reality tour project together, the group headed back into the recording studio.
“The decision to go ahead with the exciting ABBA avatar tour project had an unexpected consequence", the statement reads. “We all four felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio. So we did. And it was like time had stood still and that we had only been away on a short holiday. An extremely joyful experience!”.
“It resulted in two new songs and one of them ‘I Still Have Faith In You’ will be performed by our digital selves in a TV special produced by NBC and the BBC aimed for broadcasting in December”.
“We may have come of age, but the song is new. And it feels good”. Check out the statement on the band’s official Instagram page below.
The four members of ABBA would reunited again, this time for the official launch of Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm, Sweden in January 2016.
ABBA UK DISCOGRAPHY
- Waterloo (1974)
- ABBA (1975)
- ABBA Greatest Hits (1975)
- Arrival (1976)
- ABBA The Album (1977)
- Voulez-Vous (1979)
- ABBA Greatest Hits Volume Two (1979)
- Super Trouper (1980)
- The Visitors (1981)
- ABBA The Singles - The First Ten Years (1982)
- Thank You For The Music (1983)
- Absolute ABBA (1988)
- ABBA Gold - Greatest Hits (1992)
- More ABBA Gold - More ABBA Hits (1993)
- Thank You For The Music (1994)
- ABBA Love Stories (1998)
- The Definitive Collection (2001)
- ABBA - 18 Hits (2005)
- ABBA The Complete Studio Recordings (2005)
- ABBA The Albums (2008)
- Waterloo (1974)
- Ring Ring (1974)
- So Long (1974)
- I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do (1974)
- SOS (1975)
- Mamma Mia (1975)
- Fernando (1975)
- Dancing Queen (1976)
- Money Money Money (1976)
- Knowing Me Knowing You (1977)
- The Name Of The Game (1977)
- Take A Chance On Me (1978)
- Summer Night City (1978)
- Chiquitita (1979)
- Does Your Mother Know (1979)
- Voulez-Vous / Angeleyes (1979)
- Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (1979)
- I Have A Dream (1979)
- The Winner Takes It All (1980)
- Super Trouper (1980)
- Lay All Your Love On Me (1981)
- One Of Us (1981)
- Head Over Heels (1982)
- The Day Before You Came (1982)
- Under Attack (1982)
- Thank You For The Music (1983)
Several singles have been re-issues in the UK including Dancing Queen in 1992 and Waterloo in 2004.
Official ABBA website at www.abbasite.com