IN FOCUS // Forty Glorious Years Of Dancing Queen
Published on 24 August 2016
With its instantly recognizable intro, ABBA’s Dancing Queen was the lead single from ABBA's fourth studio album, Arrival. It was written by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson. Andersson and Ulvaeus also produced the song. Dancing Queen was released as a single in the UK and Europe in mid August 1976. The single went on to become a worldwide hit topping the charts in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK, West Germany and Zimbabwe, and reaching the top five in many other countries. Dancing Queen became ABBA's only number one hit in the United States.
The recording sessions for Dancing Queen began in August 1975. The demo was called Boogaloo and as the sessions progressed, it is claimed Benny and Bjorn found inspiration to the dance rhythm in George McCrae's Rock Your Baby. Agnetha and Frida recorded the vocals on sessions in September 1975 and the track was completed three months later.
During the recording sessions, Benny brought a tape home with the backing track on it and played it to Frida who apparently started to cry and claims she "found the song so beautiful” and it's one of those songs that goes straight to your heart". Agnetha later said: "It's often difficult to know what will be a hit. The exception was Dancing Queen. We all knew it was going to be massive”. Benny Andersson agreed, calling it "one of those songs where you know during the sessions that it's going to be a smash hit”.
While working on the lyrics, the first half of the first verse was scrapped: "Baby, baby, you're out of sight, hey, you're looking all right tonight, when you come to the party, listen to the guys, they've got the look in their eyes". It survives in footage from a recording session.
After having premiered on German and Japanese TV during the spring of 1976, Dancing Queen saw its first live and domestic performance, televised on Swedish TV on 18 June 1976, during an all-star gala staged at Stockholm’s Royal Swedish Opera in honour of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and his bride-to-be, Silvia Sommerlath, who were to be married the next day.
Dancing Queen went on to be a worldwide hit, topping the charts in more than a dozen countries including ABBA's native Sweden (where it spent 14 weeks at the top), Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway (where it charted for a staggering thirty-two weeks), South Africa and Rhodesia. Dancing Queen also topped the charts in the United States, ABBA's only chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100 and a top five hit in Austria, Finland, France and Switzerland. The song sold over three million copies. Dancing Queen was the last of three consecutive UK number ones for ABBA in 1976 following Mamma Mia and Fernando earlier in the year.
For their 1980 Spanish language album compilation Gracias Por La Musica, ABBA recorded a Spanish version of Dancing Queen, renamed Reina Danzante, with Spanish lyrics provided by Buddy and Mary McCluskey. The track was later retitled La Reina Del Baile when included on the later compilation album ABBA Oro - Grandes Exitos in the 1990s.
In 1993, in honour of Swedish Queen Silvia´s 50th birthday, Frida was asked to perform Dancing Queen on stage, repeating ABBA's 1976 performance of the song at the wedding reception of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. Frida contacted The Real Group and together they did an a cappella version of the song on stage at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, in front of the king and queen. The Swedish Prime Minister at the time, Ingvar Carlsson, was also in the audience that night and said it was an ingenious idea to perform Dancing Queen a cappella. This performance with Frida and The Real Group was filmed by Swedish Television SVT and is included in Frida – The DVD.
The release of Dancing Queen cemented ABBA as an international act and signified the beginning of the group's 'classic period,' which would encompass the following four years. It has become a standard for dance divas like Carol Douglas and Kylie Minogue and has been covered numerous times by acts including the Sex Pistols and U2. Since its release, it has been adopted by the LGBT community and remains one of the most ubiquitous "gay anthems".
Dancing Queen was re-released in the UK in September 1992 after Erasure sparked an ABBA revival following the success of their ABBA-esque EP which topping the UK charts. The re-issued Dancing Queen reached the top twenty in the UK in September 1992.
For the 1994 Australian film Muriel's Wedding songwriters Bjorn and Benny allowed the use of Dancing Queen and other ABBA hits for its soundtrack.
In 2000, Dancing Queen came fourth in a Channel 4 television poll of "The 100 Best Number Ones”. In November 2002, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Official UK Charts Company, BBC Radio Two the results of the "Top 50 Favourite UK No 1's" poll (188,357 listeners voted) and Dancing Queen came out at number eight. In December 2010, Britain's ITV broadcast the results of a poll to determine "The Nation's Favourite ABBA Song" in which Dancing Queen was placed at number two. The Winner Takes It All topped the poll.
In 2009, the British performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited celebrated its 75th anniversary by listing the 75 songs that have played most in Great Britain on the radio, in clubs and on jukeboxes. Dancing Queen was number eight on the list.
In August 2012 listeners to the 1970s-themed UK radio station "Smooth 70s" voted Dancing Queen as their favourite hit of the decade.
In October 2014, Musicguard (the musical instrument insurer) carried out a survey determining Dancing Queen to be the United Kingdom's favourite "floorfiller." Unlike its closest competitors, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson (No 2) and Twist And Shout by The Beatles (No 3), it turned out to be very popular throughout the nation whereas the other two were strong regional favourites.